The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and the late U.S. Ambassador Richard Schifter on the need for the U.N. to stop funding "Palestinian committees" and end its support of the “right of return."
For the past several decades, the United Nations General Assembly has dutifully approved the funding of the so-called specialized “Palestinian committees,” each of which advances only one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN has an opportunity to cut off this funding supply by year-end, thereby righting a decades-long wrong and in turn, ending a long-standing charade.
Created in the aftermath of the infamous 1975 Zionism=Racism resolution, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) are powerful, enduring vestiges of a discredited policy that has seen the world body largely aligned against Israel, not only in New York, but at UN agencies such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris.
The CEIRPP organizes conferences, photo exhibitions and other programs around the world aimed at undermining, discrediting and demonizing Israel. It does so with the active cooperation of the UN’s Department of Global Communications.
The DPR actually sits inside the UN Secretariat, giving the Palestinians a UN home no other people or sovereign state has. DPR sits alongside regional units such as the Asian, the African and Latin American, and the Caribbean groups of the UN system. The DPR works together with CEIRPP to organize an annual International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian People, and maintains UN web-based information systems devoted to the Palestinian side of the conflict.
At the core of the work of these offices is the perpetuation of “the right of return” narrative that demands all Palestinians considered by the UN to be refugees have a right to “return” to pre-state Israel. Since 1949 the UN has, through the creation of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), aggressively advanced this position.
So why are millions of people classified as refugees? Because as “refugees” they maintain their claim to migrate to Israel in order to overwhelm the Jewish majority and thus end the existence of the State of Israel.
According to the UN, there are now 5.5 million such refugees, less than 1% of whom were actual refugees from the War of Independence in 1948. More than 99% are their descendants, now five generations on. The UN has endeavored to find solutions to nearly every other refugee crisis in the world over the years, largely by resettling people in the lands to which they fled.
Only in the case of the Palestinians has an infrastructure been established to perpetuate a crisis. Over these past seven decades UNRWA, through its schools and other services, and the UN system have held out the promise that all Palestinians will one day “return” to what is now the State of Israel.
In fact, 40% of these “refugees” already live on the West Bank and in Gaza among fellow Palestinians, yet they maintain a status of refugees, so they would be able to migrate to Israel under the “right of return.” Another 40% live in Jordan, where many acquired Jordanian citizenship. They, too, live among people with whom they share religion and language, but maintain their refugee status so as to qualify for a “right of return,” as do the remaining 20% who live in Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries.
The recently signed peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and with Bahrain, and actions and public statements by other Arab states, suggest that the Palestinian program to end Israel’s existence is losing support among some Arabs. The world – and especially the region – have moved on. Other considerations, largely based on national interest, have taken precedence: the threat of Iranian hegemony, trade and investment and even tourism, are incentives to normalization.
The Palestinians have overplayed their hand, pressing for a zero-sum outcome to the conflict with Israel, and especially by its leaders missing opportunity after opportunity to conclude a peace with Israel in the 27 years since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
The Palestinian reaction to the Abraham Accords has been a vehement reassertion of their position, including the “right of return,” made possible, in large part by the automatic reinforcement they receive at the UN.
It is the UN, created to “maintain peace and security,” that encourages the Palestinians to hold out for their one state solution: A “Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” a goal to be attained through a “right of return.
”The CEIRIPP and the DPR are the chief proponents of this campaign, but are aided by regional groups at the UN such as the Group of 77 (known for years as the “Non-Aligned”) and a raft of anti-Israel resolutions adopted by rote at the Human Rights Council and other UN agencies, including the World Heritage Committee, a sub-group of UNESCO.
The Palestinian claim of a “right of return” is simply an obstacle to peace; it has become the third rail of the conflict. No one dares touch it; no friends of the Palestinians – and there are several amongst the European countries – seem interested in persuading them that the idea is simply a non-starter. It is not going to happen. No Israeli government from anywhere on the political spectrum would sign its own national suicide warrant.
The vote count supporting funding of the Palestinian committees is dropping; the number of “no” votes to fund these committees is rising – slightly – with a large number of abstentions and those voting “absent.”
A new wind is blowing in the region. “Normalization” is in, and obstructionism is on its way out. Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and perhaps others to come are demonstrating that where there is good will to resolve more than seven decades of animosity, economic warfare and the absence of real human interaction, reconciliation can follow.
Spending millions of dollars on conferences that perpetuate the “right of return” mantra and the constant efforts to delegitimize Israel is both a waste of time and a sure prescription for the UN to become increasingly irrelevant when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The responsible member states of the UN need to look out the window and see the dramatic, positive changes that are taking place across the region, despite attempts by Iran and its proxies and terrorist surrogates to perpetuate chaos and instability.
Depoliticizing “peacemaking” at the UN by eliminating the CEIRIPP and the DPR would send a clear message to the Palestinians and their friends that the free ride is over. That will tell us whether or not they are really interested in emulating their neighbors who have reached historic accords with Israel.
Until the UN ends its support of the “right of return,” we cannot expect meaningful progress toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
In light of the current wave of unrelenting attacks against Israel's legitimacy, B'nai B'rith International joined B'nai B'rith Europe, local lodges and dozens of other Jewish organization to rally in support of Israel outside of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
B’nai B’rith is highly critical of the report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) “independent, international commission of inquiry” into Israel’s defensive operations against Hamas in Gaza during the summer of 2014. The report inherently lacks credibility and should not be taken as a serious evaluation of the necessary counterterrorism actions of the Israel Defense Forces.
B'nai B'rith International's Israel/Middle East policy includes issues such as fighting terrorism; supporting Israel's right to defend itself; preventing Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons; preserving the unity of Jerusalem; promoting the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries; and supporting direct negotiations between the parties to the Middle East conflict while affirming the importance of Israel's critical security needs.
Photos below courtesy of Israel In Switzerland:
This year, some two-dozen B’nai B’rith International leaders and supporters, including with three representatives from the national Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), met with senior representatives from more than 40 countries. B'nai B'rith is proud to partner with AEPi through community service, educational programming and advocacy. We work together to encourage brothers to remain involved in the Jewish community after college graduation.
AEPi's David Marias, Civic Engagement Coordinator, recorded highlights of his advocacy experience on Instagram.
Enjoy a slideshow of his images, below:
B’nai B’rith sent the following letter to the editor to the New York Times on Aug. 14.
Read it in its entirety, below:
The lumping together of "Israel, Sri Lanka and Syria" is precisely what is perverse about the record of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the Human Rights Council.
Israel is condemned by the council more than all other countries. Syria, though, has killed more Arabs in three years than Israel has in sixty-six.
Ms. Pillay has never criticized the council’s repressive members for a permanent agenda item singling out Israel alone for harsh scrutiny.
Irresponsibly, she suggests equivalence between Israel, a democracy, and Hamas, a terrorist movement. She emphasizes Israel's "occupation," ignoring the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and Hamas’s rejection of Israel’s existence within any borders. She also rushed to claim disproportionate Palestinian civilian casualties when most Gazans recently killed appear to have been males of fighting age.
Ms. Pillay awaits Israeli countermeasures to incessant violence before sounding any alarm. Her valuing of certain lives above others was made explicit when she said she opposed Palestinian attacks but "most especially" Israeli responses.
Discrimination has no place in the pursuit of human rights.
Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President
David J. Michaels, Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs
B'nai B'rith International
While the Israel-Hamas ceasefire has been extended, the war on Israel continues in the court of public opinion. The UN Human Rights Council and American Studies Association each filed one-sided reports condemning Israel's actions in Gaza.
B'nai B'rith International was featured for a pair of declarations against those reports on Wednesday's episode of Shalom TV News Update.
Watch the segment, beginning at the 2:45 mark:
Following the adoption of a one-sided, anti-Israel resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this week, B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin penned a strongly-worded response for The Algemeiner.
In it, Mariaschin notes that the resolution was brought to the UNHRC by human rights violators Pakistan and Venezuela, while highlighting the failures of fellow democracies in Europe--Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom.
Mariaschin holds these nations accountable for their voting records and suggests that history will not look favorably on their inaction to defend a fellow democracy in the Middle East..
Read his full op-ed below:
European Union Shows Lack of Will to Defend Israel at UNHRC
Yet again, the European Union has demonstrated a lack of will in defending a sister democracy under attack from an organization that it has included on its own terrorism list.
One day after the EU’s foreign ministers adopted a statement which called for both the disarming of Hamas and endorsed Israel’s “legitimate right to defend itself,” nine European countries abstained on a one-sided United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution harshly critical of Israel.
On July 22nd, the European Union foreign ministers, in a move uncharacteristic of their traditional voting patterns on issues relating to Israel and the Palestinians, adopted language that seemed to express a real understanding of the immense challenges Israel faces in fighting the terrorist organization in Gaza. It went so far as to call out Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, a point Israel makes several times daily, to the mostly-closed ears of international media and a large portion of the diplomatic world.
Sunrise on July 23rd brought an immediate reversion to form for the EU.
A resolution brought to the UNHRC by such human rights luminaries as Pakistan and Venezuela, filled with hackneyed anti-Israel diatribes for which the council is well known, took off after Israel for a laundry list of human rights violations, including Israel’s pursuit of Hamas terrorists in the West Bank in June and “the most recent military assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, the latest in a series of military aggressions…” The document decries Israel’s “targeting of civilians…including medical and humanitarian personnel…that may amount to international crimes…”
The resolution supports the now discredited “national consensus government” forged by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in April, expresses deep concern over Palestinian prisoners, decries “collective punishment,” demands opening of the crossings for the flow of humanitarian “and commercial goods,” (concrete for more tunnels?) and, well, you get the picture.
Then it gets worse. It calls for Switzerland to convene the contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva convention “to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
The coup de grace was to call a new “independent commission of inquiry” to investigate “all violations…of human rights law in the ‘occupied Palestinian Territory’…particularly in the Gaza Strip.”
We recall the last time an “independent” commission was set in place by the UNHRC. It was headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, who, after wrestling with his conscience over the biased anti-Israel report filed in his name, publicly renounced its findings in a celebrated New York Times op-ed.
In the entire four page, double-spaced resolution, there is not one mention of Hamas by name.
The resolution was overwhelmingly adopted, with 17 abstentions, 11 of them European and nine of those European Union countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom. Most of them consider themselves to be good friends of Israel. But in this vote, they have incredibly and hypocritically enabled an organization that they themselves consider to be a terrorist organization.
Where is the stand-alone resolution condemning the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel’s cities? Has the United Kingdom forgotten its own history, when thousands of V-1 and V-2 rockets were fired from Germany into London and South East England during WWII?
In post-mortems, some Europeans tried to defend their lack of principle by saying they had salvaged the resolution from harsher language. Harsher? This document is a “greatest hits” of the UNHRC against Israel. All but the kitchen sink has been included in its fulminating, accusatory tone.
If the EU countries had been true to their resolution of July 22nd, they’d have not only voted against the resolution, but walked out of the hall when it came up for debate. In each capitol, policy makers know they have pointed the finger not against the perpetrator of human rights violations, but the victim. The statements of “support for Israel’s right to defend itself,” ring more hollow than ever in light of the adoption of this measure.”Defend yourself,” they are saying, but only up to a point.
Compromise on principle is not new in Europe. This abandonment of Israel at such a crucial moment is unacceptable. History will surely have some condemnatory judgments when the books about this conflict are written.
Despite its charter’s solemn affirmation of “the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,” the United Nations is the home of singular mistreatment for one member state, Israel, whose commitment to equality can rival that of virtually any country in the world.
The mistreatment of Israel manifests itself in myriad ways. A permanent Human Rights Council agenda item is dedicated to singling out Israel, alone among nations, for hostile scrutiny.
A U.N. “special rapporteur” is dedicated to publicizing only Israel’s alleged faults. In the case of the last person to hold that position, he overtly promoted economic warfare against Israel.
At least three entire U.N. bureaucratic bodies are dedicated to the worldwide advancement of Palestinian political goals and an anti-Israel narrative that is as simplistic as it is vile.
A permanent Human Rights Council agenda item is dedicated to singling out Israel alone for hostile scrutiny.The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) routinely lambastes Israel over, for example, its stewardship of holy sites in Jerusalem (a setting, for all its challenges, of exceptional multi-religious vibrancy in the Middle East).
At the very same time, that agency – which Palestinians exploited by pressing for status as a “member state,” in order to evade direct peace negotiations with Israel – recklessly politicizes sacred places by recasting landmarks like Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian and primarily Islamic.
Now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is again threatening to expand his “internationalization of the conflict” with Israel by unilaterally enlarging Palestinians’ foothold in U.N. bodies that can then serve as political weapons against the Jewish state.
Although U.N. officials, like Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, should be expected to exercise principled leadership by speaking out unequivocally against all these abuses, such abuses are often driven by the U.N. voting membership, comprised in considerable part of Arab and aligned states. In the many areas where politics – not any sense of just, meaningful policymaking – carry the day, it is politics rather than rejection of discrimination that will prevail.
Sometimes, though, leaders like Ban are positioned to do more than raise objections. At times, they can, and must, implement actual changes for the sake of the U.N.’s own institutional credibility.
A case such as this is before us now, when a member of Ban’s own senior management team, Under-Secretary-General Rima Khalaf, is openly complicit not only in deplorable propagandizing against one nation in the international community, Israel, but also in demonstrating how effortlessly anti-Zionist incitement slides into anti-Jewish terrain.
In February, Khalaf, who serves as executive secretary of the U.N.’s Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, was in Tunisia to herald the release of a 310-page ESCWA report, “Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative.” Although the document’s name, size and official provenance would suggest a serious and forward-looking treatment of challenges in an Arab world beset by extensive political crisis and human suffering, the report represents yet one more misuse of vital resources to whitewash complexity and defer reconciliation.
It manages to invoke Israel over 150 times – yet, in decrying Israeli defense efforts and control of (some) Arab-claimed territory, there is not one mention of Hamas and Hezbollah, lethal terrorist movements that are directly responsible for these realities.
Although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has killed more Arab citizens in three years than any Israelis have since the development of modern Zionism well over 100 years ago, he too goes unmentioned.
And Iran, whose war with Iraq claimed as many as one million lives and whose aggressive nuclear pursuit has (rightly) alarmed Arab leaders like little else has, gets negligible attention.
By contrast, Israel is charged with posing a “nuclear threat” and a vague conspiracy to “divide the region into sectarian mini-States.”
Indeed, in all six instances where the grave crime of “ethnic cleansing” is alleged, it is democratic Israel – whose Muslim and Christian populations have risen continuously, in contrast to Jews and Christians elsewhere in the Middle East – that is the report’s target. And the report – which affords no attention to the dozens of countries whose state religion is, for instance, Islam – libelously claims that Israel has sought to be an “exclusive” Jewish country, thus promoting “the religious or ethnic purity of states, a concept that inflicted on humanity the worst crimes of the last century.”
As if this wasn't enough, the report also asserts that Adolf Hitler partnered with Zionism – whose supposed purpose was not to alleviate exile from a sole ancestral homeland but to “introduce an alien Jewish community in the heart of the Arab world.”
Further adding insult to injury, Khalaf’s report mentions not once but three times Israeli aspirations to “Judaize” Jerusalem – when “Judaizing” Jerusalem,Yerushalayim, would be virtually akin to “Islamicizing” Mecca.
None of this is to say that the ESCWA report could not have made a constructive contribution – and this is precisely the point: By trafficking in slurs that are tired but still incendiary, Khalaf’s organization condemns not merely Israelis but also her own Arab constituency to a future no better than the past. In turn, she helps to mire the United Nations in a place not simply of irrelevance but of malignance.
Last November, Ban visited Auschwitz. There, he said: “Never again.… For our shared future, let us embrace our common duty as members of the human family to build a world of peace, justice, equality and human dignity for all.”
These were fitting words from the chief executive of the United Nations, which itself rose from the ashes of the Holocaust.
Increasingly, however, some in the international community have embraced denunciation of historical acts of hate while disregarding Jews’ continuing struggle to exist in the very heart of Jewish civilization across time, Israel. Palestinian leader Abbas recently conceded the enormity of the Holocaust – only to then announce partnership with Hamas, which denies both that historic genocide and Israelis’ right to live today.
While truly important, no commemoration of the Holocaust can compensate for abetting new expressions of demonization and delegitimization. The U.N. secretary-general has an opportunity to start ridding his house – our collective house – of prejudice by beginning with his own cabinet.
Derelict in upholding the founding values of the United Nations, Rima Khalaf’s role should be assumed by someone else: someone offering Arabs, as well as their neighbors, a better way forward.
Shalom TV Daily News featured B'nai B'rith International's statements against the U.N. Human Rights Council’s actions to fill the role of departing anti-Israel special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, with former Indonesian U.N. Ambassador Makarim Wibisono.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said: “The position [Falk] occupied is inherently discriminatory, and with the appointment of Wibisono, based on his previous comments, it doesn't look like the situation will improve significantly.”
Read the full press release here.The story begins at the 6:17 mark in the video:
B'nai B'rith International Geneva representative Klaus Netter, delivering a public statement at the UN Human Rights Council, derides the body's obsessive condemnation of Israel at the expense of focus on the gravest rights abuses globally. He begins speaking at the 01:02:00 mark.
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