January 15, 2011
by Anne Bayefsky
Recent WikiLeaks cables reveal that diplomats at the UN are haunted by a thorny question: How much UN-driven anti-Semitism is too much? The original UN was built on the ashes of the Jewish people and owes its human rights foundations to the victims of the Holocaust. At today’s UN, we have now learned, diplomats hunker down near the General Assembly hall “listening outside with headphones on” trying to figure out the extent of the hate-speech that those on the inside should endure before walking out.
The particular subject of the WikiLeaks cable from US officials in Stockholm was a September 2009 assembly speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sweden held the EU’s rotating presidency, and it fell upon Swedish diplomats to decide when Ahmadinejad had crossed pre-arranged “red lines.” As it turned out, some EU members walked out of the speech, while Sweden stayed put. According to the cable, the Swedes were upset by the “embarrassing lack of EU coordination” – not by the bigotry broadcast over the UN global megaphone.
What had the Europeans confused would seem to be Jewish conspiracy theory 101. Ahmadinejad had used his UN platform to describe Jews as “a small minority [who] dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery... to attain its racist ambitions.” Yet this roused a mere 11 of the UN’s 192 members from their seats, including the US. Israel had chosen not to attend.
Five months earlier in April 2009, Ahmadinejad had mounted another UN-provided stage in Geneva and began by denying the Holocaust, claiming that the “Zionist regime” had been created “under the pretext of Jewish sufferings.” At this “antiracism” gathering (dubbed “Durban 2”) he continued: “The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces.” This time UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remained glued to their chairs. Nine states, including the US and Israel, had decided to boycott beforehand, while the remaining EU states and a few others belatedly got up and left.
In September 2010 Ahmadinejad used his UN invitation to New York to suggest that 9/11 was an inside job – “segments within the US government orchestrated the attack” for the sake of “the Zionist regime.” On this occasion seven countries, including the US, headed for the doors. Israel had previously figured out it was not worth going.
Playing musical chairs is not the only response to UN-based anti- Semitism. The vast majority listen attentively and many applaud. Sometimes no one moves at all. On June 8, 2010, the Syrian representative lectured the UN Human Rights Council: “Israel... is a state that is built on hatred... Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’”
The Obama administration, which chose to join this council, had a representative present, and neither he nor any other council member budged. UN officials, who routinely interrupt anything they deem insulting to Muslim states, said nothing.
Years of UN-driven anti-Semitism have clearly deadened the nerve endings of democracies. On November 29 and 30, 2010 the UN General Assembly sponsored its annual UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People followed by the usual anti- Israel agenda items.
From center stage in New York via Libya and Syria came the following: “Zionism, in reality, is the worst form of racism”; “The cancerous settlement in all the Palestinian territories”; “Israel shows and rears its ugly face”; “The word Israel has become synonymous with words such as aggression, killing, racism, terrorism.”
Numerous states voiced their opposition to “Judaization” – UN vocabulary for the crime of any Jew on any Arab territory. They bellowed about Israeli “butchering,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “racism,” “brutality,” “crimes against humanity,” “torture,” “killing in cold blood” and “barbarism.” Guilt started “over 60 years ago” – that is, with Israel’s creation.
It would not have been difficult for listeners to discern that the fabrication of a cancerous Jewish state with its bloodthirsty ugly Jewish occupants was anti-Semitism. But not a single country moved. No UN gavel interrupted the speakers. Just the diplomatic niceties of thanking and bowing before Mr. President and Mr. Ambassador, and excellencies and distinguished delegates.
By the end of a year of double-standards, discrimination and hate-mongering 80 percent of all 2010 General Assembly resolutions criticizing specific countries for human rights violations were directed at the Jewish state. Only six of the remaining 191 UN member states faced human rights criticism at all, one of which was the US. And now half of the country-specific condemnatory resolutions and decisions ever adopted by the UN Human Rights Council target Israel.
This year will be worse, as UN headquarters prepares to host the first summit of “heads of state and government” on racism in September. “Durban 3,” named after its notorious 2001 namesake that took place in Durban, South Africa, is aimed at “mobilizing political will...for the full and effective implementation of the Durban Declaration.” This declaration charges Israel with racism and names no other state.
In contrast to Durban 1 and 2 which were attended by very few world leaders, Durban 3 is intended to be the golden ticket for Ahmadinejad and company to promote Zionism is racism. From a New York podium, a few days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, they will also instruct Americans about tolerance. Though Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to attend, Obama is still undecided.
In June 1979 Pope John Paul II made a nine-day pilgrimage to Poland, documented in a moving recent film Nine Days that Changed the World. With the power of faith and moral conviction he appealed to millions for change, turning the Soviet empire inside out. What a contrast to the European Union representatives of today hiding in UN halls with their earphones, and the Obama administration confounded about whether to come or go.
Where are the world leaders of our time who are prepared to challenge and repudiate with the power of faith and moral conviction a UN empire that is a shell of Eleanor Roosevelt’s vision and inimical to our dearest values?
Anne Bayefsky is no longer a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute.
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