The best thing about the General Assembly of the United Nations is that it’s almost always ignored. This was brought home to me recently when I was scanning the reader comments on a story about Israel in the Globe and Mail.
Among the usual accusations that the Jews control the media and similar “criticism of Israel” as they like to call it, one reader complained that Israel had kicked out the UN human rights rapporteur.
It was the first I’d heard of it. A minute’s research showed that Press TV played the story big, but then Press TV is owned by the antisemitic regime in Iran. The Israeli media covered it of course, and so did other media that pays special attention to Israel. But the Canadian media ignored the story.
Why? Two reasons I think. First, because the media mostly ignores international antisemitism. Second, because when it comes to human rights, the UN has no credibility. The UN Human Rights Council is a club for the world’s worst human rights abusers, and Richard Falk, the rapporteur whom Israel kicked out, embodies the UN’s perverse perspective.
Falk believes international law gives Hamas the “right of resistance.” But while giving Hamas a pass, Falk compares Israelis to Nazis, a comparison so far removed from reality that it can only be understood as Jew-baiting – the 21st Century equivalent of calling Jews “kikes.”
Mind you, Falk isn’t deluded only about Israel. He also suspects that the U.S. of inflicting the September 11 terrorist attacks on itself. Any day, I’m expecting to read that Falk believes the moon landing was faked, too.
Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, president of the UN General Assembly, condemned Israel for expelling Falk. But then d’Escoto has his own Jewish problem. In September, president Ahmadinejad of Iran gave an antisemitic rant at the UN, saying that “Zionists” (meaning Jews) control the money supply and secretly rule “some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.”
Barack Obama, president-elect of the U.S. condemned Ahmadinejad’s words as hateful and antisemitic. Miguel d’Escoto President of the UN General Assembly reacted rather differently: he embraced Ahmadinejad in a warm hug.
But d’Escoto doesn’t just embrace the Jew-hatred of others. Every year at the end of November, the General Assembly mourns the creation of Israel with a “UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
This year, the General Assembly went beyond even its usual Israel-bashing when d’Escoto called for an organized boycott against Israel to force it into submission and accused Israel of “crucifying” the Palestinians.
D’Escoto, I should note, is a Catholic priest who’s been suspended by the Vatican – but for his political activities on behalf of Nicaragua’s corrupt governments, not for the kind of religious antisemitism rejected by the Vatican and embodied in accusations of Jews crucifying people.
Mostly, the media ignored d’Escoto’s capers, just as it ignores the Human Rights Council’s squirrely rapporteur, just as it ignores almost everything coming out of the UN’s General Assembly, because really, who can take the place seriously?
But Ahmadinejad is serious. He’s the president of a bellicose nation on its way to acquiring nuclear weapons, and the world media widely reported Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN. For the most part, though, the media gave no hint that his speech was infused with Jew-hatred.
The CBC focused on Ahmadinejad’s complaints of U.S. “bullying,” a complaint likely to gain approval from the CBC’s audience. The Toronto Star’s Olivia Ward began her report by claiming that Ahmadinejad took “a high moral tone.” It was left to the more rightwing CanWest media to report Ahmadinejad’s antisemitic ranting.
It seems the Iranian regime’s Jew-hatred doesn’t fit the agenda our more left-leaning media. Even the Globe and Mail carried an AP story that stated merely that Ahmadinejad “criticized Israel.”
Such bleaching of reality seems to be what passes for objectivity in the media these days. Thus, for example, did the BBC report in Mumbai that “gunmen” (not “terrorists” of course) were “holding people captive in an office block.”
To report that these “people” were Jews and that the “office block” was the only Jewish community centre in a city of millions of Hindus might remind viewers that the “militants” subscribe to a genocidal Jew-hatred. The BBC evidently felt that would be too real, not their sort of objectivity at all.
This piece, by Jeff Jacoby, is from Boston.com
CRITICIZING Israel doesn’t make you anti-Semitic: If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times. Yet somehow that message doesn’t seem to have reached the hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrators in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who turned out last week to protest Israel’s military operation in Gaza. As their signs and chants made clear, it isn’t only the Jewish state’s policies they oppose. Their animus goes further.
Demonstrators chanted “Nuke, nuke Israel!” and carried placards accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and bearing such messages as: “Did Israel take notes during the Holocaust? Happy Hanukkah.” To the dozen or so supporters of Israel gathered across the street, one demonstrator shouted: “Murderers! Go back to the ovens! You need a big oven.”
The Arab-Israeli conflict induces strong passions, and the line that separates legitimate disapproval of Israel from anti-Semitism may not always be obvious. But its’s safe to assume the line has been crossed when you hear someone urging Jews “back to the ovens.”
The Danish website Snaphanen posted a photo the other day of a pamphlet being distributed in Copenhagen’s City Hall Square. On one side it proclaimed: “Never Peace With Israel!” and “Kill Israel’s People!” On the other side: “Kill Jewish people evry where in ther world!” The leaflet’s spelling left something to be desired, but its message of genocidal anti-Semitism couldn’t have been clearer.
Likewise the message in Amsterdam on Saturday, where the crowd at an anti-Israel rally repeatedly chanted, “Hamas! Hamas! Jews to the gas.” And the message in Belgium, where pro-Hamas demonstrators torched Israeli flags, burned a public menorah, and painted swastikas on Jewish-owned shops.
Only marginally less vile is the message that has been trumpeted at demonstrations from Boston to Los Angeles to Vancouver: “Palestine will be free/ From the river to the sea” – a restatement in rhyme of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel to be “wiped from the map.”
Let’s say it for the thousand-and-first time: Every negative comment about Israel is not an expression of bigotry. Israel is no more immune to criticism than any other country. But it takes willful blindness not to see that anti-Zionism today – opposition to the existence of Israel, rejection of the idea that the Jewish people are entitled to a state – is merely the old wine of anti-Semitism in its newest bottle.
The hatred of Jews has always been protean, readily revising itself to reflect the idiom of its age. At times, it targeted Jews for their religion, demonizing them as Christ-killers or enemies of the true faith. At other times, Jews have been damned as disloyal fifth columns to be suppressed or expelled, or as a racial malignancy to be physically exterminated.
In our day, Jew-hatred expresses itself overwhelmingly in national terms: It is the Jewish state that the haters are obsessed with. “What anti-Semitism once did to Jews as people, it now does to Jews as a people,” the British commentator Melanie Phillips has written. “First it wanted the Jewish religion, and then the Jews themselves, to disappear; now it wants the Jewish state to disappear.”
The claim that anti-Zionism isn’t bigotry would be preposterous in any other context. Imagine someone vehemently asserting that Ireland has no right to exist, that Irish nationalism is racism, and that those who murder Irishmen are actually victims deserving the world’s sympathy. Who would take his fulminations for anything but anti-Irish bigotry? Or believe him if he said that he harbors no prejudice against the Irish?
By the same token, those who demonize and delegitimize Israel, who say the world would be better off without it, who hold it to standards of perfection no other country is held to, who extol or commiserate with its mortal enemies, who liken it to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, who make it the scapegoat not only for crimes it hasn’t committed, but for those of which it is a victim – yes, such people are anti-Semitic, whether they acknowledge it or not.
Criticize Israel? Certainly. But those who so loudly denounce Israel in its war against Hamas are siding with some of the world’s most virulent Jew-haters on earth. They may tell themselves that that doesn’t make them anti-Semites. But it does. “When people criticize Zionists,” Martin Luther King said in 1968, “they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.”
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at email@example.com.
This piece, by Jeff Jacoby, is from Boston.com