Palestinians revive charge Zionism is racism at U.N. hearing

“What we face is the Zionist movement," PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi said.

Anti-Israel demonstrators at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001; Muslim anti-Zionism is picking up from where Christian antisemitism left off. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Anti-Israel demonstrators at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001; Muslim anti-Zionism is picking up from where Christian antisemitism left off.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority revived the charge that “Zionism is racism” and warned that Israel is “weaponizing” antisemitism to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, when its representatives testified Wednesday at the UN panel on racism.
“What we face is the Zionist movement,” Ibrahim Khraishi, PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said. “I would like to remind you that in 1975, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 3379, indicating that Zionism is a form of racism. That is the root of the problem that we face.” Khraishi did not mention that the UN revoked the resolution in 1991.
He spoke at the end of the first-ever review of the PA’s record on discrimination and racism, which was held on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
“It was the Zionist movement that was behind the creation of the State of Israel,” Khraishi said, as he claimed that his people are the victims of Zionism.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in New York Danny Danon said in response, “This was the first UN report on the egregious racism and discrimination in the PA, and in response the PA representative chose to ignore the findings and instead redirect his animus against Israel by evoking the despicable ‘Zionism is racism’ rhetoric.”
Danon continued, “That the Palestinian leadership traffics in this form of antisemitism should be condemned on the world stage. It shows they are the problem by continuing to incite their people against Jews and the Jewish state.”
Anne Herzberg, legal adviser and UN liaison at NGO Monitor said, “The PA’s outrageous remarks confirm that they have no interest in upholding human rights obligations but joined the CERD treaty solely to exploit it as a vehicle to attack Israel.”
Prior to the official start of the hearing and in written submissions to the committee, a number of NGOs, UN Watch, NGO Monitor and IMPACT-se, provided the committee with examples of Palestinian hate speech and antisemitism against Jews and Israel. This included classic anti-Jewish stereotypes and the PA’s policy of monetary payments to terrorists who killed Jews as well as to family members of those terrorists.
IMPACT-se showed how violence against Israel and glorification of those killed, including suicide bombers, was present even in basic math problems in school textbooks.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said it is regrettable that the Palestinians pointed a finger at Israel “rather than explain why, for example, their newspapers and websites publish grotesque caricatures of Jews that look straight out of Der Sturmer.”
On Tuesday, committee members quizzed the PA delegation about the charges of antisemitism, particularly in its schoolbooks.
At the hearing on Wednesday, the Palestinians defended their right to use hate speech, incitement and antisemitism against Israel as legitimate responses to the oppression of the Israeli “occupation of its territory” in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.
PA Foreign Ministry representative Ammar Hijazi told CERD that charges of antisemitism and hate speech are simply a “ruse” and a “device” used to “silence righteous dissent,” which “must be rejected.”
The conflation of antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israel endangers the battle against real antisemitism, Hijazi said. It is particularly upsetting that the Palestinians are under fire for choosing to portray their own narrative rather than endorse the “racist narrative” of the “occupier,” he said.
He continued by stating that “advocating for Palestinian rights and criticizing Israeli violations is not antisemitic; rather, it is an expression of moral consistency and a rejection of racist notions of exceptionalism that attempts to justify oppression of any people or group while granting others a cover for violating human rights.”
Khraishi made reference to the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight of new arrivals in Israel as an example of the way antisemitism is used in the conflict.
“A few hours ago, at the Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, 242 American Jews immigrated to Israel, pretending that they are facing antisemitism in the US. It is in the US, not in Palestine, that there is antisemitism,” Khraishi said. “We are victims. We are the victims of the European victims.”
His words cast all Israelis as descendants of Europeans who fled antisemitism, ignoring the vast number of Israelis whose ancestors came to Israel fleeing persecution in Middle Eastern and African lands, or others who lived for centuries in the territory now known as Israel for centuries.
“What we are facing is occupation, which is illegal,” Khraishi said. “It is our right to use all tools to resist occupation; this is accordance with international law.”
He described Palestinians as members of all three monotheistic faiths: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
“This is how we would like to see Palestine – always a country that offers equal citizenship to all,” he said, even though during the meeting the Palestinian delegation did not fully address the absence of any Jewish community in its territories.
The ugliest form of “racial discrimination” is the “occupation,” which makes it impossible for the Palestinians to fully adhere to the dictates of the convention on racism, and which denies the Palestinian people the “most basic right, which is the right to self-determination,” he said. The Palestinian constitution, which has been adopted but cannot be enforced while under “occupation,” addresses many of the CERD’s concerns, Khraishi said.
Khraishi claimed that right-wing Israeli politicians, such as former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, hold that “Palestinians do not have the right to have rights,” adding: “That is what we are facing.” Once the “occupation” is over, Khraishi said, his country “will be a beacon of light for the region and for the world.”
Chinsung Chung, committee vice chairman and rapporteur for the review process the PA is now undergoing at the committee, called on the PA to reform its political system, reconvene its Legislative Council, hold elections and reconcile with Hamas.
CERD chairman Noureddine Amir told the Palestinian delegation, “You have showed the real face of Palestine, which wants peace, justice and in one word, liberty.”
The PA’s record of racism was under review because the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination is one of seven human rights treaties it has signed onto since the UN General Assembly recognized it as a nonmember state in 2012.
The hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday marked the first time that CERD had reviewed the PA’s record. A similar hearing was held in Geneva on the PA’s record on women’s rights, and another one will be held in 2020 on children’s rights in Palestinian territory.
Neuer took issue with the absence of human rights organizations from the process, noting that the dozens of groups, including Amnesty International, that provide material on alleged Israeli human rights violations did not participate in the review of Palestinian racism and discrimination.
“Not a single one of these groups submitted a report. Only one, Al-Haq, showed up at the last minute, possibly to mitigate this embarrassment. The effective boycott by these groups of a UN meeting on Palestinian human rights was the elephant in the room that no one dared to mention,” Neuer said.
You can watch the complete panel on racism at the UN here.