Palestinians won't let Israel escape occupation at newest U.N. battlefield

The PA used the opportunity to secure UN justification for its use of antisemitism and hate speech against Israel.

August 15, 2019 04:38
3 minute read.
Palestinians won't let Israel escape occupation at newest U.N. battlefield

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., September 27, 2018.. (photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)

If one is looking for Palestinian racism against Israel or Jews, then one need not look further than the Nazi swastikas drawn on Palestinian flags, which are flown at the Gaza border during weekly Hamas-led protests.

Yet, those swastikas never came up when reviewing the Palestinians during the two-day United Nations conference on racism that was held in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday. Gay rights were not mentioned. Discrimination against women was given just a scant glance.

What did take center stage was the Israeli “occupation” of Palestine.

The six-hour debate should have been remembered for the historic moment in which the Palestinian Authority underwent a review by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Instead, it will more likely be viewed by Israelis, and their supporters, as the moment when it was clear that the PA opened a new battle front against Israel at the UN.

The UN is often bashed as a biased anti-Israel body for its seemingly obsessive focus on Israeli human rights abuses and the light attention it pays to Palestinian violation of human rights. The US, for example, has failed in its attempts to secure UN condemnation of Hamas terrorism in New York.

Some statements and reports included concern over Palestinian human rights violations, but not extensively as the forum is often designed from the start to focus exclusively on Israel.

Member states can bash Israel at any forum it wants; the most obvious places have been the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Then in addition, Israel’s human rights record is often scrutinized by a sundry of professional human rights bodies, particularly in Geneva. Those professional reviews have nothing to do with anti-Israel bias. They are automatic reviews done by committees governing treaty bodies to which Israel has signed onto. All signatories to those conventions and treaties undergo a review. Israel is reviewed, no more and no less, than any other member state.

Until recently, there has been no automatic review of the Palestinian human rights record, because the UN has not recognized Palestine as a member state and it still doesn’t.

But, the UN General Assembly’s 2012 decision to grant the Palestinians the status of non-state member allowed the PA to sign conventions and treaty bodies, a move which makes it subject to review as if it were a UN member state.

Such reviews are a significant victory for the PA, in its pursuit of unilateral de-facto statehood recognition at the UN, because it is treated as it is a member state with all the obligations that go along with it.

It’s a positive step for supporters of a two-state solution, the success of which rests on a democratic and moderate Palestinian state that takes human rights and democracy seriously.

Each of these forums is a moment for the PA to swear its allegiance to such principles, and it does. On Tuesday and Wednesday, an impressive PA delegation of a dozen officials spoke glowingly of their commitment to those principles. They noted that they were a fledgling state that desired to improve and sought advice from the UN on how to do so.

But at the same time, they noted that they were a state under “occupation” and that this “occupation” made it is impossible to fully adhere to the convention on racism and discrimination which it had signed.

They then used the forum, which should have been a debate about improving racism, as yet one more podium by which to bash Israel. It’s a strategy that will likely increase, rather than decrease, the number of anti-Israel debates at the UN.

Pro-Israeli NGOs had hoped that the committee would be a chance to publicly take the PA to task for its use of classic antisemitic stereotypes and glorification of terrorism against Israel.

Committee members did raise the issue. The PA officials, however, did not apologize for such antisemitism. It did not promise to do better on that score.

Instead, the PA used the opportunity to secure UN justification for its use of antisemitism and hate speech against Israel. It asked the UN bodies to give it a free pass on such issues and to sanctify them as legitimate vehicles to fight oppression.

Adding fuel to the fire, it ended the meeting by reviving a decades-old claim – which even the UN had discarded – that Zionism was by its nature racism. Further, the Palestinians asserted that they were innocent victims, and by that very nature were free from the scourge of racism and discrimination.

At the UN it seems, there is no way to escape the “occupation.”

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