In September 1998, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) placed a full-page ad in the New York Times that graphically illustrated the discrimination against Israel at the UN. The page was divided into two columns, one listing all the UN member states that were eligible to sit on the UN Security Council – which at the time were 184 countries – while the other column listed the countries not eligible to sit on the UN Security Council. Of course, this column had only one entry: Israel.
On the bottom of the page, it was noted: “Believe it or not, Israel is the only one of the 185 member countries ineligible to serve on the United Nations Security Council, the key deliberative group of the world body. Even Iraq is eligible. So is Iran. And so, too, are Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.”
How little has changed since then is explained in a just published book that provides expert analysis of “Israel’s Rights as a Nation-State in International Diplomacy.” The chapter on “The Violation of Israel’s Right to Sovereign Equality in the United Nations” highlights the fact that the UN Charter of 1945 promises all member countries “sovereign equality.” In practice, however, “Israel is, to all intents and purposes, denied its Charter-guaranteed equality” because “Israel is excluded from its geographical regional group – the Asian Group (by vote of the Arab and Muslim members of that group) – and is not accepted as a full member in the Western European and Others Group, and does not enjoy any other special or ex-officio position in the United Nations.” It’s worthwhile to be absolutely clear about this issue: The Arab and Muslim members of the UN’s Asian Group refuse to accept Israel as a member, and the rest of the UN hasn’t really done much to address, let alone counter, this blatant discrimination.
This means that Israel is literally being kept “apart” from the other UN member states, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in the UN, the world’s only Jewish state is truly treated as “the Jew among the nations.”As it happens, today the UN is once again trying to legitimize its notorious Durban conference of 2001 by marking the event’s 10th anniversary with an official gathering. Israel’s response to the original Durban conference included a statement by Rabbi Michael Melchior on the “New Antisemitism” that was beginning to take shape in the wake of the failed attempts to negotiate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in Camp David and Taba. By the summer of 2001, the so-called “Al-Aqsa Intifada” was already raging for almost a year, and the gathering in Durban made clear that the “international community” saw no reason to acknowledge Israel’s recent efforts for peace, which included not just the negotiations in Camp David and Taba, but also Israel’s withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in May 2000.
Ten years on, it is fascinating – and depressing – to read Rabbi Melchior’s statement in the light of recent events, particularly the hostile sentiment towards Israel displayed by Egyptians.
Melchior argued that “a new antisemitism has arisen, the strength of which has not been seen since Nazism dominated Europe.” Among the examples cited by Melchior was an article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram which claimed: “The Jews share boundless hatred of the gentiles, they kill women and children and sow destruction […] Israel is today populated by people who are not descendants of the Children of Israel, but rather a mixture of slaves, Aryans and the remnants of the Khazars, and they are not Semites. In other words, people without an identity, whose only purpose is blackmails, theft and control over property and land, with the assistance of the Western countries.”
Another Egyptian newspaper had published an article stating: “Our thanks go [to] the late Hitler who wrought, in advance, the vengeance of the Palestinians upon the most despicable villains on the face of the earth. However, we rebuke Hitler for the fact that the vengeance was insufficient.”
This was in 2001; fast forward to January 2009, and the influential Egyptian-born preacher Yussuf al-Qaradawi would say something very similar on his popular Al Jazeera television show: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them—even though they exaggerated this issue—he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”
Back in August 2001, Rabbi Melchior noted: “Rare today is the Arab leader who dares to counter the extremist, rejectionist public opinion which is being fomented daily against Israel. Many prefer instead to ride the tiger, thus helping drag the entire region towards a new age of horror and destruction.”
So far, there is no evidence that the “Arab Spring” has changed this; and so far, the Arab-Muslim bloc at the UN still faces little resistance against its efforts to discriminate against Israel. The Durban III gathering will probably be attended by most of the 193 member states of the UN, though fourteen countries have announced their intentions to boycott the event, among them Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
But there are also several alternative events planned, including a counter-conference on “The Perils of Global Intolerance: The United Nations and Durban III” that can be watched via a free live webcast on PJTV. Those who opt instead for the official UN program will have a chance to listen to a scheduled 30-minute speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
[Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds a placard as he takes part in a rally to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, February 11, 2011. Reuters]