ON A TRIP to Israel in November, Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch presents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a copy of Beverly Hills City Council resolution 16-R-13114 calling upon UNESCO to acknowledge the deep Jewish connection with Israel’s capital Jerusalem. (.
(photo credit: COURTESY JOHN MIRISCH)
Beverly Hills has a special relationship with Israel. We signed a memorandum of understanding last year which created a formal partnership between our city and Israel. We are one of a handful of cities in the US with a street named after Theodor Herzl. Our residents have many personal connections with Israel. For many Beverly Hills residents, Israel is like a second home. None of this should be surprising considering Beverly Hills is possibly the largest Jewish-majority city outside of Israel.
While the job of local government rarely involves matters with an international scope, when UNESCO passed its loony edict denying the Jewish connection with Jerusalem and the holy sites, the City of Beverly Hills was one of few cities which passed a resolution condemning that attempt to rewrite history. As mayor, it was my honor when in Israel last month to present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a copy of that resolution, along with sharing the message from the people of Beverly Hills: “Am Yisrael Chai.”
And now we’re faced with the UN Security Council Resolution 2334. I suppose the Beverly Hills city council could draft another resolution condemning the UN’s latest feckless and one-sided anti-Israel decree, just as we have passed resolutions in the past opposing boycotts. Yet again, the UN attempts to delegitimize our undeniable historical, emotional and spiritual Jewish ties to our collective capital, Jerusalem.
But enough is enough. “Shuhn genuk,” as my grandmother would say. We’ve heard from lame duck Secretary of State John Kerry that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” And yet the arrogance with which Kerry droned on for more than 71 minutes in an attempt to tell Israel his “hard truths,” barely mentioning any “hard truths” about his other friends, the Palestinians (let alone his bosom buddies, the Iranians) was stunning in its sheer cluelessness.
Never mind that his bloviation sounded more like a re-reading of the 26th chapter of Leviticus. Never mind that the hardest of Kerry’s “hard truths” bore little correspondence to reality. Never mind that it’s impossible not to notice that Kerry’s soapbox repertoire of “hard truths” never seems to have included Syria.
During the presidential campaign, libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was much ridiculed for his “What’s Aleppo?” comment. Unfortunately for him, Johnson picked the worst possible time to carve a monster brain fart. But if this were Jeopardy and “What’s Aleppo?” appeared on the board, the correct question would not be, “What was Gary Johnson’s response to the question ‘What would you do if elected about Aleppo?’” The correct question would be: “What is a two-word summation of the Obama administration’s Syria policy?” Friends may indeed tell friends hard truths. But they shouldn’t tell friends half-truths. And friends don’t let friends get unfairly condemned at the UN, an organization which has consistently shown an obsessive bias against Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. Even the ineffective UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, finally realized after almost 10 years that “decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel.”
Particularly with this in mind, friends don’t collude to throw friends to the proverbial dogs, wolves and crocodiles of the UN’s antisemitic swamp. Friends don’t scheme to cook up a condemnation which is in end effect, whatever the intention, not an anti-settlement resolution, not an anti-Netanyahu resolution but an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish resolution.
At this stage, we don’t have to worry about what to do about the lame-duck Obama administration and its failed Middle East policy, which will soon be relegated to the ash heap of history. As the clock ran out, the Obama administration let it all hang out and its actions belie any “friendship” toward Israel but rather reveal a petty personal animosity toward Israel’s prime minister. And here people were worried that the new president would let personal animosities and vindictiveness dictate his foreign policy.
Nonetheless, after January 20, 2017, we will still have the UN to contend with. President-elect Donald Trump has suggested that things will be different after his inauguration with regard to the UN. Let’s hope so. For all that Resolution 2334 has the potential to do, encouraging the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and worse, it’s finally time to usher in an era of UN-BDS. And when I write “UN-BDS” I don’t just mean “the opposite of BDS,” as in “7Up is the un-cola,” I mean a program aimed at controlling the UN, consisting of “Bridling, Defunding and Suppressing” this organization which has a pathological obsession with the Jewish state. Sure, the UN does do some good things; but its virulent bias and ingrained antisemitism is a fatal flaw and until that flaw is fixed, it should not get another dime from American taxpayers.
The US should not withdraw from the UN. We should simply stop remitting any funds to the organization. We have been paying more than our fair share for years. It’s time for others to step up. In the meantime, we should take the $3 billion of American taxpayer dollars which we funnel into the UN each year and put them in a fund to directly aid the victims of worldwide terrorism. Or perhaps we should put some of the funds in an escrow account which would grow and which could be used to finance region-wide infrastructure and investment for a Middle East in which one day peace actually is achieved.
Hanukka has come to an end, but its spirit must live on into 2017. To paraphrase American composer/songwriter Jerry Herman, “We need a little Hanukka right this very minute.” We need the light. We need the courage. We need the collective memory and reminder that miracles can happen. For Jews around the world, Israel is the miracle.
Now we need to be the light.
For all its cosmopolitan glamour, for all its swimming pools, movie stars, luxury stores and glitz, for those of us who live here, Beverly Hills is just home, and home is an almost sacred concept. For many of the Jews of Beverly Hills, myself included, we are blessed to have a home away from home in Israel. And for myself and many others in our city, both Jewish and non-Jewish, this isn’t about “friends telling friends” anything. It’s not even really about friends at all. It’s about family. Families remember together. And for all their internal differences, especially when under attack from the outside families stick together and stand by each other. Today, proudly as in the past, Beverly Hills stands by Israel.
The writer is the mayor of Beverly Hills, California.