In June 1967, the elementary school faculty gathered our entire Brooklyn yeshiva student body together for a great school assembly. The yeshiva had found a large cathode television and was having us all watch the glorious United Nations (UN) debate live, amid the Six-Day War. We would see US Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg defending Israel.
Until that day, it was assumed by most American Jews that the United Nations was a good thing. The Soviets were the ones constantly outvoted on Turtle Bay, and they needed to veto Security Council resolutions regularly. It was a different world.
Amid the debate, Goldberg needed a personal break. It was the UN, so he requested a recess very diplomatically. We kids would have said “I gotta go to the bathroom!” He was so much more eloquent, not even suggesting a need to see a man about a horse.
The Arabs and Soviets would not agree to his request.
It was on that day, in that and other ways, that many American Jews gained a new glimpse into what was unfolding in the UN. This great force for world peace, the actualization of so many hopes after World War II, was receding into one more antisemitic forum.
At the time, it was crushing to learn that the General Assembly and Security Council now had become institutionally aligned against Israel and would remain so. However, in the long run it was for the best that we found out. That awareness empowered us Zionists to shake off the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism. It prepared American ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan psychologically to plan raising his pencil extra-high with extra determination on his face. It even laid the groundwork for planning the diplomatic counter-attack to rescind that evil decree.
In similar measure, by arrogating the hateful word apartheid to libel the only country in the world that has a Jewish majority, Amnesty International (AI) has laid its cards on the table and we are the better for it.
Until now, AI had a reputation akin to the collegial image the UN bore half a century ago. To many, particularly on the Left, conservatives throughout the world had already given up on AI – it seemed a fair player with a determined focus on advocating impartially for justice, prisoners’ rights, free speech, refugees’ and immigrants’ rights, and against capital punishment. Few saw it as antisemitic.
We do now. This is a powerful revelation. We cannot oppose and defeat an enemy if we do not realize he secretly is our foe, determined to take us down.
AI defamed the only western democracy in the Middle East, ironically at the first time in Israel’s history when an all-Arab Muslim political party sits in the governing coalition, advocates vigorously for Arab Muslims’ interests in expanding their footprint in the Negev and for a host of Arab Muslim concerns. They even control the four deciding votes that determine every critical national policy the Knesset decides, from economic priorities to confronting COVID-19 to defining the role of the Chief Rabbinate in conversions to Judaism.
This is apartheid? A system of governance that sees Arab Muslims serving as judges on benches as high as the Supreme Court? Where the same governmental family stipends that are sent monthly to Jews to encourage more babies also are sent to Arab Muslims to foster their procreation? Where street displays invariably include Arabic signage?
Countries have national identities, often with racial overlays. No European country has had a Black head of government or state. Japan and China are manifestly Japanese-majority and Chinese-majority respectively. Article 2 of France’ Constitution sets French as the country’s official language. Germany’s Administrative Procedure Act (Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz, VwVfG) §23 establishes German as the official administrative language of Germany. French language laws predominate in Quebec, Canada.
Turkey bans not only polyethylene plastics imports, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but has banned the Kurdish language, Kurdish attire, and Kurdish culture for decades. Turkey arrested an elected Kurdish politician when she spoke Kurdish in her maiden speech in parliament, and she was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. To this day, Kurdish is illegal as a language of instruction in schools.
Israel was created as the only country on earth that would have a Jewish majority. That is not an outlier. Christianity is the official religion and the Church of England is the state church of the United Kingdom. Sunni Islam is the only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia. So why pick on Israel?
If AI’s end game is to eradicate the one Jewish country, they arrived too late. If their goal is to advance a two-state solution, even that train has left the station. Time has marched on, and the future of Judea and Samaria will not be determined by apartheid name-calling or even by the old issues on the table. With 800,000 Jews currently living in east Jerusalem and throughout the rest of Judea and Samaria, it now is impracticable to unring that bell.
Israel barely managed to uproot and resettle the 8,600 Jews she evicted from Gush Katif in 2005. A hundred times that many? No amount of diplomacy, strategizing, theorizing or negotiating can dislocate nearly a million Jewish homeowners and lessees, and find new homes for them in a country the size of New Jersey, the size Israel would be without Judea and Samaria.
Oh, and by the way, Israel presently suffers from a massive housing shortage as is. If AI has any ideas for solving that one, we are all ears. Perhaps, Abu Mazen’s Palestine Authority would allow Jews to buy homes there?
The writer, a law professor and senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, is a congregational rabbi and senior contributing editor at The American Spectator. His book, General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine, explores the 1982 war in Lebanon and the libel trial that followed.