It isn’t easy to get worked up at the United Nations, an institution where the egregious is merely business as usual. But even veteran observers of the world body had to sit up and take notice when its Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia published a report about Israel that Secretary General Antonio Gutteres himself immediately disavowed. The lengthy document purported to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the state of Israel was guilty of “the crime of apartheid” according to international law. As such, it didn’t merely criticize Israel’s policies in the West Bank; it called into question the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself, even with pre-1967 borders.
The immediate reaction to this piece of libel from both the head of the U.N. and the U.S. government was quick and appropriate. Through his spokesman, Gutteres said he was not consulted by the report’s authors and its contents did not reflect his views. Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the U.N., said that the United States was “outraged’ by the report and demanded that the secretariat officially withdraw it.
The report is the work of two Americans, Princeton law professor emeritus Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley of the University of Southern Illinois. As a 9/11 truther and an anti-Israel extremist, Falk is particularly unqualified to evaluate the conflict. Yet together with Tilley, he has put together a document that lists Palestinian grievances while ignoring those of Israel in a complex conflict where both sides have suffered. And that’s not all: Rather than merely claim that Israel must evacuate the territories it won in a defensive war in 1967, as most of its critics assert, their report goes straight to the heart of the matter by using Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state to justify the apartheid charge.
By arguing in this way, it dismisses the obvious differences between what happened in South Africa — where a tiny white majority denied all rights to the black majority — and Israel, a Jewish-majority country where the Arab minority has full rights, including suffrage, representation, and equality under the law. It similarly considers irrelevant the fact that the standoff over the disputed territory of the West Bank is the result of Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist within any borders, stubbornly maintained through repeated refusals of peace offers that would have created a Palestinian state. And by denying legitimacy to Israel’s basis for existence as the one Jewish state on the planet, surrounded by multiple nations that are explicitly Muslim or Arab, it implicitly legitimizes the century-long war that has been waged against the Zionist effort, positing that Jews may be legally denied rights granted to others as a matter of course.
Those looking for the reason behind the rising tide of hate against Jews around the globe would do better to read Falk and Tilley than to read Trump’s tweets.
Just as unfortunate is the way the report will be used to buttress the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement against Israel, which is one of the primary engines of anti-Semitic incitement both in Europe and the United States. While BDS claims to be merely a protest against Israel, wherever its banner is raised, anti-Jewish hate speech and actions soon follow. Those who subscribe to the notion that the Jewish state has no rights that need be respected are not merely promoting bias on the international stage, but also are part of an effort that leads inexorably to anti-Semitic hate speech.
Liberal groups have labeled President Trump as the main source of encouragement for the uptick in anti-Jewish incidents in the United States. This is due in part to his inflammatory statements during the election campaign, the support he received from anti-Semites in the small but loud alt-right and far-right elements of his base, and his refusal to quickly disavow such hate once he became president. Partisans have overstated this argument while failing to take into account Trump’s close Jewish ties, his support for Israel, and the things most of those actively promoting anti-Semitism actually care about. The U.N. report is a reminder that in our time, the singling out of Jews for discriminatory treatment is primarily driven by anti-Israel propaganda, which serves as a thin veil for a new and insidious form of anti-Semitism. Those looking for the reason behind the rising tide of hate against Jews around the globe would do better to read Falk and Tilley than to read Trump’s tweets.
— Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor at JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter @jonathans_tobin.