The State of Israel is a modern miracle —a successful world leader in science and technology and a force for good in the world that rose from the ashes of World War 2.
This month marks seventy-five years since the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Israel was declared independent the following year and was immediately invaded by neighboring Arab countries determined to prevent Israel’s creation. Fortunately, they failed—and against all odds, the newborn state of Israel prevailed. The fact that to this day, there is no Palestinian state is certainly not the fault of Israel.
The Arabs (they did not even call themselves Palestinians back then) could have had their own state in 1948 or at any time since then. The fact that they did not choose to set up a state alongside Israel tells us all we need to know about their real intentions. Although the UN gave international legal legitimacy to the establishment of Israel, the yearning of the Jewish people for 2,000 years of exile to return to their homeland represents the true backbone and background to Israel’s rebirth.
What is truly sad is that the United Nations, which, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, assisted in Israel’s creation, became, over the years, a purveyor of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda. The UN violates its own charter by working against peace in the Middle East in its obsession with trashing Israel. “The Commission of Inquiry” set up earlier this year with an open-ended mandate to investigate and criticize only Israel, among 193 countries represented at the UN, is a case in point. The UN’s obsession with Israel has long reached the level of absurdity. One of the annual resolutions dealing with Israel condemns it for “occupying” the Golan Heights.
Israel won that territory, of course, in the 1967 war, which was without question a war of self-defense and survival. Before the war, Syria set up gun emplacements on the heights and routinely fired at Israeli farmers and other civilians in the lowlands of the Sea of Galilee. Is Israel supposed to turn over the Golan Heights to the Assad regime or to the Islamic State, both mortal enemies of Israel?
Perhaps the most notorious of the many obscene actions taken at the UN was the passage in November 1975 of the resolution, which falsely stated that Zionism—the morally justified yearning of the Jewish people for its ancient homeland—was equivalent to racism. Seventy-eight UN members—under pressure from the USSR, Cuba, and the Arab League —shamefully voted to pass that resolution. In 1991, the George HW Bush Administration led a drive to repeal the obscene “Zionism is Racism” resolution.
As a Congressional delegate to the UN General Assembly that year, and part of the US delegation, I was proud to participate in that successful effort. President Bush made it a diplomatic priority to undo the obscenity that was “Zionism is Racism.” It was accomplished by a full-court diplomatic press in New York, Washington, and world capitals.
It was made clear that repealing that unfair and outrageous resolution was of significant importance to the United States. It is time to apply that same intensity and that same commitment to ending, once and for all, the annual UN inquisition against Israel. This applies especially to the permanent UN offices created to undermine and denigrate Israel, such as the Palestinian Division and the Palestinian Committee.
Richard Schifter, the late, legendary US diplomat who founded the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI-BBI) after he retired in order to counteract this double standard at the UN, correctly called these UN entities the “UN anti-Israel apparatus.” Mr. Schifter, who was Jeane Kirkpatrick’s deputy at the UN during the Reagan Administration, felt strongly that the UN campaign against Israel represented a dangerous source of anti-Semitism that spread its malicious influence around the world. He also believed that a concerted effort to change votes could be successful and that this would be in the interest of the United States.
As he put it, “The challenge is to try to make the case to government leaders in friendly countries. Tell them that the UN matters and they ought to give directions to the UN ambassadors to change their voting pattern.”
The continuing ritual of Israel bashing at the UN harms US interests in two ways: first, it contributes to the duplicitous campaign of BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and undermining of Israel, America’s ally. Secondly, and just as significant, it gives a false and dangerous message to the Palestinians. By supporting and endorsing the extreme Palestinian narrative—that Israel is an illegitimate apartheid, colonial state—it not only perpetuates an ugly lie, but it enforces the Palestinian refusal to negotiate in good faith with Israel and finally bring an end to the conflict. Putting an end to this farce, once and for all, would be a great contribution to world peace.
• Dan Burton is a former Member of Congress (R-IN) and former Chairman of the House Middle East Subcommittee
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