Every year at this time, on the occasion of Passover, Jews around the world relive the exodus from Egypt and their people’s journey from slavery to freedom. This year the endeavor to remember never to take freedom for granted got a gratuitous boost from the United Nations. On April 3 and April 4, 2012, at the behest of modern Arab nations, the U.N. convened a meeting in Geneva committed to turning back the hands of time and keeping alive those ancient prejudices.
Over the past two days, the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has sponsored a two-day conference on the topic of Palestinian “political” prisoners held in Israeli prisons. The Committee was created by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1975 to implement the infamous Zionism-is-racism resolution. While the resolution was rescinded 16 years later, the committee marches on, boasting 49 U.N. states and observers as members and unending funds courtesy of the General Assembly.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent Maxwell Gaylard, U.N. Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to open the meeting on his behalf. Gaylard fawned: “I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at this International Meeting on the Question of Palestine.” He proceeded to “thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for organizing this important discussion.”
With a room full of European diplomats, professional Israel-bashers from “civil society,” Arab and Muslim state representatives, and avowed anti-Semites — not mutually exclusive categories — the “important discussion” took the following form.
The “keynote” address was delivered by Issa Qaraqe, the Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs of the Palestinian Authority. He blithely asserted that “there was a call at the highest level of the Israeli state for concentration camps to be set up for the rounding up and extermination of Palestinian people.” To ensure his message was widely available the U.N. posted on their website his speech claiming that “the Chief Rabbi of Israel” has called “for the establishment of extermination camps for Palestinians,” that Israelis advocate “prisoners should be gassed and exterminated,” and that “Israel is waging a war of ethnic cleansing against all humanity.” As to why there are any Palestinian prisoners, “the prisoners only crime is to struggle for freedom and independence,” said Qaraqe.
John Dugard, who served as U.N. “Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” from 2001 to 2008, openly embraced the destruction of the Jewish state by force, using the one-state-solution lexicon of “Palestine/Israel.” He referred to “Palestinian resistance fighters” as “freedom fighters.” He railed against Israel for using the term “terrorists” — which he put in quotation marks — to describe “those who engage in resistance activities as combatants” or who “take up arms in pursuance of the right of self-determination.”
The ambassador of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the U.N. in Geneva, Slimane Chikh, claimed that “we see ethnic cleansing. . . . Jewish people have primacy and are being favored in all parts of life,” while he fumed about “Judaized holy sites.”
Civil-society representative Shawqi Al Issa, director of the Ensan Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Bethlehem, lectured: “The League [of Nations] decided to give Palestine to European Jewish migrants instead of developing it for its people who lived on this land. In 1947 . . . more of the country was given to European Jewish migrants. . . . There are confessions by Israel that there are medical experiments done on prisoners. . . . Many are killed after leaving prisons as a result of torture, diseases and experiments done on them.”
When the combination of U.N. experts and officials, diplomats and non-governmental participants, had finished analogizing Israelis to Nazis and Palestinians to Holocaust victims, claiming Jews have no historical ties to the land of Israel, and declaring open season on Israeli men, women, and children in the name of self-determination, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian’s lead U.N. representative, was given a final word: “We thank the U.N. for organizing this very important conference in this very important location of the U.N. . . . the capital and center of human rights.”
In a world where human wrongs are called human rights, Mansour’s declaration makes perfect sense. Fortunately, the message of Passover offers us a way out of the U.N.’s moral morass: Teach your children that the threat of servitude continues, that freedom is an imperative for every human soul, and that good can triumph over evil.
— Anne Bayefsky is Director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.
Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its initial posting.