Celebrate Israel Legitimacy Month

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Open Zion – The Daily Beast, 10-23-12

In our base ten culture, which gives mystical power to anniversary milestones ending in five or zero, this November—in addition to being Native American Heritage Month, National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, National Novel Writing Month, and Lung Cancer Awareness Month—should become “Israel Legitimacy Month,” using two anniversaries to celebrate the legitimacy of the Zionist project. November 2 will mark the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, official British acknowledgement of the need for a Jewish homeland that culminated thirty years later—sixty-five years ago—on November 29, 1947, when the United Nations officially endorsed a Jewish state—and an Arab entity—in partitioning the land of Palestine.

Jubilant residents celebrate with what would become the Israeli flag after the United Nations decision to approve the partition of Palestine November 29, 1947 in Tel Aviv in the British Mandate for Palestine. (Hans Pins / GPO via Getty Images)
Jubilant residents celebrate with what would become the Israeli flag after the United Nations decision to approve the partition of Palestine November 29, 1947 in Tel Aviv in the British Mandate for Palestine. (Hans Pins / GPO via Getty Images)

In celebrating, it is important to note how unjust it is that we have to turn what should be simple celebrations into complex justifications. Israel should not have to defend its legitimacy. In a world wherein nationalism remains the central constitutive political force, most nations can enjoy the luxury of having their national rights respected, even taken for granted. But Israel and Zionism have been subjected to a systematic campaign of delegitimization targeting Jewish nationalism and Jews’ ties to their historic homeland, while questioning the validity and viability of Israel itself. We have to risk appearing defensive—even while acknowledging the disproportionate singling out—so as not to be unduly naïve, undereducated, and unprepared.

Moreover, in asserting Jewish national claims and Israel’s legitimacy we need not fall into the mutually exclusive trap and negate Palestinian claims. In a world that tends to give claims of national rights of self-determination the benefit of the doubt, both Jewish claims and Palestinian claims have their own legitimacy and historical pedigree.

The great significance of the Balfour Declaration, issued as a letter by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour on November 2, 1917, stems essentially from the power at the time of Great Britain in drawing most of the map of today’s Middle East.   When “His Majesty’s government,” in all its imperial grandeur, looked with favor on “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” the movement that Theodor Herzl had started twenty years earlier to articulate a nearly two-thousand-year-old dream of redemption received international legitimacy. When the British General Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem five weeks later on December 9, 1917, military might reinforced the diplomatic vision. These moves led to the British mandate over Palestine, a period of stability, prosperity, and population growth for both the Jewish Palestinians and the Arab Palestinians, as they were called at the time. The fact that Jews from Europe and Arabs from the Middle East flowed into the newly flourishing Jerusalem and environs at the time should remind us that borders shifted and people moved—two essential historical insights that shape my openness to compromise on boundaries today.

Alas, during the British mandate, enmity between the two groups built up, along with the two populations and the infrastructure of a Jewish state. Nevertheless, as the historian Efraim Karsh shows in his important book “Palestine Betrayed,” there were also strong, healthy, grassroots relations among many Jews and Arabs.

Karsh’s title reflects his indictment of the Palestinian Arab leadership. The Hitlerite demagogue Haj Amin al-Husseini, and other extremist Arab leaders betrayed their people—and the vision of two peoples living side by side—by fomenting violence and, when offered a partition compromise by the United Nations in 1947, rejecting it outright and calling for Holy War instead.

Yes. I can respect Palestinian claims even while criticizing their leadership for rejecting that compromise—and others. And yes, we should return to the joy of November 29, 1947, when dancing broke out spontaneously throughout the Jewish world to celebrate the new world body’s validation of a Jewish state—even though Jews were also compromising, including accepting the internationalization of Jerusalem, their precious national capital.

Unfortunately, today, 95 years after the Balfour Declaration, and 65 years after the UN Partition plan, too many are ignorant of the history—and too many others purposely distort what happened. History should not offer handcuffs, shackling us to past realities that prevent compromise in the present. But history can teach us that, despite many attempts today to delegitimize Israel, Zionism, and the very notion of Jewish peoplehood, Jewish rights are historically valid, legally legitimate and cause for celebration.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Institute Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book, “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism,” will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.

Stephen Harper’s foreign policy is truly Canadian

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 10-22-12

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done it again. By confronting Iran, he has championed Canadian values, and democracy. It’s ironic that one of the criticisms of his assertive, affirmative foreign policy is that it is somehow “not Canadian.” Fighting evil and refusing to maintain business as usual, even to the point of withdrawing your diplomats, marks a fulfilment of Canadian ideals, not a violation of them. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullocracy disrespect peace, order and good government. Canada’s controversial, principled prime minister has once again showed that he understands what each of those core concepts means.

Actually, we should ask the opposite question. What made serious, good, idealistic Canadians start believing that appeasement was the Canadian way? Diplomacy is, of course, a noble pursuit. And peace is preferable to war. But history teaches that frequently strength, morality and vision are the best guarantors of peace – especially when facing evil, ambitious, greedy powers. As every parent knows, giving in often makes unacceptable behaviours worse, not better.

Canadian academics and politicians took a lead role in trying to heal the world after the horrors of World War II. The Canadian contribution to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with McGill University’s John Peters Humphrey taking the lead, is a justifiable source of pride to Canadians. Similarly, Lester Pearson did great work in teaching the world that human rights standards should be universal and that peace can be achieved through what Winston Churchill called “jaw jaw” not “war war.”

But Pearson was no relativist. Among his great achievements was helping the world recognize its obligation to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan. Supporting the initiative entailed taking a stand, articulating a moral position and rocking the boat. Similarly, when he said in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that “ideas are explosive,” Pearson was acknowledging the power of ideas, while admitting that some ideas can be forces for good, even as others can be extremely harmful.

Unfortunately, the cataclysmic 1960s upset the moral compass of many of Pearson’s and Humphrey’s successors. As the United Nations degenerated from the world’s democracies’ attempt to spread democratic principles worldwide into the Third World dictators’ debating society, many in the West lost heart. Rather than defending the universality of certain key principles such as human rights, they succumbed as a crass coalition of Soviets, Arabs and Third World Communists politicized and thus polluted the human rights apparatus in the UN and elsewhere.

On Nov. 10, 1975, when the U.S. Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan – a Stephen Harper precursor – stood strong against the “Zionism is racism” resolution, he was making a stand against the new perverted world order that was emerging. Saul Rae, father of interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and the Canadian ambassador to the UN at the time, supported Moynihan and denounced the infamous antisemitic and anti-democratic resolution.

But the resolution passed, and the appeasers caved.

Since the 1960s, many in the West have been more guilt-ridden than principled. Suitably abashed at the West’s culpability in an earlier era’s crimes of colonialism, imperialism and racism, many have refused to stand up to the new criminals of today, because they’re still seeking forgiveness for those earlier sins. But a moral inversion has occurred, as some of the victims have become victimizers, which is what is occurring with Islamist terrorists and the Iranians.

Since the 1979 revolution, the Iranian mullahs have harassed their own people, devastated their own economy and violated their own culture’s character. Moreover, they violated centuries-long international rules by kidnapping and holding American diplomats hostage, they entered into a bloody war with Iraq that caused more than one million deaths, and they have threatened Israel – and the United States – with destruction. Persian civilization was sophisticated, disciplined, and tolerant for its day. Iranian Islamism has been crude, violent and infamously intolerant in an increasingly tolerant era. Now, this outlaw regime is seeking nuclear weapons, and progressing rapidly in its perverse quest.

I confess: I don’t get it. How is it progressive or peace-seeking or in any way Canadian to indulge these monsters in their immoral pursuits? We need to echo Moynihan in his eloquent denunciations. And we need to follow Harper’s way, refusing to conduct “business as usual” with regimes that are unnaturally evil.

Commitments Not Reaffirmed

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Open Zion – The Daily Beast, 10-2-12

Are there any progressives out there sufficiently committed to the peace process and the two-state solution to criticize Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly? Abbas’s address once again proved his “moderation” to be a masquerade, as he plunged Palestinians and Israelis into round after round of the delegitimization derby, piling on insults and libels, making it difficult for any self-respecting Israeli government to respond constructively. And the fact that after more than 1,600 words of denunciations and demonization, he claimed to “reaffirm, without hesitation,” his and his people’s commitment to “peace and international legitimacy,” suggested that he was insulting the international community’s intelligence, not just the Israeli “occupier.”

Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2012 in New York City. (John Moore / Getty Images)

 

Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2012 in New York City. (John Moore / Getty Images)
 

Before Abbas’s false call for peace, he warned of “the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country, Palestine.” He used the code words his mentor Yasser Arafat first injected into the Israeli-Palestinian conversation: “racist,” “discriminatory,” “ethnic cleansing,” “siege,” “apartheid,” “terrorism,” “colonial,” etc. etc. Most of these words were purposely imported into the language about the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the 1970s to turn discussion of the conflict from its local particulars to universal condemnations, as a way of linking the Palestinians with all Third World victims of Western powers. Bringing new meaning to the word chutzpah, Abbas then complained about “an Israeli political discourse that does not hesitate to brandish aggressive, extremist positions, which in many aspects and its practical application on the ground is inciting religious conflict.”

By contrast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech began with an affirmation of Jewish history not a negation of the Palestinians. He segued into his call for “a durable peace with the Palestinians” by talking about a point of common civility: how Israeli doctors treated Palestinian Arabs in Israelis hospitals. Netanyahu did criticize Abbas’s rant by saying: “We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the U.N.,” but he limited his denunciations of the Palestinian Authority to two sentences, admittedly spending more time than that attacking Iran and Islamism.

This is not to say that Abbas’s speech had no merit and that Netanyahu’s speech was unassailable. It was heartbreaking to hear Abbas’s account of what he called “at least 535 attacks perpetrated” against Palestinians by Israeli settlers “since the beginning of this year.” The Israeli government must have zero tolerance for such criminal behavior, which is legally and morally wrong. At the same time, Netanyahu’s crude cartoon illustrating the Iranian bomb threat was undignified and unhelpful. Domestic critics are mocking Netanyahu’s address as “the Looney Tunes speech”—and such criticism is deserved.

But on the Palestinian issue, one cannot equate the Israeli Prime Minister’s constructive approach with the Palestinian Authority President’s rhetorical howitzers. Of course, that is precisely what the New York Times and others did. Generating the usual fog of moral equivalence, the Times editorial “Talking at Cross Purposes,” acknowledged Abbas’s “exceptionally sharp rhetoric” while excusing it, and noted Netanyahu’s “reference to wanting peace with the Palestinians” while dismissing it as “brief” and insincere.

For peace to be achieved—in fact, for any real progress to occur—all actors in this enduring drama will have to break out of their assigned roles. Palestinians will have to stop playing the victim and demonizing Israel. And those observers supposedly devoted to peace will have to start criticizing, cajoling, inspiring, and reassuring both sides, showing a willingness to condemn Palestinian actions when warranted and even grant compliments to Israel, if warranted.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Intstitute Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book, “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism,” will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.

One-Note History: A Response to Yousef Munayyer

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Open Zion The Daily Beast, 6-19-12

One of the most moving Jewish prayers begins by saying, “MiPnai Chataeinu Gilinu MeArzenu,” we were exiled from our land, because of our sins. The prayer captures the humility of the Jews in exile, and explains a fundamental force that propelled the Zionist movement. Some Jews, overwhelmed by the sins of fraternal hatred that destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, preached passivity, awaiting Messianic redemption.  Others, fearing national paralysis but nevertheless humbled, reacted and acted.

Awareness of national sins, of collective imperfections, helped make most Zionists pragmatists. They were trying to fix a problem—the problem of statelessness—and were willing to compromise to achieve their goal. Most dramatically, in 1947 David Ben-Gurion led his people to accept what the Peel Commission had acknowledged was a proverbial half loaf—a partition of the Jewish homeland into Jewish and Arab parts, with Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s geographic heart and soul, internationalized. This compromise preceded other compromises, including the 1979 Camp David treaty with Egypt, the various Oslo Accords of the 1990s, and the Gaza Disengagement of 2005—all of which involved withdrawing from territory for the hope of peace.

 

mufti-jerusalem-openz
Kemal Arekat (l), former leader of Futuwa movement, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, commander of Palestinian Arab forces in Jerusalem (c) and Kassem Rimawi (r), leader of Palestinian Arab Party 16 February 1948 during the offensive against Jews in Palestine. (AFP / Getty Images)

 

By contrast, the dominant Palestinian narrative has long been about the sins of others leading to their exile and suffering. In “Blaming the Victim” Yousef Munayyer once again offers such an account of his people as blameless, claiming that any suggestion of Palestinian responsibility is “ahistorical,” condescending, and, invoking the accusation du jour, a reflection of “racism.”  Setting up a straw man—or straw passage—he targets his enemies with his own improvised quotations, writing, “‘Those Arabs had a chance to make a deal by accepting the 1947 UN Partition,’ the narrative often goes, ‘but they chose war and thus deserve whatever befell them.'” Munayyer’s characterization drains the nuance from the discussion and turns an assessment of historical responsibility—losing wars you trigger does have consequences—into a condescending moral judgment.

Then, trying to cleanse Arabs of responsibility and blame the Jews he writes: “Given the discussion of ‘population transfer,'”—again undocumented—”Palestinian Arabs knew that the Jewish state might very well act to remove them from its territory to solidify its demographic control.”Here, using historical slight of hand with no proof, he implicitly accuses Israelis of a pre-crime, speculating that the Jews “might very well act.” Finally, reversing historical causation, he makes the Arab military attack on Israel a justified reaction rather than an aggressive invasion when he writes, again without evidence, “The influx of refugees pouring into Arab states pushed those governments into a war they were neither prepared for nor really desired.”

This account ignores the well-documented research of historians such as Efraim Karsh who in Palestine Betrayed (2010) presents a nuanced, multidimensional perspective. Karsh explains that some Palestinians had strong ties with Jews, some accepted the partition compromise, but that extremist leaders such as Hajj Amin Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, betrayed their people by being so uncompromising. (And Karsh’s portrait is far from “monolithic,” mocking another Munayyer complaint which is undermined by Munayyer’s own sweeping claim that “the native Palestinians opposed” partition—as if all acted as one).

Rejecting the Palestinian claim that Palestinians were passive pawns, Karsh quotes Radio Baghdad in May 1948 that “Fright has struck the Palestinian Arabs and they fled their country.” The Palestinian leader Musa Alami admitted in 1949 that his people “were told that the Arab armies were coming, that the matter would be settled and everything return to normal.”

Most damning, Karsh dares introduce complexity into the story by noting that after 1948, many Palestinians blamed their Arab brethren not the Jews. Sir John Troutbeck the pro-Arab head of the British Middle East office in Cairo, reported in June 1949 that the Gaza refugees “Express no bitterness against the Jews,” but “speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states.” Many told Troutbeck: “we know who our enemies are.” He concluded, the Gaza refugees “have no quarrel with the Jews.” He explained: “they have lived with the Jews all their lives and are perfectly ready to go back and live with them again.”

Johnny one-note history is anathema to a two-state solution. The dominant, monolithic woe-is-us, we-were-“ethnically-cleansed” Palestinian narrative undermines any spirit of pragmatism or compromise in a demand for absolute “justice” rather than a search for a subtle solution. Many Israelis have spent over two decades now arguing about their history, acknowledging the messiness of the past, the complexity of the conflict, the dual claims of two people in love with the same land. Parallel Palestinian discussions, acknowledging some of their sins and miscalculations too, would help lay the ideological and conceptual groundwork for the kinds of compromises they—and the Israelis—will have to accept for peace to be achieved.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book, “Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight against Zionism as Racism,” will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.

Exaggerating the Refugee Problem: Response to Lara Friedman’s Open Zion Post “Legislating the Refugee Problem”

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Open Zion The Daily Beast, 5-29-12

The situation in the Middle East is complicated enough without inflammatory oversimplifications. Lara Friedman’s post “Legislating the Refugee Problem,” should be called “Exaggerating the Refugee Problem.” Unfortunately, supposedly pro-Palestinian discourse is rife with such destructive distortions, which undermine the push for a two-state solution.

Friedman charges  that “Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party member… introduced legislation supporting Israeli annexation ‘of Judea and Samaria’—aka, the West Bank.” Following the link she provides, H.RES.394 is called “Supporting Israel’s right to annex Judea and Samaria in the event that the Palestinian Authority continues to press for unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.” One can still oppose the law, but understanding it as potential Congressional pushback to counter a unilateral declaration by Palestinians fills out the narrative.

Mvd6074848

Colombian supporters of Israel demonstrate to back Colombia’s position of not to vote the recognition of a Palestine statehood by the UN, at Bolivar Square in Bogota in October 2011. (Felipe Caicedo / AFP / Getty Images)

Beyond telling half the story, Friedman loves appearing horrified by the mundane. She is outraged that, when serving in the House, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, “made going after UNRWA—the UN agency that provides services to Palestinian refugees—a pet project.” What did this evil man do? She reports: “His efforts have focused on demanding audits and imposing ever-increasing demands for UNRWA accountability as a condition for U.S. funding.” Demanding audits? Seeking accountability? It is indeed shocking when modern legislators stop posturing and start doing their jobs by providing Congressional oversight. But those efforts should be applauded, not condemned.

In fairness, Senator Kirk expanded his mission. He is challenging the accepted UNWRA definition of Palestinian refugees while questioning UNWRA’s overall bias against Israel—although again, Friedman’s links show that Kirk is not proposing an aid cutoff for impoverished Palestinians, which, if mentioned would have made him sound much less Scrooge-like.

Senator Kirk has a point. The Palestinians have long enjoyed extra protection and indulgence from the UN, and especially the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNWRA, first established in 1949. In those days, the world was awash in refugees. There were as many as 40 million European refugees after World War II, and another 14.5 million after the Indo-Pakistan partition plan. Over the next decade, 850,000 Jews from Arab lands would also become refugees, driven out by anti-Semitic fury following Israel’s creation.

UNWRA defines a Palestine refugee as “any person whose ‘normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.’” That makes sense. Whatever caused the displacement—and the historiographical battle rages as to how many fled voluntarily and how many were driven out involuntarily—six hundred to seven hundred thousand Palestinians ended up homeless after the 1948 war. They deserved international assistance. But UNWRA then adds a twist: “Palestine refugees are persons who fulfil the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition” [italics added]. Now, we need George Orwell.

Pop Quiz: What do you call “descendants” of European refugees, Indian refugees, Pakistani refugees, or Jewish refugees from the post-1945 or post-1948 turmoil? Answer: Citizens of their respective lands. The classification “refugee” is a transitory one not an enduring identity willed from one generation to the next—except when we come to the question of Palestine and we see the world’s investment in perpetuating the problem.

This perma-Palestinian-refugee status prolongs the Middle East conflict. I respect Palestinian national identity and endorse a two-state solution. Moreover, I endorse a right of return for the original Palestinian refugees. This incendiary issue could be defused if UNWRA kept to the historic definition and treated Palestinians like all others. Palestinians could become citizens of their new state, once created. The remaining 30,000 or so original Palestinians displaced 64 years ago, could be welcomed back in Israel or compensated. Palestinians could get a symbolic victory of great import to them without threatening Israel or trying to undo six and a half decades of history.

UNWRA’s categorizing inflation reflects its systematic anti-Israel bias. Over the years, UNWRA schools have preached anti-Israel hatred, UNWRA’s director has demagogically attacked the Jewish state, and UNWRA has been part of a network of UN institutions that prolong the conflict by encouraging Palestinian extremism and maximalist demands.

The Zen notion that less is more also applies to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Less encouragement of Palestinian radicalism would facilitate more progress toward a two-state solution. If the Palestinian goal is creating a Palestinian state and not destroying the Jewish one, being pro-Palestinian must undergo a redefinition which focuses on advancing that goal rather than feeding destructive, maximalist fantasies.  Friedman, UNWRA and so many other undiscriminating cheerleaders are playing the role of enablers, perpetuating Mideast dysfunction rather than providing the perspective and tough love good friends sometimes need.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book, “Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight against Zionism as Racism,” will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.

The Zionism-Racism lie lives – 20 years after the UN’s repeal

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 11-29-11

Last week, Ha’aretz’s publisher Amos Schocken joined the chorus prematurely mourning “the elimination of Israeli democracy” – although articles like his in his hyper-critical newspaper prove Israel’s democratic vitality daily. Exaggerating further, he accused Israel of practicing “apartheid.” This libel is inaccurate and inflammatory. Tragically, it appeared just before an important anniversary that should not be overlooked – the United Nations’ repeal of its odious Zionism is Racism resolution twenty years ago on December 16, 1991.
A clever polemicist, Schocken appeared more subtle than the average Israel-basher by acknowledging a “difference” between South African apartheid “and what is happening in the territories.” Nevertheless, he found “points of resemblance.” He defined apartheid as “the undemocratic system of discriminating between the rights of the whites and the blacks, which once existed in South Africa.” But he discussed “discrimination” in the West Bank without offering any evidence regarding the offense which made apartheid apartheid, defining people systematically, legally, by skin color.
In a world which abhors racial distinctions but organizes itself around many distinctions between different national groups, justifying the apartheid accusation requires proving a racial dimension. Schocken could have charged “discrimination” – which is devastating enough to a democracy. Using the demonizing word “apartheid” linked him to the Big Lie delegitimizing the Jewish state by calling Zionism racism and comparing Israel to South Africa’s apartheid regime.
The apartheid charge gussies up the Zionism-racism lie with sincere concern about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, but both blood libels share common origins, carrying the putrid stench  of Soviet totalitarianism’s rotting corpse.  In the 1960s and 1970s, Soviet and Arab propagandists concocted the Zionism-racism charge to ostracize the Jewish state by identifying it with racist South Africa and Rhodesia. This “Big Red Lie,” as Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it, also echoed Nazi views of Jews as a “race.” Trying to racialize Zionism, to South Africanize Israel, to demonize the Jewish people and the Jewish state, the UN’s General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975, calling Zionism racism.
Moynihan, serving as America’s UN Ambassador, saw the resolution as an attack on democracy and decency.  And he recognized the genocidal implications of accusing Israel of the one international crime punishable by national death. Comparing Zionism to Nazism and white supremacism wished the same fate on Israel that befell Nazi Germany and – eventually – apartheid South Africa. Israel’s UN Ambassador, Chaim Herzog, denounced the Hitlerite anti-Semitism shaping the resolution, targeting the collective Jew rather than individual Jews.
Both Herzog and Moynihan believed “words matter” and ideas count. When Herzog became Israel’s president in 1983, he and now-Senator Moynihan began campaigning to repeal the resolution. Everyone said that no General Assembly resolution was ever repealed – although Spain joined the UN in 1950 despite an earlier resolution prohibiting its membership.
Herzog and Moynihan persisted. In 1985, Israel’s UN Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu hosted a conference demanding repeal. Netanyahu explained the resolution’s potency, noting “there is no worse epithet in today’s lexicon than ‘racist,’” the word is “the modern version of ‘Christ killers,’ ‘traitors,’ ‘usurers,’ and ‘international conspirators.’”
Moynihan, a Democrat, cooperated with the Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, then George H.W. Bush, who ultimately secured the repeal. The Jewish community mobilized, uniting grassroots protests with effective organizational advocacy. And history happened. The Soviet Union collapsed.
The liberated Eastern European countries endorsed repeal. Following a courageous intervention by Elie Wiesel, who pointedly asked the Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk how come no one in Kiev opened up a door to save even one child as thousands marched to their deaths toward the forests of Babi Yar in 1941, Kravchuk rejected this “resolution born out of bitter ideological confrontation.” The Czech President Vaclav Havel needed no coaching, saying: “I didn’t approve of it then; I don’t approve of it now.”
Unfortunately, despite the repeal, despite the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Big Red Lie refuses to die. “Zionism is Racism” and the Apartheid accusation have become central memes in modern politics. A meme, “something imitated,” is an idea popularized in a culture through repetition. Israel’s enemies have used these two Killer Memes to make their assault on Israel’s existence constant and cumulative. The Zionism-Racism claim integrates one criticism with the next; the apartheid allegation treats every Israeli misstep as a crime against humanity.
No one involved in Middle East matters, least of all Ha’aretz’s erudite publisher, can claim to be ignorant of the significance of validating the Apartheid-Racism memes. Intentionally or not, in the internet age, Ha’aretz is an important link in the chain of delegitimization that often starts with its incendiary coverage and ends with the Boycott Israel-Kill the Jews crowd feeling vindicated. That realization should never stop Schocken or others from truth-telling. But it should caution them against sloppy rabble-rousing.
Schocken should get a taste of those democratic prerogatives he defends so eloquently. The Jewish Agency, the Federations, the Israeli government, the universities, should stop taking out those ridiculous, expensive front page ads in the English Ha’aretz welcoming this group or that board to Israel — and explain why the gravy train stopped. Charity dollars should not be wasted in such vanity enterprises anyway — especially if they subsidize spreading these modern blood libels.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Jewish organizational world, and the Jewish people should celebrate December 16. We should toast the American-Israeli friendship, America’s bipartisan cooperation on this issue, Zionist activism, and the welcome defeat of Soviet totalitarianism that produced the victory. Our students should learn that sometimes Israel’s advocates, Zionism’s champions, democracy’s defenders, can win. And all Israelis, from across the political spectrum, should learn they have a treasury of words and historical comparisons to use during vigorous democratic debate. However, using the Zionism-Racism and Apartheid memes assaults the truth and encourages Israel’s deadliest enemies.
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenge of Today,” his next book is “Moynihan’s Moment: Zionism is Racism, the Rise of Reagan and the Fall of the UN.”

A decade after 9/11 – and still proud

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

Despite all my lingering post-9/11 anger, I also hold on to overwhelming feelings of pride, gratitude, hope from that day and its aftermath.

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 9-6-11

Ten years ago this week, 19 terrorists hijacked four airplanes, murdered nearly three thousand people, destroyed the World Trade Center’s twin towers, and damaged the Pentagon. Our therapy-orientated culture encourages us to “move on,” rather than wallow in anger. We are supposed to seek “root causes” of violence, absolving belligerent individuals and nations of moral responsibility, especially if we perceive someone from the Third World assailing powerful white Westerners. But at the risk of being politically and psychologically incorrect, I remain angry after all these years. The ruins have stopped smoldering – I haven’t.

I AM still angry that so many good people lost their lives. I mourn with the parents who buried their children so prematurely – or had no remains to inter – and with the widowed spouses and the orphaned children.

Every victim has a name and a narrative; the daily ache of missing a lost friend or relative’s look, laugh and love is compounded by imagining the possibilities of lives not fully lived. For weeks after 9/11, The New York Times ran what became a Pulitzer-Prize winning series, “Portraits of Grief.” These mini-biographies painted a pointillist picture of what America, and the world, lost that day, one precious life at a time. And they confirmed what many of us knew but the media was too politically correct to say – although the victims came from dozens of countries and all classes, most were either white collar male professionals – like me – or blue collar rescue workers who went to work one day and never returned.

I am still angry at the anti-Americanism that formed the backdrop to these mass murders. Al-Qaida’s anti- Western ideology is a murderous manifestation of a broader phenomenon mixing resentment of American power, jealousy of American success, fear of American freedom and contempt for American novelty. In its mildest forms, this anti-Americanism unites haughty Old World Europeans who disdain the aggressive New World upstarts as crude cowboys. In its ugly Islamist form, this anti-Americanism strengthens Muslim fundamentalists’ dreams of a Caliphate theocracy dominating the world.

I am still angry at the foolish, foul Red-Green alliance between radical leftists and Islamists, that has too many in Europe and on campuses echoing the Islamist agenda even when it entails rationalizing sexism, homophobia, theocracy and autocracy. These laptop jihadists, these posturing Chomskyites, view Third Worlders as necessarily noble, oppressed, and thereby justified in attacking Americans, Israelis and others they deem powerful “whites” – despite the multiracial makeup of both America and Israel. These self-hating hypocrites only see Western faults, staying scandalously silent about Syria’s crackdown or Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

I am still angry at the United Nations, which has become international headquarters for this selective indignation and these double standards. Founded with democratic idealism in the 1940s, the world body has degenerated since the 1970s into the Third World Dictators’ Debating Society as autocrats deploy in New York the very democratic techniques they ban at home.

I am still angry at the bipartisan failure by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to prevent the crime. The moral onus remains on the terrorists, but President Clinton lacked the guts to hunt down Osama Bin Laden more aggressively, while President Bush failed to focus on the threat. Informed speculation that better cooperation between the CIA and the FBI could have stopped the jihadists is emotionally devastating. The fact that reporters and politicians ignored terrorism in the 2000 presidential campaign reflects the bipartisan sloppiness that made the terrorists’ work easier.

I am still angry that despite the rhetoric claiming that terrorism never succeeds, terrorism has succeeded – most dramatically in popularizing and somehow legitimizing Palestinian demands, making the late Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization the spiritual and tactical trailblazers for Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.

I am still angry that this summer, just weeks before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, leading media outlets again rationalized terrorism by calling the Gazan terrorists who slaughtered eight Israelis near Eilat – including two sisters vacationing together with their respective husbands – “militants.”

I am still angry about the convergence of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, exemplified by the candy Palestinians in Gaza threw to celebrate the 9/11 murders, and the cynical way in which Bin Laden started invoking the Palestinian cause when retroactively attempting to popularize his despicable act.

I am still angry about the increased vulnerability of Jews following 9/11 – partially due to the parallel terrorist onslaught Palestinians unleashed. Even today, throughout the Diaspora, many Jewish synagogues, schools and organizations require special protections because terrorists target us and our institutions particularly.

And I am still angry that most American Jews started acknowledging the renewed Palestinian terrorism against Israel only after 9/11 – even though that wave of terrorism began in September, 2000, a year before the devastating al Qaida attacks.

FORTUNATELY, DESPITE all my lingering post-9/11 anger, I also hold on to the overwhelming feelings of pride, gratitude and hope from that day and its aftermath.

I remember the way Americans united, transcending partisan, racial and religious differences, as so many millions throughout the world expressed sympathy – and outrage. I honor the estimated 5 million Americans who have served in the military since the attacks – alongside many soldiers from allies such as Canada and Great Britain. I lament the 6,200 Americans lost in combat – along with so many other fallen soldiers and civilians from other countries in this fight for freedom. And I appreciate more than ever the liberties we in the West enjoy , the civil society we have developed, and the moral values we cherish, well aware that civilization itself, let alone functional democracies, requires careful tending – and when necessary, an aggressive, effective defense against our enemies – ideologically as well as militarily.

The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his latest book is The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

September Backgrounder: Zionism, Racism and Durban

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Prof. Gil Troy (updated version of an article published March 29, 2009)

Among the many casualties of the continuing Mideast violence is the term “Zionism.” Whereas it once epitomized idealism, romanticism, and the best of nationalism to millions of Jews and non-Jews, Zionism today is politically incorrect. In a depressing retreat to the harshest days of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism is again being demonized. Critics regularly twin the term with a grab-bag of reprehensible “isms”: expansionism, colonialism, imperialism, racism, and, most perversely, Nazism.

The renewed attack on Zionism overshadowed the United Nations conference held in Durban, South Africa which began on August 31, 2001 and ended on September 7.  The “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance,” wanted to condemn “the racist practices of Zionism,” call Zionism a movement based on racial superiority, and condemn Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “a new kind of apartheid.” Some delegates distributed a booklet of vile and ancient anti-Semitic caricatures showing Jews with hook noses and fangs dripping blood. It was hard to take such overt racism at a supposed anti-racism conference seriously — but also hard to ignore it. The United States — and even the (at the time) compulsively “evenhanded” Canadian government — mobilized against it. The U.S. Secretary of State at the time, Colin Powell, the first African-American Secretary of State, desperately wanted to attend the conference, seeing it as a critical moment in South Africa’s transition from enduring a racist Apartheid regime to being purged of such ugliness. Yet, ultimately, frustrated, Powell boycotted the event, sending a mid-level U,S, representative instead, because he realized that focusing on Zionism at an anti-racism conference hurt the cause of racism – and allowed truly racist regimes to dodge responsibility as the world piled on Israel, and Zionism.

To attack Zionism, rather than Israeli policies or the Israeli government, is to repudiate the State of Israel and the idea of a Jewish state. For Zionism at its simplest is Jewish nationalism, the understanding that Jews are a people, that Judaism is not just a religion, and that Israel is the Jewish homeland. Singling out Jewish nationalism as racist, in a forum of the 192-member United Nations, is itself bigoted anti-Semitic behavior.

In targeting Jewish nationalism in its broadest, murkiest, and most abstract incarnation, critics betray their true colors. Anti-Zionism goes way beyond the question of the settlements or Ariel Sharon or Avigdor Lieberman or any particular Israeli actions. Anti-Zionism attacks the very rights of the Jews to their homeland. This sweeping assault then naturally metastasizes into the anti-Semitic caricatures in so many Arab newspapers and into the epidemic of violence against Jews throughout the world that so many supposed humanists rationalize.

This anti-Zionist vitriol ratchets the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians from the realm of the negotiable up to an arena of mutually exclusive absolutes. Those who negate Zionism are declaring war on Israel and the Jewish people. This broad-based assault, combined with the wider-ranging campaign of terror launched in 2000 against all Israelis, explains why the Israeli left has all but collapsed, and the region is so polarized.

Trying to turn the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into a racial conflict, caricatures Israelis as colonialist, imperialist, racist whites, and Palestinians as noble, victimized, oppressed, people of color. But the facts collide with this simplistic propagandistic scenario. The conflict is a national conflict, with some religious overtones. But there are dark-skinned Israelis and light-skinned Palestinians. Moreover, there are no racial or racist laws on Israeli books – unlike the despicable South African apartheid regime with all its racial classifications among blacks, whites and coloreds. Whereas Israel has made heroic efforts to rescue tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews from Africa, all too often, too many Arabs are behind some of the worst racist conflicts in the world, notably Darfur today.

Proof that Zionism is most definitely not racism comes from America’s first African-America president, Barack Obama. During his campaign, Obama explained that when he was in sixth grade he attended a summer camp and learned about Zionism, Israel and the Holocaust from a Jewish counselor. Obama recalled how the counselor “shared with me the idea of retuning to a homeland and what that meant for a people who had suffered from the Holocaust, and he talked about the idea of preserving a culture when a people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home. For a young man like Obama, searching for his roots, for his identity, this message resonated. And so, he proclaimed, “my starting point when I think about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel, mindful of the hardship and pain and suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, but also mindful of the incredible opportunity that is presented when people finally return to a land and are able to try to excavate their best tradition and their best selves. And obviously it’s something that has great resonance with the African-American experience.”

President Obama understands that not only is Zionism not racism, not only can the Zionist story inspire African-Americans and displaced people everywhere, but that we all should strive to do what he understand Zionism has done: excavate our best traditions and our best selves.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. giltroy@gmail.com

Stop rockets by seizing Palestinian territory

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

Targeted actions depriving Gaza of territory in response to attacks will put a specific price tag on each rocket and terror attack.

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-30-11

My cousin Adele Raemer lives on Kibbutz Nirim in the Western Negev. It is an idealistic community in an idyllic setting. Over the years, the kibbutzniks have created a lush, intimate oasis that is as warm communally as it is hot meteorologically. Unfortunately, their beautiful lives are interrupted far too often by sirens and explosions as rockets bombard them from neighboring Gaza.

To let people in Israel and throughout the world know what it’s like to live from warning to warning, from safe house sprint to safe house sprint, Adele recently started the Facebook group “Life on the border with Gaza – things people may not know (but should).” This apolitical on-line diary paints a picture of the courage involved in living an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances, when “everyone” is suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress, when kids go back to wetting their beds, dogs are “frightened to death” by strange noises, and adults are living on edge. This diary portrays the Israeli refusal to be defeated. It puts a human face on the callous decision of Gaza’s Hamas rulers to turn their fiefdom into a launching pad for Islamist terror. And it details, warning by warning, missile by missile, stress by stress, a massive failure on the part of the Israeli government – handcuffed as it is by the international community.

A government’s primary mission is to protect its citizens. When tens of thousands of those citizens endure barrages from hostile neighbors, the government must act. Fearing international condemnation for the simple act of defending its citizens, Israel’s government has decided to build shelters in most schools and many homes within rocket range. This limits physical casualties but ignores the psychological toll. It is the reaction of the “galut Jew” – the oppressed accommodator, not the proud, independent Israeli fighter.

I hate war. I don’t wish to see unnecessary bloodshed. But residents of the Western Negev, including Sderot, have suffered too much. Barack Obama himself said, in Sderot on July 23, 2008: “I don’t think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens…. If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

Israel’s leaders should quote Obama’s rationale to Obama, the UN and the Palestinians, restating the implicit deal Israel made when it withdrew from Gaza in August 2006. If, five years ago, Israel returned territorial control to the Palestinians in the hope for peace or at least quiet, it now needs to deprive Palestinians of some of that territory every time Palestinians break the peace. Every rocket launched from Gaza should bring two reactions. First, Israel should close the border completely for 24 hours, with no supplies or services, including electricity, emanating from Israel. And second, the IDF should push the border fence back into Gaza, seizing a pre-determined amount of territory each time. If the rocket fire intensifies, Israel should take back the evacuated settlements, one by one.

To the inevitable charges of “collective punishment,” and the absurd claim that “militants” beyond Hamas’s control are responsible, Israel’s leaders – after quoting Barack Obama – should reply, “Hamas is claiming to be responsible for Gaza, so it must take responsibility for Gaza. These are the rules of war: when aggressors from one territory attack their neighbor, the neighbor has the right to respond in self-defense. Traditionally, the currency in these matters has been land. Israel is returning to that traditional calculus. If the people of Gaza are unhappy about it, they should pressure their rulers.

And if there is quiet for six months, Israel will begin withdrawing again, proving that it has no territorial designs on Gaza, only a desire for peace.”

Given its failure to respond clearly for years, Israel should not employ this strategy immediately. The renewed rocket attacks and terrorist crimes of the past two weeks are attempts to provoke an Israeli reaction that will trigger world condemnation, thus easing the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of independence. The international community has made it clear, especially in the corrupted UN, that Israel is the only country in the world that lacks the right of self-defense. Preferring Jews who are defenseless or dead to Jews who defend themselves, the world will probably reject this new Israeli doctrine. So Israel should devote time this month to preparing the legal rationale, finalizing military plans, and quietly conveying to the Palestinians, the Americans and the international community that the new response will go into effect in October.

Too many Palestinian radicals have made it clear over the years that they are willing to sacrifice Palestinians lives to terrorize Israelis. But the Palestinian outrage when Israel built the security fence proves how precious every inch of land is to Palestinians. Targeted actions depriving Gaza of territory in response to Palestinians targeting of the Western Negev will put a specific price tag on each rocket and terror attack, making Palestinians responsible for their actions. The heroic inhabitants of the Western Negev know the cost of each Palestinian rocket attack. It is time for Palestinians to pay a steep price too for these aggressions – or better yet, end them.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his most recent book is The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

giltroy@gmail.com

A Zionist advocacy timetable for the next five weeks

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

We can turn the UN’s “Palestine Season” into another empty victory for the Palestinians. We should stop dreading this fall

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-23-11

The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem.

The author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his next book will be The Big Red Lie: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Zionism is Racism, and the Fall of the UN.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations Photo by: REUTERS/Chip East

As Palestinians prepare to try bypassing negotiations and dodging compromise by unilaterally declaring independence this September, Zionist activists and educators are prepping too. If the General Assembly votes, Israel will lose, as the UN’s anti-Israel bias will continue feeding Palestinian extremism. But just as the UN’s 1975 declaration that Zionism is Racism backfired, harming the world body more than it hurt the Jewish state, we who support Israel’s survival and seek a genuine peace can win this September. By using the calendar wisely, and remembering what we are for not just what we are against, we can turn the UN’s Palestine Season into another empty victory for the Palestinians, trumping the votes of dictators and their dupes with the outrage of freedom-loving people, along with renewed appreciation for Israel among Jews and non-Jews.

We should stop dreading this fall. The calendar is our friend.  For each of the five weeks starting with Sunday August 28, Zionist activists and educators should pick a theme or two – conceptualizing the conversation about Israel as a double helix linking education and advocacy, the purely positive and the necessarily defensive, the aspirational with the historical.  We should affirm Zionism’s continuing relevance and power for Jews today, along with Israel’s continuing search for peace.  The advocacy piece should link Palestinians’ destructive – and self-destructive – hatred of Israel with the Durban debacle, 9/11-style terrorism, al Qaeda anti-Americanism, and the UN’s corruption– all on full display this coming September.

I would love just to celebrate Israel, welcoming college freshmen and others to the Zionist conversation solely with affirmations about Jewish nationhood’s idealistic potential and payoffs. Unfortunately, the real world demands a more muscular and political approach. If we do not advocate for Israel passionately, our enemies – and they are enemies – will fill that void with subtle distortions and new big lies. Of course, if we only advocate for Israel without delighting in it too, we accept the Palestinian paradigm, which makes everything about Israel be about them, framing Israel as the central headache of the Jewish people, and humanity.

The first week, August 28th to September 3, we should Affirm Zionism – and Fight the Racism Lie. For too long, too many pro-Israel activists have avoided calling themselves “Zionist,” unconsciously internalizing the systematic, Arab-fueled campaign to delegitimize Jewish nationalism and the Jewish homeland. On campus, in synagogues, on Facebook, and beyond, we should reintroduce the term, championing Identity Zionism by understanding Zionism as modern Jewry’s great peoplehood project.   Zionism acknowledges that Judaism is not just a religion, but has a national peoplehood component now expressed through our traditional homeland Israel. Simultaneously, with August 31 through September 8 marking ten years since the Durban fiasco, when an anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001 degenerated into an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic hatefest, we should explain that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is national not racial. Calling Zionism racism or comparing Israel to the discredited South African apartheid regime is the Big Red Lie, a falsehood the Soviet Union peddled. Now, it has become the Big Red-Green Lie, uniting too many on the left blindly, inconsistently, with Islamists.

September 4 through 10, we should build up to 9/11’s tenth anniversary by emphasizing Shared Values and Common Pain in an Age of Terrorism.  We should remember the victims, telling the stories of the many Israelis and Westerners murdered ruthlessly for political reasons in the last decade. We also should think about what unites Israel and the United States as sister democracies, focusing on the values that Islamists and dictators abhor, as well as the resulting security vulnerabilities evildoers exploit.

The next week should begin by concentrating on the United States. September 11 is sacred to Americans. That day we should commemorate that tragedy. The rest of the week can explore the ugly nexus between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Americanism, which became so clear on September 12. The world was shocked by the footage showing Palestinians in Gaza distributing candies to celebrate the Twin Towers’ fall, one of the few places where 9/11 triggered open celebrations.  Osama bin Laden, sensing that his mass murders were broadly unpopular, tried popularizing his anti-Americanism by converting suddenly to anti-Zionism. Before 9/11, al Qaeda rarely mentioned Israel. Subsequently Osama, like his dictator friends in Iran and elsewhere, integrated his hatred for America and Israel, implicitly recognizing Israel as a thriving liberal democracy.

September 18 through 24, the focus should be on the United Nations, with the General Assembly opening on September 13, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas planning to speak on the twentieth and the Durban III review of the original anti-racism conference beginning September 21. Hosting a Durban review conference in New York City, ten days after 9/11, when the ugliness at Durban also helped bridge anti-Zionism with anti-Americanism, juxtaposes the UN’s call for Palestinian independence with the UN’s anti-Semitic and anti-peace bias.  The pro-peace Zionist left should be heard here, challenging the Palestinians to negotiate rather than posture while criticizing the UN and the Palestinians for undermining the search for peace by trying to delegitimize Israel rather than seeking a two-state solution. Since 1975, it has been impossible to write a history of the movement to delegitimize Israel without discussing the UN but all too easy to write about attempts at Middle East peacemaking without mentioning the UN.”

Finally, we should end September by making September 29 and September 30 a Zionist Rosh Hashanah. Nations, like people, make mistakes – and can seek redemption. Just as true love of family involves accepting imperfections, we have to take Israel off probation, pushing it to improve where necessary while celebrating this exciting experiment in national redemption and Western democracy called Israel, which embodies noble democratic and Jewish values, enriching our lives as Jews and as lovers of freedom.

Three Steps to a Two-State Solution

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 4-6-11

I do not worry about the biased UN recognizing a Palestinian state. When Israel disengaged in 2005, Gaza became an independent Palestinian entity. Why not call it a state – and demand it act responsibly rather than blaming Israel for its failures? Similarly, much of the West Bank, even if you call it Judaea and Samaria, is fully Palestinian.  Vast swaths are inaccessible to even the most ideological, stereotypical, gun-toting, Brooklynese-speaking, big-kippah-wearing, payes-flowing settlers.   Oslo’s essential insight of having as few Palestinians as possible under Israeli control as quickly as possible has allowed millions to live under Palestinian rule for years now.  Given these realities, Israeli policy should focus on getting diplomatic – and American — credit for already ceding much territory, making Palestinian maximalism and Arab rejectionism of Israel’s existence the issues, not Israeli intransigence about borders.  Every attack on Israel’s legitimacy must be seen as a blow to peace. 

Despite calling terrorism counter-productive, Israel frequently rewards Palestinian violence by conceding under the gun.  Rather than waiting for populist Palestinian “Arab spring” protests, Israel should make a pre-emptive strike for peace by accepting the reality – and risks — of a Palestinian state. Inaction is also risky. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition may be best suited to make the best deal possible. Besides, it is immoral to control millions of unwilling non-citizens if there is an alternative which does not threaten Israeli lives. 

Accepting a state requires a third conceptual revolution for Israelis regarding Palestinians. The Oslo peace process in the 1990s forced mainstream Israeli opinion to acknowledge Palestinian national rights. A decade later, the wave of suicide bombings forced Israelis to admit they needed clear protected borders with Palestinians – rightists realized they could not keep everything, leftists learned that fences saved lives. 

Palestinians need even more dramatic conceptual revolutions. They must end their addiction to delegitimization and terrorism. Beyond accepting Israel’s existence they must accept Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state. Finally, Palestinians will have to choose what they might consider an imperfect peace over perpetual war. 

Netanyahu’s government has already taken important strides which the world should respect as Step One to a Two-State solution. At Bar Ilan, Netanyahu recognized Palestinian national rights. His government has started no new settlements, dismantled Gilad Farms, and curtailed construction within existing settlements, even if reluctantly. In 2010 alone Israel’s Army eliminated 98 roadblocks. While relaxing security restrictions and issuing 42 percent more entry permits, the IDF invested millions improving Palestinian infrastructure to facilitate traffic flows. Palestinians now usually move freely between Jenin and Hebron. The Palestinian Authority controls a much larger contiguous area than at any time since Palestinians’ return to terror in 2000 triggered a necessary crackdown. 

As a result, Netanyahu’s “economic peace” is flourishing. The Palestinian economy is growing 9 percent annually. The average minimum wage increased 6.5 percent. Tourist traffic entering the much-less-occupied territories surged 49 percent. Israeli-Palestinian joint ventures are proliferating, with building permits up 23 percent.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is the un-Arafat, a courageous technocrat more committed to building his people’s state than destroying the Jewish people’s home. He is cultivating the conditions that could lead to peace rather than fighting a perpetual war. 

President Barack Obama, along with the Europeans and the UN, should acknowledge this progress, celebrating this successful first step. The challenge is psychological and political. These new conditions should be publicized as bold moves, building confidence.  The second step should then emphasize mutual recognition to foster the trust needed for the final border discussions when Israelis will have to sacrifice land, as Palestinians sacrifice some of their longstanding demands. 

To prepare for that sensitive stage the second stage requires zero tolerance for incitement in any Palestinian institution, including mosques, the media, and schools. Serious international supervision should impose real punishments for violent words and deeds.  Every act of incitement or violence should delay Palestinian statehood by a month; rockets from Gaza should result in pushing the border back a few hundred meters each time. Similarly, Israel must dismantle all illegal outposts while starting a serious national conversation about which settlements to abandon to create new boundaries. 

Palestinians must take responsibility for Israeli fears – given the last decade’s unhappy track record when Israeli withdrawals brought Palestinian violence not peace. Israelis must take responsibility for Palestinian worries – given Oslo’s unhappy track record when Israeli settlements increased. Palestinians should acknowledge the Jewish state. And Israel should acknowledge Palestinians’ right of return, offering citizenship to any Palestinians who lived in Israel in 1948. Palestinians wishing to move back should be compensated for any homes others currently inhabit – but, as in the rest of the world, refugee status should not be inherited; their descendants will have to relinquish fantasies of “return” to fulfill realistic dreams of statehood. 

Israel’s actions should not be motivated by guilt. Israel has legitimate rights to Judaea, Samaria and Gaza – historically and based on the justified Six Day War. But having rights does not require exercising them. Sometimes, historical or demographic realities intrude. Israel should sacrifice some historical rights to achieve peace – without risking lives for an illusion of progress. 

Given Palestinians’ long history of rejectionism, this delicate second stage should take at least two years. During that time, the details of stage three, creating a peaceful Palestinian state, should be finalized. 

This brief column cannot detail an entire peace plan. But supporters of a two-state solution must start envisioning progress. And Israelis who reject compromise should explain – what do you do with millions of Palestinians sharing the same space, yearning for a state? Neither side can achieve its maximal demands. But Israelis have controlled too many Palestinians for too long – while Palestinians still cling to too many unrealistic demands and lethal desires. Many in the Middle East seem ready to take risks for war – true courage entails taking risks for peace. 

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGillUniversity and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.” giltroy@gmail.com

Fighting Zionism: Racism’s big lie

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 11-10-10

Thirty five years ago, on November 10, 1975, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, America’s Ambassador to the UN proclaimed: “The United States … does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.” The “infamous act” was Resolution 3379, calling Zionism racism, slandering one form of nationalism, Jewish nationalism.

That same day, Israel’s Ambassador Chaim Herzog, carrying the dignity of four thousand years of Jewish history, declared: “I stand here not as a supplicant…. For the issue is neither Israel nor Zionism. The issue is the continued existence of this organization, which has been dragged to its lowest point of discredit by a coalition of despots and racists…. You yourselves bear the responsibility for your stand before history… We, the Jewish people, will not forget.” Herzog then ripped the resolution to shreds.

The 1975 UN resolution set a template for attacking Israel and Zionism using liberalism and human rights rhetoric. Arabs learned, that before a lazy, complacent world, they could mask sexism and homophobia, terrorism and dictatorship, their continuing rejection of Israel’s right to exist, behind a smokescreen of rhetoric treating the national struggle between Israelis and Palestinians as an expression of Jewish racism, colonialism, and imperialism. This New Big Lie was so potent it would outlast its Soviet creators, derail the UN, hurt the cause of human rights – and make Israel what the Canadian MP and human rights activist Professor Irwin Cotler calls the Jew among nations.”

Fortunately, Moynihan and Herzog also set a template for defending Israel and Zionism. They labeled this propaganda ploy an assault on democracy and decency. They predicted, accurately, that by targeting Israel and the Jewish people the UN would sacrifice its credibility and demean its most important currency, the language of universal rights developed after World War II.

Still, being right can feel lonely. On the day of their heroism, Moynihan and Herzog felt indignant but abandoned. Moynihan felt pressure from his fellow diplomats and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be more “diplomatic,” meaning appeasing. Herzog felt pressure from Israel’s Foreign Ministry not to take the UN too seriously. Even the American Jewish community was slow to react, initially.

This week at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, it was also easy to feel lonely. The first day of the conference, two back-to-back sessions examined the modern campaign to delegitimize Israel. Despite the excitement of 5000 Jewish do-gooders gathering together, despite the appearance of The Rev. Dr. Katherine R. Henderson, President of Auburn Theological Seminary, who has heroically challenged her fellow Presbyterians to stop delegitimizing the Jewish state, despite the new $6 million Israel Action Network being launched to be proactive not just reactive, the panel discussion I participated in with Dr. Henderson gave me battle fatigue. I resent that 62 years after Israel’s founding, Israel is the only country in the world on probation. I bristle at the self-righteousness of the Apartheid-libelers, gleefully quoting Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, each of whom has sloppily echoed the Apartheid lie – albeit only once – stupidly echoing this word which does not apply to Israel because whatever “apartness” Israel imposes is not based on racial distinctions but national conflict.

I felt even more fatigue as I left New Orleans hours after arriving, flew to Atlanta, arrived shortly before midnight, took a 6:30 AM plane to Toronto, then connected to Ottawa.

Fortunately, there I found the Parliament building glowing with the spirit of Chaim Herzog as 140 latter-day Pat Moynihans convened the Ottawa Conference on Combating Antisemitism. These legislators, representing 53 countries from six continents, are leading lights helping redeem a world constantly flirting with a terrible darkness. “There has been a globalization of the problem of Antisemitism,” Professor Cotler observed, “but there is also a globalization of parliamentary concern.”

I had the honor of presenting to an interparliamentary working group exploring campus Antisemitism. The legislators were sophisticated, sensitive to university sensibilities, appreciating the importance of free speech, academic freedom, and the legitimacy of criticizing Israel. They also agreed that all students must feel safe and not scorned. They wanted to embed the fight against Antisemitism in the broader quest for mutual respect, open intellectual inquiry, and academic integrity. “Discrimination is discrimination,” said one MP. We all shared the indignation – also expressed at the GA – that the unholy alliance of Islamists and misguided leftists tried making Israel so toxic as to justify blatant cases of hatred on supposedly hyper-tolerant campuses as long as they targeted pro-Israel Jews.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was particularly Moynihanesque. Harper said that “when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.” He admitted that “at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ But as long as I am prime minister,” he vowed, “Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.”

Harper and his guests recognize Antisemitism as a gateway hatred, opening up portals of perversity that threaten Jews first, then others. They refuse to let this evil fester. We should join their fight, and catapult from the interparliamentary coalition against Antisemitism to the intraplanetary coalition against Antisemitism and for thriving democratic values.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book will look at Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Zionism is Racism Resolution, the fall of the UN and the Rise of Reagan. giltroy@gmail.com

Was Canada punished for supporting Israel at UN?

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 10-27-10

Canada’s failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council has triggered a predictable debate – with a surprising twist. Predictably, most have seen the move as a rejection of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s muscular, pro-western, pro-Israel, anti-terrorism foreign policy.
But the columnist David Frum has injected a fascinating perspective. After actually doing some research, Frum suggested that the vote had more to do with European power dynamics, western rivalries, and the peculiarities of the UN regional voting bloc system. Outsiders will have a hard time figuring out who is correct. Hopefully, historians in the future will be able to sort it out. Still, the debate about the failure illustrates some enduring anomalies regarding how we discuss foreign policy, Israel and the United Nations itself.

For starters, the central assumption guiding the partisans in the debate is depressing. The most passionate talk has focused on whether Canada was being punished for supporting Israel. We are at a dangerous moment here. We are starting to take Israel’s toxicity for granted. Why should support for Israel bear such a price? Israel’s enemies have been so successful in maligning Israel and elevating Israel into such a powerful symbol that where a country stands on Israel risks defining its entire foreign policy.

As we approach the 35th anniversary of the General Assembly’s despicable “Zionism is racism” resolution, Israel’s adversaries are poised to enjoy a double victory. The anti-Israel package they sell involves both demonizing Israeli actions and exaggerating Israel’s centrality in the Middle East, and world politics. The Palestinians’ ultimate conceit traditionally has been to make everything about Israel be about them, pushing a perspective suggesting that no conversation about the Jewish state should be about anything but the Palestinian issue. Now, the Palestinian conceit – fed by the UN – is even more grandiose, suggesting that the Palestinians’ problems are not just the most significant in the world today but the key to world peace. It is extraordinary how many foolish diplomats, politicians, academics, students and activists.

Amid all the hysteria, Frum’s alternative perspective noting that Canada was boxed out because the European bloc secured seats for Germany and Portugal was doubly welcome. First, both pro-Israel and anti-Israel partisans need to remember that not everything is about the Palestinians and the Jews. At the end of the day, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a minor regional conflict. Even if some peace agreement could be signed, Iran would still be trying to go nuclear, North Korea would remain a bad citizen of the world, Islamist terrorists would still target westerners – and their own people – the economy would waver, the environment would be at risk, etc. Pro-Israel forces also have to be careful not to see everything through the Palestinian-Israel prism. We should remember that it is not helpful to jump at every attack on Israel.

Frum’s perspective also reminds us how complex, political, and bureaucratic the UN has become. The high hopes of the 1940s continue to mislead most of us when we talk about the UN. Even after decades of watching it degenerate into the Third World dictators’ debating society, we still want to see it as the biggest do-good organization in world history. Even when the UN is not being corrupt, or not being obsessive about Israel, politics rules. Regional rivalries are only one of the many distracting side shows that stop the UN from fulfilling its main mission to advance the causes of peace and justice throughout the world.

Getting a seat on the Security Council is not an award for doing good – or much of anything else. It is one of many privileges and responsibilities constantly doled out, periodically in play, in the world organization. Of course, it was delusional to expect that the UN would be politics-free. But rather than having Canada’s loss trigger yet another round of pro-Israel versus pro-Palestinian fireworks, perhaps it is time for all of us to start learning about how the UN functions, what is does right, where it goes wrong, and how it can improve.

giltroy@gmail.com

The Left’s fiasco flotilla: Betraying Zionism and liberalism

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 6-7-10

Comments

This month, in Jerusalem, Way Off Productions and AACI are premiering Arsenic, The Musical, an original musical based on Arsenic and Old Lace. In this charming, energetic production, the exceedingly normal star, Mortimer Brewster, suddenly realizes he is surrounded by homicidal lunatics – including his two doddering old aunties. What a fitting metaphor for Israel’s read of the flotilla fiasco, wherein purported “peace activists” pummeled fellow human beings with metal rods and the whole world went crazy, blaming Israel while Israel felt assailed.

There is, of course, much to criticize in Israel’s actions. However, amid all the righteous indignation targeting Israel, will any leftists criticize the Turkish jihadists who masked their violent intentions by blustering about human rights and humanitarian aid? Who will defend Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals? Who can cry for the people of Gaza AND the tattered teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., who would have despised having his non-violent philosophy hijacked by these goons?

Some prominent American Jews are complaining that Zionism betrayed liberalism. They ignore modern Zionism’s big broad tent while caricaturing Israel in all its chaotic complexity and democratic diversity as a McCarthy-ite theocracy slouching toward fascism. In fact, liberalism remains compatible with Zionism, having helped spawn it. But today’s hypocritical left, driving recklessly because of its moral blind spots, repeatedly betrays both liberalism and Zionism.

Honest liberals could not support Hamas; a theocratic, dictatorial, anti-Semitic terrorist movement that snuffs out any signs of liberal life that try sprouting in Gaza. Consistent liberals would recoil from the jihadist associations of the IHH, the Turkish organization calling itself the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, while ferrying rogues lacking identity cards, flush with cash and armed for a fight. True liberals would make time to protest North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean ship – purposely killing three times the number Israelis mistakenly killed this week. They would protest Pakistani violence, Saudi Arabian sexism, Iranian repression while rushing toward nuclear weaponry, Islamic homophobia, the brutal trampling of individual rights throughout the Arab world. Wise liberals would understand that the left’s selective indignation, represented by the human rights establishment’s obsession with Israel, undermines liberalism’s core ideals, abandoning millions who need help throughout the world.

Some trace this leftist betrayal to liberalism’s nineteenth-century tug of war between universalism and particularism. Yet liberal nationalism triumphed, epitomized by the US and implemented widely as democracy spread throughout the West. Some modern anti-Zionism, especially among Jews, stems from a faux cosmopolitanism – an inability to see how particularism, nationalism, rootedness in an identity, can better fulfill universal ideals. Today’s toxic hypocrisy picks and chooses among particularisms, for example, romanticizing Palestinian nationalism while demeaning Jewish nationalism. More broadly, the New Left holds Western democracies to artificially high standards while giving a moral free pass to non-white, non-Western autocracies.

This perverse double standard is younger. After World War II, the virtuous struggle against colonialism, imperialism and racism created what we could call “Che Guevara rules”. In advancing civil rights, in defeating colonial regimes, revolutionaries like that Argentinean Marxist taught that, in any national struggle, white Western powers are always wrong, indigenous people of color are always right, and that anything goes for those deemed to be oppressed in opposing the oppressor. In the 1970s, Soviet propagandists pushed further, redefining human rights from protecting individuals against their states to protecting the supposedly weak against the powerful, which usually meant virtuous Third World countries against decadent Western democracies.

The New Left’s addiction to these revolutionary theatrics and Identity Politics violated liberalism’s defining enlightenment rationalism. Liberalism abhorred unreason, considered violence a last resort, and even in its nationalist expressions valued universal individual rights and consistency of results. All of a sudden, “identity” trumped “politics”; who you were determined what rights you had and became more important than what you did. Palestinians could get a free pass to be terrorists; Israelis were scorned even when defending themselves.

This deviation from liberalism was a racist condescension masquerading as anti-racism. When someone in the conflict was cast as of color, the rules changed. Whites were consistently assumed to be wrong and held to higher standards. While supposedly sympathizing with the “other,” white leftists treated many people of color as morally inferior, as somehow absolved of the normal moral restraints.

This strategy was formalized in the UN General Assembly’s 1975 Zionism is Racism resolution. The US Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan and his Israeli colleague Chaim Herzog understood they were defending Western Civilization’s guiding principles. They recognized the attack on Israel as an attack on democracy and decency. They warned that the language of human rights and the UN itself would be diminished, that hypocrisy and selective indignation would trump consistency and the rule of law. What Moynihan called this “terrible lie” has outlasted the Soviet Union’s fall and even the resolution’s repeal in 1991.

Shortly before the UN passed the resolution, the British writer Paul Johnson wrote in The New Statesman:

The world is increasingly governed not so much by capitalism, or communism, or social democracy, or even tribal barbarism, as by a false lexicon of political clichés, accumulated over a century and now assuming a kind of degenerate sacerdotal authority.”

The Palestinians, with the help of their Soviet puppeteers and a restive Third World imprisoned the Arab-Israeli conflict in these political clichés. For decades now, the Palestinians have cleverly used these clichés to pillory Israel, indicting Israel as embodying all three great sins, as a racist, imperialist, colonialist state.

How tragic that so many leftists have drunk this potion laced with arsenic, poisoning the language of human rights, the UN itself, distracting humanitarian organizations from many important tasks, in this collective pile-on against Israel. How frustrating that Israel stumbled into the trap this week, allowing jihadis not only to do violence to our soldiers but to the West’s and liberalism’s core ideals.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. His next book will be about the Zionism is Racism resolution of 1975.

He can be reached at gtroy@videotron.ca

The toxic context of ‘the Israel debate’

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 2-10-10

We have become so used to it we take it for granted, but one of the great scandals of modern politics is the way Palestinian negationism and terrorism have been facilitated by the UN and championed by the left, cloaking lethal desires to wipe out Israel in the language of human rights.

Moreover, as Professor Shalom Lappin of Kings College, London testified to Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Against Anti-Semitism, which issued its report September 2006:

The Israel-Palestinian encounter has been largely denaturalised and removed from its political and regional context. It is no longer seen as a political and military struggle between two nations with a long and complex history…. Instead, it has been endowed with the peculiar status of an iconic clash between good and evil. Israel has increasingly come to be construed as the purest embodiment of imperialism, racism and oppression whose sole national purpose is to dispossess the Palestinians.”

This inaccurate, Manichean misreading of the conflict encourages perverse behavior. Again and again, institutions violate their own core ideals. Again and again, the blinding bias against Israel obscures facts, precedents, common sense itself.

In this toxic context, the distinguished scholar and Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was shouted down repeatedly while speaking at University of California, Irvine. The Muslim Student Union “strongly condemn[ed] the university for co-sponsoring, and therefore inadvertently supporting, the ambassador of a state that is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined.”

Note how the libels get recycled. The UN’s bias against Israel legitimizes the Muslim Student Union protest – which escalated into shouting and hooliganism, resulting in eleven arrests.

Fortunately, at least one academic with a conscience defended Oren. “This is beyond embarrassing…,” Professor Mark P. Petracca proclaimed. “This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.”

Meanwhile, across the continent, a 20-year-old’s personal decision to join the Israeli army triggered a brouhaha in New York because his father is the New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief. Ethan Bronner, despite a distinguished decades-long record of reporting which includes some hard-hitting reports criticizing Israel, was accused of “pro-Israel bias” because his son enlisted in the IDF. Even the Times’s public editor Clark Hoyt suggested reassigning Bronner – although Bill Keller, the executive editor, refused.

Bronner’s response, “I wish to be judged by my work, not by my biography,” is perfect. But the operative assumption fueling the controversy is disturbing. The arguments against Bronner assumed the son’s actions reflected the father’s wishes and would bias the father in favor of Israel. Twenty-year-olds frequently defy their parents. And many Israelis criticize Israeli policy even more intensely because their children serve in the army. Especially given even very Zionist American Jews’ ambivalence about their sons enlisting, why assume young Bronner’s decision will make his father more sympathetic to Israel?

Yes, reporters have personal lives. Who knows how many Times reporters have army-age children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? Journalists are not nuns, although they belong to a guild with its own assumptions, norms and narratives. Usually, reporters are judged but what they write, not who they are – until we get to Israel.

These two incidents put another raging controversy in context. The organization Im Tirtsu was called “McCarthyite” for issuing a report detailing “a staggering example of a self-propelled process: the very organizations that pressed for the establishment of the [Goldstone] commission provided the testimonies used by the Goldstone commission to justify its claims against the IDF and Israel, and most of these organizations are supported by the NIF [New Israel Fund].” The report also revealed that the Coalition of Women for Peace – also an NIF grantee – initiated the writing of a letter on December 22, 2009, to top British officials demanding they try top Israeli officials.

Israel is a vibrant democracy. I am proud that organizations like the New Israel Fund exist to support a full range of Israeli human rights organizations. However, I am frequently dismayed by these organizations’ one-sidedness. The report notes that few of these organizations bothered supporting Sderot or reaching out to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror – don’t Israelis have human rights too? Moreover, many of these organizations do not acknowledge the toxic context in which the discussion about Israel takes place, and take no responsibility for their role in further poisoning the atmosphere. The New Israel Fund would boost its credibility by refusing to fund organizations that single out Israeli leaders for war crimes allegations. It would increase the credibility of the organizations it funds if it demonstrated some sense of proportion, some sensitivity to the disproportionate, hysterical demonization of Israel emanating from the Arab world and, I regret to say, rationalized by the left.

Typically, while attacking Im Tirtsu for daring to look at who the NIF funds, Ha’aretz and other critics looked at who funds Im Tirtsu. And while objecting to criticism of the NIF’s chairwoman Professor Naomi Chazan, as well as making her a martyr to free speech, her supporters overlooked The Jerusalem Post’s justification for dropping her column; because she threatened legal action against the paper. None of us, reporters, academics, or politicians, can afford to turn our ideological battles into legal wars. Only the lawyers win.

Of course Israel should not be immune to criticism, and Israel’s democratic values must be maintained. Citizens should argue about the Im Tirtsu report, while the Knesset and Cabinet should keep away, demonstrating respect for free speech. But citizens have rights as well as responsibilities. Voices from the left should leverage their credibility – and ultimately enhance it –  by condemning the cycle of demonization rooted in Arab anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, then rationalized and perfumed by the UN and the left, resulting in hooliganism on campus, vendettas against reasonable reporters and a one-sided, hysterical discourse that makes the dream of peace appear ever more distant.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University on leave in Jerusalem. He is the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. His latest book The Reagan Revolution:  A Very Short Introduction, was recently published by Oxford University Press.

Gil Troy: Canadians uphold a proud human rights legacy

Canadians uphold a proud human rights legacy

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 5-21-09

Canada stood tall – dare we say, glorious and free? – during the recent Durban Review debacle in Geneva, thanks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pre-emptive strike in boycotting the so-called UN anti-racism conference long before anyone else did.
Canada is now spearheading the push to reform the United Nations, while challenging liberal and autocratic hypocrisy worldwide. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bigotry at an anti-racism conference defined Durban II as yet another festival of despots bashing the West and Israel. But more significant was the alliance forged beyond the conference halls between pro-Israel and human rights activists frustrated that the UN’s Israel obsession hurts human rights.

Canadians such as MP and former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler and the executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, were essential marriage brokers in building this friendship, demanding the UN live up to its ideals and condemn the world’s true human rights abusers.

During the first World Conference Against Racism, held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, the streets filled with anti-Zionists shouting vitriolic anti-Semitic slogans that Adolf Hitler didn’t finish the job. Some human rights groups and pro-Israel groups began working to reform the UN human rights mechanisms.

Not surprisingly, Canadians such as Cotler and Neuer were crucial in launching this initiative. Many Canadians maintain great faith in the UN’s founding ideals and are proud that John Peters Humphrey, a longtime McGill University law professor, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cotler, on leave as a law professor from McGill, is a world-renowned human rights crusader who has spent decades cris-crossing the globe defending the oppressed, including Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky. Neuer was Cotler’s student at McGill, continuing this McGill – and Canadian – tradition.

When the UN started preparations to host a review conference in Durban, Neuer was particularly well-placed to head off another hatefest. Based in Geneva as the executive director of UN Watch, he has frequently highlighted the UN’s anti-Israel obsession and its hypocrisy in letting dictatorships dominate the Human Rights Council. Working with various organizations in shifting coalitions – including its parent organization the American Jewish Committee, as well as NGO Monitor and B’nai Brith International, Freedom House and Freedom Now – UN Watch helped redirect the process.

Effective lobbying of the Ford Foundation and others cut off funds that NGOs would have used to replicate the Durban I sideshow. The UN, embarrassed by Durban I, agreed to shift the venue of this year’s conference to Geneva, where the UN and Swiss police could better control events. Western diplomats worked to moderate the Durban Review declaration. In this environment, Canada’s bold decision to boycott galvanized the forces trying to right Durban’s wrongs.

As a result, in Geneva, there were no angry mass rallies against Israel. UN Watch and dozens of other groups hosted conferences and side meetings, giving dissidents and victims from Iran, Egypt, Cuba, Burma, Rwanda and Darfur opportunities to tell their tales. The participants denounced the United Nations for allowing oppressors such as Libya to chair the Human Rights Council, and for ignoring real abuses in their zeal to demonize Israel.

The largest demonstration appears to have been a festive gathering of 2,000 to 3,000 Israel supporters on the conference’s third day. Joining one American, one Italian, one Israeli, and one French politician on the podium were two of us from McGill, Cotler and I, as well as Harper’s parliamentary secretary – and personal representative to the side conferences – MP Pierre Poilievre. The MC, David Harris, of the American Jewish committee, joked that at these events, Canadians rarely outnumber Americans. May we always compete to lead the way on these issues.

“Please use your liberty to promote ours,” Soe Aung, a Burmese dissident, begged at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, which celebrated 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention. While the first Durban sideshow embodied the UN at its worst, the second Durban side conferences tried to meet Aung’s challenge.

If the UN starts to reform, history will honour the Conservative Harper – with his Liberal colleague Cotler – for not only saving the United Nations, but also for helping to save many liberal activists from their own moral myopia.

Gil Troy: Israeli 6th graders learn hope, not hate

Center Field: Israeli 6th graders learn hope, not hate

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 4-30-09

On Monday, just before Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, and shortly after I returned from the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, I was invited to talk about Durban to my son’s 6th grade class in Jerusalem. He attends a Dati-Mamlachti, religious public school, Efrata, in Baka. I have spoken to elementary school classes at various Jewish day schools in Montreal over the years, so I have some sense of what kids this age know and don’t know about current events, and about Israel. What shocked me – and then in many ways impressed me – (beyond their excellent, polite behavior throughout the class) was how shocked so many of the sixth graders in Jerusalem were by the depth of anti-Israel hatred on display at the Durban II conference.

I began simply by playing a four-minute clip from the Israeli news show “Mabat” on Monday April 20, the day Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad opened the Durban Review Conference in Geneva. The kids were understandably confused by the spectacle: someone treated with great honor saying hateful things about their own state; students dressed in multicolored clown wigs throwing red noses at the speaker; dark-suited European diplomats walking out en masse.

After the clip I explained to the students that I showed the clip with no explanation and no context, because that is what happens when we watch the news daily. We get plunged into these events as veritable eyewitnesses, often lacking a bigger picture understanding. I then started unraveling the spool, using slides to tell the story of the anti-racist conference headlined by a racist, the UN conference against discrimination that has become a symbol of discrimination against Jews.

“I don’t understand, what do they mean Zionism is Nazism?” one girl asked when I showed a Durban I poster from 2001 equating the Jewish star with the Swastika attacking “Nazionism.” “Why are they applauding Ahmadinejad?” another wondered.

This, to me, was the morning’s big revelation. Many of the students could not fathom that anyone could link anything Jewish or Israeli with anything Nazi. Probing further, it was clear that most of the students were less aware of the world’s enmity than their peers were in Montreal. I realized the blessed insulation of living in a Jewish state means that they do not see the barrage of anti-Israel criticism on television and in the newspapers Jewish kids experience in the Diaspora.

Moreover, it was clear that these kids were not being taught to hate. And note they study in the National Religious system often caricatured by critics as fomenting intolerance. By not being aware of Palestinians’ demonization of Israel, they were far less likely to demonize Palestinians.

The Yom Hazikaron Remembrance Day ceremonies at school on Tuesday reinforced this impression. The commemoration was sad but focused on the murdered not the murderers. In the spirit of the day, which precedes Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, the principal ended the ceremony by talking about hopes, dreams, pride in Israel’s accomplishments and the happiness that follows the sadness. Again, not a word of hatred, demonization, or even anger, the logical emotion when contemplating so many young deaths. I only wish Palestinian parents could report that their children were not being raised on vitriol.

As my slide show continued, the questions increased.

“Why did the UN honor Ahmadinejad as the first speaker at the conference?” the teacher asked – the question I have been asked most frequently since my return, and the question Elie Wiesel asked on Yom HaShoah, on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Geneva. I explained that Ahmadinejad exploited UN protocol. The embarrassed Europeans downgraded the conference because of the controversies and most countries sent junior ministers to Geneva. Ahmadinejad was the only head of state to attend, thus earning the first speaker’s slot. I noted that the embarrassment was good. It showed that Durban I’s critics had made an impact and some countries still had a sense of shame.

“Why does the Swiss President look so happy meeting Ahmadinejad?” a student asked when I showed the picture of a beaming Hans-Rudolf Merz greeting Ahmadinejad. This absurdity required an explanation of the passive complicity of the enabler rather than the active crimes of the deviant. I said the Swiss President could have snubbed Ahmadinejad as America’s president does when unsavory characters visit the UN. He also could have greeted Ahmadinejad coldly. The effusive welcome reflected the weakness of the diplomat, the cowardice of too many Europeans, who let evil flourish by being polite and doing nothing.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, gestures as he talks with Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz, left, shortly after arriving in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, April 19, 2009 PHOTO: AP

“Why did the students dress up like clowns and throw red noses?” another student asked. I repeated the French students’ explanation, that Ahmadinejad and the anti-Zionists’ racism had turned the anti-racist conference into a circus, so they might as well dress appropriately. The students appreciated that logic – although I challenged them to consult with each other and their teachers, rabbis, and parents about what is the appropriate behavior when faced with evil and the politeness that enables it. I noted I was proud that none of the Jewish students behaved violently or aggressively. They were disciplined, clever, strategic and quite limited in their actions.

A demonstrator dressed as a clown gestures from the media tribune against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his speech during the opening of the Durban Review Conference (UN’s Conference against Racism) at the European headquarters of the United Nations, UN, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, April 20, 2009 PHOTO: AP

“How come only Jewish students are standing with the Darfuri refugees?” some asked when I showed a picture of Darfuris and Jewish students in front of the UN, protesting the UN’s silence about Sudan’s genocide. “Why doesn’t the UN help?” others asked when I told them about the many human rights activists and victims from Darfur, Iran, Egypt, Libya, and Rwanda frustrated that the UN’s anti-Zionist obsession derailed attempts to stop human rights abuses. To these pertinent, depressing questions, I had no adequate answers.

Gil Troy: Ahmadinejad’s antics, the UN’s perversity

Center Field: Ahmadinejad’s antics, the UN’s perversity

“The UN really is a beautiful thing,” I thought as I waited to pass through security at UN headquarters in Geneva. I was standing in a living, breathing poster for multiculturalism, amid delegates of different colors, from different cultures, representing different countries. My reverie was interrupted when the security guards pulled aside one delegate just ahead of me from an Arab country. Emblazoned on the folder he used to carry his papers was the slogan ZIONISM IS RACISM, with a swastika added for good measure.

This, alas, is the reality of the modern UN. The great betrayal comes from hijacking noble ideals as a masquerade to obscure harsh hatred.

Casually walking around with a ‘Zionism is Racism’ folder reflects an identity of negation, built around hate, rather than around something positive. This is modern Palestinian nationalism’s great tragedy – and crime.

Indulging the desire for destruction rather than seeking something constructive curdles the national soul – and prevents compromise. The result is the movement’s pornographic commitment to violence – for effect – and an ugliness so toxic and, surprisingly, so epidemic, it poisons noble gatherings including this Durban Conference. The admirable desire to fight racism, xenophobia, and discrimination becomes derailed. Underlying the perversion is a refusal to understand that rights begin with mutual recognition of rights for ourselves and for others, for those we like and those we don’t.

While the UN is world headquarters for producing this one-sided farce, many of Israel’s enemies are too honest to stick to the script. Just as Hamas failed to learn Yasser Arafat’s lessons about lying to the world and keeps its anti-Semitic charter calling for Israel’s destruction, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance on the first day of the Durban Review conference shows the modern UN’s perversity. Yesterday, at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy we learned that Iran’s commitment to fighting discrimination includes the death penalty for homosexuals and torture for dissidents, let alone the fact that Ahmadinejad has endorsed the destruction of two member states of the United Nations, Israel and the United States. Today, we had a chance to see Ahmadinejad in action.

Like all good demagogues, Ahmadinejad is clever. He knows how to work his audience. He guaranteed himself top coverage and a first spot in the speakers’ rostrum, ahead of a clump of deputy ministers and foreign ministers. No other head of state spoke today. He brought star power – and excitement – into otherwise tedious proceedings. Moreover, he fed the crowd red meat. He started by invoking the prophets, including Abraham, Jesus – and the final one – Mohammed. He earned applause from the General Assembly delegates by denouncing the Security Council as an imperialist carryover from World War II. More broadly, he blamed America, capitalism, and (if you listened carefully) liberal values for today’s economic crisis.

Of course, his speech centered on calling Zionism the personification of racism. Ahmadinejad’s speech can be studied as a classic anti-Semitic specimen, attributing to Jews (although he uses the word Zionism) disproportionate power and importance, adding a dash of Holocaust denial. Ahmadinejad blamed “the Zionist regime” for the Iraq war, among other crimes. He clearly believed that the conference against racism would fail unless it assailed the Jewish state – and broader Western ideals of liberalism, secularism, and capitalism.

Although the conference president thanked Ahmadinejad for his sentiments, the next speaker, Norway’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store repudiated the Iranian’s remarks. Store said Ahmadinejad expressed himself “in a way that threatens the very purpose of this conference…. Freedom of speech yes,” Store said, “but incitement of hatred, no.” Ahmadinejad’s speech, Store said, “runs counter to the very spirit and dignity of this conference.” Even more important than Store’s words were his – and his European Union colleagues’ — actions. As soon as Ahmadinejad claimed the European powers used “the pretext” of Jewish suffering to establish a Jewish state, dozens of EU delegates walked out. I remained disappointed that their countries did not boycott the conference. But the delegates did something tremendous. I never thought a parade of (mostly) men in (mostly) dark, pin-striped suits could be so moving. If only they were willing to demand the UN stick to its ideals regularly…

Gil Troy: The Anti-Racism Conference As It Should Have Been

Center Field: The Anti-Racism Conference As It Should Have Been

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 4-19-09

DURBAN DIARY

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. He is attending the Durban Review conference as an observer.

Geneva is awash in the light green of early spring, nestled amid snowcapped mountains. Arriving from Israel, I found the city’s tranquility surprising, until I remembered this was Sunday morning, not Monday. Still, the quiet set the tone for this first day, on the eve of what promises to be a tumultuous United Nations Review Conference on Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and

Intolerance beginning Monday (the UN shifted from Durban to Geneva hoping to avoid the riotous anti-Semitic atmosphere of Durban, 2001).

Entering the city, I passed the Intercontinental Hotel, where Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is staying before addressing the conference Monday. Many Swiss citizens are urging their president not to shake Ahmadinejad’s hand. “But,” my taxi driver shrugged, “protocols must be followed.”

What a perfect welcome to Europe – and to the UN’s moral myopia. By cherishing protocols more than human rights, the world enables dictators. Despite advocating Israel’s and America’s destruction, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be welcomed like a head of state, rather than the genocide-seeking rogue he is.

Fortunately, twenty human rights NGOs hosted a “Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy,” or what I call the “Anti-Racism Conference as It Should Have Been.”

Offering a mirror image of the Durban Review conference leadership, many of the speakers suffered repression thanks to the leaders of today’s UN Human Rights Council. The 22 speakers from Iran, Cuba, Libya, Iran, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere, along with the hundreds of attendees, rejected the toxic combination of European politesse and dictatorial manipulation perpetuating what one speaker called the “coalition of autocrats around the world.”

That speaker, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, imprisoned in Egypt for three years, said that having Libya lead the human rights council made a mockery of human rights. He also denounced “the indifference of the democrats,” regretting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s vow that human rights issues would not sour American relations with the Chinese. “When people no longer denounce injustice … we are giving an oxygen boost to dictators so they can continue to trample on people’s rights,” Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo, a Cuban activist warned.

In the emotional opening session, victims of the Darfur and Rwanda genocides moved delegates to tears, by describing the evil they endured. Dominique Sopo, the President of SOS Racisme, condemned the Durban Review conference’s “negationism,” ignoring real the human rights crimes. “It is unbelievable that Darfur is not on the agenda,” Sopo insisted. “What is the point of having a conference against racism if this is ignored?” Contrasting the UN’s passivity with the opening panelists’ activist idealism, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler thanked the dissidents for “inspiring us to act and do that which needs to be done.”

Celebrating sixty years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention, sessions examined the declaration’s various articles. This afternoon’s session examined Article 5, the “right to be free from torture and cruel or inhuman treatment.” Parvez Sharma described “Jihad for Love,” his film describing the discrimination endured by Islamic homosexuals. Ahmed Batebi, a dissident imprisoned in Iran for nine years, recounted how he was thrown in solitary confinement on flimsy legal grounds. He recalled: threats, mock executions, brutalization of friends, and how “they tied my hands to a chair and kept me awake until I lost consciousness, then cut me and poured salt in my wounds to wake me up.” This cruelty, he explained, “is an attempt to crush the spirits” of anyone who criticizes Iran’s regime.

Finally, Dr. Ashraf El Hagog, a Palestinian doctor, and Kristina Valcheva, a Bulgarian nurse, described how Libya falsely accused them of spreading HIV, then tortured them with beatings, electrical currents, and sexual sadism. “It’s disgusting” that Libya is chairing the UN human rights council, Dr. El Hahog shouted, “SHAME ON YOU LIBYA.” Noting that a Jew was one of the first people to help him get out of prison, Dr. El Hagog admitted that he had been imprisoned in his own ideology, and now regretted his bigotry.

“Please use your liberty to promote ours,” Soe Aung, a Burmese dissident begged. Once, that slogan was the UN’s watchword. Today, the sentiment challenges UN protocols.

We owe it to these democratic heroes to do what we can to use our liberty to promote theirs – while pushing the UN to fulfill its historic mission. Meanwhile, we buckle our seatbelts for the farce that Ahmadinejad and his fellow dictators will launch tomorrow.