By Jonathan S. Tobin/JNS.org
At first glance, it was one more example of why the United Nations is a cesspool of hatred for Israel and anti-Semitism. The publication of a report commissioned by the U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia broke new ground by not merely unfairly criticizing Israel, but taking the position that its existence as a Jewish state is illegitimate and, in and of itself, a justification for being branded as guilty of the “crime of apartheid.”
Though this was more evidence of the rise of a new anti-Semitism that masquerades as anti-Zionism, what happened next should give pause both to Israel’s enemies and Jewish critics. The strong pushback from the U.S. and, even more remarkably, the disavowal of the report by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres—who not only demanded it be taken down from the U.N. website, but then forced the resignation of the bureaucrat behind it—sent a surprisingly strong message to the Palestinians.
Though much of what goes on at the U.N. with regard to Israel remains an outrage, the notion that the Palestinians and allied Israel-haters have carte blanche from the international community may no longer be true. If so, the prediction of doom for Israel unless it bows to the demands of its foes is wrong.
The report is a compendium of half-truths and outright lies about Israel and the terrorist war that is still being waged against it. Written by well-known anti-Israel extremist Richard Falk of Princeton University and Virginia Tilley of the University of Southern Illinois, the screed will be a gift to supporters of the BDS movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel.
Yet with it being expunged from the U.N.’s official website, the report becomes just another piece of recycled anti-Israel propaganda.
Falk and the Palestinians saw the U.N. seal of approval on the apartheid libel as an important step in mobilizing the international community behind their efforts to treat Israel as a pariah nation. Instead, it is the Palestinians who have been dealt a setback that reveals to the world that support for their lies isn’t as strong as they hoped.
Part of the credit for this development must be given to the Trump administration. Guterres and the U.N. bureaucracy know that in President Barack Obama, they lost a genuine admirer of the world body and all its work, and that his replacement is not exactly a fan of their institution. Obama’s tilt against Israel at the U.N. in his final weeks in office only served to encourage the Jewish state’s enemies to redouble their efforts. Trump is deeply unpopular around the world, but the U.N. is stuck with him for the next four years. That means they need to avoid giving him excuses to go to war with the U.N., since he has made it clear he has no intention of allowing Israel to be pressured in the way Obama preferred.
But Trump is only part of the explanation. Guterres’s reaction is similar to the way even Western European nations that are generally critical of Israel have pushed back against some of the Palestinians’ more egregious efforts. Just like when they sought to have UNESCO brand Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem—including the Temple Mount and Western Wall—as exclusively Muslim, the apartheid smear was a bridge too far for many Europeans. While they may be prepared to criticize Israel over settlements and other issues, they have begun to catch on to the fact that the Palestinian goal isn’t really to attain a state alongside Israel, but to replace and destroy the Jewish state.
Although critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government insist that Israel must surrender territory even without a guarantee of peace, the country’s diplomatic position isn’t so weak as they think. Israel will never have the love of the international community, but the Palestinians are wrong if they think the U.N. is going to give them what they want—unless they give up their extreme demands and show a willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy.
What we’ve just learned is that with the world getting sick of the Palestinians’ intransigence—a sentiment that is shared by many Arab nations—and the U.S. determined to stick by its sole democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel can afford to wait for real peace rather than surrendering its rights for a deal that will give them neither peace nor security.
Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.