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It was just another day at the United Nations. But, instead of its usual business being simply more evidence of the way the virus of anti-Semitism has injected itself into just about everything that within its purview, it recently supplied us with an additional insight. A vote in one of the General Assembly’s committees provided proof that the idealization of the embattled government of Ukraine is somewhat disconnected from reality.
The world body’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee convened on Friday to debate whether the G.A. should ask the International Court of Justice to provide an opinion on the “legal status of the occupation.”
This was a reference to Israel’s presence in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, with the ludicrous inclusion of Gaza, where no Jew has lived since 2005.
The endeavor was part of the strategy that the Palestinian Authority has been implementing since it torpedoed a peace initiative during the Barack Obama presidency.
It was another Palestinian effort aimed at delegitimizing Israel in much the same manner that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry has done. The point is to weaponize the institutions of the international community to brand Israel a pariah “apartheid state,” and then to use the court at The Hague to implement sanctions on it.
The U.N. is widely and rightly disparaged in both the United States and Israel as a source of incitement against the West and a perversion of its founders’ intent in the aftermath of World War II. But it is also generally dismissed as a meaningless talking shop with no connection to reality.
In this sense, both Americans and Israelis tend to underestimate the damage that the Palestinian campaign to use international law to isolate the Jewish state can do once its bureaucratic apparatus is put to work on behalf of this anti-Zionist and antisemitic cause.
Just as important, it creates a diplomatic playing field in which the antisemitic invective is normalized to the point that it’s hard for nations to refuse to join in with the mob and take a courageous stand beside Israel.
This is where Ukraine comes in.
For the last several months, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort trying to pressure Israel into sending his country arms to help it repel a Russian invasion.
Israel has condemned the illegal attack, sent Ukraine large amounts of humanitarian aid and taken in refugees. It has also shared intelligence with its military about the drones that Iran has sold to Russia. But it refuses to supply Zelenskyy with weapons for a number of good reasons.
Moscow, which has forces in Syria, has allowed neighboring Israel to act against Iranian and other terrorist forces there with impunity. Furthermore, there is still a large Jewish population in Russia that is now, in effect, hostage to the authoritarian whims of President Vladimir Putin.
But Ukraine and its many noisy supporters throughout the world have dismissed Israel’s justified concerns about being dragged into a war in which it has no direct interest, and treated it as if it were uniquely cynical for its refusal to do Kyiv’s bidding.
The fact that Ukraine was caught up in Democratic Party attempts to impeach former President Donald Trump is part of the reason its cause is viewed with special favor. By the same token, though Putin is a despicable tyrant, the fact that many Americans still believe the big lie that it stole the 2016 presidential election for Trump has revived a spirit of hatred for Russia that is reminiscent of right-wingers during the depths of the Cold War.
Part of their justification rests on depicting Ukraine as a citadel of Western democracy.
Ukraine has bravely defended itself against Russian aggression, and for that its forces deserve the world’s sympathy and admiration. But, as is the case with other post-Soviet republics in the region, its corruption runs deep.
Though its people clearly deserve the right to the self-determination that Russia wishes to deny, in practice, Zelenskyy’s government isn’t any more tolerant of dissent than Putin’s.
Others have revived old arguments about Russia’s being a deadly menace to the NATO alliance—as if the Berlin Wall were still standing and the massive armies of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact remained on the alert in East Germany, ready to invade Western Europe on Moscow’s orders. The fact that the diminished militaries of the Russian Federation have been easily defeated in Ukraine doesn’t seem to stop people from speaking as if it were the Soviet Union at the height of its evil powers.
By the same token, the same voices eager to escalate the war in Ukraine, rather than work for a settlement, dismiss the possibility that Russia would use its one truly scary asset—nuclear weapons—and flirt with what even President Joe Biden has characterized as the possibility of “Armageddon.”
Still, Ukraine’s pleas for Israeli help would be more reasonable if Kyiv were actually a friend of the Jewish state. Let’s ignore his lies about Ukrainians standing with Jews during the Holocaust, as opposed to what they actually did, which was to aid the Nazis in their slaughter.
Let’s set aside, as well, the fact that Ukrainian nationalism, historically, has been closely connected to antisemitism. Instead, let’s just focus on the attitude of the modern Ukrainian republic, and specifically Zelenskyy’s government, toward Israel.
This brings us to last week’s U.N. vote—98 nations in favor, 17 opposed and 52 abstentions—for referral to the International Court of Justice.
The 17 “nos” consisted of Israel, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Liberia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and the United States.
Among those voting in favor was Ukraine.
This is, of course, far from the first time that Ukraine has sided with the mob of haters at the U.N. attacking Israel. It has consistently done so since becoming independent 30 years ago, including just last month, when it joined others in a demand that Israel unilaterally renounce its right to nuclear weapons.
One would think that, at a time when it is seeking help from Israel, Ukraine might at least abstain on votes aimed at isolating and destroying the Jewish state. But such is the hypocrisy and arrogance of the Zelenskyy government that it had no compunction about both voting against Israel and simultaneously trying to strong-arm it into handing over its most valued and scarce weapons, integral to its self-defense, like Iron Dome batteries.
This says a lot about how off base many of those who speak as if Ukraine were a Jeffersonian democracy and a bastion of decency are while trying to persuade American taxpayers to go on funding a war, which has no end in sight, to the tune of tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars.
But it is also a reminder of how the U.N.’s toxic environment acts to enable the worst instincts of so many governments around the world. It allows those with foul motives, tainted by antisemitism, to work together under the false banner of human rights.
Rather than ignore or downplay it, Israelis should be taking the U.N. threat seriously. And Americans should be working to defund the body, rather than supporting, facilitating and standing aloof from its worst excesses, as the Biden administration continues to do.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
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