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Double standards: Israel singled out for blame

The principle of equal treatment underscores the value of creating a level playing field for all countries.

Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, the meeting room of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Credit: Ludovic Courtès via Wikimedia Commons.
Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, the meeting room of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Credit: Ludovic Courtès via Wikimedia Commons.

Double standards are repeatedly applied to Israel, displayed in the halls of the United Nations, on university campus quads and in political institutions under the guise of human rights. The United Nations routinely condemns Israel for supposed rights violations, campus groups advocate for the boycotting, divestment and sanctioning of Israel and some far-left-wing politicians use anti-Zionist rhetoric to advance policies targeting Israel. Double standards are consistently directed towards the world’s only Jewish state.

The United Nations has a long history of singling out Israel. Recently, its Economic and Social Council condemned only Israel for violating women’s rights. The resolution’s sponsors included Syria and North Korea. Also, Israel was the only country appearing as its own item on the 19-point agenda. The American and British representatives spoke out about “one-sided condemnations” and “the singling out and disproportionate focus on Israel.”

The United Nations infamously passed a resolution in 1975 equating Zionism—the right for Jews to have a country in their ancestral homeland—as “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The resolution was not repealed until 1991. The world body’s obsession with Israel remains today. The U.N. Human Rights Council has an open-ended Commission of Inquiry against Israel. China and Russia back the mandate. No other countries are subjected to this scrutiny.

Anti-Israel campus groups use boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in part as an attempt to sever the connection between Jewish students and the Jewish state. However, BDS tactics hurt Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the process. Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human-rights advocate who is regularly heckled by BDS activists when he visits university campuses, believes that these activists are “creating more hatred, enmity and polarization.” A Palestinian artist added: “I want to speak about what I want without someone from outside watching me and telling me how to fight and how to live.”

The Palestinian economy is integrated into the Israeli economy. Tens of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel, and Palestinian farmers export fruits and vegetables to Israel. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas once stated: “No, we do not support the boycott of Israel. We don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself.” Israel also provides security cooperation that allows Abbas to stay in power without being undermined by the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorist organization.

Left-wing politicians critical of Israel may often be small in number but increasingly have larger megaphones. A new report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and four European organizations highlighted how “anti-Zionist rhetoric and terminology popular in European left circles, are increasingly utilized by some in U.S. political far-left.” The researchers studied the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain. The anti-Jewish themes were couched in either anti-Israel or anti-capitalist contexts. The report concluded that there has been a “blurring of the lines between attacks on Israel and attacks on Jews and Jewish identity.”

The political discourse in America and Europe continues to amplify far-left and far-right extremists. Recently, a Michigan state senator apologized for “sparking anger and disappointment by many in the Arab/Muslim community” after she visited Israel. Most notably, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted in 2019 that “it’s all about the Benjamins baby,” suggesting that American policies towards Israel were dictated by money. In the United Kingdom, ex-Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn was close to becoming prime minister despite his party’s welcoming of anti-Israel radicals and promotion of anti-Jewish hate.

Human-rights activist and former Soviet prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky created the 3D test of antisemitism to differentiate legitimate criticism of Israel from actual hatred for Jews. Sharansky defined double standards as “criticism of Israel applied selectively; when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human-rights abuses while the behavior of known and major abusers, such as China, Iran, Cuba and Syria is ignored—this is antisemitism.” The other elements of Sharansky’s test are demonization and delegitimization of Israel.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism includes several examples, such as double standards and equating Zionism with racism. The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism explains that “when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable.”

Points to consider:

  1. Israel must be judged by the same standards as other countries.

Judging the Jewish nation by a different standard sets Israel apart from other nations. Like any nation, Israel should be held accountable to one universal standard. Just as all countries are subject to scrutiny for their policies and actions, Israel must be assessed without bias or exceptionalism. Holding Israel to a consistent standard promotes constructive dialogue and fosters a sense of equity in addressing global challenges. This approach encourages open discussions about policy concerns while discouraging unfair targeting. Embracing equality in judgment enhances the prospects for peaceful coexistence and diplomatic resolutions to complex regional issues. The principle of equal treatment underscores the value of creating a level playing field for all countries.

  1. Anti-Zionism = Antisemitism.

Equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism recognizes the relationship between opposition to the Jewish right to self-determination and the historical hostility faced by Jewish communities. While criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate, anti-Zionism that denies Jews the same fundamental right granted to other nations is alarming. Anti-Jewish hatred has often been cloaked in anti-Zionist rhetoric, using it as a smokescreen to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, deny historical facts and delegitimize Israel’s existence. It is common for opponents of Zionism to say that they are merely criticizing Israeli policies when they are actually opposed to the existence of Israel in any form.

  1. Zionism is an integral part of Jewish identity for most American Jews, not a political stance.

More than 80% of American Jews say that Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Passover and Yom Kippur both conclude with the phrase: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Israel encompasses a deep connection to Jewish history, religion, culture and the aspiration for a homeland. Recognizing Israel’s significance as a safe haven in the aftermath of persecutions, pogroms, expulsions and the Holocaust, Zionism serves as a unifying force that binds Jewish communities across the Diaspora. It goes beyond policy debates, embodying the resilience of a people who have endured centuries of adversity. Dismissing Zionism as mere politics overlooks its profound cultural and spiritual relevance.

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The Focus Project is a consensus initiative of major American Jewish organizations that provides crucial news, talking points and background content about issues affecting Israel and the Jewish people, including antisemitism, anti-Zionism and relevant events in the Middle East. Click here to receive weekly Talking Points from The Focus Project.
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