It may have been thousands of miles from Hollywood but it was still the hottest ticket in town as a packed crowd gathered in Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael on Sunday night to hear Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, give a talk on his eyewitness account of “The Battle for Israel and Human Rights at the United Nations” dedicated to the memory of his uncle, Dr. Moshe Zvi Bayewitz, z’’l in observance of his 18th yahrtzeit.
The famed human rights activist began by telling the audience how he often receives a different kind of reception than the one he received at Rinat Sunday evening, and that if looks could kill he would have been murdered thousands of times by representatives of various member states who often try to employ cunning tactics to prevent him from revealing their pernicious actions.
He explained that while some would say, “Who cares?” about the United Nations and all its absurdity, the sad reality is that a large percentage of people around the world regard the United Nations highly, and what takes place there, no matter how unjust or ludicrous, matters significantly in many parts of the world. So, he explained, it is imperative that its hypocrisy be exposed.
Discussing exactly what “we” are up against, Neuer spoke about the early days of the United Nations, established with representatives of democracy rather than representatives of actual countries. He went on to detail how over the years, more and more of these “representatives” began hailing from corrupt dictatorships and Arab states bent on destroying Israel’s legitimacy while equating Zionism with racism. These states discovered that, although they were unable to defeat Israel at war, they saw an opportunity to be victorious through a diplomatic battle, focusing their efforts on demonizing Israel.
He sought to explain “this peculiar singular treatment of one country that is different from all others” and asked, “Is there any way that we can fight back and make a difference?” But with 56 Islamic states at the UN, it’s no wonder that Israel is a regular target of the United Nations, and threats of terrorism by other countries, vote trading, oil, trade, and other investments are just a few reasons why antisemitism permeates this institution.
Neuer cited other examples of the UN’s neverending biases against Israel, including its failure to ever mention Hamas or Islamic Jihad in its one-sided resolutions, or the fact that while other countries receive commendations before getting hit with resolutions, Israel has yet to receive any commendations among its over-abundant and unjustified resolutions against it.
He discussed how Israel is always singled out through a disproportionate number of resolutions against it—a whopping 15 from this most recent General Assembly legislative session—while countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea have but one against them. Neuer said that it is just as important to take note of the countries that don’t ever seem to face any scrutiny or criticism.
Even though logic would dictate that human rights abusers should be held to account, Neuer simply pointed to China, which counts zero resolutions against it, yet the United Nations remains conspicuously silent when it comes to all the atrocities committed by the Chinese.
Notably, from this last legislative session, there were no resolutions brought against Somalia either, where thousands of young girls are subjected to genital mutilation. Nor were there any resolutions against Pakistan, a supporter of the Taliban and a country which shamelessly practices religious persecution.
But lo and behold, many of these serial abusers, which have yet to be held accountable for the savage actions that regularly take place within their borders, have been elected to the Human Rights Council, enabling them as judges of human rights.
The irony is that the Human Rights Commission was founded in 1946 by Eleanor Roosevelt, who herself was an ardent supporter of Israel. But when the commission started to become politicized, its membership unfortunately evolved to form a body of ambassadors from countries who trample on human rights instead of individuals who champion them.
He spoke about how 2003 proved to be the low point for the Human Rights Commission because Libya had been appointed as its head. It was then that a few members of the UN were finally forced to admit that something was horrifically amiss. Despite a lengthy report by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan on how to reform this commission, it did little, if anything, to change things. In fact, as of today, 70% of the members of the Human Rights Commission aren’t even democracies.
“Experts” who serve on United Nations commissions, Neuer explained, are expected to be unbiased, objective and impartial. Naturally, this being the UN, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Neuer only had enough time to highlight a few of these “so-called” experts, including Richard Falk, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and staunch supporter of Hamas, who accused Israel of planning an Arab holocaust. Also on the list was Jean Ziegler, who in 2006 accused Israel of “starving” the Lebanese people. But many would argue his crowning achievement of bias goes back even further, to 1989, when he created the Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize. Describing it as “the Anti-Nobel Prize of the Third World,” some of Ziegler’s recipients included Louis Farrakhan, Hugo Chavez and himself.
Citing the incredible challenges and uphill battles in trying to convince countries to do the right and moral thing, Neuer said that speaking the truth has value and can yield powerful and positive results. He talked about the work UN Watch does, working diligently and around the clock to bring justice and shed light on those truths. The Durban II Conference had been one such example in which UN Watch convinced several countries, such as the United States, Germany and The Netherlands, among others, to pull out of it, thereby delegitimizing the whole conference.
Utilizing social media to tell the truth, Neuer said, can be a very powerful tool as well, allowing stories to go viral, and leaving the oppressors and offenders justifiably exposed.
He ended by saying, “We believe we can make a difference. It’s not every day and it’s getting harder and harder.” He shared how many human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have declared Israel an apartheid state, that college campuses in the US have never been worse for supporters of Israel, and that public opinion in America is showing declining support for Israel. “We have great challenges and it’s very much an uphill battle trying to get the decent countries to do the right thing.” But, he stressed, there is still tremendous value in standing up and speaking the truth.
He reminded the audience of the time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu served as the Ambassador to the UN in the 1980s and went to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe who said to him, “You are going into an assembly of darkness and your mission has to be to light the candle of truth.” That, he said, is the goal and what UN Watch tries to do every single day.
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By Ronit Mershon