Friday, 23 September 2011

The UN's Triple Whammy.

This week, in the fight for its survival, the United Nations delivered not a double whammy but a triple whammy to Israel.

First, the UN hosted The World Conference Against Racism, a.k.a. Durban III, at which Israel was singled out as the world’s most racist and abusive state. Thankfully, every Western democratic member of the permanent five powers on the UN Security Council boycotted the conference, which virtually guaranteed that Durban III, and whatever racist conclusions it arrived at, would not be able to claim a trace of moral authority.

The second blow was Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad’s speech, in which he once again took the opportunity to denounce Israel. Israeli Prime Minister struck back powerfully and eloquently:

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state.

What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations! Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong.

History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries. In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others. Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times.

Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated. The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization.

It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death.

Yesterday, a third body blow was delivered to Israel by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In his speech, he stated that:

The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve.

Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay...

I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence (emphasis mine).

Note that President Abbas made no mention of the homeland of the Jewish people.

The time has come for our men, women and children to live normal lives ... for our farmers to be able to take care of their good land without fear of the occupation seizing the land and its water, which the wall prevents access to, or fear of the settlers, for whom settlements are being built on our land and who are uprooting and burning the olive trees that have existed for hundreds of years. The time has come for the thousands of prisoners to be released from the prisons to return to their families and their children to become a part of building their homeland, for the freedom of which they have sacrificed (emphasis mine).

The issue of settlements is raised with tedious regularity but, according to the document West Bank Settlements, Communities, and Facts on the Ground:

The release of thousands of prisoners!? Fear of settlers? According to Palestinian and Israeli sources, the built-up areas of Israeli settlements cover 1.7 percent of West Bank land, The scheduled route of the security fence incorporates between 5 and 8 percent of West Bank land. Israel currently administers 60 percent of the West Bank (known as “Area C”) per the Oslo Agreement.

Netanyahu responded in typically robust fashion:

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment it was established 63 years ago. On behalf of Israel and the Jewish people, I extend that hand again today. I extend it to the people of Egypt and Jordan, with renewed friendship for neighbours with whom we have made peace. I extend it to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will. I extend it to the people of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those trying to build a democratic future. I extend it to the other peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom we want to forge a new beginning. I extend it to the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iran, with awe at the courage of those fighting brutal repression.

But most especially, I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel our hope for peace never wanes. Our scientists, doctors, innovators, apply their genius to improve the world of tomorrow. Our artists, our writers, enrich the heritage of humanity. Now, I know that this is not exactly the image of Israel that is often portrayed in this hall. After all, it was here in 1975 that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland — it was then that this was braided — branded, rather — shamefully, as racism. And it was here in 1980, right here, that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn’t praised; it was denounced! And it’s here year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It’s singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel — the one true democracy in the Middle East.

Well, this is an unfortunate part of the U.N. institution. It’s the — the theater of the absurd. It doesn’t only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gadhafi’s Libya chaired the U.N. Commission on Human Rights; Saddam’s Iraq headed the U.N. Committee on Disarmament.

You might say: That’s the past. Well, here’s what’s happening now — right now, today. Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the U.N. Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.

You couldn’t make this thing up.

So here in the U.N., automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun sets in the west or rises in the west. I think the first has already been pre-ordained. But they can also decide — they have decided that the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest place, is occupied Palestinian territory.

And yet even here in the General Assembly, the truth can sometimes break through. In 1984 when I was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, I visited the great rabbi of Lubavich. He said to me — and ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want any of you to be offended because from personal experience of serving here, I know there are many honorable men and women, many capable and decent people serving their nations here. But here’s what the rebbe said to me. He said to me, you’ll be serving in a house of many lies. And then he said, remember that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide.

Today I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country. So as Israel’s prime minister, I didn’t come here to win applause. I came here to speak the truth. The truth is — the truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security. The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through U.N. resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties. The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace. And the truth is you shouldn’t let that happen.

Well, as they say, it’s not over till it’s over and there will be much discussion over the next week or so. Now is the time for us to pray more than ever for the peace of Jerusalem.

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