Two students took a stand.
This March, in accordance with protocol, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held the first of three annual committee meetings in Geneva. The gatherings call for all 47 member states to attend a succession of meetings comprised of ten Agenda Items (topics of discussion). Of these ten Agenda Items, an entire one is dedicated not to the violations of Human Rights in Occupied Territories across the globe, rather, Agenda Item 7 is entitled “The Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories”.
The aforementioned title lends a hand to those promoting both anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. As Chaya Esther Pomeranz, President of WUJS, and I witnessed firsthand, along with 25 other students who were all part of a EUJS delegation, the attempted de-legitimization of the committee session proved to be even worse than expected. The host day, which comes three times a year, has been justly dubbed the “Israel Hate Day” by UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer. One country’s delegate after another stood up and bashed Israel in the most global forum in existence. The irony lies in the conviction of a people plagued by conflict, yet guided by morals, by countries which themselves violate the most basic of human rights, such as not murdering their own citizens en masse. Similarly, the UNHRC official Richard Falk has likened the Jews in Israel to the Nazis of WWII Germany. This man was not publicly denounced by most, aside from the Palestinian Authority which alleges that Falk is a staunch supporter of the terrorist group Hamas.
In light of the above, and the lion’s den the UNHRC is considered to be by Israelis and Jews alike, Pomeranz and I, along with the other young leaders, entered the Palais Des Nations with heads and spirits high and proved the world wrong. One of the delegation’s members, Aviva, from South Africa, who is now studying in the hotbed of anti-Semitism that is Sweden, spoke on the floor during a full session and called for the end of the demonization of Israel by countries posing as champions of human rights, while in truth being the only true demons in the room. She, along with each of the students at their own opportune times, pointed out the distraction created by this baseless promotion of hatred, which only benefits the routine violators such as Syria, Iran and others. These countries, which are now responsible for the death of tens of thousands of their own citizens, are literally getting away with murder. At best, one resolution is authored and aimed at condemning each of these countries, while in this session alone, seven individual resolutions were passed condemning the Jewish homeland.
Israel’s Foreign Minister has called for the boycott of the UNHRC meetings by the permanent Israeli Ambassador to the UN. This call to action is one of large impact. The empty seat designated for Israeli representation was noted in multiple speeches throughout the session. Despite the debate regarding the logic and effectiveness behind the Israeli boycott of the HRC, the vacancy of the seat has proven to be louder than any words Israel could have spoken, as the haters have continued to unintentionally give Israel credit for being unwilling to just absorb the abuse any longer.
While tabling the above debate, the issue of a lack of Israeli representation must be addressed. This is one of the driving forces for Chaya and myself stepping up in the eternal battle of the defense of our slandered and wrongfully isolated homeland.
Chaya and I, who have much experience and training from our Bar-Ilan Model UN careers, met the task with surprising fervor. We were privileged with meeting high-level representatives from the German, French and American permanent missions to the UNHRC. Israel was at the forefront of our agenda when challenging the representatives as to why their home countries, who claim to openly defend Israel, have been failing to fulfill the expected requirements to be dubbed “defenders” or even friends. The diplomats expressed wonderment themselves and in certain instances gave their word to pass on the legitimate points raised to the highest levels possible until results are attained.
Badil, a pro-Palestinian organization, held a side-event at the UNHRC and was unpleasantly surprised by the majority of the event’s participants. The Jewish delegation in its entirety took center seats in the panel’s crowd and proceeded to challenge the panelists on almost every statement made, especially the widespread distorted or even fabricated accusations. While in reality, most of the organizations whose existences are based solely on the berating of Israel will not change their positions on central issues, the panelists of Badil will think twice before the next session if they are aware that the Jewish world will again be sending a well educated and well trained 27-strong group of young leaders to challenge their false allegations.
Defending Israel in this realm is comprised not only of negating claims, but displaying Israel and its people in a positive light as well. Shocking to some, Israel is held in high regard in many of the sub-committees of the UNHRC and is even viewed as one of the foremost leaders in the field of aid to developing countries. Israel has and continues to successfully bring low maintenance and efficient medical care, agricultural, water purification and other systems to developing countries out of good will.
All in all, we were told by many that our presence as Israeli representatives was invaluable. We were told that we added valued and poignant points and showed others that we were not afraid to stand up for our beliefs and for the Jewish nation. We met countless diplomats and NGO representatives who are fighting to keep Anti-Semitism alive and continuously nourish the cause by feeding it with false accusations and baseless hatred. The lasting effect which we hope for is that some will think twice before speaking freely about the flaws of Israel and hopefully make sure that the facts they use are actually facts and not fabrications.
Aviva’s speech on the floor of the UNHRC – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH8xpSlrxzs