***If you are reading this and you think that the UN’s continued probes into Israel are ridiculous etc., please sign my petition here. (With every signature, an email goes straight to William Schabas and to a couple emails at the UN.) Thank you!***
Dear Professor Schabas,
I am wondering if you might be able to offer me some clarification.
Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that it is the belief of the UN Human Rights Council that:
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
That is awesome. I love it.
But it is not the UN’s declaration that perplexes me.
What throws me off is what you have to say about the UN.
In a recent interview with an Israeli reporter, you were asked if perhaps this 2nd probe into Israel in a mere 6 years suggests that there is a double standard in the UN (particularly because there have been none into US attacks in Iraq, Russia in Chechnya, and NATO in Libya).
Your response was surprisingly honest. (It made me especially happy because politicians aren’t usually so forthcoming).
“You know, there are lots of double standards in the UN and lots of double standards on the-at the international level. And as I – explained, the fact that there haven’t been inquiries into some atrocities, into some areas of violent conflict in the world, is explained by the political balances and the relative strength of the powers. And that’s a very unfortunate situation, but that is a fact of life and different crises and different countries fare differently depending on where they are.”
So that statement was difficult for me to wrap my head around, Mr. Schabas, because as far as I can remember, “double standard” is usually used in a pretty pejorative context.
But you are an accomplished and educated man who was hand-picked by the UN to lead a committee; I hesitate to consider that my feeble memory or minimal vocabulary are enough to challenge your opinions or the credibility of your fact finding mission. I also will admit that I am not terribly well-versed in political jargon. Still, I just can’t shake the thought that if your observation is indeed correct, a statement confirming the existence of a double standard in the UN suggests to undermine the very premise under which the UN was formed.
Reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson calling slavery a “moral depravity” while owning some 100+ at any given time throughout his life. Pretty hypocritical ’cause as they say, “actions speak louder than words”.
Anyway, back to the UN: I’m not gonna lie- this creeping revelation started to freak me out a little, but I tossed the entire ‘undermining itself’ notion out the window because this is 2014 and the UN is fair and good, so I naturally assumed that I had misunderstood some or all of the modus operandi of the UN Human Rights Council and the freedoms that it presumes to guarantee all humans. Namely, freedom from discrimination. So I reread the declaration and looked up “discrimination” in the dictionary. You know, for clarification.
b : prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment
So… Unless the dictionary is wrong, the simple fact that there is a double standard at the UN means, unequivocally, that there is discrimination, which means that there also is a distinction being made- a distinction that, as I feared, invalidates the entire premise of the Human Rights Council’s establishment and existence.
Welcome to the paradox that is the UN Human Rights Committee?
Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that.
That was blasphemous.
The UN Human Rights Committee violating the ideals set forth in their very declaration?
In another interview, you said that the suggestion that you are anti-Israel is absurd.
I agree. I would not suggest that you are anti-Israel. I don’t even need to, because as you (quite commendably and bravely, might I add) admitted to our dear Israeli reporter, you simply hold Israel to a double standard.
You said something then about the double standard being about the balance of power.
Fine. There is a double standard in the UN and it is due to the balance of the power. But let’s talk about this past summer. Let’s talk about the global BDS movement. Let’s talk about the average Joe/Jane and his/her thought process. Just think out loud with me, hey?
That Blasted Double Standard
I’m no professor, but I have read in a few places that Israel is perhaps held to a higher standard because she is a country that is considered “first world”, with an accountable and stable government and economy, relatively free of corruption- by all means unique in the war-ravaged middle east, and starkly contrasting, say, Sudan.
But then what about the United States? At least 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed directly or indirectly as a result of the Iraq war. Some estimates suggest tens of thousands more. The US is absolutely developed. [Presumably] free of corruption. Relatively stable economy.
So therefore Israel’s status as a first world country by no means explains the rising anti semitism in Europe, or the British craziness this summer or the Americans shouting anti-Israel rhetoric and marching in Times Square. It does not explain British supermarkets removing Jewish foods from their shelves, citizens across Europe plundering Jewish monuments and the US citizens protesting the docking of a ZIM cargo ship.
These people were not protesting American war crimes in Iraq (on the contrary, they’re likely pining for American visas).
They were protesting Israel. They were attacking Jews.
These same Good Samaritans really don’t know that much about the US’ “targeted action”- (an operation that I think should be called “PrecISIS” because of how “precise” the ISIS attacks are, especially compared to Israel’s “imprecise” attacks on Hamas). They don’t know that a man who had been on the glorified Mavi-Marmara (Gaza Flotilla) was recently (and pretty ironically) killed after joining the vilified ISIS.
(cue the “but the Marmara was humanitariannn”)
I truly think that the Joes and the Janes genuinely have no idea. Not a clue. Blame the media?
Why? Why? Why?
Why are there so many misconceptions about Israel?
Why does the population still believe that the Mavi Marmara was chock full of humanitarian aid? Why does the population fail to protest America’s repeated shopping around for conflicts which she subsequently turns into full fledged wars with the same passionate disgust that they express towards Israel when she takes legitimate actions against a terrorist entity?
Atrocities far more abhorrent and evil are being committed all the time and nobody knows about these deliberate crimes against humanity. After all, as you said yourself in an interview with Victor Tsilonis, the [alleged] crimes in Gaza are nowhere near the top of the Richter scale in world atrocities.
This is a fact.
I know it.
You know it.
Bibi knows it.
President Obama knows it.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon knows it.
But I’m inclined to say that I don’t think that the passionate protesters know it. So, why don’t they know?
I think I know why they don’t know, and I think you know why they don’t know. (Try saying that 10x fast. It’s almost as difficult as being as Israeli)
It’s because of the but. (there’s always a but.)
Globally, these atrocities are terrible and people are being killed, discriminated against, raped, murdered, plundered, displaced.
And none of them by Israelis. Fancy that.
But, there was not a UN resolution against the potential war crimes committed by the US in Iraq.
40% of the UN resolutions didn’t highlight the 134,000 civilians killed directly as a result of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
In fact, never-mind 40%:
As every Israeli will keenly and bitterly inform you, ZERO percent did.
But roughly 40% of the UN’s resolutions have in some way involved tiny Israel.
So, I think I understand why the people don’t care as much about Muslims who are being displaced or murdered when Israel isn’t the perp:
It’s because the UN is supposed to be good and true and just. So if the UN has a problem with it, then anyone who counts on the UN will naturally protest as well. On the flip side, if the UN isn’t protesting it, then either nobody knows or they rightfully assume that there must be some sort of something going on behind the scenes.
Because the UN is good and fair.
-But, it is not.-
You see, I think that I am experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance here:
On one hand, (1) My truth is that the UN Human Rights Council and the UN as a whole are bodies that I can count on to be good and true and consistent. To prioritize justice. To pursue freedoms, basic human rights of liberty and free speech, the freedom to choose, the freedom of religion, and speech and the press, freedom from oppression- for all. Equally. This is what I know the UN is.
(2) My truth is also that Israel and the Israeli government are just and reasonable. That they make fair and calculated choices. That they hesitate to go to war. That they value human life.
- My truth is that my friends who serve proudly in the IDF are brave and good and kind.
- My truth is that it reflects beautifully on our IDF that there has not been a single Palestinian woman who has accused an IDF soldier of rape.
- My truth is that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
- My truth is that 160 Gazan children lost their lives building Hamas’ terror tunnels. With money that should have gone to their homes, education, health and well-being.
- My truth is that Hamas holds the Palestinian people of Gaza by the throat, with a cold blade held firmly to their skins, ready -with the flick of the wrist- to take their lives if they choose to support Israel or condemn their government or make some other choice that Hamas doesn’t like.
- My truth is that Gazan children were still treated in Israeli hospitals, even during Operation Protective Edge.
- My truth is that when Israel kills or injures a civilian as a casualty of war or human error, Israel opens an inquiry into the horrific mistake and takes the necessary action and precaution to strive to ensure that such a thing does not happen again. On the flip side, Fathi Hamad, Interior Minister of the Gaza Strip, proudly declares his satisfaction at the willingness of the Palestinian people to die as human shields- as if they are declaring to Israel “We desire death like you desire life”.
Unfortunately Professor, in lieu of your statement and the history of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN as a whole, it is clear to me that these two “truths” essentially negate one another and therefore cannot both remain truths.
So, either Israel is not all of the beautiful things that I know she is, or your statements are true and the UN is one big paradoxical body who is motivated by anything but justice.
I suddenly realize that many of the protesters and the marchers and the BDS-ers must suffer the same dissonance as I.
The same frustrating confusion.
It is the same confusion that Mosab Hassan Yousef (Son of Hamas) must have suffered when he was first interrogated by the Mossad.
It is the same confusion that Mohammed Zoabi must have felt when he received death threats from his family for his moderate and Zionist views.
But myself and Mosab Hassan Yousef and Mohammed Zoabi differ from the protesters. We differ because the three of us discredited a different truth than they.
Because the three of us realize that this is the big paradox (gah, I said it again):
The UN cannot really be a body of truth and justice and pursuit of equal human rights when they obsessively probe Israel and leave the Palestinians, along with victims of genocide around the world, to languish under de facto dictatorships and tyrannical rulers who place no value on the lives of their civilians.
So it is clear to me that although it is why they were formed, the UN doesn’t highlight global atrocities.
They do not.
And in your words, professor, this injustice is “A fact of life”.
A fact of life.
I must agree with you.
Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny- all forms of hate- are “facts of life”.
But that doesn’t mean that they should remain that way.
You see, I had the misfortune of being born to two Jewish parents. One of whom is an Israeli. *gasp* (I will never view my Judaism or Israeli citizenship as a misfortune- but I think by anyone else’s standards, being an Israeli today is absolute misfortune)
I was approached on a recent trip abroad. I was in a bar and I was approached by a tall, dark, handsome man. I smiled this half smile, but he did not. He opened his mouth, and in a smooth South African accent, said “My friends over there told me that you are Israeli”.
I nodded. “Um, yeah.”
“Well, how is it? Living in a home on land that you stole from my family? Huh? Killing my cousins in Gaza? huh?”
Needless to say, I was shocked. Taken aback. Totally bewildered.
Sadly, this was not the first time I was singled out for being an Israeli or for being a Jew, and recent global headlines will tell you that I am clearly not the only one who suffers this bullying.
Many have it much worse than I.
But in a spirit that is the complete antithesis of “equality”, complete antithesis of the “UN Declaration of Human Rights”, you write off this hatred that I and others face as a “fact of life”.
Oh well, Ariela.
Oh well, every Israeli who suffers as a result of the UN’s double standard.
Oh well, every Yazidi who died in Iraq before anybody cared.
Oh well, every Palestinian killed by Hamas.
Oh well, every woman in Saudi Arabia.
Oh no, wait. The UN cares about women. They started that HeforShe campaign.
Bottom Line, professor: The UN Human Rights Council does not decry or eschew discrimination. It perpetuates it.
You said so yourself:
That blasted double standard.
The UN Human Rights Council discriminates against:
- Israel as a country and Israelis in general.
- Anyone who is being murdered, maimed, raped, kidnapped, sold, violated etc. by anyone who is not Bibi Netanyahu (the biggest criminal in the world, right?) [ps he wasn’t PM in 2009, but by all means, as Israelis say, IT’S BIBI’S FAULT]
- Palestinians themselves.
- Every single person who suffered under President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir- for minimizing their suffering by suggesting that [alleged] atrocities perpetrated by Israel in Gaza at all mirror the abominable savagery that they suffered through.
Just kidding, that was just you.
PS, I hope I’m not overstepping my bounds when I suggest that you owe Shimon Peres an apology. “President” is a figurehead role in Israel. It’s like blaming the Queen for invading Iraq.
How does the UN discriminate against these groups?
1.) I may be naive and I may not know how politics work, but I am pretty sure that he UN Human Rights Council incontrovertibly discriminates against any and all Israelis, as a nation and as individuals, by -time and time again- shoving Israel’s potential (and, as you articulated- miniscule in comparison to the rest of the world’s) crimes in everyone’s faces and down everyone’s throats.
2.) The UN Human Rights Council, by omission, discriminates against all of those who desperately NEED the attention of the world- the attention that Israel has had almost completely to herself in an overwhelming number of UN resolutions since her establishment in 1948.
The UN discriminates by failing to direct a significant amount of potential aid and attention to global suffering [outside of the rough 20,000 km that is Israel].
They do this by rallying esteemed people like yourself to –like an old Sephardi grandma meticulously picking through grains of rice before Passover– search for a needle that may or may not be in a tiny haystack when there are thousands of haystacks larger than the one you pick through, all of which are chock full of needles.
You catch my drift?
The UN’s tunnel vision
When I say “tunnel”, you say “vision”.
Sorry, it’s just that I think its been a while since I have heard the word “tunnel” used in any context other than the 350 truckloads of cement and $90 million that Hamas repatriated (its not stealing when you are a government) from needy Gazans in order to dig 30+ tunnels into neighboring Israel.
3.) This double standard in the UN is not only discriminatory against Israelis and the rest of the world- it is discriminatory to Palestinians themselves. By failing to eradicate Hamas and dismantle Fatah, both historically terrible to their people, you keep the Gazan people cuffed: 80% percent of Palestinians think the Palestinian Authority is corrupt. Yet, instead of stepping in and criticizing Abbas, you keep the Palestinian people powerless against their formidably vicious leaders. You keep the Palestinians in Gaza chained to the hateful Hamas doctrine. Your double standard against Israel is essentially denying Palestinians their basic human rights. By scrutinizing Israel, you, by default, give credence to Hamas’ bloody reign.
(But we already established that the only consistency in the UN Human Rights Committee is its adherence to the paradoxical double standard and therefore cannot be expected to stick by their doctrine in pursuing equality and essential freedoms for all.)
Lastly, in that same interview with the Israeli reporter, you stated that:
“The fact that there is no inquiry into Russia, or into the US is, uh-obviously explained by the fact that those countries, uh-dominate, not only the security council, but also have a huge amount of political influence in bodies like the Human Rights council, and we unfortunately live with that as a reality in the world situation.”
Perhaps it is true, professor, that the UN is a paradoxical body and that we currently “live with that as a reality in the world situation”, but I refuse to accept the current situation as an absolute truth.
The establishment of the UN and especially the Human Rights Council was a turning point in the history of our planet.
It was a turning point because citizens were finally starting to think globally.
Leaders of state agreed to collectively answer to a system greater than themselves. To take responsibility for each other and to surrender their free reign for subordination. To keep each other in check.
- I believe that The UN’s Human rights Council declaration is beautiful. It is eternal.
- I also believe that the men and women of the UN fail to value the magnitude of their influence.
- I hesitate to believe that the current state of affairs is what was originally intended.
- I do not believe that the UN holds itself to the same standard that she holds the governments she was formed to regulate.
- I refuse to believe that this double standard is okay.
- I refuse to believe that this blatant discrimination should continue unabashed as our “world situation”.
- I refuse to believe, as you apparently do, that Israel’s overwhelmingly high number of resolutions is somehow justified by the UN’s lack of scrutiny in the security council.
- I refuse to believe that it is acceptable that by omission the UN perpetuates an ignorance of Hamas as a terrorist body. Perpetuates ignorance of global poverty, of real genocides and injustices that are carried out by evil bodies and bolstered by a bloody charter of hate and discrimination.
I am forced to believe, however, that with the current state of affairs, the UN and I do not share a moral compass.
So the UN is one big paradox.
You have shown time and time again that you have personal issues with many of our political leaders (and figureheads).
You have articulated that this double standard exists and that you believe it is a “fact of life”.
Like many before me, I must express my frustration with your stance and with your beliefs.
But, unlike many before me, I am not suggesting that you step down.
On the contrary, I am suggesting that you step up.
I am suggesting that you take advantage of your auspicious position and when you release a report to all those who wait with bated breath- prove that the death in Gaza was horrible and wrong, but it was not because Israel pursues death or destruction.
Remind the world that, as Golda Meir said, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children; We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs.”
When they suggest that they want facts without considering their contexts, remind them that there is no truth without context.
Remind the world that Israel is not alone in her war against terror.
Israel is not alone in her war against evil.
Israel is not alone in her desire for self-determination.
Israel is not alone in that she sometimes makes mistakes.
Israel is not alone in that she is rife with conflict.
Remind them that Israel is alone in that she is the only true democracy in the middle east.
Remind them that the IDF is a moral army.
Show them that Hamas and Fatah do not have the trust of their people. Show them that Hamas and Fatah are rife with corruption. With misappropriation of funds.
So let us scrutinize Israel but let us not allow for this war and the lives lost to have been in vain.
Let us overthrow Hamas and Fatah so that these conflicts can end once and for all.
Let us teach the world about the evils that brought this war.
Let us educate the world about violent conflict in the rest of the world-outside of Gaza.
Let us not allow for the lie that Israel is alone in this to perpetuate. Let us not allow the global community to believe that Gazan atrocities are worse in scale and sheer numbers than those committed around the world.
Let us be honest.
Let us be truthful.
Let us not lie by omission.
Professor Schabas- if that is not something that you and your committee are resigned to doing, then please, do not deceive and mislead the people who depend on you for their definitions of morality and ethics.
Cease to refer to yourselves as the “UN Human Rights Council”- choose a more honest and appropriate name, such as “UN selective and politically driven Human Rights Council, operating on a double standard because this is politics and in all politics there are double standards.”
Because, as once said by a certain Thomas Sowell, “There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young.”