Avi Benlolo, the former head of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies Canada and one of the leading experts on the Holocaust, recently launched a new organization for human rights called The Abraham Global Peace Initiative (www.agpi.ca) that also supports Israel. He is joined in this venture by board member and early supporter of this organization the Hon. Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua as well as by Honorary Chairman Mr. Paul Godfrey and the organization’s President, Mark Teitelbaum. Mr. Teitelbaum, whose family members were murdered in the Holocaust, explicitly linked human rights with commemorating the Jewish catastrophe, stating “It [AGPI] will become a global resource for anyone working in the space of human rights, combating anti-Semitism and Holocaust remembrance. As Canadians, we should be very proud of this initiative”. (AGPI newsletter press release, August 11, 2021) In the same press release, AGPI Founder and Chairman Avi Benlolo urged all those who support human rights and Israel to join this organization: “If you believe in freedom and democracy, in the safety and security of Israel and in protecting the rights and freedoms of all peoples, we invite you to join us”.
Why do we need an organization that focuses both on human rights in general and on support of the state of Israel in particular? Doesn’t support of human rights include combatting all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism? The sad reality is that the answer is not necessarily. Halton Police Chief and board member Stephen Tanner explained in AGPI’s August 11 press release that such an organization is essential given the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism internationally. He urged: “We cannot stand by. We must all come together as one community to promote tolerance, justice and human rights. In fact, we must go beyond tolerance, and we must honor and respect all people equally as we work toward the elimination of hatred and discrimination of any kind.”
The Abraham Global Peace Initiative is meant to counteract a glaring and enduring omission in organizations that claim to support human rights while singling out and demonizing Israel. The Israeli actress and author Noa Tishby identified in her recent book the biases against the Jewish state not only in organizations like the BDS movement (Boycott Divest and Sanction) that obviously target only Israel, but also in United Nations human rights committees. As she elaborates in her bestseller, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth (New York: Free Press, Kindle Edition, 2021), human rights organizations that target Israel in particular follow what human rights activist Natan Sharansky has called the 3D’s: Delegitimize, Demonize and maintain a Double Standard towards the state of Israel.
Tishby acknowledges that a critique of any democracy’s actions and policies is not only legitimate, but also necessary for its health and thriving. However, targetting Israel above and beyond countries that violate human rights most egregiously is a symptom of anti-Semitism couched as anti-Zionism or, worse still, disguised as human rights activism. This glaring bias against Israel is obvious in the double standards of the United Nations itself, which unfairly singles out the Jewish state as the top violator of human rights in the world. Tishby recounts that in 1957 the United Nations was divided into regional groups. Arab states banded together to keep Israel out of the Middle Eastern “working group”. Only as late as the year 2000 was the state of Israel finally accepted as a member of the group “Western Europe and Other Groups.” By then, however, its input came too late to overcome longstanding biases in the UN against the Jewish state. As Tishby elaborates: “From 2015 to 2019, the United Nations General Assembly adopted more resolutions against Israel than against Iran, Syria, North Korea and Russia combined. Israel was officially condemned ninety-six times, Syria seven, North Korea five, and Iran five—and China was condemned zero times…. In 2019 alone, the General Assembly of the UN adopted eighteen resolutions against Israel, and seven for every single other country in the world combined. ” (Israel, Kindle Edition, 268) All in all, she documents that from 2006 to 2020, the UN human rights council adopted 90 out of a total of 217 resolutions against the state of Israel (or 41.5 percent). (Israel, 269)
Perhaps the most egregious example of the UN’s bias against Israel is the fact that the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women has issued 4 indictments since 2015, and all of them are against Israel’s treatment of Palestinian women. This committee, which claims to care about women’s rights and equality, has singled out the largely egalitarian Jewish state and completely ignored the numerous countries where women are second-class citizens or even deprived of human rights altogether. (Israel, 268-9) Seeing the importance of addressing gender roles and equality in a more balanced and fair manner, in its August 16 press release the Abraham Global Peace Initiative announced that Genevieve Korman and Candice Solomon would be the Co-Chairs of its new subcommittee focused on gender, the Women’s Global Initiative: “Advancing human rights includes advancing women’s leadership nationally and internationally. Their first major initiative in advancing women’s leadership is an international women’s leadership forum scheduled in celebration of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8th 2022.”
Unfortunately, Israel is demonized by both far left and far right wing organizations. While extreme right-wing groups tend to push anti-Semitism to the point of Holocaust denial and militate for the annihilation of the Jewish people, some far left-leaning human rights organizations have singled out Israel as their main target of international sanction and opprobrium. Given the alarming rise in anti-Semitism internationally, Benlolo and the leaders of the Abraham Global Peace Initiative plan to fulfill a much-needed and timely role. As its chosen name implies, their new organization will build upon The Abraham Accords to strengthen international cooperation between Israel and an increasing number of Arab states while at the same time counteracting the UN’s unfair biases against the Jewish state.