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How could ‘Zionism is Racism’ have happened

I see many ToI commenters bemoaning the ‘bias’ and ‘antisemitism’ of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – why are they so bothered about Gaza? What about much worse happenings in Sudan, or Yemen, or Syria, or Iran? The answer – no-one raised a complaint to the ICJ about Sudan, Yemen, Syria or Iran, whereas South Africa raised a complaint to the ICJ about Israel.

I similarly see many commenters bemoaning the UN  as being hopelessly biased against Israel, antisemitic even. For the previous generation of Israelis, the UN has been a lost cause since the notorious ‘Zionism is Racism’ UN General Assembly Resolution passed in 1975 (and perhaps even before).

One of the root problems for Israel is that when the colonising-coloniser relationship was being defined in international law terms, the experts – many of them Jewish, ironically enough – who were at the forefront of defining international law did not think to accord a special status to exiled people, of which the Jews are one of a very small number.

Whereas colonised people were accorded rights in international law to resistance and liberation from the coloniser and self-determination in their land, no corresponding rights to return and self-determination were accorded to exiled people, as they should have had by grounds of basic ‘kal v’chomer’ reasoning (also known as ‘argumentum a fortiori’…. if this, then how much more so that..).

While there is no need or intent to create a hierarchy of victimhood among any specific peoples, in purely conceptual terms, exiled peoples may be said to have experienced a more extreme form of suffering than colonised or occupied peoples.

The essence of being colonised or occupied is being governed by others. Without doubt, in many cases, this experience has been accompanied by horrific crimes – racial or ethnic discrimination, sexual violence and slavery, to name just a few. To be clear, there is absolutely no intent here to minimise the impact of colonialism, deny the suffering of the colonised, or to whitewash the actions of colonisers.

However, for exiled peoples, the experience is arguably worse in categoric terms. The essence of being an exiled people is the partial or total banishment from one’s own homeland, usually after suffering all of the aforementioned evils, culminating in an extreme form of what we now call ethnic cleansing.

In most cases, exiled peoples have been lost to history as they have gradually assimilated into the populations to which they have been dispersed. In some cases, exiled peoples have maintained their identity and peoplehood. The Jewish people is arguably the most familiar and longest-standing example of an exiled people. There are others, which may – arguably – include Crimean Tatars, Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Arameans), Tibetans and of course Palestinians.

Ironically again, despite there being no specific rights to return and self-determination accorded to exiled people, the international community did de facto accord these rights to another (partially) exiled people – the Palestinians – but idiosyncratically, with special treatment.

While Israel has asserted and legislated domestically the Jewish right to return and self-determination, the absence of recognition for these rights at international level has led to the false categorisation of Zionism as racism and Jews as colonisers. This is arguably the root cause that enables the UN machinery to be unfairly targeted against Israel.

Perhaps at this stage, it may be wise to reappropriate Hillel: ‘If i am not for myself, who is for me?’

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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