The universal counsel every bright-eyed freshman student hears upon beginning their post-secondary lives is that it is a time of change and growth; even — dare I say — of new perspectives. Universities are sold to us as places of higher learning, as a forum for confronting our dearly-held beliefs, all the while challenging and scrutinizing them.
While this makes for rosy parting wisdom, it is far from the truth, especially if you find yourself in the unpopular position of advocating for Israel. Instances abound: the interrogation of a Jewish student at UCLA over her inability to remain ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ (read dual loyalties); the creation of a class at UC Riverside entitled “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid” taught by the leader of their local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter; the proliferation of swastikas at Emory; and graffiti calling for “Death to Israel”, “Kill All The Jews” at Berkeley.
Perhaps in vain then, I sought to publish a story in the student-run newspaper highlighting the disproportionate and discriminatory treatment Israel encounters at the United Nations. The occasional professors door adorned with posters calling for “Free Palestine” at the newspapers home department certainly foreshadowed an inauspicious start.
Nevertheless, I began in earnest compiling data and citing my sources throughout the process. When I finally submitted the article, the editor referenced its inadmissibility due to topical irrelevance. When pressed further as to the overarching theme of the upcoming issue, I was kindly reminded that it would be discussed in the future.
I continued prodding. Could it be uploaded to the newspaper’s website? Once again, I got more bureaucracy about approval from the senior editors and the likelihood that it did not “fit in with the general theme” of what the magazine was ‘doing these days’. Mind you, they were content to publish my progressive views on Islamophobia and race relations in America.
This calls to memory the publisher who merely wishes to read their views and only publicizes a story they support.
How strong is your cause if you must stifle other opinions?
The article below was the one intended for publication, which remains unpublished to this day. It is not polemic, or misleading, or one-sided. I acknowledge the unfortunate reality of life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the broader regional animosity between Arabs and Jews. Nonetheless, it depicts a true and unadulterated picture:
One nation, above all others, has been singled out on the international stage like no other. It is smaller than the state of West Virginia with a population of approximately eight million. And yet this nation has drawn the ire of the international community for decades. One might ask what policies has this country adopted? How did it go so wrong? It is surprising then to discover that despite the international community’s condemnation that the nation is in fact an oasis in the desert, literally. It has free and fair elections, promotes political pluralism, and holds sacred the freedoms of the press, expression, assembly, and religion. It hosted the largest regional Gay Pride Parade attracting over 80,000 people in 2014. Furthermore, gender equality has been achieved at nearly all levels of its society.
So what country is this? Well since 2012, six years after the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), it has had 44 resolutions filed against it, more than the five following countries: Myanmar (10), Sudan (10), Syria (10), Somalia (8), and North Korea (5), respectively. Incredibly, as of 2012 this country comprises roughly 35% of human rights resolutions ever passed.
Surely there must be other countries that are equally as unscrupulous. One might be curious to know how many resolutions were filed against Saudi Arabia for their abhorrent treatment of women who are banned from driving cars and travelling unsupervised without a male relative during this time. 0. What repercussions has Iran faced in spite of routine public hangings of homosexuals and stoning women? 2 resolutions. What about China which employs a governmental Propaganda Department and actively engages in widespread censorship? Compounded by the routine jailing of intellectuals and activists, as well as their reprehensible treatment of protesters in Hong Kong throughout the Umbrella Revolution: China has yet to receive its first UNHRC resolution. Similarly, Russia has continued to evade the UNHRC’s purview in spite of legislation discriminating against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, widespread political corruption, and consistent governmental actions which undermine any semblance of freedom of the press or criticism of the government.
What is the cause of this disproportionality? How have these countries escaped judgement on human rights violations markedly worse than the country which cherishes democratic and liberal freedoms? The reason, simply put, is that it is Israel. Israel has become the whipping post of the international community, turning into the scapegoat for the world – a political poker chip which carries with it easy votes. For many then, it is shocking to discover that Israel is a front-runner in liberalism and democracy. Freedom House, an internationally distinguished non-governmental organization concerned with research on democracy, political freedom, and human rights, conducted extensive surveys throughout the world and came to a startlingly simple conclusion: Israel is the only truly free country in the Middle East and North Africa (among 18 countries).
Yes, Israel, like all other nations has issues which must be dealt with; most importantly, resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the wider Arab-Israeli animosity. However, the international fixation with Israel should give everyone pause to rethink the virtue and mission of the United Nations. Its failings to bring to justice the true culprits of human rights violations is distressing. At this moment, less than half (in fact 45%) of the United Nations is democratic, Israel being the exception; while its neighbours Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Lebanon all are not. This is the same body which equated Zionism to racism in 1975 and admitted Libya, then under the brutal regime of Muammar Gaddafi, to the chairmanship of the UNHRC. We must not fall prey to the allure of international bodies in the face of such overwhelming bias.