Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

UN rights chief compares ‘Palestinian suffering’ with Holocaust

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a former Jordanian ambassador and member of the royal family, should apologize for profoundly offensive remarks (see below) in which he compared “Palestinian suffering” with the Holocaust, and Palestinian refugee camps with Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The odious analogy was immediately endorsed by Qatar.

While he disingenuously insisted that the two cases were different, and though he made a point of predicting that he would be criticized by those acting ‘mechanically almost’, the fact remains that Mr. Hussein not only unfairly singled out Israel by dedicating the opening part of a major UN speech to the Palestinian situation but repeatedly juxtaposed the alleged suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis with Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis.

Hussein spoke on Tuesday to open the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council. I took the floor to respond—see below.

While the high commissioner addressed the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 2015, his odious analogy — unless he fully apologizes — renders him unfit to be invited back.

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Statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: 

Fifty years ago, this was the day I first heard the sound of war. I was three and a half years old and, while fragmentary, I can still remember military men milling around our home in Amman, an armored car stationed nearby and later, planes that flew overhead. It was a war that shaped my life, and forged my later desire to understand the depths of Palestinian suffering but not only that, Jewish suffering too – the latter spanning over two millennia, and which culminated in that colossal crime, the Holocaust.

I grew up not far from the massive Palestinian refugee camp in al-Baqa’aI worked across the street from the al-Wihdat refugee camp. In the past thirty years, I have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau, visited Dachau, seen Buchenwald. I have studied in depth the trials at Nuremburg and elsewhere, the long and painful history of anti-Semitism in Europe, Russia and later, Arab countries – an antisemitism which remains still present in far too many places around the world.

Some will respond, mechanically almost, that the experiences of the two peoples are not equivalent, how could I mention them in one breath? Indeed, I agree – the Holocaust was so monstrous and so mathematically planned and executed, it has no parallel, no modern equal.

Yet it is also undeniable that today, the Palestinian people mark a half-century of deep suffering under an occupation imposed by military force…

Click here for full statement

Qatar: My country would like to thank the High Commissioner for his updated report… With respect to the conditions experienced by Jews throughout history depicted in the [High Commissioner’s] report, we must establish a link with what Palestinians are today experiencing today due to atrocious crimes committed by Israel…

Hillel Neuer, UN Watch: 

Mr. President, in this hall, an analogy was made, a comparison was drawn, and a word was evoked.

High Commissioner, you asked: How could you mention Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz, the Palestinian situation and the Holocaust, in one breath? The Holocaust has no equal, you noted.

And yet, you went on to say. And yet — you did make the analogy between Israel and absolute evil, you did draw the comparison with the Holocaust, you did evoke the word.

High Commissioner, you could have compared the Arab-Israel conflict with any one of hundreds of other conflicts around the world.

And yet — and yet you chose to evoke the symbol in world history of absolute evil.

Not surprisingly, your analogy just echoed by Qatar, the funder of Hamas — the terrorist group whose atrocities you failed to mention once.

Finally, you invoked your personal memories in Jordan from the 1967 war.

And yet — you did not mention that the government of Jordan, whom you later represented, placed its army under Egyptian command while its state-controlled radio openly called for “Israel’s death and annihilation.”

Why did you also fail to mention that, despite assurances from Israel that it had no intention of fighting with Jordan, that it was King Hussein who attacked, launching artillery barrages and airstrikes on military and civil targets in Tel Aviv, Netanya, and Jerusalem?

About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."