I have lived all my life in Israel, and I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about Israeli matters. Yet last week, it was in New York that I found out how much I still have to learn.
The event I was invited to was The Israel Summit, the brainchild of Joseph Hyman, president of the Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy (CEJP). When I was asked by the officer at the passport control at Newark what was the purpose of my visit, being an Israeli and jet-legged, I mispronounced that long title, which almost got me into trouble.
Yet I remembered what Hyman had told me, and I managed to explain to the officer that the summit was a forum modeled after Venture Capital Investment Conferences, where philanthropists and foundations gathered to hear some outstanding pro-Israeli organizations showcasing their innovative work and financial needs.
Much to the chagrin of the people in line behind me, the officer wanted to hear more, and finally, upon rewarding my passport with the long-awaited stamp, he suggested that maybe the public should have been invited.
How right this officer was. Indeed, The public should have witnessed this parade of highly capable people giving animated presentations about the extraordinary work they have been doing for Israel.
And not only for Israel: Cliff May, president of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), explained how a strong and democratic Israel was in the best interests of the United States; Carice Witte, founder and executive director of the Sino-Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL), told us how top Chinese universities and academies were asking Israeli scholars and experts to lead them through the complexities of the Middle East, and so on. As one of the few Israelis in the room, I was very excited, even moved, to hear all that about my country.
Then, naturally, one is puzzled: With all the good things Israel is contributing (see RethinkIsrael.org, for example), why is there so much hostility towards the Jewish State? For example, in a country popularity poll conducted annually by the BBC all over the world, Israel is fourth from the bottom: Only North Korea, Pakistan and Iran are hated more.
If we put aside anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism, which means denying the right of the Jews to a state of their own, then the conventional wisdom is that as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not settled, Israel, the more powerful party in the equation (Goliath), will always get more heat than the Palestinians (David).
This, however, is perhaps the consensus in the rest of the world, but definitely not in the United States. In poll after poll Gallup has been conducting over the last 25 years, when asked “(i)n the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?”, some 60 percent of Americans steadily side with Israel and only 12 percent with the Palestinians.
There may be many reasons for this sharp difference between the way Americans view Israel and the attitudes of others over the globe. However, during the same Israel Summit, I thought about one particular agent which has been systematically spreading anti-Israeli sentiments all around the world: The United Nations.
It was Hillel Neuer, the indefatigable executive director of UN Watch, an organization that demands accountability and fairness from the United Nations, who shed light on the way the world body has made Israel a pariah state.
From the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution of 1975 to the Goldstone Report on Gaza of 2009 (which was overwhelmingly slammed by the U.S. Congress), the U.N. organization seemed to be obsessed with blaming and censuring one country only: Israel.
During the 2006-2007 session of the General Assembly, for example, the it was busy passing 22 resolutions condemning Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, while not even bothering to criticize Sudan for the Darfur genocide. On the contrary, the Pakistani delegate, speaking for the Islamic Group, said that “(w)e commend the Sudanese government for its unceasing efforts to ameliorate the situation in the Darfur region.”
One can dismiss this as a farce, but a Pew survey released last September showed that despite all of these fallacies, “58 percent across the 39 countries surveyed expressed favorable views of the U.N., with just 27 percent holding an unfavorable opinion.” Since people seem to believe in the UN, then this relentless discrimination against Israel will unfortunately keep poisoning the attitudes of people towards the Jewish state.
The Palestinians, by the way, may rejoice at the warm hospitality and the preferential treatment they are receiving at the UN, but practically, this organization has done very little to solve their basic problems. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), established in 1949, instead of working to resettle the Palestinian refugees outside of Palestine which they had lost because of their aggression in 1948, has been perpetuating their miserable condition as refugees. At the same time, the same number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries made their home in Israel, and without any outside financial support, opened a new chapter in their lives.
In a recent visit to Israel, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon mumbled something about Israel being treated unfairly by his organization. Surely he had to admit that the current mayhem in the Middle East has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also rescinded an invitation he had previously issued to Iran, to attend the peace talks on Syria (not before Secretary of State Kerry had to twist his arm). Belatedly, he probably realized that it would be like inviting the Boston Strangler to say eulogies at his victims’ funeral.
Does this mean that the United Nations will start recognizing who the bad guys and the good guys are, and stops picking on Israel? I’m not holding my breath.