“The UN human rights council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”
— Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch
The US is withdrawing from the United Nations human rights council, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday, calling it a “cesspool of political bias” that targets Israel in particular while ignoring atrocities in other countries.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said she had traveled to the council’s headquarters in Geneva a year ago to call for reforms, to no avail.
“Regrettably it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley told reporters at the state department. “Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council.”
A Palestinian brought before such a military court, for example in the notorious Ofer Prison north of Jerusalem, has no hope of achieving even the slightest semblance of justice. Conviction rates of Palestinians in these courts are higher than 99 percent. Proceedings take place in Hebrew, which Palestinian defendants often don’t understand, and security specialists routinely give secret testimony to which defendants and their counsel have no access.
In the somewhat exotic Jewish home in Iowa where I grew up, it was axiomatic that there was an intimate link between Judaism and universal human rights. Like nearly all Eastern European Jewish families in America, my parents and grandparents were Roosevelt Democrats, to the point of fanaticism.
They thought that the Jews had invented the very idea, and also the practice, of social justice; that having started our history as slaves in Egypt, we were always on the side of the underdog and the oppressed; that the core of Judaism as a religious culture was precisely this commitment to human rights, and that all the rest — the 613 commandments, the rituals, the theological assertions — was no more than a superstructure built upon a strong ethical foundation.
For me, this comfortable illusion was shattered only when I moved to Israel at the age of eighteen. . . .
“The New Testament, I think, would be in favor of human rights.”
— Jackie Westeren, a rising senior at the evangelical Wheaton College
Growing up in evangelical Christian churches, Caleb Fitzpatrick learned quickly to be a steadfast supporter of Israel. From a young age, Mr. Fitzpatrick said, he was taught that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, “was a hero” and that “Christians are supposed to back Israel on everything.”
But the Tampa, FL, native, who just finished his junior year at Liberty University, an evangelical school, has become critical of Israel for what he says is its mistreatment of Palestinians.
“Human rights is a core issue to me,” Mr. Fitzpatrick, 21, said. “It’s less important to me who has dominion over the northern part of historical Israel.”
“[Israel] did maintain generally that all incidents [of alleged abuse] were thoroughly investigated and parties held accountable, as appropriate, according to due process of law.”
— 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
The State Department’s annual human rights report released Friday drops references to reproductive rights for women and stops using the phrase “Occupied Territories” to describe Israel’s presence in Gaza and the West Bank.
The report, which covers 2017, focuses less on societal attitudes and discrimination than in previous years and more on governmental actions that encourage or reward violence and bigotry. It is the first human rights report to reflect the Trump administration’s views and priorities.
Previous reports included a lengthy section devoted to Israel and the Occupied Territories. Last year’s report mentioned human rights problems and said the Israeli government took “some steps” to punish officials who committed abuses.
This year, the section is titled “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.” The introduction to it notes that the State Department sought an Israeli response to allegations of abuse and that Israel “did maintain generally that all incidents were thoroughly investigated and parties held accountable, as appropriate, according to due process of law.”
It does not matter what we say; only who we talk to. This is the guiding principle of the organization’s activity, the keystone of its work: guilt is not determined according to what you do (or what you say). No, guilt is predicated on those with whom you are in contact (“guilt by association”).
Around a decade ago, a new Israeli organization appeared out of nowhere. It had a name that sounded like a piece of medical equipment: NGO Monitor. The organization was founded by a Bar Ilan professor named Gerald Steinberg, as part of a right-wing think tank led by Netanyahu confidant Dore Gold. Since its establishment, Steinberg and NGO Monitor have been working tirelessly to dry out the funding of Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights and peace groups.
Like a pesky fly, the Monitor sticks to anti-occupation civil society organizations, following their activity and their fundraising efforts and exerting great efforts to harm their ability to raise money. In order to realize this goal, NGO Monitor has created an industry of articles, data sheets, and posts which circularly cite one another and slander these organizations. It then systematically repeats and recycles those papers so many times that had they been academic papers, they would have been the hit of Google Scholar.
For years I have ignored Steinberg and his Monitor. He wrote about me endlessly, accusing me of every possible transgression, and dedicating countless paragraphs to me on his website. I never responded. After all, Steinberg does not address the content of my words and works to silence my community, so there cannot be a discussion between us. When I opened a Twitter account a few years ago, it took all but four minutes for a chilling message to be sent to me: “Gerald Steinberg is following you.” I immediately wrote to him: “And I thought you had been following me for years,” and for the first time in my life, I blocked someone on social media.
[Ed. note: This is the last of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]
With [Shaked], what you see is what you get — racism. In its actions and deeds, the Zionist left has done everything to implement Shaked’s views, only in polished words and without acknowledgement. The Zionist left is embarrassed by things Shaked and her colleagues are not ashamed of. That doesn’t make the left any more moral or just. It has merely been quasi-Shaked in its actions.
Ravit Hecht attributes a “fragrance of true love” for my “honest, brave princess,” Justice Minister Shaked, in her op-ed “When Gideon Levy fell in love with Ayelet Shaked.” Hecht knows my taste in women is slightly different than that, and that, despite what she writes, I don’t know how to dance the tango. But my appreciation for Shaked and her ilk is that they do not deceive: they openly acknowledge their nationalism and racism.
They don’t hide their belief that the Palestinians are an inferior people, indigenous inhabitants who will never gain the rights Jews have in the Land of Israel-Palestine; that no Palestinian state will ever be established here; that Israel will ultimately annex all of the occupied territories, as it already has done in practice; that the Jews are the Chosen People; that Zionism is in contradiction to human rights and superior to them; that dispossession is redemption; that biblical property rights are eternal; that there is no Palestinian people and no occupation; and that the current reality will last forever.
Many of these views are also held among the Zionist left, Hecht’s ideological camp. The only difference is that the Zionist left has never admitted it. It envelops its views in the glittering wrapping paper of peace talks, separation and hollow rhetoric about two states, words it has never really meant and has done precious little to realize.
[Ed. note: This is the third of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]
There are still a few seekers of justice in Israel who believe in the basic Zionist principle of Jews’ right to a national homeland in Israel while deeply abhorring Shaked’s statement. Neither she nor Gideon Levy will make them disappear.
In his piece the other day, Gideon Levy thanked Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked for telling the truth; Shaked had said Zionism would no longer bow to the Supreme Court. The minister is thus continuing her incitement campaign against the court, a campaign that is flourishing throughout the right wing.
A fragrance of true love exudes from Levy’s text to his honest, brave princess. His op-ed conveys a message of admiration among radicals who tell it straight on their way to wreaking havoc.
And havoc has been wreaked. What a riot. Apocalypse now. The court is being aggressively worn down, and soon the media will finally be tamed and fall silent. Racism is soaring to new heights with the leadership’s encouragement and corruption runs rampant, with no need for camouflage, for the simple reason that nobody is ashamed anymore.
[Ed. note: This is the second of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]
Shaked prefers Zionism to human rights, the ultimate universal justice. She believes that we have a different kind of justice, superior to universal justice. Zionism above all. . . . Now that Shaked has exposed Zionism . . . we can finally think about Zionism more freely. We can admit that the Jews’ right to a state contradicted the Palestinians’ right to their land, and that righteous Zionism gave birth to a terrible national wrong that has never been righted.
Thank you, Ayelet Shaked, for telling the truth. Thank you for speaking honestly. The justice minister has proved once again that Israel’s extreme right is better than the deceivers of the center-left: It speaks honestly.
If in 1975, Chaim Herzog dramatically tore up a copy of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism, the justice minister has now admitted the truthfulness of the resolution (which was later revoked). Shaked said, loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps even racist movement, as proponents of justice worldwide maintain.
Shaked prefers Zionism to human rights, the ultimate universal justice. She believes that we have a different kind of justice, superior to universal justice. Zionism above all. It’s been said before, in other languages and other nationalist movements.
[Ed. note: This is the first of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]
“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from history . . . disconnected from context, from our national tasks, from our identity, from our history, from our Zionist challenges.” — Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country’s Jewish majority.
Speaking at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv, Shaked said that Zionism and “national challenges have become a legal blind spot” that carry no decisive weight in comparison to questions of individual rights. She added that the court’s rulings do not consider the matter of demography and the Jewish majority “as values that should be taken into consideration.”
Shaked’s comments come the day after the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, ruled that asylum seekers may be deported to Rwanda and Uganda but may not be jailed for more than two months if they refuse to go.
“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know,” Shaked told her audience, which included Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.
Shaked’s speech was momentarily interrupted when some of the lawyers in the audience yelled that Israeli was an apartheid state.
Our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s Creator.
Some years ago, I heard Natan Sharansky, the human rights icon, recount how he and his fellow refuseniks in the Soviet Union took renewed courage from statements made on their behalf by President Ronald Reagan. Word had reached the gulag that the leader of the most powerful nation on earth had spoken in defense of their right to self-determination. America, personified by its president, gave them hope, and hope is a powerful defense against oppression.
As I listened to Mr. Sharansky, I was reminded how much it had meant to my fellow P.O.W.s and me when we heard from new additions to our ranks that Mr. Reagan, then the governor of California, had often defended our cause, demanded our humane treatment and encouraged Americans not to forget us.
In their continuous efforts to infect us with despair and dissolve our attachment to our country, our North Vietnamese captors insisted the American government and people had forgotten us. We were on our own, they taunted, and at their mercy. We clung to evidence to the contrary, and let it nourish our hope that we would go home one day with our honor intact.
That hope was the mainstay of our resistance. Many, maybe most of us, might have given in to despair, and ransomed our honor for relief from abuse, had we truly believed we had been forgotten by our government and countrymen.