After 8 days of Hamas missiles falling, after decades of Palestinian suicide bombings and hostage holding, Israel should be applauding Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s trip to New York. After all, he is turning to the United Nations, the global peace forum, to advance his people’s cause. Isn’t this what we begged the Palestinians to do, to fight for their rights honorably and peacefully not violently and despicably?
I wish I could cheer this move, then urge the Israeli government to do the same. A diplomatic war of words beats a violent war of swords. But I understand the Israeli disdain for this UN power play, requesting a General Assembly vote to make Palestine a “non-member observer state.” For the Palestinians to expect Israelis, Americans, or any self-respecting Westerners to applaud this UN move, is like a husband taking his wife to divorce arbitration, when he and the mediator are embroiled in a torrid, self-destructive affair – then condemning the wife for disrespecting “the process.”
There are three major reasons why peace-seekers the world over, not just in Israel, should encourage Mahmoud Abbas to seek affirmation elsewhere. First, Israelis are justified in doubting the Palestinians’ motives. Apparently, the Palestinians want to use their upgraded status to take Israel to the International Criminal Court. This move would libel Israel without advancing the peace process. Like so much of the Palestinians’ pathological campaign to delegitimize Israel, it will backfire, hardening positions.
Unlike so many professedly pro-Palestinians leftists, who treat Palestinians condescendingly as perpetual victims free of responsibility, I respect Palestinians as constituting a political community. They make choices and must accept the consequences of their actions. After trying to strip Israel of its good name for decades, they are paying the price. Israel should doubt PA motives, question Palestinian credibility and block PA attempts to damage Israel politically.
Once again, the Palestinians’ delegitimization campaign undermines them. Rather than forcing Israelis to confront their own ambivalences about peaceful Palestinian moves, the nefarious Palestinian motives give Israelis a built-in denial mechanism. If the Palestinians accept two states, they need to learn what most Israelis learned in the 1990s: their rivals are not going away. If, like good totalitarians, they want to continue deluding themselves, they are on the right path.
Similarly, the Palestinian decision, essentially to make a UDI, a unilateral declaration of independence, exacerbates another Israeli-Palestinian pathology. Just as real respect entails Palestinians accepting the consequences of their actions, a real relationship involves Palestinians engaging in mutuality and not one-way deals.
Even though the Palestinian return to terror under Yasir Arafat undermined the Oslo peace process, Oslo still provides the fundamental organizing structure for the shadow state that currently exists in the West Bank, including the funding model bankrolling the PA. Unilateral UN moves abrogate the Oslo treaties. If the PA breaks its vow, Israel should cut funding, or change the relationships the Oslo agreements established. Assuming that only Palestinians can act out, defy, violate, perpetuates an unequal relationship that when it hurts the Palestinians is incorrectly called “racism” and when it benefits them is called “justice,” equally incorrectly. Just as democracy requires rule of law, stable relations between rival peoples require basic consistency and fairness.
This Palestinian power play jeopardizes that fairness principle. The United Nations has consistently fed the Palestinians’ extremist fantasies – hurting the Palestinians, Middle East peace prospects, and the UN itself. The Palestinian cause has been toxic for the UN since the 1970s, when a Soviet-orchestrated coalition of propagandists and dictators muscled through the infamous Zionism-is-racism resolution on November 10, 1975. That is that the day the UN died in the eyes of many Jews and Israelis – along with many Americans and Western democrats.
America’s human rights representative to the UN at the time, Leonard Garment, called the Zionism-racism resolution “obscene.” Garment and the US Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that this self-destructive UN decision would devalue the universal currency it established in pursuing human rights for all since World War II. In August 1975, the Helsinki Accords launched a new appreciation for human rights as a tool for gaining international justice. Just three months later, the Zionism is racism resolution had the UN teaching how to use human rights rhetoric to bash an unpopular member state.
In succumbing to the Soviet-Arab agenda to delegitimize Israel, the UN became an obstacle to peace. Americans lost faith in the UN after a national outpouring of outrage against the resolution – and for Israel. Since then, the UN has rarely contributed to Middle East peace. The Third World dictators’ debating society would not even approve the breakthrough Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt, while the Oslo peace process began in Oslo – not Geneva or New York.
Failing to become the redemptive hope of humanity it promised to be after World War II, the United Nations empowered the Benighted Nations. It became an international joke, mocking its founding ideals by creating a Bizarro world, an inverse universe lacking moral gravity, hailing dictators and demeaning democracies. The Benighted Nations welcomed thugs like Uganda’s Idi Amin and the PLO’s chief terrorist Yasir Arafat, sporting a holster. The Benighted Nations made Libya, Syria and other tyrannies human rights arbiters. The Benighted Nations encouraged Third World terrorism and Western appeasement
The Palestinians remain addicted to the perverse judgments of this corrupted UN, and the General Assembly majority continues to enable Palestinian extremism. If the PA wants to distinguish itself from Hamas and pursue peace, Mahmoud Abbas should save the airfare and instead visit Jerusalem – as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did 35 years ago this month. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should similarly stretch and welcome Abbas with real negotiations not posturing.
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His latest book “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism ” was just published.
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