December 8, 2001

UN gives green light to Palestinian terror

Keith Landy

National Post


The horrific suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists that killed and maimed dozens of innocent Israeli civilians last week is the latest, and most lethal, series of actions in their murderous war of terrorism against Israel. What may be less well known is that the Palestinian Authority, with support from numerous Arab and Muslim regimes, is waging a parallel campaign to isolate Israel and delegitimize its right to exist and to attack the Jewish people and their history. Incubated at the recent World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, this phenomenon has been maturing in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The concerted anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic campaign that has blossomed under United Nations auspices is seriously undermining its credibility. The Durban conference may have put this anti-Israel, anti-Semitic animus on full display, but it has been present for decades, as witness the passage of the despicable "Zionism is racism" resolution (since rescinded); the unwarranted obsession with Israel at the UN Commission on Human Rights; the singular institutional discrimination that blocked Israeli membership in a UN regional group; the annual UN General Assembly anti-Israel resolutions; and the bogus extraordinary emergency sessions that exclusively blame Israel for the conflict, while ignoring Palestinian violence and terrorism.

This week, the scene shifted to Geneva, where the Swiss government acceded to pressure from the Arab League to convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties (original signatories) to the Fourth Geneva Convention ostensibly to enforce the application of the Convention in territories that Israel has administered since the Six Day War of June, 1967. This represented yet another attempt by Israel's enemies to misdirect the world's attention from their responsibility for the current violence and bloodshed.

The original gathering of the High Contracting Parties took place four years after the end of the Second World War and the horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany against European Jewry and others, and the conference established a new set of protocols to protect victims of war. In verified instances of ethnic cleansing and genocide since 1949, such as in the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, however, there was no call for reconvening the High Contracting Parties.

What's more, the gathering took place based on a recommendation of the UN General Assembly that it has no authority to make. Article 7 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions clearly states that reconvening should only happen to consider "general problems concerning the Application of the Conventions and of the Protocol" and not specific situations; and the obligation on the High Contracting Parties to "respect and ensure respect" for the conventions applies to each state examining its own internal compliance and in no way authorizes intervention by other states.

The declaration that invited the parties to participate was biased, inflammatory, selective and highly politicized. The document "recalls the need to safeguard and guarantee the rights and access of all inhabitants to the Holy Places." This disregards the fact that access to these sights has never been more secure than under Israeli governance, and that Jewish holy sites that revert to Palestinian jurisdiction have been desecrated and destroyed. The declaration "[calls] upon the Occupying Power to immediately refrain from committing grave breaches" of the Fourth Convention, as if it were a fait accompli that Israel has already perpetrated such violations. It refers to "Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem," the standard deliberate manipulation of UN Resolution 242, which does not specify which territory is considered occupied.

The Canadian Jewish Congress wrote to John Manley, the Foreign Affairs Minister, urging Canada not to participate in this ill-advised and ill-willed gathering. The purpose of this forum, we stated, is not to advance a humanitarian cause through the legitimate use of an international human rights instrument. Rather, it is yet another example of the campaign to single out Israel and indict it on the basis of false and malicious allegations, dubious application of international law and an anti-Semitic agenda. At the same time, such actions vitiate the true value of human rights agencies and instruments and deflect them from their real purposes.

Canada traditionally has adopted the role of "honest broker" in such international gatherings, but the time has come to re-evaluate this approach in light of the facts on the ground. The most basic human right is the right to live and the most fundamental obligation of any state is to protect its national security and the safety of its citizens. Canada must take the moral high ground and incorporate into its policy a clear distinction between the terrorists and the victims of their terror.

And let's bring this argument full circle. The Palestinian UN representative stated that the language of the final declaration from Geneva demonstrated that "Palestinian people are entitled to fight that occupation." So make no mistake: When states hypocritically support one-sided efforts to delegitimize and demonize Israel, while not holding the Palestinian Authority accountable and, in fact, turn a blind eye to Palestinian terror and violence, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and their ilk see a green light to strap explosives on the next suicide bomber.

Keith Landy is national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.