Op-Ed: Moses in Human Rights Garb
Steve Apfel, South AfricaThe writer is a prolific author of novels and non-fiction, essayist and...
The liberation of a people from slavery. No wonder Passover is a time when aficionados of human rights feel drawn to play a modern day Moses. ‘Let my people go!’
The festival, they think, comes around to prod Israelis to realize they’ve become the Pharaoh their prophet once entreated. Let the persecuted Palestinians go free. As your people cried in Egypt long ago, hear the cry of the people you occupy. Let them become a nation. So entreats a devotee of human rights – an Israeli.
Read him carefully. In what Uri Zaki says, and what he believes in, lies the fatal flaw of the type: Moses in human rights garb.
Zaki, the USA Director of Israeli NGO B’Tselem, made an impassioned Pesach appeal last year. ‘Israel, please free the Palestinian people!’ And this was how he said it:
(Israeli settlements) “in the West Bank make it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own.”
The fatal flaw in that browned-off appeal lies where? Look for the duty of one party to give and the right of the other party to receive. Defrocked, that’s human rights. What is it but a worldview on Palestinian wants and Israel’s duty to supply them? One is owed, the other owes. There’s no notion of Palestinians having to do anything, except plead oppression. They’re absolved of responsibility.
Thus, at Passover time, Uri Zaki of B'Tselem effectively entreats: Israel owes, Palestinians are owed. Pushed, he’ll admit there’s no treaty that gives Palestinians the right to “self-determination in a viable state of their own.” There’s only Oslo Accords which, even before being trashed by the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood, conferred no right of the kind. It’s the Moses players who’ve made statehood a Palestinian right.
Well – why not, if only to satisfy some moralistic view of fair play. The Jews got their state, why deprive Palestinians? It might even work in Israel’s own security interest. But look at the appeal; Palestinians have no duty to acknowledge a reciprocal right, a legal one this time: that of Israel to exist.
And Gaza? What more would a modern-day Moses figure want for that branch of Palestinians? They got their self-determination – their freedom in the strip. And still Uri Zaki entreats Pharaoh to let the people go?
“In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, which increased Palestinians' control over their lives…However, Israel continues to hold decisive control over major aspects of people's lives.”
If that means providing electricity and trying to prevent weapons smuggling, that is true. But, that aside, what did the people of Gaza do when they got control of their lives? They freely elected Hamas on its platform to destroy Israel and exterminate Jews, not forgetting to look behind rocks and trees for the odd survivor. But there’s the owed and the owing. In the creed of human rights it’s not for Gaza’s elected leaders to uplift the lives of their constituents. That’s for Israel to do.
Now to the creed above all others; you could call it the monotheistic principle of human rights. All who bow to it must believe that Israel occupies territory which does not belong to it. Intones high priest, Uri Zaki:
“There is an international consensus that the territories that were captured by Israel in the Six Day War in 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are occupied territories.”
Here’s the divine judgment call made from atop the mountain: Israelis have no right to live in the occupied territories. And it’s given pride of place in human rights lore. But who or what is the ‘international consensus?’ After all, even a deity would have form and shape. And how valid is the judgment call it makes?
Look for the ‘international consensus’ and you’ll find the furthest thing from a god imaginable. It’s no more than a patchwork of allies and adversaries looking after their own backs.
Take the EU, one big element of the godhead. “The framework that we operate in is the framework of international law,” says an EU Ambassador, Andrew Standley. “International law is our bible.” So that’s what and who, dictates where Israelis may or may not live. Wait until they’re put to the test; that’s when gods of clay disclose their true nature. The EU was put to one after Hizbullah carried out a deadly attack on European soil. And what had Europe’s bible to say? ‘Nonetheless,’ it said, ‘Hizbullah remains a charity.’ Meaning that in the EU’s code, terrorism, like Andrew Standley, operates in the framework of international law.
“In the moral wasteland of the UN, a Jew living on Arab-claimed land is a violation of Arab human rights. There were once an estimated 900,000 Jews across the Arab world, but today there are less than a few thousand. They were given a choice: die, convert or flee.
Holland is also part of Zaki’s international consensus. It’s Labor Party leader, Diederik Samsom, is adamant that Israeli settlements transgress international law. His government is a transgressor without question, as a signatory of the UN Convention on Genocide. Obliged to bring Iran before an international court, it has failed to do so. According to the EU’s own working definition, Samsom’s application of double standards to Israel makes him an anti-Semite.
Or take the UK. In northern cities politicians can be elected on a pro-Arab ticket. George Galloway was. South Africa’s ANC government took a good hard look at this, and decided to follow suite. Provincial leader, Marius Fransman, launched a policy to court the Muslim vote through anti-Israel measures. Trade Minister Rob Davies set the ball rolling with a law to single out goods from Israel.
But if you want the spine of Uri Zaki’s international consensus, go to the United Nations. No one understands the UN better than professor of international law, Anne Bayefsky:
“In the moral wasteland of the UN, a Jew living on Arab-claimed land is a violation of Arab human rights. There were once an estimated 900,000 Jews across the Arab world, but today there are less than a few thousand. They were given a choice: die, convert or flee. Now the 22nd Judenrein Arab state is in-the-making: Apartheid Palestine. Meanwhile, 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab, and free Arab citizens sit on the highest courts of the land, represent Israel abroad, and hold political office. An Arab living (and thriving) in the Jewish state is fulfilling a human right. How does this obvious contradiction make it past the human rights geniuses at the UN? The answer (bigotry) is almost as old as humankind.”
International consensus! Why Uri Zaki and fellow Moses players fall for it is a question that could fill a book. But fall they do – into the well laid trap.
Israel’s enemies, observed law professor Talia Einhorn, “understand much better than we do that the second we give into the lie that parts of Israel belong to others, we’ll be left with Zionism without Zion. If you take away the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Hevron (all parts in dispute) then we’ll actually turn into colonialists. After all, what ancient historical connection do we have to Tel Aviv?”
How seemly are your sentiments, O human rights faithful, your dwellings, O Palestinian right protectors. But how willful they are.