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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=64492&mador=4

Sunday, January 2, 2000

Are we always in the right?

By Gideon Levy

Frustration and distress were felt in Jerusalem: The whole world is still against us. At the conclusion of the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly, diplomats in Jerusalem counted no fewer than 21 "anti-Israeli" resolutions that were passed with huge majorities, some of which included even the United States and the Marshall Islands, part American colony, part independent state, and Israel's support of last resort in the world body. In fact, that frustration is only really felt by a few officials in the Foreign Ministry who have lost another "international round." Other Israelis couldn't care less: whatever we do, the whole world is against us - it's axiomatic.That attitude is a highly convenient refuge, as it absolves Israel of all responsibility. But instead of being disappointed, or shrugging our shoulders, it might be useful if we looked a little more deeply at the content of those Israel-bashing resolutions and ask whether they are really so "anti-Israeli" and why, damn it, they are adopted with such global unanimity. After all, there is no other subject on which the world is so united, and there is no other country, not even Iraq or Libya, that has generated such consistent demands to change its behavior for so many years. Wouldn't it be worthwhile asking why this is so? Is it really just Jew-hatred? Even on the part of Holland and Denmark, even Germany, and now, can you believe it, even Micronesia? Why do they all vote 'against us?' Is it oil again? Or dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semitism? Isn't this the same world that embraces Israel on quite a few other issues, from Eurovision to the Nobel Prize? And above all, is it actually possible that the whole world is wrong and that only we are right? Or might it be worthwhile listening every so often to the voices that arise from the organization whose support made the establishment of Israel possible?

The list of "anti-Israeli" resolutions compiled by the Foreign Ministry deserves a more thorough perusal. Most of them, it has to be admitted, appear perfectly justified. Take, for example, the resolution stating that the Palestinian problem is the heart of the conflict and must be settled on the basis of land for peace (149 states in favor; Israel, the United States and the Marshall Islands against). Is there anything more right or just? Even Israeli governments have long since accepted Security Council Resolution 242. And what about the Palestinians' right of self-determination (165 states in favor)? Is there still a sane person in Israel who thinks the Palestinians don't have any such right; that the right belongs only to Jews?

And what about the resolution declaring that the settlements are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development (149 states in favor)? After all, half of all Israelis think likewise. And the application of the Geneva Convention to the territories (154 states in favor); is that an inordinate demand? Can anyone seriously and honestly argue that the territories are not under occupation and that the Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, does not apply to them? And 155 states voted in favor of a resolution expressing concern at the financial state of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), with only Israel voting against. Why should it be against? UNRWA assumes part of the burden that Israel should have taken on itself throughout its more than three decades of occupation. And isn't it legitimate for the world to demand that Israel - the only state in the region that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty - sign the agreement (149 states in favor)? Is it not just to insist that Israel refrains from exploiting the natural resources in the territories under its occupation (145 states in favor)? Is it totally unreasonable to open a Palestinian university in Jerusalem (155 states in favor)? And what is wrong with a request that Israel stop imposing its citizenship on the residents of the occupied Golan Heights (150 states in favor)? Even the demand to return the 1967 refugees to the territories (154 states in favor) is not really an anti-Israeli demand, given that elsewhere in the world, such as in Kosovo, refugees are returning to their homes.

These resolutions were adopted in the first place because they are simply right and necessary to advance the peace process in the region. In some cases they are even to Israel's benefit. It was not out of the question to expect Israel to support at least some of them, even if they were submitted or promoted by the Arabs. What good does it do for Israel to resist them so adamantly? How does this behavior reflect on Israel? Will providing cooking oil, flour and education to the children of the refugees, for whose condition Israel bears no little moral responsibility, harm Israeli security or Israel's standing?

But Israel, gripped by a persecution complex, continues to view all such resolutions as hostile and to see every resolution supported by the Arabs as anti-Israeli. From this point of view, we have learned nothing. We have not learned, for example, that a zero-sum game - holding that whatever profits the Arabs is necessarily a loss for Israel - belongs to yesterday's world. We have not learned that there are countries that vote in the United Nations on the basis of merit and even out of concern for peace in the Middle East, and perhaps, believe it or not, out of concern for Israel's future. And above all, we have not learned that it is out of the question, that it simply cannot be the case that everyone is wrong and only we, the paragons of perfection and the embodiment of morality, are always right

(c) copyright 2000 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved


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