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The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Jewish Scholar Divulges On UN
By Michael Brasky, U.N. Correspondent
Dr. Alex Grobman is the author of Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West.
Dr. Grobman studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in contemporary Jewish History. His areas of expertise are the Holocaust and Zionism. He was director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles after which he founded the Institute for Jewish Life. He is president of the Brenn Institute, a think-tank dealing with historical and contemporary issues affecting the Jewish community. Dr. Grobman is also the author of Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?, which offers a rational approach to refuting Holocaust deniers.
On Friday, Dr. Grobman discussed his book and views of the UN with The Bulletin.
The Bulletin: You argue that the U.N.\'s condemnation of Zionism as racist (GA Resolution 3379), is unfair given that other nation\'s restrictive policies are not condemned. Is that to suggest then, that if other nation\'s policies were condemned as racist it would be acceptable for that same to be said of Israel?
Dr. Alex Grobman: Obviously not. The point is that countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, most of the Arab countries, have restrictive policies for permitting who can live there. For example when American troops went to save Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, they could not wear crucifixes. There was even a problem with praying openly. Women had to cover themselves from head to foot. The only religion these countries tolerate is Islam. And no one complains about the fact that a Jew cannot live there.
Israel is not a racist state by any stretch of the imagination. All you have to do is look at the population. You have Jews that are as black as coal, to white Ashkenazi Jews. There\'s no discrimination in any area. Israel went out of its way at tremendous cost and great risk to rescue the Jews of Ethiopia, who are black. Every group is able to participate in the government. There\'s nothing that\'s restrictive about Israel. That cannot be said about other countries.
TB: Do you feel Israel makes ethnic distinctions in its society?
AG: Israel was set up as a haven for the Jews in 1948. The world recognized, including the U.N. and the League of Nations before hand, that the Jews needed a separate country for themselves. They have more legal right to be in existence than most countries in the world. They were established by the U.N. as a refuge for the Jewish people. We are at war with the Arab nations, so there are some restrictions on the things Arabs can do. When there was a talk about dividing Jerusalem and having the Arabs who lived there be part of the Palestinian authority, there was a revolt. They do not want to be part of the other Palestinian groups. As in all societies, there are certain examples of one group having an opportunity to advance above the rest. We saw that in the beginning with the Ashkenazim, but now the Sephardim are in as important positions as everybody else. This is a small country, it takes time, but you have more democracy here than most countries in the world.
TB: Is it fair to say that the U.N. has failed in fulfilling its charter based solely on its relationship with Israel and how so?
AG: It\'s failed miserably not only with Israel, but throughout the world. If I were a Martian sitting in on U.N. discussions and looking at the resolutions they passed over the years, I would come away with the view that Israel is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, that it exploits its people and causes trouble throughout the world. That if Israel didn\'t exist there\'d be a good possibility that there\'d be world peace.
We know that\'s not the case. We know that if Israel didn\'t exist that the situation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, all these problems that Arabs have within the Middle East would exist anyway. And as Bernard Lewis said, it\'s a safety valve. If you live in a repressive country the only thing you can complain about legitimately is Israel. So the U.N. becomes an opportunity for people to vent their frustration and at the same time divert attention from the real issues of poverty, illiteracy, and the horrible health conditions in their own countries.
TB: In your book, you use the U.S.S.R. as a paradigm to illustrate how former supporters of Israel shifted towards a policy of condemning Israel and Zionism as racist. You suggest it was political expediency - the lure of oil and the necessity of friendly relations with Arab states - that brought about this change. If an alternative energy source were found, do you believe this could ultimately restore support for Israel amongst these nations, given the original impetus for their hostility was oil?â€¨
AG: Only part of the impetus was oil. In 1948 for example, the Foreign Minister of Russia said attacked the west for not doing enough to save the Jews. The reason why he favored the establishment of the state of Israel was to "give it" to the West. He wanted to show up the West. Once the Soviets realized that Israel would not move into their sphere of influence, they had to look elsewhere for allies.
This is an ongoing conflict with the United States. The U.S. thought that the end of the Cold War had occurred. If anything it was in hiatus. Maybe the Cold War is not there, but surely the tensions that existed as part of the Cold War have come back. So I don\'t think it has to do with oil so much. It plays a role, but the U.S. and Russia is where the fight is. And Russia will do anything to tweak the United States.
TB: Do you believe the perceived anti-Semitism of the U.N. is the result of maneuvering by Arab states, or rather symptomatic of something inherent within the U.N. and the international community? If so, do you feel that institutional reform of the U.N. could change this?
AG: If you take a look at what the Arabs are saying in their press, if you see what they are teaching their students, and if you look at what their political and religious leaders are saying about the Jews, what Hamas and Fatah say in their charters, you realize that there is a virulent hatred of the Jews. They do not want the Jewish people to be in Israel. They have never accepted their presence and anyone who says so is misreading history.
There is a quote by from 1839 by William Tanner Young, the first Vice Council of the British Consulate in Jerusalem. "What the Jew has to endure at all hands is not to be told. Like the miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by one because he his path and cuffed by another because he cries out. To seek redress he is afraid lest it bring worse upon. He thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him... everywhere is a mark of degradation." This is 1839 and the point of this is that the Arabs have never accepted a Jewish presence. That\'s an important period because the Arabs are always claiming anti-Semitism arose because Jews were coming in large numbers after 1881. That\'s a misreading of history.
To suggest the Arabs ever accepted the Jews is simply wrong. There\'s nothing to suggest that they really want peace.
TB: So in summation you believe that this is beyond institution reform?
AG: It has nothing to do with reform. This is a religious war. â€¨
TB: In 2007, the countries actively involved in the Israeli-Arab conflict and hosts of Palestinian refugees (Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria), which represent 2 percent of the 192 member states and 0.5 percent of the world\'s population, were the subject of 76 percent of country-specific GA resolutions, 36 percent of resolutions from the Human Rights Council and 7 percent of the Security Council resolutions. Do you feel the U.N. devotes too many resources and too much time to the situation in Palestine, regardless of whose side the organization supports?
AG: First of all, there is no country called Palestine ...yet. And I don\'t think there will be for the foreseeable future, because they simply don\'t believe in a two-state solution, they believe in a one-state solution - no Jews. The focus of the U.N. and too much of their resources has been on Israel while other issues have languished. There\'s poverty all over the world. There are problems in Africa, there\'s genocide going on. Among the last problems that should be addressed is this issue.
TB: There have been examples of U.N. support for Israeli policy in recent history. According to the Anti-Defamation League, after the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993, Israel\'s image in the U.N. improved significantly. During this period, the Security Council denounced terrorism against Israel for the first time. In 1993, Israel was nominated to its first U.N. Committee. When Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres addressed the GA in 1994, all member states were present except for Iran, whereas before Arab states would have vacated the chambers. Israelis were also elected to several highly notable positions in the wake of Oslo. Between 1993 and 1995, the Security Council never directly condemned Israel. And for the first time in a decade, the Arab members of the U.N. did not challenge Israel\'s seat at the GA.
Would this indicate that the U.N.\'s hostility to Israel is in fact attributable to grievances with Israeli policy, and not anti-Semitism?
AG: The Arabs thought during Oslo that they could extract all types of concessions from Israel. And under those circumstances they were willing to play the game. It was a charade.
They hadn\'t changed their view. They were waging war through diplomacy instead of on the battlefield. They had to make concessions to at least appear that they were reasonable. They did not adhere to their agreements. They didn\'t change their media which continued to attack Israel and encourage suicide bombing. The war against the Jews had not ended. This was a game for public consumption, a Trojan horse.
TB: Is the U.N. capable of brokering a just solution to the Palestinian conflict that both parties would agree to?
AG: No. Incapable for so many reasons. They have an axe to grind. They are not objective. They do not represent objective truth. They\'re interested in their own specific concerns and they don\'t care who suffers. If they didn\'t, they would devote much of their time and energy to the people who really need help in this world.
TB: Do you believe there is any hope for the U.N. to shed its anti-Semitic image?
AG: No. As long as the nations who are there will not change, and there is no reason for them to do so, the U.N. simply provides an opportunity for people to vent their frustrations and divert attention from the real issue that they should be addressing.
It\'s not like they haven\'t done anything positive. But bringing world peace, helping people constructively, it\'s been very limited.
Michael Brasky can be reached at email@example.com.
©The Bulletin 2008