Otherwise Occupied

Israel’s UN Ambassador Is Going Overboard With the 'anti-Semitism’ Charge

Ron Prosor is foolishly taking issue with a report that hopes to foster democracy, equality and minority rights in the Arab world.

AP

Israel’s UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, has found his new anti-Semite of the hour: Dr. Rima Khalaf, UN undersecretary general and executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. In two letters sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over the past month, Prosor calls for Khalaf’s suspension until an investigation, which he demands be conducted, is completed.

The first letter was sent on March 5, the second on April 7. In the first, Prosor refers to a February 25 speech by Khalaf in Tunisia; Prosor says Khalaf falsely accused Israel of violating minority rights and reviving the idea of “state ethnic and religious purity, which caused egregious human suffering during the twentieth century.” Prosor adds: “As you are well aware, Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that safeguards and empowers its minorities.”

In the first letter, Prosor does not mention the occasion on which Khalaf gave her speech: the presentation of the report “Arab Integration – A 21st-Century Development Imperative,” initiated by the commission she heads. The 300-page report (including appendices) was two years in the making. The research and analysis were conducted by a wide spectrum of academics, intellectuals, writers and artists from Arab countries — both establishment and opposition figures, right-wingers and left-wingers, neoliberals and socialists, secular and religious people.

Inspired by the uprisings in the Arab world, the report proposes a vision: the establishment of a united political, cultural and economic entity based on reforms that aim for equality. Integration is seen as an objective and a means to extricate the Arabs from chronic “oppression, foreign intervention and stifled development.” In the document’s preface, Khalaf replies to skeptics with something along the lines of “If you will it, it is no dream.”

Was Prosor aware of the report? I posed this question to the Foreign Ministry three weeks ago, but the strike at the time by the ministry staff left me without an answer. The UN secretary general’s office said two weeks ago it plans to respond to Prosor, a response that obviously has not yet been sent because the ambassador wrote a second letter, which refers to the report.

Hitler’s role

The following are the diplomat’s words in his April 7 letter. “Ms. Khalaf may have a PhD in Systems Science, but she deserves a PhD in science fiction …. Ms. Khalaf also preposterously claims that Hitler, who was responsible for the murder of six million Jews, sought to create a safe haven for the Jewish people in the Middle East.” (I have not found any such statement in the report. If Khalaf said this elsewhere, Prosor provides no citation, and I was unable to find any such reference on Google.)

Hitler is mentioned as having held a negative view similar to Britain’s on the subject of Arab unity. “Arab unity was incompatible with the Transfer Agreement [Hitler] had concluded with the Zionist movement to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine,” the report says. Prosor charges that the report “goes so far as to accuse Israel of fostering discord and instigating regional conflicts.” Such accusations “represent the epitome of modern-day anti-Semitism,” he writes.

Yes, several pages of the report are devoted to Israel in terms of Western-colonialist control of the region, the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948, the occupation in 1967 and the wars since then. Yes, the description is not flattering. The report’s references to Nazi Germany evade that regime’s systematic murderous nature.

The essence of the report

But the lion’s share of the report is inward-looking, at the Arab world, as the following statements from the document illustrate:

* “The Arab popular uprisings were triggered by young Arabs who finally took a stand against long-running tyranny and oppression.”

* International and regional conflicts infiltrated the Syrian uprising, transforming the conflict from one between the regime and pro-democracy opponents, to a geopolitical struggle over Syria in which the Syrian people are perhaps the greatest losers.”

* “In the absence of democratic governance and equal citizenship rights in most Arab countries, poor integration has stoked ethnic, religious and sectarian identity conflicts.”

* “A fifth of the population of the Arab region is poor, and it is the only region that has not achieved any significant progress in poverty reduction in the past two decades.”

* “Arab countries spend more on defense or consumer goods than on scientific research and technological development.”

* “The crisis of the Arab Islamic culture has produced groups with extreme and exclusionary doctrines that limit public rights and freedoms – especially those of women and non-Muslims. These groups seek to impose a rigid version of sharia on society.”

The report does not explain how the united Arab nation will overcome a problem that has plagued long-standing democracies: the concentration of resources and the accumulation of capital in the hands of the few — resources and capital that are the product of the majority.

But that’s not what worries Prosor. His aggressive demand for Khalaf’s dismissal reflects Israel’s deep disdain for the countries of the region in which we live and for the issues that concern them. The excessive use by him and his ilk of the “anti-Semitism” charge is bringing us closer to the day when “anti-Semite” is a compliment.

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