For decades, world leaders, the mainstream media, donor nations, human rights NGOs, and academia have all elevated the Palestinian cause to an untouchable status. Through thick and thin, from the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes to the UN General Assembly equating Zionism with racism, and from serial anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Human Rights Commission (now Council) to the virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, not to mention throughout bloody intifadas, horrific suicide bombings, missiles, knifings, car rammings and drive-by shootings, there hasn’t been one crime, not even the most heinous, that has ever merited explicit worldwide condemnation of the Palestinian cause.
In 2023, we witnessed the blocking of airports and roadways, the destruction of Chanukah menorahs, and the disruption of Christmas charity events and celebrations by pro-Palestinian supporters. There was even a mob of pro-Hamas protesters chanting “Allahu akbar” at the entrance to the 9/11 World Trade Centre Memorial, underneath which lie the microscopic ashes of more than 3000 innocent victims of terrorism.
It seems that no deed can change the elite’s embrace of the Palestinian cause. In any discussion following such outrages, the default response is always: “Yes, but…” “Yes, it was very unfortunate that Israeli athletes were killed … or that a pregnant woman was killed by a bomb at Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizzeria … but what choice do the Palestinians have as they live in the outdoor concentration camp that is Gaza, that they are victims of colonial occupation, that they are crushed by an apartheid regime.”
So, perhaps it was naive to think that, somehow, October 7 would be different. On that day, more Jews were murdered than on any day since the end of the Nazi Holocaust in 1945; on October 7, videos taken by Hamas terrorists themselves showed how they targeted entire civilian families whom they shot and burned to death; how they turned a peace concert into a charnel house; how Israeli women and girls were raped, beheaded and mutilated. Hundreds were kidnapped and taken hostage, and over 100 may still be alive in underground captivity that defies imagination.
And through it all, we’ve mostly witnessed silence or acquiescence to the terrorists. The International Red Cross have failed despite requests from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and families of the hostages to try to deliver life-saving medicine to the hostages. However, they found the time to get forms to the captured Hamas terrorists in Israeli jails to fill out so they and their families could be quickly compensated under the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-to-slay Jews” law.
Now, at the outset of 2024, before the media rushes off to interview pundits about Gaza’s “day after” and before UN entities – led by such pillars of human rights as Iran, China and Russia – cook up more slanderous accusations against the Jewish state, it is important to identify the chief gatekeepers of human dignity who are largely responsible for the silence, hubris and hypocrisy that enabled the brutal victimiser to quickly pivot to the cloak of victimhood while casting the people of Israel as “instruments of genocide”.
Here are a few notables:
First and foremost, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In the aftermath of Hamas’ October 7 crimes against humanity, the world’s chief human rights executive declared, “It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum,” alleging “56 years of suffocating occupation” suffered by the Palestinians and adding that Hamas’ massacres “did not warrant the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”. It took Guterres 70 days to watch the 43 minutes of video taken by Hamas gunmen of their horrific onslaught of mass murder, rape, mutilation, kidnapping and hostage-taking.
UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, allegedly an objective observer of the Palestinians, called convicted terrorists “human rights defenders”. She legitimised the launching of missiles targeting Israeli civilians and elevated Hamas criminals onto the same moral plane as the Jews who fought back against the Nazis in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Albanese also unleashed this bizarre but deadly serious charge against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF): “Israel cannot claim the right of self-defence against a threat that emanates from a territory it occupies, from a territory that is under belligerent occupation.”
In her Commission of Inquiry report presented to the UN General Assembly two weeks after October 7, Albanese declared that “the oppression and trauma suffered by Palestinian children, half of the Palestinian population under Israeli rule, is a unique stain on the international community.” No official word on whether Albanese also considers the burning of Jewish babies a stain on the international community.
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls, Reem Alsalem has not condemned Hamas’ horrific sexual violence. It took The New York Times over two months to finally acknowledge in print that Israeli women and girls were special targets of Hamas invaders. And this was only after the gut-wrenching descriptions of the crimes against Jewish women and girls were confirmed by released hostages. Meanwhile, Alsalem did find the time to weigh in on the controversy over trans-athletes but refused to unequivocally condemn Hamas for the sexual abuse of Israeli women when it counted. She initially dismissed it all as “disinformation”.
Indeed, the Jordanian-born Alsalem went further, declaring that since October 7, “the assault on Palestinian women’s dignity and rights has taken on new and terrifying dimensions”. She also alleged Israel’s “continued assault on the reproductive rights of Palestinian women and their newborns has been relentless and is particularly alarming”, and accused Israel of “imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group”.
Sarah Douglas – the deputy chief for peace, security and resilience at UN Women – endorsed a string of incendiary claims on social media following Hamas’ October 7 attack. Though her position demands neutrality, Douglas “liked” tweets that condemned Israeli “genocide” and claimed the “forces of empire” were teaming up to crush the Palestinian people’s “struggle for freedom”.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) motto, “For every child,” would be more accurate if it said: “For every child, unless you are an Israeli Jew.” Following the October 7 massacre, UNICEF was largely silent when it came to the execution of 40 Israeli infants and the murder of entire Jewish families by Hamas terrorists. They made no effort to demand the immediate and unconditional release of the 32 Israeli children kidnapped to Gaza by Hamas. Instead, their efforts were solely focused on getting humanitarian aid to the Palestinian children in Gaza who also suffer at the hands of Hamas. In fact, contributors to UNICEF have discovered there is no way to direct funds to help tens of thousands of Israeli children displaced and traumatised by Hamas and Hezbollah attacks.
Finally, UNRWA – the only UN refugee agency whose purpose is not to resettle refugees. In 2023, UNRWA still conferred refugee status on nearly six million descendants of the original roughly 700,000 1948 Palestinian refugees, even if they are citizens of other countries! This manipulation allows Palestinians to insist that millions have the “right to return” en masse to the space currently inhabited by over nine million citizens of Israel. Such a move would spell the end of the Jewish state.
UNRWA’s 2023 budget of $US1.63 billion funds their schools, where generations of Palestinian children have been indoctrinated to hate Jews and revere terrorist “martyrs”. Now, the IDF has provided proof that Hamas uses UNRWA schools and adjacent areas to store weapons, including explosive vests fitted for children. UNRWA employees and facilities are part of the Hamas war machine.
At a recent meeting at the US State Department, I urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as officials of other donor nations, not to treat UNRWA as a key part of the solution to Gaza’s misery. UNRWA is, in fact, a key component of the ongoing problems that plague Palestinian society. Simply put, UNRWA must be dismantled. Let the donor nations set up an escrow fund for non-terrorist Palestinians to guide their people’s future sans the Hamas-controlled UNRWA, ending the disastrous multigenerational refugee status of Palestinians.
Seventy-five years of misplaced sympathies and wishful thinking have brought the entire Middle East to the brink.
Moving forward in the new year, anyone committed to trying to improve the lives of Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the Middle East should be guided by the ancient Midrash, which warns that those “who are compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate”.
It’s time to hold all parties – starting with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah and the murderous Iranian regime – accountable for their actions, or the entire world may soon reap the whirlwind.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and director of Global Social Action and serves as the chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.