Two days ago, a British judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Tzipi Livni, who served as Foreign Minister and is now the Israeli opposition leader, on charges of “war crimes”. Many Israelis responded by stating that “We are all Tzipi Livni” – in our democratic state with a citizens army, we share responsibility for defense. Israeli and British leaders correctly condemned such actions, speaking about the negative impact on the peace process and restating the importance bilateral relations.
These dimensions are significant, the main reason for rejecting such examples of lawfare is moral. This judicial theater exploits the principles, language and institutions, including courts, of international law in promote exactly the opposite — denying the Jewish people the basic rights of self-defense and sovereign equality. This is grossly immoral.
The new antisemitism – directed at the Jewish collective rather than Jews as individuals –is most virulent precisely where the language of morality is used most frequently and stridently. When university professors and students promote this agenda through “Israeli apartheid week”, and refer to Israel as a “Nazi state” while seeking to dismantle the Jewish nation-state, this is immoral.
When “progressive” journalists and media publish cartoons with Israeli leaders, including Tzipi Livni, and that echo the images of der Sturmer, this is immoral. And when NGOs claiming to promote universal human rights and morality are silent as Gilad Shalit is held for more than three years in Gaza, but they join Libya and Iran in the Durban process and the United Nations Human Rights Council, to lead the campaigns using labels like “war crimes” and apartheid”, this is immoral.
Recently, Robert Bernstein, the founder of Helsinki Watch, now Human Rights Watch – an NGO superpower with a $42 million budget, wrote a very painful oped in the New York Times denouncing his own organization for its contribution in helping turn Israel into a pariah state.
HRW’s Middle East division is headed by anti-Israel campaigners – and this behavior is first and foremost a moral travesty. (Judge Richard Goldstone was on HRW’s board for many years – his silence in the face of such behavior speaks for himself.)
Using moral language to single out the Jewish nation-state using double standards also distorts the principles of universal human rights beyond recognition.
As our detailed research shows, HRW, like other groups, devotes far more resources to the isolating Israel than to other areas, and is largely silent in the face of genocidal threats from Iran. This turns human rights into a travesty.
Furthermore, campaigns to brand legitimate acts of defense against terror as war crimes, and to label the Jewish state “apartheid”, serve to debase and trivialize the all-too-real instances of war crimes, apartheid and racial hatred around the world.
Self-proclaimed human rights groups that promote this agenda also undermine their claims to support democracy, gender equality, and minority rights. In this, HRW and Amnesty International are not alone – over 4000 officials form 1500 NGOs claiming moral mandates participated in the 2001 Durban NGO Forum, and adopted the strategy of demonization.
They lead the boycott campaigns, often receiving funding from governments under the label of “civil society” and international aid. Many, such as Oxfam, War on Want, Christian Aid and their Canadian and Australian equivalents, may do good work elsewhere in the world, but they are also promote the Durban agenda of boycotts and demonization, using false claims of war crimes and “apartheid”.
To begin to restore credibility and universality to these deeply damaged moral principles, we must end their exploitation to demonize and delegimitize Israel.