Statement prepared by Professor Gerald M. Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor

For more than 20 years, I have been the president of an NGO dedicated to promoting universal human rights. I am also an Israeli and a Jew, and have witnessed the terrible violence and its victims on all sides.

It is from this perspective that I offer my observations and remarks before the expert committee in this review in the context of the treaty.

I start with the report submitted by the Palestinian delegation. I do not claim to be surprised or disappointed because I have been at many other international meetings, including in sessions of the Human Rights Council, and unfortunately there is nothing in this report that departs from the standard Palestinian accusations and allegations against Israel.

Since we are not here to make peace, to resolve this conflict, or to argue about history again, (we have battled over different claims for the past 71 years and more), I will simply note that the Palestinian submission to this committee does not serve the cause of peace, but rather the opposite. Making claims about a conflict that is yet to be resolved, and about the conditions that derive from that conflict, without considering the history of warfare against Israel, the ongoing terrorism, poisonous incitement, the thousands that have been brutally murdered, including 19 year old Dvir Sorek just last week, and without considering the measures that are fundamental to the protection of the Israeli population from such attacks, is not only misleading but in violation of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

I believe that the experts on this committee are familar enough with the basic factors and history in this conflict and so I will refrain from addressing the inaccuracies and omissions that are found throughout the Palestinian submission. 

What I believe is relevant to the issues of racial discrimination and the substance of the Convention that we are here to discuss are the violations of the norms and terms that are actually contained in the Palestinian report.

For example, one cannot avoid noting the cynical appropriation of the label “apartheid” in reference to Israel. 

The term apartheid appears 32 times in the Palestinian Authority’s submission – and each such reference constitutes an act of racism. 

For example, in paragraph 16: “The intrinsic connection between the right to self-determination and the elimination of racial discrimination and apartheid is evident in the context of the Palestinian people’s fight against the colonial occupation by Israel.” (Para 16) 

Apartheid regimes have no right to exist. Therefore the use of this label, not only in the Palestinian submission but also in the sources that they quote, such as the Final Declaration of the discredited 2001 Durban conference, belittles the crimes of the actual apartheid regime, and is an expression of racism and worse. As noted experts, such as Professor Irwin Cotler, the former Attorney General of Canada and the late US member of Congress, Tom Lantos, among many others, the cynical use of the apartheid label in attacking Israel is a form of delegitimization of 9 million Israeli citizens. It is a call for the elimination of a member state of the United Nations. It is a form of racism itself.  

In this context, I wish to bring your attention to the working definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and in particular the example in that document that states

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. 

The IHRA was established in 2000 at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and, as of June 2019, had 35 state members, 11 observers, as well as a number of permanent international partners, including the United Nations, the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), UNESCO, and the Council of Europe. In 2016, the members of IHRA adopted a working definition of antisemitism, based on a 2005 document prepared by the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and its successor — the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

As of July 2019, the IHRA definition has been adopted by 17 countries. A very similar version is used by the United States State Department and Civil Service Commission. A number of legislation bodies, including the European Parliament, have also adopted resolutions endorsing the IHRA Working Definition.

Together, these countries and institutions declare that “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Among the other examples in this working definition, the following also apply to the Palestinian submission and campaign of deligitimization.

  1. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. 
  2. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis. 
  3. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

The IHRA document was become the primary reference in determining whether a particular statement or action is indeed antisemitic.

As my colleague Marcus Sheff has noted, and in the submission of the Institute for NGO Research, we documented the systematic racism and antisemitism in the Palestinian Authority, including in official media, schools, youth centers, sports clubs and elsewhere. Murderers of Jewish Israelis, including children, are extolled as heroes and martyrs. Jews are transformed into hated Zionists, to be stabbed, blown to bits, destroyed and erased. 

This committee has an important role in evaluating Palestinian adherence, or its absence, to the principles and text of the CERD Convention. 

Thank you for your consideration.