Theater of Cruelty

Israel's contempt for the UN

INTERVIEW / After six years, Canadian lawyer Michael Lynk is leaving his post as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


That day Michael Lynk was appointed to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he was banned from entering the country by the Israeli authorities. His semi-annual reports had to be written on the basis of digital meetings, telephone conversations and letters from the areas.

Weakening the fight against real anti-Semitism

As special reports to a country that has illegally occupied foreign land for decades, you must have faced a lot of criticism from official officials in Israel, and perhaps accusations of anti-Semitism?

My two annual reports, one to the UN General Assembly and one to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, were regularly met with comments such as "anti-Semitic" or "borders on anti-Semitism". Yes, I heard it all the time.

But my work is based on international law, and international law must be an independent body between the groups concerned. I have a mandate that especially asks me to look at Israel's occupation of Palestine. So when I hear that I or other solidarity groups are characterized as anti-Semitic, this is a big and sad misuse of the word.

Anti-Semitism is a real phenomenon in the world today. The 20th century inflicted great suffering on European Jews in particular. And that those who raise Palestinian suffering are met with such accusations, weakens the fight against real anti-Semitism, where such appears.

This applies in particular to the use of The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, where 7 of the 11 antisemitism examples have to do with statements about Israel.

However, I am clear that I always relate to the State of Israel. I never blame the Jewish people, neither in Israel nor outside. If you look at the latest accusations against me, it is the critics who are conflating international Jewry with what the Israeli government is doing.

When I make objective criticism of the state of Israel, I can be met with accusations that I have used anti-Semitic stereotypes along the lines of "Jews are stingy" or "Jews are stingy with money". This is far from me.

Israel does not have immunity for human rights violations

Is there anyone particularly eager to stop you?

- Yes, I can say a little about that. The organizations UN-Watch, NGO-monitor and Touko-Institute (in NY) have several times used the term "anti-Semitism" about my work in connection with my reports.

Today, for example, I characterize Israel's practice in the territories purely legally with the definition of apartheid. For these organisations, using the words "Israel" and "apartheid" in the same breath will always be an expression of anti-Semitism. In my opinion, Israel has no special immunity for violating human rights. Unfortunately, one would think that the experiences of the ugly anti-Semitism of the 1920s and 1930s, which culminated in the Holocaust, would have been a living experience that ensured that human rights were respected for all, or that we should say "Never again" to all forms of racism, and not just towards a particular group. If human rights are to have any meaning, they must have universal validity and protect everyone, which is why they are also called universal.

Will criticism of Zionism almost routinely lead to opponents being met with charges of anti-Semitism? Author Thomas Suarez says that «Zionism feeds on antisemitism»?

- I have no particular view on this other than to say that after the reaction of the Jews to the antisemitism of the 1920s and 1930s, different reactions followed. Some Jews became communists, some became socialists. Others became more liberal, and counted on establishing good conditions for the future. And for many, Zionism was the best answer to how to solve the Jews' challenges in the decades to come.

The problem with Zionism was that the answer to the Jews' challenge was to turn an Arab state into a Jewish state. As the Jewish philosopher Hanna Arendt said, the Jewish question in Europe was solved by creating a new refugee generation of people who had little or no responsibility for the Holocaust and the genocide during the Second World War.

What will be your challenge to the government of Israel regarding the fight against real anti-Semitism?

Lynk laughs: – Good question. I do know that Jews in Europe and North America are among the most successful minorities in dealing with the challenges of anti-Semitism. It is important that Israel is precise with clear and precise answers to what anti-Semitism is. Criticism of Israel must not automatically be characterized as anti-Semitism, as has been the practice with the IHRA's definitions. The very best thing would be for Israel to recognize the Palestinians' right to a state and self-government in their own homeland. That would lower the temperature in the area.

If Israel would recognize a rules-based, international body of law with deep respect for human rights, not only among its own, but also in the societies it currently dominates, anti-Semitism would decrease. If they could end the occupation and respect the Palestinians' right to self-government on a par with their own, anti-Semitism would be significantly reduced. But we must not think that there is no anti-Semitism out there, regardless of what Israel may do.

John Y. Jones
John Y. Jones
Cand. Philol, freelance journalist affiliated with MODERN TIMES

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