The Palestinians and the UN Human Rights Council have stepped up their campaign against Israel, this time issuing a blacklist of Jewish businesses, reminiscent of 1930s Germany. Far from engendering peace, the move will increase Israeli distrust of international bodies, hurt Palestinians and the Palestinian economy, and chalk up one more item on the growing list of why the world's most important human rights body is irreparably damaged.
The Holocaust began with incremental policies that stigmatised, then isolated, then murdered Jews. In 1933, six whole years before the outbreak of WWII, and nine years before the "Final Solution" document was signed off by its leaders, Germany instituted a boycott against Jewish businesses. The boycott initially failed, so German authorities began instituting further laws, making it increasingly impossible for Jews to participate in the German economy and society.
Fast-forward almost a century. Haters of Jews, under the guise of anti-Zionism, having been frustrated by the failure of Arab states and Palestinian terrorists to wipe Israel off the map, have increasingly turned to the UN and its organs, where dictators and other human rights abusers have the same vote as liberal democracies. Israel is regularly stigmatised at the UN as an occupying power and a human rights abuser by countries that are themselves occupying powers and human rights abusers.
Consider that Morocco, which has occupied and settled Western Sahara for decades, voted for the resolution calling for this blacklist. Consider that Armenia, which similarly occupies parts of Azerbaijan did the same. Not to mention Russia's brazen occupation and settlement of Crimea. And that's in addition to the Human Rights Council membership including countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Venezuela, whose governments' abuse of women, minorities and political opponents are abhorrent and deadly. The UN's hypocrisy when it comes to Israel has always stunk, but the Human Rights Council is particularly rank.
The worst thing is not what the Human Rights Council can inflict on Israel (which isn't actually much), but its weakening as a legitimate body for calling out human rights abuses. The dictators and despots that sit in its ranks regularly cloak each other's abuses, meaning the body's raison d'etre has long been fatally undermined. The loser in all of this is not Israel but the victims of human rights abusers around the world.
The list created by the Human Rights Council is ostensibly designed to put pressure on Israeli settlements. But the businesses in the list employ thousands of Palestinians - and pay them higher rates with better conditions than Palestinian employers. The last time an international campaign against a company with a plant in a settlement was enacted, the company moved its operations. The result? The company's bottom line stayed the same, but hundreds of Palestinians lost their jobs. Surely this is an own goal.
The reality is, the Israeli and Palestinian economies are deeply entwined, and will be until and after a two-state outcome is finally realised. Tens of thousands of Palestinians work in the settlements, as well as in Israel proper. The West Bank has no sea access and so uses Israeli ports. Compare that to the West Bank's only other neighbour, Jordan, which regularly holds up Palestinian produce in the blazing sun so as to protect its own agricultural sector.
A viable Israeli-Palestinian peace will only come as a result of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
On settlements, Israelis and Palestinians long ago agreed that their fate would be settled in final status peace talks. Israel has offered numerous peace plans (in terms far more generous than US President Trump's recent effort). Unfortunately, the Palestinians have always rejected these proposals, and never bothered to offer their own.
Why? Well, one reason is their willing partner in the UN. Violence didn't work for the Palestinians, and negotiations means both sides must compromise, something Palestinians appear loathe to do. But the UN's constant willingness to bash Israel and, now, to wage economic warfare on Israel offers the Palestinians the mirage of a compromise-free way to get what they want.
The problem is, it won't work. For one, moves like this only increase Israeli distrust in the UN and those that back these moves, meaning future attempts by the UN to orchestrate peace will likely be dismissed by Israel. Surely, its founders did not envision that the UN would make itself an obstacle to peace. More importantly, a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace will only come as a result of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Moves like this blacklist reward Palestinians for refusing to negotiate, thereby delaying the creation of a Palestinian state. If the UN and its constituent states were serious about Israeli-Palestinian peace, they would tell Palestinians directly and plainly that they'll only get what they want from across the negotiating table.
Israel's economy is thriving. Israel has no oil, so it heavily invested in its richest resource: people. Israeli universities are world leaders, with more degrees and patents per capita than just about any other country. Israeli cyber and agricultural technology has other countries and business queuing around the block. Its per capita GDP is envy inducing, which must drive the haters wild.
The campaign of blacklisting, stigmatisation and murder of Jews in Europe was successful because Jews didn't have a state or an army of their own (and no other country intervened). Now they do and no application of double standards by the world's worst human rights abusers will change that.
- Jeremy Leibler is president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.