In the News

Pushing the Palestinian ‘right of return’ doesn’t help peace by Tzipi Livni

(The Guardian, July 13, 2018)

UK politicians who call for the return of 1948 refugees to Israel are undermining the two-state solution – and fuelling conflict

In the past few months following events in Gaza, I’ve heard voices in the UK, including senior members of the Labour shadow cabinet, supporting the two-state solution while at the same time calling for the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. As a true supporter of peace based on the principle of two-states-for-two-peoples, the demand that Palestinian refugees “return” to Israel is not only at odds with the very rationale of a two-nation-states solution, but if accepted, would lead to a continuation of the conflict long after the establishment of a Palestinian state. Such a scenario should be rejected by anyone who truly seeks peace in our lifetime.

The shared goal should be to put an end to the conflict once and for all. The solution of two states for two peoples is a just solution because it gives an answer to the legitimate aspiration of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians. It means that each state is the answer for the aspiration of different peoples, each in their different respective state.

urthermore, the state of Israel was established as a Jewish state on the basis of an international consensus adopted by the 1947 UN resolution. It offered the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs that already existed in this tiny place between the Jordan river and Mediterranean Sea. The state of Israel was established as the nation state of the Jewish people and a democracy granting equal rights to all its citizens. The same day the Arabs who refused the UN concept of two states started a war against the newly born state. The rest is history.

As the state of Israel is, by definition, the answer to the national aspiration of the Jewish people, as Israel absorbed Jewish refugees that came from all over the world, and is the homeland of every Jew wherever he or she lives, the creation of the Palestinian state, by definition, provides the answer for the entire Palestinian people wherever they may be, including Palestinian refugees. This is why, as a matter of principle, the claim of a Palestinian refugee “return” to Israel is so at odds with the very rationale of a two-state solution.

Unfortunately, Palestinian refugees have been used as a political playing card for far too long since 1948. Palestinians are the only group since the end of the second world war to have kept their refugee status and to have passed this status down to over four generations, creating a problem of millions of “refugees” that are kept as pawns in a political game instead of solving their humanitarian situation.

This sinister game continues to be promoted from the Gaza Strip, even though in 2005 Israel made the tough decision to withdraw from Gaza to the 1967 line, to pull out the army, dismantle the settlements and evacuate its own citizens – including those who had lived there from birth.

Today the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organisation that promotes a religious fanaticism that totally rejects the idea of two nation states. For over a decade, Hamas has been unwilling to accept the Quartet principles and gain legitimacy, namely by renouncing violence, recognising Israel and abiding by previous peace agreements.

Attempts to derail the two-nation-states solution by pushing or supporting the idea of a “right of return” will only exacerbate the conflict and is the antithesis of peace. Instead, let’s work together with those on the Palestinian side who support the concept of two nation states, and offer a solution of peace and security that will create a better future for all.

I believe that peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on the concept of two states for two peoples is an Israeli interest as it is a Palestinian one. Today more than ever, we must make the right decisions for the future of our two peoples.

Tzipi Livni is co-leader of Israel’s centre-left opposition bloc, the Zionist Union. She served as Israel’s foreign minister and chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians

View webinar by AJIRI Vice Chairman Stuart Sloame, February 9, 2021

Completing the Work of Richard Schifter, by Robert Doar

(From Commentary Magazine, January 28, 2021, by Robert Doar)

Completing the Work of Richard Schifter
In the midst of all of the challenges of 2020, the loss of Richard Schifter in October at the age of 97 was sadly overlooked. A lawyer by training, he served his country from 1981 to 2001, working for presidents from both parties, and in his steadfast, direct, facts-focused way, fighting for freedom and human rights around the world. His work took him from the halls of the United Nations to the Department of State and the National Security Council. Not as well-known as other diplomats and never demanding media recognition, Schifter, who was a family friend, was a tireless advocate for freedom fighters. From China and the USSR to Somalia and Liberia, his dedication to helping others made him an exemplar of American statesmanship.

In the early 1980s, he represented the American delegation to the United Nations as the U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights and as Deputy U.S. Representative to the UN Security Council. In 1985, after serving at the UN for five years, he was appointed assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs by President Reagan. Using the bureau’s annual report on human rights practices around the world, Schifter helped shape American strategic policy and stood up to some of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers.

As the Soviet Union began to falter, he helped Jewish refuseniks leave for freer lands. His work was instrumental in persuading Soviet officials to loosen emigration restrictions and allow hundreds of thousands of refugees to seek religious freedom around the world. In 1989, in the wake of Tiananmen Square, he fought to toughen America’s stance towards China. In his later work with non-profits, he served as a powerful advocate for those struggling in Bosnia, Somalia, and Liberia.

For all his achievements, his aspirations remain unrealized in one important case concerning Israel. Despite his efforts, every year, the UN still pushes for completely unrealistic, outdated resolutions that stand in the way of a lasting peace in the Middle East. The United Nations General Assembly is still passing annual resolutions to renew the mandates of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights. Among other biased and anti-Israel agenda items, these entities, endorse the so-called “right of return” which has long hampered negotiation and ossified opposition on both sides of the conflict.

If fully implemented, these mandates would allow five million Palestinians and their descendants, wherever they are, to immigrate to Israel, receive citizenship, and claim disputed property or compensation from the Israeli government. Setting aside the unprecedented notion of an ever-growing refugee population in Israel, many would have no ties to Israel or the Palestinian territories. Any one of these provisions would irreparably alter Israeli society, culture, and politics. They would jeopardize also Israel’s special dual nature as both a Jewish and democratic state— the very same features described by American-Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi as Israel’s “two non-negotiable identities.” This threat to the Jewish state could never be accepted by the Israeli people.

As Chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, Schifter dedicated the last years of his life to fighting these resolutions. And he was making headway. Within the last decade, support for the UN’s Division for Palestinian Rights has diminished considerably. In 2011, the resolution was approved by a 114-9 vote. Last year, it was carried by a tally of just 82-25 with 53 abstentions and 32 absences (deliberate ones mostly). Though these measures still pass, they do so with mere pluralities instead of overwhelming majorities. This is considerable progress.

Schifter believed that these symbolic resolutions are impediments to peace. And if the last few months have taught us anything about the Middle East, it’s that progress is possible. For all its flaws, the Trump administration made significant strides in the decades-long pursuit of Middle Eastern peace by brokering landmark deals across the region. Once unthinkable, Jewish weddings are being celebrated in the shadow of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, and Arab start-ups are flocking to Tel Aviv. The Abraham Accords and subsequent treaties have brought Israel together with former foes like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. These agreements, which have normalized diplomatic relations and strengthened economic ties, have undeniably promoted peace and prosperity in the region.

This moment calls for the Biden administration to take an important next step. Biden’s incoming appointees have an opportunity to craft a lasting settlement in the Middle East, something Schifter would have liked. But doing so requires new thinking. The time has come for the administration to stop relying on the same strategies that have led to decades of gridlock and violence. It’s time for the State Department to make it a priority for the UN to reject these resolutions and encourage our allies to help us make that happen.

Robert Doar is president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Debunking the Palestinian Claim of a “Right of Return”, by Paul Schneider

(Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2021)

By Paul Schneider

With the election of Joe Biden, the US can now go back to its role as an honest broker in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. That means speaking hard truths to both sides. The US should again call for recognition of the Palestinians’ right to a viable, independent state. But it should also finally tell the Palestinians that they have no “right of return” to what is now the state of Israel. This is something that legal analysis makes clear but which Western intermediaries have failed to acknowledge.
The Palestinians’ claimed right of return, and the West’s willingness to indulge it, have been the biggest obstacles to resolving the conflict. That is the theme of The War of Return, an important new book by Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf. As the authors put it, “The first step that needs to be undertaken by countries and professionals dedicated to true peace is to send a clear and unequivocal message to Palestinians that they do not possess a right of return to the sovereign State of Israel. There is no international law that requires Israel to allow Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to Israel.”

In support of this point, Schwartz and Wilf rely on an exhaustive analysis by law professor Andrew Kent, titled “Evaluating the Palestinians’ Claimed Right of Return.” Kent concludes that it is “clear that the claimed Palestinian ‘right of return’ for refugees from the 1947-49 conflict has no substantial legal basis.” Proponents of a right of return mainly try to rely on UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 1948, which says, “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.”
However, General Assembly resolutions do not amount to binding law – a point the Arab states themselves made when they rejected the 1947 Partition Resolution. Moreover, as Kent notes, Resolution 194 “did not describe the return of Palestinian refugees as a ‘right.’” (Note the use of “should,” as opposed to “shall.”) And in fact, at the time of its adoption, the international community understood that the resolution would not result in the mass return of Palestinian refugees.
AS KENT also notes, the Palestinians and Arab states rejected Resolution 194 (III), in part because it did not provide a “total, unconditional right to return.” Thus, they are hardly in a position to invoke the resolution now, much less claim that it provides such a right.
Nevertheless, Palestinians continue to claim that refugees from what is now the State of Israel have a right to return. Moreover, they say, a partial or symbolic right is not acceptable. The right must be unrestricted. As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said during the failed negotiations of 2008, “I can’t tell four million Palestinians that only 5,000 of them can go home.” Nor is this claimed right a mere bargaining chip. Rather, it is the sine qua non of any peace agreement. As negotiations have shown, Palestinians actually seek a mass return of refugees to Israel. If that is not possible, they insist, there can be no deal.
One political ramification of the Palestinians’ position is especially problematic: It is antithetical to a two-state solution. The Palestinian philosopher and academic Sari Nusseibeh recognized this when he said, “The Palestinians have to realize that if we are to reach an agreement on two states, then those two states will have to be one for the Israelis and one for the Palestinians, not one for the Palestinians and the other also for the Palestinians.”

However, access to two states is exactly what Palestinians seek. As an adviser to Abbas has said, “Palestinians will not accept an agreement that does not provide refugees with the choice of where to relocate, including to Israel.”
But Palestinians cannot have it both ways. They cannot enjoy a right of self-determination in their own state while demographically threatening Jewish self-determination in Israel. According to Schwartz and Wilf, this “is the heart of the matter: instead of being a legal or humanitarian issue… the refugee problem is first and foremost a political problem, reflecting the desire to dominate the entire land.” Given the history of the conflict, it’s hard to disagree.
Schwartz and Wilf make a compelling case: It is past time that peacemakers disabuse the Palestinians of any notion of a right of return. Until that happens, not much will change. Therefore, one hopes The War of Return will have a wide readership within the Biden administration.

The writer is an attorney who lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Our Work with Ambassador Richard Schifter

Ambassador Richard Schifter addressing the United Nations.

By Adriana Camisar, B’nai B’rith International special advisor on Latin American affairs

More than two months have passed since Dick (as we called him) Schifter left us, at age 97. And even though it would be impossible to express in just a few lines what it meant to our organization, and to me personally, to work with him, I felt the need to write about how blessed we were to be able to meet him, and learn from him.

About 10 years ago, he came to B’nai B’rith as Chairman of AJIRI (the American Jewish International Relations Institute), an organization he had founded some years earlier, to combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.

His profound knowledge of the United Nations system, a product of his years representing the United States at the U.N. in different capacities, was truly impressive. He was interested in working with B’nai B’rith, among other things, because of our name recognition and presence in so many countries around the world. But there was also, from the very beginning, a great personal connection between him and our CEO Dan Mariaschin, whom he often described as a “Mensch” (Yiddish for “gentleman”). For us, it was truly an honor to work with someone of his caliber, integrity and knowledge.

I was at the time B’nai B’rith’s assistant director for Latin American Affairs, and he was interested in working with me to try to change the way several Latin American countries voted at the U.N. General Assembly, on Israel-related resolutions.

Dick was a person who cared deeply about justice. His opposition to the grotesque mistreatment of Israel at the United Nations had to do not only with his desire to support Israel and the Jewish people, but also, and most importantly, with his deep conviction about the intrinsic justice of this cause.

He was also a deeply humble human being. He never spoke about his life achievements, which were too many to count. And every time I would tell him that he was too humble, he would tell me: “you know that I do not promote myself. Our cause is what really matters.”

His preoccupation with the U.N. had to do with his strong belief that the powerful anti-Israel propaganda apparatus that operates out of the U.N. building in New York hindered the prospects of a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He focused particularly on two U.N. entities, whose funding is yearly renewed by the U.N. General Assembly: The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR). He firmly believed that, by endorsing the most extreme Palestinian narrative, these two entities placed a serious obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution.

Dick was absolutely right. CEIRPP and DPR work all year long to promote the so-called “right of return” of the more than 5 million Palestinians who are still considered “refugees” by the U.N., to what is now the State of Israel. In fact, only one percent of these people are original refugees from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The other 99 percent are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original refugees, something that has no precedent in international law. The Palestinians are the only people in the world whose refugee status passes from generation to generation, indefinitely, along the paternal line.

The mass migration of more than 5 million Palestinians to Israel is something that no Israeli government—left, right or center—could ever accept as it would mean the end of Israel as a majority Jewish state, and the creation of yet another Arab state, “from the river to the sea.” This is why the insistence on the “right of return” is in fact a weapon to destroy Israel, and the single most important obstacle to the achievement of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

As Dick used to put it, as long as U.N. member states continue to endorse the right of return by re-authorizing the operations of CEIRPP and DPR, the Palestinians will continue to believe that the U.N. will help them destroy Israel through demographic means, and will have no incentives to enter into meaningful peace negotiations.

The many other anti-Israel resolutions that proliferate at the U.N. were of little interest to Dick, as he knew that they were mostly declaratory. But CEIRPP and DPR were at the heart of the U.N. anti-Israel propaganda apparatus, and conducted a yearlong anti-Israel campaign, paid with U.N. funds. They were also responsible for most other anti-Israel resolutions and initiatives within the U.N. system and beyond.

An expert on vote counting (something he had learned from his years in Maryland politics), and in possession of an extraordinary legal mind, he carefully studied the U.N. Charter and realized that, as these resolutions required funding, a two-thirds majority was needed to get them approved. Therefore, defeating them was not an impossible task. He decided to devote himself to this cause the last years of his life. And we at B’nai B’rith had the privilege of joining him in this effort. Over the years, we had several achievements in our diplomatic efforts, but a lot remains to be done.

The Abraham Accords completely reshaped the landscape of the Middle East, and we are witnessing how several Arab and Muslim countries leave their hostility behind to come closer to Israel. However, we don’t see this trend within the current Palestinian leadership. Dick was convinced that the U.N. was the last stronghold of support for the most extreme positions of the Palestinian Authority. And that only when the U.N. abandons this position will peace be possible.

Just a few days prior to Dick’s passing, B’nai B’rith and AJIRI formally partnered, and a new institute named AJIRI-BBI was formed. His son Rick has now kindly assumed the chairmanship and, together with Gil Kapen, a member of the board who has also been a great collaborator of Dick for over a decade, we will continue to work to make sure his legacy is preserved. But Dick’s inspiration and wisdom will be forever missed.

The U.N. is a Major Obstacle to a Two-State Solution in the Mideast

By Richard P. Schifter and Gil Kapen

(The Jewish News, January 8, 2021)

It is time for the Palestinians to join their fellow Arabs in accepting the existence of the State of Israel and negotiating a peace with it.

In a year marked by so much misery and misfortune, a rare bright spot has been Israel’s historic diplomatic breakthroughs. In 2020, UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and now Bhutan have either established official relations with Israel or announced their intention to do so for the first time.

In 1977, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat broke through Israel’s regional isolation with his dramatic visit to Jerusalem. The Israeli people and government responded with far reaching concessions that led to a peace treaty with Egypt — for many years the only such treaty between Israel and any Arab country.

Now the number of such countries with full relations or on the road to that status is six and growing. But the Palestinians are not yet on board. For decades, the operating assumption was that peace with the Arab world was contingent on a signed agreement acceptable to the Palestinians. That is no longer the case. Nevertheless, peace with the Palestinians is not only desirable; it is essential for Israel to be truly at peace and an accepted part of the Middle East.

To achieve peace with the Palestinians, many years of demonization and delegitimization of Israel in the Palestinian media, mosques and schools will have to be overcome. The thorniest obstacle is the continued official Palestinian adherence to the so-called “right of return,” the demand that more than 5 million Palestinians who are descendants of refugees from the 1948 war be permitted to “return” to their original homes in what is now Israel. Such an eventuality would alter the demographic nature of Israel and would effectively end its existence as a democratic Jewish state. Of course, no Israeli government would ever acquiesce to a demand that would lead to the country’s demise. 

The United States has long recognized that the “right of return” is a non-starter and will never be part of a final settlement. The “Clinton Parameters” were issued by President Bill Clinton on his way out of office in 2001, as a template for a peace settlement. The Parameters “required the Palestinians to waive their claim to an unlimited ‘right of return’ to Israel proper. The Palestinian state would accept all refugees wishing to settle in its territory … One should not expect Israel to acknowledge an unlimited right of return to present-day Israel, as that would undermine the very foundations of the Israeli state or the whole reason for creating the Palestinian state …” 

Similarly, an official letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon in 2005, stated: “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”

Finally, the Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace” reiterated this concept, stating: “There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel … Palestinian refugees will be given a choice to live within the future State of Palestine, integrate into the countries where they currently live or resettle in a third country.”

Unfortunately, instead of playing a constructive role in advancing the prospect of a two-state solution, the United Nations explicitly encourages the Palestinians to maintain the demand of a “right of return.” For the past 45 years, the U.N. has repeatedly demonstrated its opposition to the Jewish state and has created an infrastructure to perpetuate anti-Israel propaganda. In 1975, the U.N. General Assembly passed its infamous resolution scurrilously labeling Zionism as a form of racism. This resolution led to the creation of two unique and nefarious institutions within the U.N. system: the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and its staff body, the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR).

“Zionism is Racism” was repealed (at the urging of the United States) in 1991. But its operational arms, the CEIRPP and the DPR, continue their damaging work to this day. Operating under an annual budget of approximately $3 million (reauthorized and funded every year), CEIRPP and DPR do nothing but disseminate harsh anti-Israel propaganda, and organize one-sided international conferences that attack Israel, advance the maximalist and one-sided Palestinian narrative, and compare Israel to apartheid South Africa. They also openly encourage the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Significantly, the mission statements of these U.N. bodies explicitly endorse the “right of return.”  

Thus, the U.N. propaganda apparatus gives this major obstacle to peace the official imprimatur of the international community. Under these circumstances, why would the Palestinians ever give up this demand? 

Yet every year, the resolutions authorizing these bodies pass in the General Assembly by large majorities. It is highly unlikely that many of the leaders of the countries voting in favor of these bodies are aware of their true nature or of their activities. 

It is time for the Palestinians to join their fellow Arabs in accepting the existence of the State of Israel and negotiating a peace with it. Such a peace would greatly benefit Israelis, Palestinians, the Arab states and the world as a whole. 

A good first step would be abandoning the baseless claim of a “right of return.” But for this to happen, the international community, including the United Nations, needs to stop recklessly coddling Palestinian rhetoric and activities, particularly the “right of return.” The first step would be for the U.N. to stop funding CEIRPP and DPR.

One optimistic sign: Over the past two years, more than a dozen European states have voted against the resolution authorizing the Palestine Division. As a result, support for that resolution has plummeted, from 114 yes votes in 2011 to only 82 this year — far less than half of the number of General Assembly members.

The best contribution that the United Nations can make to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace is to permanently close down these anachronistic and obstructionist bodies.

Richard P. Schifter is chair and Gil Kapen is deputy director of the American Jewish International Relations Institute-Bnai Brith International.

The United Nations stands in the way of Arab-Israeli peace

By David May and Richard Goldberg

(Washington Examiner, November 17, 2020)

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which recently normalized relations with Israel by signing the Abraham Accords, nonetheless supported seven United Nations General Assembly resolutions singling out and condemning Israel this month. While Israeli-Arab rapprochement is racing forward, reconciliation is proceeding at a turtle’s pace at Turtle Bay.

Last Tuesday marked the 45th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly declaring Zionism to be racism and establishing the Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, or CEIRPP, a pillar of the U.N.’s anti-Israel infrastructure. After several failed attempts to defeat the Jewish state by military means, the Arab world launched a decadeslong political war to delegitimize Israel, mainly at the U.N.

To facilitate this work, the General Assembly created the (misleadingly named) Division for Palestinian Rights within the U.N.’s Department for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

The CEIRPP and DPR receive around $2.7 million annually, along with support from the U.N. Department of Public Information, to disseminate their anti-Israel propaganda. The DPR organizes anti-Israel meetings and conferences, coordinates with anti-Israel NGOs(including the agricultural arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other groups allegedly tied to terrorists), and organizes an annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People every Nov. 29.

The anniversary of the vote to partition Mandatory Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, is a peculiar choice of day for anti-Israel events, reports, and resolutions, given that Jewish leadership at the time mostly accepted the plan while the Arabs roundly condemned and rejected the move. The U.N. appears to be celebrating Palestinian rejectionism.

If the goal of the Abraham Accords is to promote the “spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding and mutual respect,” all the parties to the accords and their allies should prioritize the elimination or reform of multilateral organizations whose work only sows discord. The UAE, for example, remains an observer at the CEIRPP. With its own signed peace treaty with Israel, the UAE should renounce its observer status immediately, and others should follow.

There are, of course, other problem areas at the U.N. The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices prepared four of the recent anti-Israel resolutions. The committee’s mandate targets Israel for war crimes accusations while turning a blind eye to the actual war crimes committed by Iran-backed terror organizations in Gaza and Lebanon that use human shields to protect their terror infrastructure.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia understand the frustration of facing an enemy that sacrifices civilians to score propaganda points: In Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthis use the same human shield tactics employed by Hezbollah and Hamas. Both Gulf states should therefore support the special committee’s elimination.

Another body with a special mandate to discriminate against Israel and promote Palestinian demands is the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Established in 1950 to care for Arabs who fled Palestine during Israel’s War of Independence, UNRWA today defines millions of Palestinians as stateless refugees, even though most either live within the borders of the Palestinian Authority or are citizens of other countries such as Jordan. UNRWA helps ensure that Palestinians continue to live in squalor and serve as political pawns in a 70-year campaign to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist. At UNRWA schools, generation after generation of Palestinian children are raised to hate Jews and the Jewish state.

UNRWA’s existence not only damages the prospects for reconciliation, but it also poses a danger to Arab states that make peace with Israel. Those same countries helped establish UNRWA and pushed the myth of a Palestinian “right of return” for decades. In effect, UNRWA encourages extremism inside Sunni Arab monarchies, placing a giant target on Gulf leaders accused of abandoning the Palestinian cause.

In 2018, the United States cut funding to UNRWA because of its incitement against Israel and its failure to disclose how many true Palestinian refugees (people who were displaced by conflict in 1948) are still alive today. Though the UAE and Saudi Arabia remain among UNRWA’s biggest financiers, possibly as a hedge against backlash for growing ties with Israel, Palestinian leadership continues to lambaste them. Since their donations produce no goodwill, the Gulf countries could use their financial support as leverage to overhaul the wayward refugee agency.

Arab leaders want to normalize relations with Israel for their own strategic and economic interests, but absent changes, the U.N. system will continue to nurture grievances instead of promoting solutions that would increase regional stability. It’s time for Arab countries to stop voting for anti-Israel resolutions and to start working with the U.S. and Israel to eliminate the U.N.’s institutional barriers to peace.

David May is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD), where Richard Goldberg serves as a senior adviser. Follow May on Twitter via @DavidSamuelMay and Goldberg via @rich_goldberg.

Still stuck in time warp by Ben Cohen

Still stuck in time warp

November 10, 2020


Some of you will probably be familiar with a charming German movie, “Goodbye, Lenin,” the story of which concerns a woman in Communist-ruled East Germany who falls into a coma and wakes up a few months later in a unified, democratic Federal Republic of Germany. To avoid another shock to her delicate nervous system, the woman’s two children carefully preserve her old living environment, so as to fool her into believing that her Socialist fatherland is still intact and that the outside world is exactly the same as when she temporarily left it.

The United Nations lives in a similar alternative universe. Since its creation in 1945, a good part of its internal life has revolved around an endless cycle of committee meetings, work plans and resolutions that take little account of how the outside world is changing. On certain occasions, its deliberations can seem so out of touch with reality that you wonder whether the directors of “Goodbye, Lenin” are lurking somewhere in the background.

Last week (a momentous, exhausting week, as we all recall) was also a busy one at the world body. The U.N. General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, an entity that remains concerned with “decolonization” in an age when territorial empires are a thing of the past, passed seven resolutions, all of which focused on Israel and the Palestinians and all of which condemned Israel in resolute terms.

The sense of a time warp is magnified by the list of member states who vote in favor of these resolutions, which is the vast majority of those present. The roster of nations that lined up last week to tar Israel as a rogue state included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan –the three Arab Gulf states that signed normalization agreements with Israel over the last few months, marking the most profound change in the dynamics of the Middle East situation in decades. The spirit of the Abraham Accords was rudely locked out of the Fourth Committee’s deliberations.

A foreign-policy realist can counter that the Fourth Committee’s deliberations mean very little, irrespective of the size of the majorities behind its various anti-Israel resolutions. Only at the United Nations is the Palestinian question still regarded as the key to regional, if not global, peace, when that view has become an anachronism everywhere else.

It is the only international body to dedicate a vast bureaucracy to the Palestinians exclusively, notable mainly for UNRWA, the Palestinian-only refugee agency, but also the General Assembly’s own “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” a cauldron of anti-Zionism, and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which reserves a permanent spot on its agenda (“Item 7”) to lacerate Israel for its alleged violations. The United Nations is also the only global body to have officially denounced Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people as a form of racism. Old habits die hard, then – but in this case, the harder they persist, the weaker their impact is upon the wider world.

I would argue differently. The difference between a cold peace and a warm peace is whether the ideas and prejudices that informed the original conflict are sustained after an agreement is signed by governments. The warm peace between Israel and the Arab states that is beginning to emerge necessitates the wholesale abandonment of the ideology of anti-Zionism that stained Arab discourse about the Jewish state for more than a century.

Where better to demonstrate that transformation than at the very body that is stuck in a time warp: the United Nations?

Richard Schifter, a much-respected U.S. diplomat and Jewish leader who recently passed away, once observed that the anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations could only be neutralized if foreign ministries explicitly instructed their delegations to vote against them. Until that happens, Schifter argued, the ambassadors in New York would not switch their votes, regardless of their personal feelings on the subject. And indeed, that is why numerous other countries that retain diplomatic relations with Israel will nonetheless either vote for or abstain on these heinous resolutions.

If the Middle East is really to enter an era distinguished by its “good feelings,” then the rest of the world must play its part. Ending the political warfare waged against Israel from within the United Nations is a major element of that contribution, but members will not step up without a positive signal from those Arab states now at peace with Israel. The next time the Fourth Committee or any other U.N. body meets for its ritual denunciation of Israel, let us work for the unexpected outcome.

Ben Cohen is a New York City-based journalist and author who writes a weekly column on Jewish and international affairs for JNS. Top read more of Cohen’s columns, visit

The UN should stop funding the Palestinian narrative

Jerusalem Post

Richard Schifter: An unsung hero among heroes

(WorldNet Daily) October 16, 2020

By Lt. Col. James Zumwalt

We are experiencing a time when words, long having an understood meaning, are being replaced by words more politically correct (PC). But one word PC activists seek to keep while expanding its meaning is “hero.” It is a title participants in today’s rioting in various American cities are, undeservedly, seeking to be grouped. We can never becloud the true meaning of hero with that of non-hero for it denigrates those whose selfless acts have done so much to enrich life for their fellow man.

On Oct. 3, we lost one of those true heroes. Ambassador Richard Schifter, 97, had devoted his lifetime to leaving us with a better world than the one he inherited – one bringing him tremendous tragedy in his early years.

Born in Austria before Europe would be torn apart by World War II, Schifter was fortunate to have parents, able to foresee the anti-Semitic tsunami coming, who took action to send their son, then 15, to America alone in 1938. Schifter would never see his parents again. He would be the only member of his family to escape the Holocaust – the only evidence remaining of their existence in the ashes of a concentration camp’s crematorium.