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End Discrimination Against Jews, Israel to Fight Anti-Semitism

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Mark L. Cohen By Tuesday, 25 February 2020 03:43 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

In my previous article I recommended two concrete steps for governments to take if they are to do more than lip serve condemnation of anti-Semitism and seriously consider that it is their national interest to achieve results in fighting the rising wave of anti Semitism that Emmanuel Macron stated is a threat not just to Jews but to the French Republic.

My suggestions were:

—First of all for governments to accept that French and European policies that consistently condemn Israel as being uniquely responsible for the plight of the Palestinians are disproportionate and counterproductive.

—And secondly to teach Jewish history as part of school and university curricula, and not, as has been the case in universities over centuries, as simply a footnote, or more recently, limited to the holocaust.

This follow up article has been written because I have received serious, but what I also consider to be misguided, objections to my suggestions.

These objections are first of all that France is right in its consistent support of U.N. and UNESCO Resolutions condemning Israel and that it is Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights, and not the international condemnations, that is responsible for the negative perception of Israel. And second, that because Jews do not represent a coherent geographically identifiable entity their history cannot be included as part of history courses in schools and universities.

These objections are indicative of a misunderstanding of the degree to which discrimination against Israel and Jews in general has produced a dangerous level of overt and aggressive anti-Semitism in many countries.

At the same time, the unintended consequence of acquiescing in Israel bashing has become a justification for Israel and U.S. policies that reject compromise based fundamentally on their perception that Israel and Jews are isolated and therefore compromise is futile.

What I consider unserious is this total disregard of facts and context.

First and foremost, anti-Zionism is no longer limited to denying Jews the right to a Jewish State. It is now broadened to include systematic hostility to Israel. The frequency of resolutions against Israeli governments whether Likud, Labor, or Centrist is outrageous, considering their disproportion in relation to the paucity of those targeting countries guilty of oppression, assassination, invasion, torture, suppression of opposition parties, and handing out decade long prison sentences for opposition leaders.

Even going back to the 2000s, then-Secretary General Kofi Anan in his speech to open the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2006, admitted that Israel is often unfairly judged by the international body and its various organizations. Annan said. "And too often (disproportionate anti Israel positions) is true, particularly in some U.N. bodies."

The Human Rights Council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world combined including Iran, Sudan, North Korea, China, or Russia. Betraying its mission to protect world heritage and culture, UNESCO repeatedly denies the ancient Jewish and also Christian heritage and culture of the holy cities Jerusalem and Hebron by designating holy sites with Arabic labels as a World Heritage site of "Palestine," even though the Arab invasion of the Holy Land occurred more than 700 years after the sites in question were in existence.

Would France, England and the rest of Europe accept that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher be named as an international heritage "Site of the Burial of the prophet Jesus."

I don’t believe that when some of the most magnificent Byzantine churches in Constantinople were converted to mosques, Christian Europe would have voted changes in their designations!?

When France and other European countries accept this scandalous singling out of Israel, this is a signal not only of anti-Zionism but willingness to destroy the very moral force of the international organizations established in the aftermath of World War II.

Any objective fair assessment of the problems the Palestinians are facing must take into account that neighboring Arab countries for decades after the 1948 establishment of Israel refused to consider the Palestinians as a distinct people but labeled them Arab refugees, that Yasser Arafat refused a Palestinian State at the Camp David negotiations in 2000, that at the outset Arab neighbors refused the division of Palestine into Jewish and Arab States, and that when Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza to allow Palestinian governance Hamas turned Gaza into a war zone instead of a place for economic and social development.

When French school children according to polls consider Israel the most evil country in the world, and Jews in France are attacked with crowds spitting on and burning the Israeli flag, one cannot seriously consider that France’s acceptance of disproportionate and grossly unfair international resolutions is a justifiable policy that is unrelated to the rise of anti-Semitism.

On the second point, that it makes no sense not to teach Jewish history because the Jews have no continual geographic or ethnic continuity that is the characteristic of other peoples.

First of all this is incorrect.

Jews are more connected to their ancient homeland than almost all countries on the Mideast where the peoples as collectivities no longer exist because of invasions and dispersion of collective identities. For example Egyptians today have no ethnic or religious attachment to the Egypt of the time of the Pharaohs. But more importantly if some believe that the Jewish story is worthy of a creative approach, teaching Jewish history alongside histories of would be a major breakthrough?

The point is that Jewish history is not now in most history books.

The most that France for example has done is set aside approximately one hour each semester to teach the history of the Holocaust!

The Jewish story doesn't need to be told in a simplified way. Simon Schama, a professor at Christ’s College Cambridge has written two marvelous volumes, "The Story Of The Jews" that are strictly factual and devoid of any religious favoritism.

One needs to ask why this history hasn't been told to school children or in ancient and Middle Ages university courses, except as a footnote.

In any event, no national education system in Europe is making any effort to foster an understanding of precisely the role Jews have played not only in business, entertainment, academia, politics, the arts, innovation, new technology, start ups, and the sciences with a long list of Nobel prizes winners.

Every effort to speak with any sample of the almost 10 million North African immigrants in France, demonstrates that very very few have acquired any notion of the positive contributions that Jews have made to contemporary and past societies.

This absence of knowledge compared with the defamatory references to Israel and Jews as assassins is a terribly important factor is the preset rise in anti-Semitism.

Only when international discrimination against Israel and Jews is addressed seriously can progress be expected in the fight against Anti-Semitism and furthermore can those who favor the establishment of a Palestinian State and fair treatment of the Palestinian people persuade Israel and the United States to join in their efforts.

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Only when international discrimination against Israel and Jews is addressed seriously can progress be expected in the fight against Anti-Semitism.
palestinian, immigrants, egyptians, world heritage
Tuesday, 25 February 2020 03:43 PM
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