Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong at the United Nations

“…Imagine a meeting about segregation in the Deep South, with one speaker paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and another pointing out that these uncivilized descendants of African slaves bore the lion’s share of the blame for the racism heaped upon them, and you’ll have some idea of what the delegate from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)—Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the U.N. Abdallah Al-Moualimi—had to say on the topic of anti-Semitism.

“Occupation itself is an anti-Semitic act, because it threatens humankind and human rights,” he said. “The persecution of the Palestinian people and the denial of their human rights—this is also an example of anti-Semitism.”

In other words, the man from the OIC was saying, why are we talking about hatred directed towards Jews when the real issue is the “anti-Semitic”—his word, definitely not mine—treatment of the Palestinians by Israel? In listening to the denial of the historical nature of anti-Semitism as a form of prejudice targeting Jews, I and everyone else in that room witnessed an act of, well, anti-Semitism.

Nobody walked out or protested (although when I muttered my own disgust, a few people turned around and gave me glaring looks). And this seemed to me to underline Prosor’s point: that not only does anti-Semitism stalk the halls of the U.N., but that we expect nothing else.