Bibi Netanyahu spoke in tones that left one longing for Jeane Kirkpatrick.
Listening to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas address the UN General Assembly last week, I thought I heard a faint echo in the chamber. I heard it again when President Obama argued that he was for establishing a Palestinian state before he was against it.
I thought for a moment that it was the shade of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the liberal Democrat who in 1975 stood up in the General Assembly to pronounce its “Zionism is racism” resolution an obscenity.
But when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, I recognized the voice I heard in the background. Netanyahu chose to stand on the shoulders of a diminutive woman: the late, great, Jeane Kirkpatrick.
In tones that ranged from combative to conciliatory to exasperated, the Israeli leader challenged the members of the UN to, for once, impose the same standards by which they judge Israel on the Palestinians. Why not, he argued, hold the Palestinians and Israelis to the same standards of conduct, and morality?
Netanyahu recited a brief version of the United Nations’ abuses of Israel. The 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution. The 1980 peace agreement with Egypt that was denounced in the UN. He said, “And it’s here year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It’s singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel — the one true democracy in the Middle East.”
Not only is Israel condemned routinely, Netanyahu said, some of the worst despots, dictators and terrorists are elevated to prominence in the UN: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as leader of the UN disarmament conference, Gaddafi’s Libya chairing the Commission on Human Rights, and now Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon presiding over the Security Council.
It is a blindness to morality, an abandonment of epistemological standards that distinguish between freedom and slavery, between terrorism and democracy, that Netanyahu argued against. It is the same moral blindness that Jeane Kirkpatrick condemned as “the sin of moral equivalence.”
Almost three decades ago, Kirkpatrick argued with intellectual precision that the Soviets had undermined the semantic rules by which people and their nations had been judged. She said that it had been important that an educated person found it important and persuasive to distinguish between the concept of civilization set forth in the U.S. constitution and the alternative concepts of the Soviet “constitution.” But, she said, by their ideological and semantic attacks, the Soviets had managed to create a sense of equality. In 1985, she wrote:
I believe that anyone who fails to see a difference between Grenada and Afghanistan is not only seriously mistaken but very seriously confused, and that their confusion is a direct consequence of the Soviets’ colossally effective assault on the realms of value and meaning which our civilization holds dear.
What Kirkpatrick saw three decades ago in the Soviets’ ideological war (which Ronald Reagan won) is what Netanyahu sees now in the ideological war the Palestinians are winning. The sin of moral equivalence in the UN — and among ideological leftists such as President Obama — compels the UN and the left to see the Palestinians and the Israelis as equals.
If the Palestinians cannot achieve that equivalence, they cannot isolate and delegitimize Israel. And if they cannot isolate and delegitimize it, they cannot achieve their goal which is to destroy it.
Preceding Netanyahu, Abbas claimed that the Palestinians had adhered to every international standard, to the terms of all their agreements with Israel, and rejected violence and terrorism in all its forms. He claimed, repeatedly, that the Palestinians’ demands were legitimated by many UN resolutions, earning them a “more effective role for the United Nations in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people as defined by the resolutions of international legitimacy of the United Nations.”
Let’s remember who the Palestinians are, and who Abbas chooses to ally them with. Only then can their claim to “legitimacy” be judged.
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