Last month, the United Nations condemned only one country in the world for violating women’s rights. Singling out Israel with specious accusations of harming Palestinian women is a popular annual ritual in Turtle Bay — scapegoating democratic Israel while willfully ignoring the many states with actual, well-known egregious policies toward women. Just because the UN repeats this accusation every year does not make it true. The hypocrisy and institutional bias are mind-boggling.
At the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), whose mission is to promote global gender equality and the advancement of women, a report of the Secretary-General, “Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women,” was presented, discussed, and approved. It accused Israel of violating the rights of Palestinian women through its blockade of Gaza and “occupation” of the disputed territories, and received a vote of 20 in favor (including China, Cuba and Iran), 11 abstentions (including Belgium, Germany, and Japan), and only Israel and the U.S. opposed. In its statement after the vote, the U.S. termed the report a one-sided, politicized document, and Israel described it as an attack on the Jewish state because of its failure to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for the lack of advancement for Palestinian women.
The report describes the dismal situation for Palestinian women in Gaza and the “West Bank,” including those in refugee camps under UNWRA administration. UNWRA, an arm of the UN, has been complicit in fostering hatred against Israel rather than encouraging cultural, legal, and religious reforms to enhance the quality of life of Palestinian women.
According to the UN, Israel’s so-called “occupation of Palestinian land” is the sole impediment to Palestinian women attaining gender equality.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) get a pass. The UN ignores the fact that cultural mores and traditions in Palestinian society are derived almost entirely from Sharia law, which puts women at a stark disadvantage in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and domestic abuse. It excuses the fact that rape, domestic violence, and honor killings are not uncommon among the Palestinians, and these crimes often go unpunished. Under PA or Hamas rule, there is no respect for the rule of law, free speech, transparency, or accountability.
The Commission validates statements like this one from Palestinian representative Haifa Al-Agha who claimed at the March meeting, “Israel… is directing its military machinery against women and girls. They are killing them, injuring them, and leaving them bleeding to death.”
Remember that following the Oslo Accords, the Israeli pullout from Gaza, and other agreements, the Palestinian Authority (which the UN now refers to as the “State of Palestine” even though no such state exists) has control over civilian life (legal and economic matters, public order, local security, civil affairs) for the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the disputed territories, including women, and the Hamas terrorist entity exerts its totalitarian authority over Gaza. Millions of dollars of international aid are sent annually to help improve Palestinian civil society. That money is diverted into private accounts, when not used to build terror tunnels and fund schoolbooks teaching “death to the Jews.” Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights advocate, sums it up this way, “We need to reverse the current trend that is causing Palestinian society to drift even further towards corrupt and brutal rule, both in Gaza and in the West Bank.”
Meanwhile, where is the UN condemnation of Iran for stoning women to death for adultery? Or of Syria where government forces routinely employ rape and other sexual violence, torture and starvation against women as a tactic of war? How about Egypt where female genital mutilation is practiced? Or of Iraq where Yazidi women are forced into sexual slavery? What about Saudi Arabia where women are segregated in public, can’t open bank accounts without the husband’s permission, are forbidden to leave the house or travel without a male guardian, and are discriminated against under the law? In Sudan, domestic violence is allowed and the legal age of marriage for girls is ten. No reports were presented to the Commission regarding these countries, no condemnation registered at the UN. It’s obvious that the UN’s vote against Israel has little to do with improving the lives of women and more to do with defaming and delegitimizing Israel under the guise of a humanitarian argument.
Israel is a pioneer in its commitment to gender equality and the social, economic, and political equality of women. Gender equality is enshrined in its law. According to the latest Gender Equality Index (2012), which measures the gap between women and men in education, the economy, and political empowerment, Israel scores better than the U.S. Israel was the first Western nation ever to elect a female head of state, and its parliament is 27 percent female (vs. 19 percent for the U.S. Congress).
The UN’s blatant discrimination against Israel, the only Jewish state in the world, is overt and unremitting. It defames, delegitimizes, and holds Israel to a double standard — the hallmarks of the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.
In its charter, the UN commits itself to act “in conformity with the principles of justice and international law” and “equal rights and self-determination” of all peoples. It has strayed far from that mission.
The world shrugs and is complicit. Where is the outrage?