In 2003, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a joint statement on antisemitism:
Recognizing anti-Semitism as a serious human rights violation, we also recognize our own responsibility to take on this issue as part of our work. It should not be left to Jewish groups alone to highlight this issue and to appeal to the international community to address it. We are firmly committed to joining their ongoing efforts and to helping to bring problems of anti-Semitism into the overall human rights discourse.
Now, in 2013, if you look through the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International websites, it is difficult indeed to find any condemnations of Arab or Muslim antisemitism. While they condemn anti-semitism in Western countries, I cannot find a single mention of the phrases “Arab anti-Semitism” or “Muslim anti-Semitism” on either of their sites. Their typical mentions of antisemitism are usually together with Islamophobia.
Given the daily antisemitic incitement in the Arab and Muslim worlds, this is yet another indication that “human rights” organizations have a significant blind spot and are anxious to judge Arabs and Muslims by quite different standards than they judge Westerners.
In the past two days I posted crazed Jew-hating diatribes shown on Lebanese TV, in a popular Egyptian newspaper. Also recently we saw two accusations of the medieval blood libel in Egypt, a newspaper series insulting Judaism in Jordan, as well as examples of antisemitism in the Iraq media, Saudi Arabia newspaper, a Palestinian Arab “human rights group” and “peace activist,” and pan-Arab media, and many more. It is endemic. But worse than that, the hatred is mass produced. In 2001, a hugely popular 30-part Ramadan TV series aired in the Arab world based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was rerun in Egypt this year.
Iran released an antisemitic movie last year.
A purely anti-Semitic TV series (“Khaybar”) is being filmed now in Egypt and Morocco to be shown in Arabic TV will be used to incite hundreds of millions of people against Jews during Ramadan to the Arab world. The filming of the series gets regular coverage in Arab media, and they make clear that it is meant to demonize Jews. The director doesn’t even attempt to hide the purpose of the film. Naturally, “human rights” organizations are silent about that as well.
So where are the condemnations from the mainstream defenders of human rights who have said that antisemitism is a serious human rights violation? Or is it simply too touchy a subject for them? Simply put, human rights organizations do not insist that Arabs and Muslims adhere to the same standards that the rest of the world must.
I think there is another reason why this issue is roundly ignored by the mainstream human rights organizations. They want to believe that if only Israel would offer more concessions, then peace is possible. They want to frame the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of human rights and international law and fairness and other Western constructs. The Arabs happily take advantage of this blind spot and speak only in those terms to Westerners as well, so the cycle of self-deception is complete.
Publicizing the rampant Jew-hatred in the Arab and Muslim worlds, however, will show that the hate transcends any other claims. The Arab goal isn’t human rights. They want to destroy the Jewish state and have Jews revert to the second-class status (at best) that they held in the Middle East for the past 1400 years. The idea that Jews aren’t meekly submissive to their more numerous cousins is what causes this pure hate, not land disputes or “settlements.”
Once this realization sinks in, the Western liberal mind would despair. Peace, it would appear, isn’t possible in such a toxic environment. But since peace is imperative, the thinking goes, all evidence to the contrary must be downplayed. Pretend it is a political problem with a political solution, and don’t let anything get in the way.
The irony is that soft-pedaling Arab and Muslim antisemitism does no one any favors. HRW, Amnesty, Oxfam and all the other human rights organizations can help the cause of peace immensely by shining light on this oldest hatred. Publicizing the issue is necessary for ridding the Muslim world of their hate - or at least opening up a debate about it, a debate that is all but silent. (I have rarely seen a talkback in Arabic condemning an article that denies the Holocaust or accuses Jews of drinking gentile blood on Passover.)
Peace is literally unthinkable when the Jewish people are viewed as evil incarnate. Human rights organizations have clout. Shining light on this problem is essential, and it is not an obstacle to peace – it is a prerequisite. Right now, the human rights organizations have a chance to prove that they mean what they say. The Khaybar TV series is coming, and it is pure incitement against Jews. Denouncing this as a human rights issue – which it is, according to Amnesty’s and HRW’s own words – can show that these organizations are serious about their own stated purposes.