More Canadas needed
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor speaks in Vancouver on Feb. 3 and in Victoria on Feb. 4. (photo from Ron Prosor via Jewish National Fund Vancouver)
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations says Canada’s foreign policy is at the “heart of the world’s moral compass.”
In an email interview with the Jewish Independent, Ambassador Ron Prosor credited Canada as being a voice of reason and justice.
“Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird have proven time and again to be true friends to Israel,” Prosor said. “They are at the heart of the world’s moral compass.… Canada is standing with Israel as we stand on the frontline in the battle against terror. They are often the first to denounce the anti-Israel bias and stand up as the voice of justice and reason. There are many examples of this bond: Canada was a strong proponent of the effort to make Yom Kippur an official UN holiday; it partnered with us to organize the upcoming special session in the General Assembly on antisemitism; and was one of the few countries to condemn the Syrian delegate … for comparing Israel’s policy to that of the Nazis.”
Prosor spoke to the paper in advance of his visit here in early February, hosted by Jewish National Fund of Canada, British Columbia. He will speak Feb. 3 in Vancouver at Congregation Beth Israel, at 7:30 p.m., and in Victoria the following day, at 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Emanu-El.
Prosor criticized efforts by the Palestinian Authority to gain recognition at the UN and at the International Criminal Court, saying it is an effort to avoid a negotiated resolution to the conflict.
“The Palestinians have found every possible opportunity to avoid direct negotiations with Israel,” he said. “They have engaged in a never-ending string of political games, literally shooting in all directions and missing the real target. The fact of the matter is that their habit of bypassing negotiations by taking unilateral action and blaming everyone but themselves will only move us further from peace. It’s time for the Palestinians to aim higher and find constructive solutions – beginning by engaging in meaningful dialogue.”
The United Nations is the body that, in 1947, passed the Partition Resolution intended to create a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. Israel’s critics routinely note that the very agency that is responsible for its existence is repeatedly on record condemning Israeli policies. Prosor responds that the UN is not the same body it was nearly 70 years ago.
“The landscape of the UN has changed dramatically since its founding,” Prosor said. “Today, fewer than half of its member states are democracies. The halls of the UN used to ring with calls for human rights and human dignity; today, they ring with voices demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. This year, the UN passed 20 resolutions condemning Israel. In comparison, the world’s worst human rights abusers – Iran, Syria, and North Korea – each received one condemnation. This anti-Israel bias pervades the UN system.”
Many of the UN’s most vociferous condemnations of Israel emanate from the UN Human Right Council (UNHRC).
“For years, the Human Rights Council has singled out Israel for condemnation,” Prosor said. “I have to note that some of the world’s most repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia and Cuba, are members of the Human Rights Council.”
Saudi Arabia is currently in the international spotlight for carrying out the first of 20 court-ordered floggings of democracy blogger Raif Badawi. After Friday prayers a week ago, Badawi, who created the blog Free Saudi Liberals, was lashed 50 times over the course of 15 minutes in a public square in front of a mosque in Jeddah. He is scheduled to receive the same punishment for a total of 20 successive Fridays, or 1,000 lashes. This is in addition to his sentence of 10 years in prison.
Despite this immediate example and other atrocities perpetrated by elected members of UNHRC, the body’s attentions are overwhelmingly focused on the Jewish state, Prosor said.
“To date, there have been 22 emergency meetings of the HRC to deal with situations around the world – 33 percent of them dealt with Israel,” Prosor said. “Additionally, Israel is singled out during regular sessions. Article 4 of the Council’s agenda examines the abuses of every single country in the world, except one. Israel – and Israel alone – has its own permanent place on the agenda: Article 7. This isn’t just a double standard, it’s a triple standard. One standard for democracies, one standard for dictators and a whole other impossible standard for Israel.”
“Another example is the UN’s UNISPAL [UN Information System on the Question of Palestine] website,” Prosor said. “It has advertised ‘apartheid tours’ in Israel and promoted a petition calling for the Canadian prime minister to cancel a visit to Israel.
“The UN could be playing a more constructive role by investing less time targeting Israel and more time advancing peace and security, economic growth, women’s rights, minority rights and so on,” he said. “None of this will be possible so long as the institution is held hostage by the world’s most repressive regimes.”
Though he is the lead representative of Israel at an organization that sometimes seems to have condemnation of the Jewish state as its primary mission, Prosor insists he is not intimidated.
“I walk the halls of this organization tall and proud of my extraordinary nation, one of the freest and more democratic countries on earth,” he said. “At the UN, I feel it is important to show the world what Israel is about beyond our conflict. We have so much innovation and ingenuity to share in agriculture, medicine, high-tech, education and more. We are a nation of just eight million that has produced 12 Nobel prizes, that sends satellites into space, puts electric cars on the road and develops the technology to power everything from cellphones to solar panels to medical devices. I feel privileged to represent Israel and the Jewish people.”
Prosor said he is bringing a message to Canada that emphasizes the parallels between the two countries.
“Israel and Canada share the same value system – we believe in democracy, justice, human rights and peace,” he said. “Together, we are standing firm amidst the stormy seas of global diplomacy to make the world a more peaceful place. The UN needs more countries like Canada – countries that are willing to take a stand and defend our common values.”
Pat Johnson is a Vancouver writer and principal in PRsuasiveMedia.com.