This article by Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld was first published in Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s consent.
The “Pariah State” Insult as a Tool of Aggression against Israel
A broad range of semantics is used in the verbal battle against Israel. Together they create a formidable front of attacks through language. These expressions have to be investigated one by one. That is the only possible way to understand how they are used and afterwards how Israel should confront them.
One can start with an extreme expression not often used. One concrete proposal for it was presented at the United Nations (UN). The most perverse example was created by someone who didn’t even use the words “pariah state.” The perpetrator was Michael Lynk, a special investigator of the UN Human Rights Council. He gave a press conference in 2017 at the UN in which he said that the organization must “review Israel’s status as a law-abiding member of the United Nations,” by declaring its occupation as illegal. Lynk said that such a move would isolate Israel internationally by forcing it to end its occupation of Palestinian territories. He also said that a sea change in Israel’s attitude toward Palestinians could be achieved by ending the many forms of military economic, academic and other forms of cooperation with Israel.1
Lynk proposed a general assembly resolution to ask the International Court of Justice at The Hague to issue an advisory opinion on Israel’s status. He based his remarks on a precedent. In 1971, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that South Africa’s administration of Namibia was illegal. Lynk said that dealing with Israel was easier than with North Korea because Israel is dependent on international trade with the US and Europe.
In legal terms there is no Israeli occupation of the West Bank. There was never a Palestinian state there. Israel conquered the area from Jordan, which sovereignty was only recognized by the U.K and Pakistan. The West Bank is legally “disputed territory.”
Lynk’s positions are also antisemitic ones. One can put them alongside the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.2 It gives one example of this hatred as: Applying double standards to [Israel] by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. To add insult to injury, Lynk clarified that his position was not anti-Israel.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights organization UN Watch, reacted by saying: “By any definition of human rights, morality and logic, if Mr. Lynk is a United Nations human rights monitor for the Palestinian territories, he must address Palestinian Authority and Hamas torture and arbitrary arrests committed against their own people, Palestinian stabbings, car-ramming attacks and shootings committed against Israelis.”3
Another major anti-Israel verbal aggressor is Omar Barghouti. He is a cofounder and important promoter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. In a 2016 interview Barghouti said that Israel is slowly becoming a “pariah state.” He states that he is an adherent of a secular democratic single state west of the river Jordan. In this context he says, Palestinians need to get reparations. Furthermore, refugees of the Naqba and from 1967 should be allowed to return to their homes. Bargouti also claims that Arabs should be allowed to live without the threat of violence.4
Ariel Gold, who is Jewish, is among others who have used this expression. She is a co-director of Code Pink, a women-led grassroots organization working to end US wars and militarism, and support peace and human rights initiatives.5 Gold said that Israel would become a “pariah state” because it bars her and fellow activists. Yet that makes good sense as the Code Pink movement supports BDS.6
Well-known American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, has interpreted Obama’s thoughts in which the possibility of Israel becoming a “pariah state” played a role. He wrote about those: “And if Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah – one that alienates even the affections of the US, its last steadfast friend — it won’t survive. Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one.”7
Goldberg has interviewed Obama in great detail. The way he defines Obama’s thoughts is one indication of that President’s greatly distorted mindset about the Middle East. The election of Donald Trump as Obama’s successor as US president and his subsequent acts in regard to Israel have shown that Israel is far from a pariah state.
Most unfortunate however is when this extreme inciting expression is used by official Israeli sources. In 2016, the director general of the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry said that Israel is perceived as a “pariah state” in the international community.8 One can only wonder how much understanding there is about the notion of strategy at that ministry. Even if it were true, an Israeli official should not make such a statement.
If the Ministry had only looked at the multiple and varied international contacts that Israel has and the collaboration in research and many other fields with world leaders in these areas, the director general would have understood that those who perceive Israel as a “pariah state” have a very blinkered view.
It is undeniable that Israel has many enemies and the verbal battle against Israelis is varied and very strong. These Israel-haters are joined by fellow travelers who can participate in these attacks. This is largely possible due to the fact that the Israeli government performs so poorly in fighting propaganda against it.
Mainly thanks to President Trump’s policies, Israel’s situation has improved further. Jerusalem is now recognized as Israel’s capital by the US. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden has already said that he will let the US embassy stay there.9 Israel — also thanks to Trump — now has diplomatic relations with two additional Arab states. Relations with them may well become warmer than with their predecessors, Egypt and Jordan.
The term “pariah state” as an expression against Israel has not been widely used. Yet this analysis can be used as a model for more detailed research of other expressions of hatred used against Israel.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations. Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Juda Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the recognized leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism. His main book on the subject is: The War of a Million Cuts The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism.