In first, UN panel calls on Palestinians to halt hate speech against Israelis
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In first, UN panel calls on Palestinians to halt hate speech against Israelis

United Nations anti-racism committee urges ‘State of Palestine’ to combat anti-Semitism, end incitement and better protect journalists, dissidents

File: The 73rd United Nations General Assembly on September 29, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. (AFP/Don Emmert)
File: The 73rd United Nations General Assembly on September 29, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. (AFP/Don Emmert)

The United Nation’s anti-racism committee criticized Palestinian authorities in a Thursday report, calling on the “State of Palestine” to act against “racist hate speech and hate crimes,” including incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in a report on the Palestinians said it was concerned about “hate speech in certain media outlets, especially those controlled by Hamas, social media, public officials’ statements and school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”

The report marked the first time the panel had criticized Palestinian officials, according to UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that addressed the session leading to the report.

The committee called on Ramallah to better protect journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents; to act against incitement to violence by public figures, politicians and media officials; and to remove inflammatory and discriminatory images and text from school curricula and textbooks.

An image of a girl smiling as “heretics” are burned in a Palestinian textbook. (IMPACT-se)

The panel also recommended that Palestinian officials ensure that minorities enjoyed full rights and public services, especially Bedouins, and that minorities found adequate representation in politics.

Near the top of the report, titled “Concluding observations on the combined initial and second periodic reports of the State of Palestine,” the committee said that Israel’s presence in the West Bank, its settlements and its blockade of Gaza posed “severe challenges for the State party in fully implementing its obligations under the Convention.”

At the committee’s 99th session, held earlier this month, during a review of the “State of Palestine,” some delegates referred to examples of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content in Palestinian textbooks and state-owned media outlets.

“What happened this week was unprecedented,” Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, said after the session. “Since 1974 when Yasser Arafat and the PLO were welcomed into the United Nations, this is the first time that the world body’s spotlight was officially placed on Palestinian racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism.”

One member of the committee, Brazil’s Deputy Special Secretary for Human Rights, Silvio Albuquerque, asked the Palestinian representatives about “the presence of anti-Semitic and discriminatory contents in textbooks used by children and teenagers in Palestinian schools,” according to a press released issued by NGO Monitor, an Israel-based nonprofit.

Citing information he received from pro-Israel groups at the sidelines of the session, Albuquerque said he was shown “various examples of allegedly racist and anti-Semitic language, content and textbooks.”

Other committee members also asked the Palestinian delegation to respond to similar allegations. The Palestinian delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs Ammar Hijazi, deflected critical questions, asserting Ramallah’s opposition to racial discrimination.

“The important point is that in the UN, the Palestinians are being forced to deal with their own anti-Semitism, including in their textbooks,” said NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg, an Israeli political science professor who addressed this week’s review session.

As opposed to the “usual procedures in the [UN] Human Rights Council,” he added, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination listened to the presentations of pro-Israel groups and used the arguments made to challenge the Palestinians. “This is a major precedent.”

The “State of Palestine” joined the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2004. But although states must file reports on their implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination one year after acceding, and then every two years, the Palestinians submitted their first report only in March 2019.

The 62-page document basically clears the Palestinians of any wrongdoing, while repeatedly accusing Israel of the worst offenses.

“The State of Palestine opposes racism and racial discrimination in all its forms,” it states. At the same time, it claims that leading decision-makers in the “occupation authority” — Israel — “incite racial discrimination and violence against Palestinians without being held to account for their words and deeds.”

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