Less than three decades after the United Nations revoked its infamous “Zionism is racism” declaration, an Arab-led group of 18 nations became the first U.N. agency to accuse Israel of promoting an apartheid system within its borders in 2017. During an ensuing debate before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), member states of the “Economic and Social Commission for West Asia”—a Middle East-based organization from which Israel had been excluded—accused the Jewish state of “theft of land,” “violence and terrorism,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “crimes against humanity.”
Then Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and executive director of the group UN Watch, took the floor to pose a deceptively simple question to the countries leveling the charges: “Where are your Jews?”
“Israel’s 1.5 million Arabs, whatever challenges they face, enjoy full rights to vote and to be elected in the Knesset, they work as doctors and lawyers, they serve on the Supreme Court … How many Jews live in your countries?” Neuer asked before the chamber. “Algeria had 140,000 Jews. Algeria, where are your Jews? Egypt used to have 75,000 Jews. Where are your Jews? Syria, you had tens of thousands of Jews. Where are your Jews? Iraq, you had over 135,000 Jews. Where are your Jews?”
The answer to Neuer’s question, of course, was that the once flourishing Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa had been driven from their homelands in waves in the years since Israel’s fight for independence. But his speech was met with silence from the chamber.