Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Office issued a list of businesses “involved in certain activities relating to [Jewish] settlements” in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and parts of Jerusalem. Setting aside the office’s dubious assumption that international law forbids Jews from living in the areas in question, and also setting aside its obsessive fixation on Israel, Evelyn Gordon examines the sheer absurdity of the suggestion that the companies on the list somehow violate anyone’s human rights:
[W]hat horrendous activities do these 112 companies engage in? Well, there are several supermarket chains, which sell groceries to both Israelis and Palestinians. . . . There are several fuel companies, which operate gas stations where both Israelis and Palestinians fill up their cars. . . . There are also several food and clothing manufacturers, like General Mills, Angel Bakeries, and Delta Galil, whose crime seems to consist of nothing but the fact that their cereals, bread, and underwear can be found on supermarket shelves in the West Bank, Golan Heights, and eastern Jerusalem.
By contrast, the United Nations couldn’t find a single company engaged in “captivity of the Palestinian financial and economic markets” or “practices that disadvantage Palestinian enterprises, including through restrictions on movement [or] administrative and legal constraints”—something that might actually raise human-rights concerns. And only three were involved in providing “surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall, and checkpoints directly linked with settlements,” which at least sounds sinister if you don’t realize that such equipment is merely intended to prevent terrorists from slaughtering children in their beds.
Human-rights violations used to refer to grave crimes like murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing. But now, along comes the UN Human Rights Council and says that, actually, even [the provision of] the most essential human necessities—food, water, transportation, communication—raise “particular human-rights concerns.” This turns the very idea of “human-rights concerns” into a bad joke: if every human activity is a “human-rights concern,” then nothing is.
And, as always, the biggest losers will be all the people worldwide suffering murder, torture, rape, and other genuine abuses. For their cries will be drowned out by the din of the UN’s lofty crusade against supermarkets and gas stations.