Jul 26, 2008

Tribute To A Champion Of Israel

By Yechiel Eckstein

Israel is about to lose one of its strongest and most gifted spokesmen. Dan Gillerman, who has been Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations for more than five years, is leaving the position. He made his final speech to the U.N. Security Council on July 22.

To say Gillerman’s job was a challenge would be an understatement. Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. represents the Jewish state to a body that has consistently sided against Israel and with Israel’s enemies. The U.N. has approved viciously anti-Israel measures such as the infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution of 1975 (which was finally repealed in 1991, but only after much protest by Israel and the U.S.) For years, Israel was denied a seat on the U.N. Security Council, while gross human rights violators such as Syria, Algeria and the Congo were admitted as members. In 2004, the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the U.N., declared Israel's security fence - built to protect innocent Israeli civilians against terrorism - to be illegal, effectively saying that Israel does not have the right to defend her people.

But Gillerman was unfazed by the anti-Israel bias he encountered. Instead, he fought back with intelligence and determination. After a 2004 U.N. General Assembly decision demanding that Israel dismantle its security fence, Gillerman rose to address the delegates, saying, “Allow me to start with a word of thanks. Thank God that the fate of Israel, and of the Jewish people, is not decided in this hall.” On another occasion he stated, “For years, if not decades, this assembly has entertained the Palestinian representative's attempts to manufacture a virtual reality. An alternate world in which there is but one victim and one villain, in which there are Palestinian rights but no Palestinian responsibilities, in which there are Israeli responsibilities but no Israeli rights.”

A few years later, on the 60th anniversary of the U.N. resolution that led to the formation of Israel, Gillerman listened to representatives from Arab and Muslim states as they lamented this milestone event and harshly criticized Israel. When he spoke, he countered, “The penchant for blaming Israel for the repeated Palestinian failures is so widespread and contagious that the absurdity of it goes completely unnoticed. And today reminds us why: the Palestinian addiction to the culture of victimhood is fed by this world body and specifically many of its Member States - as we just witnessed who … use this international forum for their rhetorical theatrics.” Noting the theater workers’ strike then going on in the U.N.’s home of New York, he added, “Broadway might [be] on strike, but the theater on the East River is always open for business.”

Needless to say, this kind of bluntness and honesty concerning Israel is not often heard at the U.N., where Arab and Muslim states typically promote a narrative that portrays Israel as the world’s greatest human rights abuser. But in his role as Ambassador, Gillerman was a strong champion for truth. He earned the respect of many for it, including some who bitterly opposed him in the U.N. In fact, at a farewell party for him last week, attendees included many representatives from Arab states, as well as a senior Palestinian envoy. One U.N. representative said he had never seen so many Arab diplomats at an event honoring an Israeli official.

Dan Gillerman provides a wonderful example for all of us who seek to be stronger, better informed advocates for Israel. Let’s take a cue from him and resolve not to miss any opportunity to speak out on Israel’s behalf, and to help others understand the truth of Israel’s struggle for peace and security. And let us keep as our watchword these words that Gillerman spoke to the U.N. in his final speech to the body as a representative of Israel: “whatever happens, whatever you discuss, whatever transpires Israel will prevail!”

With prayers for shalom, peace,