20 Dec UN Recognises Jewish Holiday for the First Time
For the first time in its 70-year history, the United Nations has officially recognized a Jewish holiday.
U.N. employees who observe the Jewish faith will have the day off and no official meetings will take place on this date from now on, according to the Israeli mission to the organization.
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, considered the most important Jewish religious holiday, will join two of the world’s other monotheistic religions in having one of its high holidays observed by the world body.
Christmas Day, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha have all been recognized by the United Nations as official religious holidays.
This is an excellent decision on the UN’s part — its recognition of multiple Christian and Muslim holidays but not even one Jewish holiday has never made sense. And in a perfect world, the decision would be greeted with approval by individuals of all political stripes.
But this is Israel, of course, where there is no such thing as apolitical. On the “pro” Israel side, there are factually-challenged editorials like this one, in which the authors argue that recognising a Jewish holiday is somehow necessary to compensate for the UN’s supposed anti-Israel bias:
But over time, Israel has been a target for exceptional mistreatment at the United Nations. A pluralistic democracy facing extremists sworn to its destruction, Israel is routinely condemned by the body’s Human Rights Council, more than any other member state. Israel’s assailants at the United Nations often assert that they respect Jews and Judaism — and reserve their shrill disdain only for Israeli policies and Zionism. But the demonization of Israel calls their motives into question.
And on the “anti” Israel side, there are tweets like this one, bizarrely claiming that the UN is somehow honouring Israel by recognising Yom Kippur and that doing so will somehow increase anti-Semitism:
Making Yom Kippur a UN holiday to honor the genocidal “state” of Israel would be sure way to increase global anti-Jewish sentiment.
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) August 27, 2014
I expect better, particularly from the “antis.” Those of us who support progressive change in Israel have argued for years that there is nothing remotely anti-Semitic about criticising Israel’s policies and actions. And there is increasing evidence that eliding the difference between the two in order to insulate Israel from criticism has lost much of its rhetorical power. Tweets like the one above risk undermining all the good work we have done.
It’s really pretty simple: the UN is not honouring Israel by recognising Yom Kippur. It is recognising Judaism, one of the world’s major religions, as it has recognised others. And it’s about time it did.