Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said “Few are guilty, but all are responsible”. But responsibility can be a burden and it is not always easy to stand by principles. Alan Dershowitz talked about this when he was in Auckland, citing a loss of dinner invites because he refused to abandon principles for political opportunity.
Realpolitik abounds and nowhere is that more true than the United Nations, where Saudi Arabia heads the Human Rights Council, Yemen is VP of Womens Council, and Syria leads the Disarmament Committee, just to name a few. It is understandable that international organisations must “sup with a long spoon” at times so that there is dialogue. However, there is a clear difference between engagement and endorsement. Private engagement and dialogue is important but public accolades where they are not warranted undermines the cause.
When the UN allows the worst human rights abusers into positions of judging and setting human rights globally, the UN undermines any of the good work it does. No matter how many good a person or an organisation does, it can be undone with egregiously hypocritical actions. The difficulty of abiding by principles is also a perilous endeavour.
Thus, when the 2019 World Para-Swimming Championships where scheduled to be hosted in Malaysia, and the Malaysian Prime Minister openly discriminated against Israeli athletes, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had a decision to make – to allow the games to continue or to move them based on their stated aspiration “To make for a more inclusive society for people with an impairment through Para sport”.
At first, the IPC engaged with Malaysian officials but it was clear that the intolerance and bigotry toward Israelis was intractable. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was defiant in the face of IPC appeals. It is pleasing, therefore, that the IPC has stood by its principles and withdrawn the event from Malaysia. Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion.”
Kudos to the IPC for walking the talk.