Israel-bashers beware: Young S.F. native keeps tabs on U.N.

It was author Dr. John Gray who opined that men are from Mars, women from Venus.

But it was a Syrian ambassador to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council who decried Israeli soldiers as “invaders from the planet Mars.”

You may not have caught that bit of diplomacy. But thousands have, thanks to an Internet video of the outrageous utterances of representatives from oppressive regimes at the U.N. Human Rights Council compiled in part by Toby Frankenstein.

The 23-year-old San Francisco native and U.C. Berkeley alum is in the midst of a one-year tenure in Geneva as a fellow for U.N. Watch, a nonprofit that aims to convince the Human Rights Council to start recognizing abuses in the 193 nations in the world not named “Israel.” Barring that, the group at least hopes to publicize the shortcomings and Israel-bashing of that and other U.N. bodies.

Last year, Frankenstein notes, the Human Rights Council passed 12 country-specific resolutions. Nine of them condemned Israel and three bemoaned the situation in Darfur without laying any blame on the Sudanese government.

Of course, he continues, that’s not so surprising considering that 17 of the council’s 47 seats are held by nations in the Islamic bloc, and almost uniformly vote in unison. Nations not toeing the anti-Israel line are treated harshly; Canadian resolutions were immediately buried in committee after the representative said he would not support a statement condemnatory of Israel.

“We understand we’re not going to get Saudi Arabia to come around on the issue of Israel. But that’s not our goal,” explains Frankenstein, in the Bay Area recently to visit his family for a week in late May before heading back to Geneva (where his college education in political economy and French language is serving him well).

“Our goal is to highlight what’s going on so people can take action and write their members of Congress.”

Frankenstein’s time in Geneva isn’t all cheese and chocolate — he’s often crunching numbers with the intensity of an H&R Block employee on April 14. The statistics Frankenstein has compiled on voting patterns and other matters have cropped up in a number of major United States papers and on television networks as well.

The campaigns U.N. Watch has launched often have more tangible results than huge hit counts on YouTube. The organization led efforts to keep an open seat on the Human Rights Council from going to Belarus, a repressive dictatorship. After a hard-fought campaign, Bosnia-Herzegovina won that seat.

“Does Belarus’ loss mean Israel will be condemned fewer times in the council? Probably not,” said Frankenstein, who grew up attending Beth Sholom in San Francisco and was a campus activist for AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, in his undergraduate days.

“But if you have a country like Belarus providing analysis and leadership in the realm of human rights, it cheapens the very notion of human rights. That’s why we were so adamantly opposed.”

Despite witnessing Israel continually being given the piñata treatment while nations with ghastly human rights records are handed a free pass, Frankenstein hasn’t given up on the United Nations.

“Criticizing the U.N is like criticizing Congress. People say ‘I think U.S. Congress is bad.’ No, you think individual members of Congress are bad,” he explains.

“I believe the U.N. could serve as a great vehicle to promote peace and growth and human rights around the world. Unfortunately, it’s been co-opted by a lot of Arab and Muslim regimes that use it to shield their own records. And relativism pervades the U.N.”

Frankenstein smiles and shakes his head.

“I sometimes wonder what would happen if they didn’t have Israel to talk about at the U.N. There’d be a lot of silence.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.