Monday, March 10, 2008

UN Watch - Unsung, understated, undeterred

Pursuant to this blogpost about the good news that Louise Arbour will not be serving a second term as UNHR High Commissioner, here are the latest development, from the website of UN Watch. Hillel Neuer as usual, quietly brilliant:

Madame High Commissioner, we thank you for your annual report and indeed for all your service.

We wish to focus on Section VI of your report, regarding the Durban Review Conference.
UN Watch, as you know, has been a pillar of the anti-racism movement. Our founder, the late Ambassador Morris Abram, was a pioneer of the civil rights movement in the American South who marched arm-in-arm with Rev. Martin Luther King and won one of the great legal battles for the equality of African-Americans.

It is in this spirit that we share our concerns.

Your report describes the outcome of the 2001 Durban conference as a “far-reaching” and “historic” document, and looks forward to the 2009 conference.

We wish to ask: Why does your report omit mention of the notorious abuses that marred the 2001 conference—abuses of the principles of equality and human rights—and which threaten to mar the follow-up as well?

There is no mention of the 2001 preparatory meeting in Tehran, which singled out only one country, Israel, for “ethnic cleansing," "apartheid," and "crime[s] against humanity.” Nor that the final Durban declaration, while toning down this language, nevertheless went on to discriminate against the Jewish state.

Nor is there mention of Durban’s NGO part, where anti-Semitism, in verbal and physical attacks, was rampant. Caricatures of Jews reminiscent of the Nazi period circulated freely. The final NGO statement declared Israel a “racist apartheid state," guilty of “genocide."

We recall the eyewitness account of U.S. Congressman and human rights champion Tom Lantos, whose recent loss we all mourn: “Having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand," he wrote, "this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period.”

These and other concerns led more than 40 states, including the EU, to vote against the budget for Durban II. As French President Sarkozy recently announced:

France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001. Our European partners share France’s concerns. France will chair the EU in the final months preceding the review conference. I say to you: if ever our legitimate demands are not taken into account, we will disengage from the process.

Similar warnings have been sounded by others, with Canada already deciding not to participate.
The genocidal anti-Semitism espoused in Durban, and by Hamas in its sermons and media broadcasts, was translated into deed last night in the massacre by a Palestinian terrorist of innocent students at the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva, murdered while they were studying holy books, an attack you rightly condemned.

We cannot help but notice that this crime occurred moments after this Council gave a moral victory to Hamas by adopting yet another one-sided resolution, effectively denying Israel’s right to self-defense against exactly such crimes, whether in the form of rockets, suicide bombings or shootings.

Madame High Commissioner, we look to your vigilance in defending the true principles of human rights from those that would abuse them.

We thank you again for your service and wish you every success.


I think it is important to provide Mr. Neuer with some support for his concerns, from none other than the former High commissioner, Mary Robinson:

Unfortunately, some participants, both inside and outside the Conference, wanted to make the conflict in the Middle East, which at the time had entered a new phase of violence, the principal focus of Durban. At the Non-Governmental Forum, a parallel meeting which, as is common practice at UN conferences, was also held in Durban to coincide with the inter-governmental discussions, some participants resorted to blatant anti-Semitic speech and activities to convey their message.

And so, at a Conference in which we were supposed to be defending human rights values, we found ourselves faced with appalling bigotry and intolerance. I and many others condemned such language and, in the circumstances, I refused to recommend the final NGO document to the Conference.

And then she goes on to make what should be by now obvious differentiations:

Supporters of Israel need to recognize that criticisms of Israeli policies and practices are not in and of themselves anti-Semitic*. Many human rights groups here and elsewhere are sharply - and I believe rightly - critical of some of Israel's practices, such as targeted killings, based on the application of universally accepted international human rights norms. The Jewish community should engage in this discussion, and use its influence to challenge the government of Israel whenever its policies and security forces violate these international standards.

At the same time, those who advocate for the rights of Palestinians must ensure that their criticisms and related actions do not become broadside attacks against Jews and the Jewish State. It is at this point that they become racist. The conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians -- and by extension much of the Arab world -- will become even harder to address if the rhetoric continues in this way; if anger against Israel continues to spill over into broader patterns of antagonism against Jews, and if the speech devolves into outright racism and calling into question Israel's right to exist.


* Ms. Robinson conveniently buys into the bogus claim, made by Closet antisemites "that anyone who criticises Israeli behaviour is labelled antisemitic... [What] does veer towards antisemtism - [is]making up the lie that anyone who criticises Israel is attacked as an antisemite. (Stephen Pollard)


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