“How Can You Defend Israel?” Part II

January 2, 2011

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, Januar 2, 2011

Since writing “How can you defend Israel?” last month, I’ve been deluged by comments. Some have been supportive, others harshly critical. The latter warrant closer examination.

The harsh criticism falls into two basic categories.

One is over the top.

It ranges from denying Israel’s very right to nationhood, to ascribing to Israel responsibility for every global malady, to peddling vague, or not so vague, anti-Semitic tropes.

There’s no point in dwelling at length on card-carrying members of these schools of thought. They’re living on another planet.

Israel is a fact. That fact has been confirmed by the UN, which, in 1947, recommended the creation of a Jewish state. The UN admitted Israel to membership in 1949. The combination of ancient and modern links between Israel and the Jewish people is almost unprecedented in history. And Israel has contributed its share, and then some, to advancing humankind.

If there are those on a legitimacy kick, let them examine the credentials of some others in the region, created by Western mapmakers eager to protect their own interests and ensure friendly leaders in power.

Or let them consider the basis for legitimacy of many countries worldwide created by invasion, occupation, and conquest. Israel’s case beats them by a mile.

And if there are people out there who don’t like all Jews, frankly, it’s their problem, not mine. Are there Jewish scoundrels? You bet. Are there Christian, Muslim, atheist, and agnostic scoundrels? No shortage. But are all members of any such community by definition scoundrels? Only if you’re an out-and-out bigot.

The other group of harsh critics assails Israeli policies, but generally tries to stop short of overt anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism. But many of these relentless critics, at the slightest opportunity, robotically repeat claims about Israel that are not factually correct.

There are a couple of methodological threads that run through their analysis.

The first is called confirmation bias. This is the habit of favoring information that confirms what you believe, whether it’s true or not, and ignoring the rest.

While Israel engages in a full-throttled debate on policies and strategies, rights and wrongs, do Israel’s fiercest critics do the same? Hardly.

Can the chorus of critics admit, for example, that the UN recommended the creation of two states – one Jewish, the other Arab – and that the Jews accepted the proposal, while the Arabs did not and launched a war?

Can they acknowledge that wars inevitably create refugee populations and lead to border adjustments in favor of the (attacked) victors?

Can they recognize that, when the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands until 1967, there was no move whatsoever toward Palestinian statehood?

Can they explain why Arafat launched a “second intifada” just as Israel and the U.S. were proposing a path-breaking two-state solution?

Or what the Hamas Charter says about the group’s goals?

Or what armed-to-the-teeth Hezbollah thinks of Israel’s right to exist?

Or how nuclear-weapons-aspiring Iran views Israel’s future?

Or why President Abbas rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s two-state plan, when the Palestinian chief negotiator himself admitted it would have given his side the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank?

Or why Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize the Western Wall or Rachel’s Tomb as Jewish sites, while demanding recognition of Muslim holy sites?

Or why Israel is expected to have an Arab minority, but a state of Palestine is not expected to have any Jewish minority?

Can they admit that, when Arab leaders are prepared to pursue peace with Israel rather than wage war, the results have been treaties, as the experiences of Egypt and Jordan show?

And can they own up to the fact that when it comes to liberal and democratic values in the region, no country comes remotely close to Israel, whatever its flaws, in protecting these rights?

Apropos, how many other countries in the Middle East – or beyond – would have tried and convicted an ex-president? This was the case, just last week, with Moshe Katsav, sending the message that no one is above the law – in a process, it should be noted, presided over by an Israeli Arab justice.

And if the harsh critics can’t acknowledge any of these points, what’s the explanation? Does their antipathy for Israel – and resultant confirmation bias – blind them to anything that might puncture their airtight thinking?

Then there is the other malady. It’s called reverse causality, or switching cause and effect.

Take the case of Gaza.

These critics focus only on Israel’s alleged actions against Gaza, as if they were the cause of the problem. In reality, they are the opposite – the effect.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it gave local residents their first chance in history – I repeat, in history – to govern themselves.

Neighboring Israel had only one concern – security. It wanted to ensure that whatever emerged in Gaza would not endanger Israelis. In fact, the more prosperous, stable, and peaceful Gaza became, the better for everyone. Tragically, Israel’s worst fears were realized. Rather than focus on Gaza’s construction, its leaders – Hamas since 2007 – preferred to contemplate Israel’s destruction. Missiles and mortars came raining down on southern Israel. Israel’s critics, though, were silent. Only when Israel could no longer tolerate the terror did the critics awaken – to focus on Israel’s reaction, not Gaza’s provocative action.

Yet, what would any other nation have done in Israel’s position?

Just imagine terrorists in power in British Columbia – and Washington State’s cities and towns being the regular targets of deadly projectiles. How long would it take for the U.S. to go in and try to put a stop to the terror attacks, and what kind of force would be used?

Or consider the security barrier.

It didn’t exist for nearly 40 years. Then it was built by Israel in response to a wave of deadly attacks originating in the West Bank, with well over 1000 Israeli fatalities (more than 40,000 Americans in proportional terms). Even so, Israel made clear that such barriers cannot only be erected, but also moved and ultimately dismantled.

Yet the outcry of Israel’s critics began not when Israelis were being killed in pizzerias, at Passover Seders, and on buses, but only when the barrier went up.

Another case of reverse causality – ignoring the cause entirely and focusing only on the effect, as if it were a stand-alone issue disconnected from anything else.

So, again, in answer to the question of my erstwhile British colleague, “How can you defend Israel?” I respond: Proudly.

In doing so, I am defending a liberal, democratic, and peace-seeking nation in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood, where liberalism, democracy, and peace are in woefully short supply.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Jerusalem Post.

In Memoriam: Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010)

December 15, 2010

“The controlled chaos is one way to get creativity. The intensity of it, the physical rush, the intimacy created the kind of dialogue that leads to synergy.” Richard Holbrooke

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010)

Richard Holbrooke (April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010)

Richard Holbrooke was the most ubiquitous and brilliant diplomat of his generation, distinguished for his legendary toughness as a negotiator in Asia, Europe, and beyond. As a diplomat, writer, and investment banker, he has stood near the pinnacle of power, renewing the credibility of U.S. diplomacy.

To commemorate the passing of the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, chief architect of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, we reproduce some articles and stories related to this giant of U.S. foreign policy.

United States presidential election, 2008: The Next President

Former U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke discusses Russia, Georgia and Kosovo

Bosnian Crisis

U.S. President Obama appoints envoys to Middle East and South Asia

Afpak: Richard Holbrooke’ U.S. Strategy for South Asia

Endgame with Iran? / Endspiel mit Iran?

November 15, 2010

Der Tagesspiegel, one of Germany’s leading newspapers, asked our beloved friend David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, to write the following op-ed in German: Endspiel mit Iran? English translation is below.

Endgame with Iran?

by David Harris
November 15, 2010

Iran's Nuclear Facilities

Iran's Nuclear Facilities

Another round of talks of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on the Iranian nuclear program is expected shortly. Or is it?

Iran’s contradictory statements make it difficult to predict. One moment, Iranian leaders indicate openness to renewed negotiations. Next, they assert there is nothing to talk about.

There is much to talk about. Iran is in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions regarding its nuclear program. The issue has nothing to do with Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy. It has to do with Iran’s aim to acquire nuclear-weapons capability, a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which it signed.

There are those who believe a nuclear-armed Iran is manageable. They assert that containment can work.

But can it? During the Cold War, Moscow and Washington understood the concept of mutual assured destruction. Though the world came close during the Cuban missile crisis, nuclear weapons were never used. Iran may be a different story. It is driven by a theology which believes in hastening the coming of the so-called Hidden Imam. If unleashing war would help, it cannot be ruled out.

Even if Iran had weapons it did not use, the world would be a more dangerous place.

First, it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia would likely seek their own weapons. If so, the risks of nuclear war, accidents, theft of nuclear material, and technology sharing grow exponentially.

Second, if Turkey followed suit, what would that mean for Greece and Cyprus, two EU members long embroiled in tense relations with Ankara? One Greek official told us that Greece might have to respond by starting its own program.

Third, what about Iran’s neighbors who do not have the capacity to keep up? Would they fall under the Iranian sphere of influence, their foreign policies neutered as Finland’s was during the Cold War?

And fourth, Israel would be forced to live with a frightening new reality—a regime that not only calls for wiping Israel off the map, but then also has the tools to do it. The situation would be made still worse by the fact that three of Israel’s neighbors – Syria, Hamas-run Gaza, and Hezbollah’s state-within-a state in Lebanon – are already within Iran’s orbit.

In other words, an Iranian nuclear capacity is a global game-changer.

Will negotiations stop the Iranian march to the goal line? The record to date is discouraging. The EU began talks with Iran in 2003 and was outwitted in the ensuing years, as Iran bought time to install more centrifuges and enrich more uranium. Some believed the absence of the U.S. from those talks during the Bush era prevented progress. Yet President Obama’s extended hand has been spurned more than once by Iran.

There is nothing inherently wrong with more talks, as long as they do not merely allow Tehran to buy time. To increase the likelihood of success, Iran must understand that when Europe and the U.S. say that it will not be allowed to produce and possess nuclear weapons, they mean it.

That requires enforcing existing sanctions, pressing other countries to do the same, and monitoring those nations helping Iran bypass the measures. It also means that Europe’s trade with Iran cannot go up, as it has this year for many countries, including Germany.

Lastly, there is the question of the military option. The best way to avoid it is by making clear that it is on the table in all dealings with Iran. Only if Iran’s leaders grasp that the world is truly serious about preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons can we hope for a diplomatic solution.

They Think They Can Destroy Israel

November 3, 2010

Dear Friend of Israel,

They’ve tried to destroy Israel through warfare.

They’ve tried to destroy Israel through suicide bombings.

They’ve tried to destroy Israel by firing thousands of rockets into Israeli cities.

Now, Israel’s enemies are launching another attack. And it’s going to succeed, unless we as pro-Israel Americans and Europeans come to Israel’s defense.

Their new plan of attack — to delegitimatize Israel’s very right to exist – and this plan is well underway.

Just look at the Goldstone Report, which seeks to question Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to defend its citizens.

At no time in history, have we seen any other nation be condemned for taking defensive action after having more than 6,300 rockets and mortars launched on its cities.

And Goldstone is just the beginning.

Since 2006 alone, the U.N. Human Rights Council (led by some of the world’s leading human rights violators) has targeted 27 out of 34 censures against Israel.

Throughout these attacks on Israel’s legitimacy, the only country that has consistently stood by Israel’s side has been the United States of America.

Goldstone is a prime example of this. By a vote of 344-36, the U.S. House of Representatives issued a resolution that soundly rejected the findings of the report and called on the administration to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration by the U.N.

This stands in stark contrast to the European Parliament, which just last month (by a vote of 335-387) urged its member states to “monitor actively the implementation of recommendations included in the Goldstone Report.”

It is vital we ensure that consistent U.S. support for Israel continue, which is why I urge you to become a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee today.

For nearly 60 years, AIPAC has worked to make Israel more secure by ensuring American support remains strong.

By joining AIPAC, you help us work year-round with both Democratic and Republican political leaders to enact public policy that strengthens the vital U.S.-Israel relationship.

Please don’t delay. Join AIPAC and help us ensure continued U.S. support for the Jewish state.

U.S. Congress will soon consider the FY 2011 foreign aid budget, which includes $3 billion in security assistance for Israel. Please make a special donation today to ensure AIPAC has the resources to work with Congress in support of this critical security assistance Israel needs to protect her citizens.

Thank You,

David Berger
Editor & Publisher HIRAM7 REVIEW

Searching for Stability in Sudan

September 24, 2010

World leaders meet today at the United Nations to discuss growing fears over the possible collapse of Sudan, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently called a “ticking time bomb.

Map of Northeast Africa highlighting the Darfur region of Sudan

Map of Northeast Africa highlighting the Darfur region of Sudan

U.S. legislators sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to “take additional steps” to define its policy on Sudan and to “publicly articulate” the consequences should the Sudanese government break his word on commitments to the 2005 peace accord.

There is large disagreement about the best policy course for the United States to pursue in Sudan, but analysts concur that any effective policy will have to consider Sudan’s internal politics and the center’s relationship with its periphery.

Read full story.

U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess said Iran could build nuclear weapon in a year

April 21, 2010

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are set to begin a three-day military drill in the Persian Gulf on April 22, during which Iranian-made missiles will be tested.

Meanwhile, at an hearing of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee on April 14, 2010, the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, was asked how long it would take Iran to produce a single nuclear weapon. Burgess told the committee,”We’re talking one year.”

Read full story.

Iran: Prospects for Regime Change

April 1, 2010

As the Obama administration attempts to garner international support for strengthened sanctions against Iran, Iran continues to make progress in its nuclear program. Despite increased international attention, Iran continues to pose perhaps the greatest threat to peace of any country in the world.

The ongoing turmoil in Iran almost nine months after 2009’s fraudulent presidential election raises questions about the continued viability of the Iranian regime.

With the United States exploring sanctions at the United Nations and key members of Congress calling for increased support to the Iranian opposition, the Foreign Policy Initiative will host a half-day conference on “Iran: Prospects for Regime Change,” on Tuesday, April 6th.  Leading Iran experts will examine the state of the opposition and discuss U.S. policy options.

With a growing consensus in Washington that the actions of the Iranian regime make a negotiated settlement to the Iranian nuclear crisis unlikely, this timely conference will explore the prospects for change in Iran from within and what the United States should be doing to support Iran’s democrats and resolve the Iranian nuclear question once and for all.

Also, the ability of the regime to clamp down on the Green Movement in recent months, especially its efforts on February 11, have caused some outside observers to argue that Iran’s opposition movement has fizzled out roughly nine months after the election that brought thousands of protesters into the streets.  In the wake of last month’s events, many questions have been raised regarding the ability of the opposition to succeed against the regime’s brutal tactics.


The Foreign Policy Initiative
Iran: Prospects for Regime Change

Tuesday, April 6, 2010
(Rescheduled from February 11, 2010)
8:30AM – 12:00PM
1777 F Street NW

8:30 – 9:00        Registration and Breakfast
9:00 – 10:15      State of the Green Movement

Reuel Gerecht, Foundation for Defense of Democracies 
Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute for Near East Policy 
Mohsen Sazegara, Research Institute for Contemporary Iran

William Kristol, The Weekly Standard and The Foreign Policy Initiative

10:15 – 10:30     Break

10:30 – 12:00     U.S. Policy Options

Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations 
Danielle Pletka, The American Enterprise Institute 
Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations

Robert Kagan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and  The Foreign Policy Initiative

For more information or to arrange an interview with Jamie Fly, head of the Foreign Policy Initiative, please contact MNS Publicity:

Sandy Schulz, (202) 244-1460 or sandy@mnspublicity.com

USA and France Press for Quick Iran Sanctions

March 31, 2010

At a joint White House news conference, U.S. President Barack Obama, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he wanted approval within weeks for tougher UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

President Barack Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have a discussion in the Blue Room of the White House before their joint press availability, March 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have a discussion in the Blue Room of the White House before their joint press availability, March 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The White House – Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
March 30, 2010

Remarks by President Obama and President Sarkozy of France during Joint Press Availability

East Room

4:56 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please, everybody have a seat. Good afternoon. Bienvenue. 

I am delighted to welcome my dear friend, President Sarkozy, to the White House. And I also want to welcome to the United States the First Lady of France, and Michelle and I are very much looking forward to hosting our guests at dinner this evening.

Now, I have to point out that the French are properly famous for their cuisine, and so the fact that Nicolas went to Ben’s Chili Bowl for lunch — (laughter) — I think knows — shows his discriminating palate. My understanding is he had a half-smoke, so he was sampling the local wares. And we appreciate that very much.

This visit is an opportunity to return the hospitality that the President and the French people have shown to me during my visits to France. And that includes our family’s wonderful visit to Paris last summer. Michelle and I will never forget the opportunity to introduce our daughters for the first time to the City of Lights. And I don’t think that Sasha will ever forget celebrating her 8th birthday at the Élysée Palace with the President of France. That’s a pretty fancy way for an 8-year-old to spend their birthday.

Today, President Sarkozy and I have reaffirmed the enduring ties between our countries. France is our oldest ally, and one of our closest. We are two great republics —- bound by common ideals —- that have stood together for more than two centuries, from Yorktown to Normandy to Afghanistan. 

Under President Sarkozy’s leadership, France has further secured its rightful place as a leader in Europe and around the world, recognizing that meeting global challenges requires global partnerships. France took the historic step of returning to NATO’s military command, and we are working to revitalize our transatlantic bonds, including a strong, capable European Union, which the United States firmly supports — because a close transatlantic partnership is critical to progress, whether it’s applying our combined strength to promote development and confront violent extremism in Africa, or reconstruction in Haiti, or advancing peace from the Caucasus to the Middle East.

Mr. President, on behalf of the American people, I also want to thank you for your personal efforts to strengthen the partnership between our countries.  We first met four years ago. I was a senator then; Nicolas was still running for President at the time, and I immediately came to admire your legendary energy —- and your enthusiasm for what our countries can achieve together. That was the spirit of your eloquent speech to Congress three years ago, which deeply moved many Americans.

Over the past year, the President and I have worked closely on numerous occasions. We respect one another and understand one another, and we share a belief that through bold yet pragmatic action, our generation can bend the arc of history toward justice and towards progress. And this shared commitment to solving problems allowed us to advance our common interests today.

We agreed to continue working aggressively to sustain the global economic recovery and create jobs for our people. And this includes, as we agreed with our G20 partners at Pittsburgh, to replacing the old cycle of bubble and bust with growth that is balanced and sustained. And this requires effective coordination by all nations. To that end, I updated the President on our efforts to pass financial reform, and I look forward to the Senate taking action on this landmark legislation so we never repeat the mistakes that led to this crisis.

We must provide sufficient oversight so that reckless speculation or reckless risk-taking by a few big players in the financial markets will never again threaten the global economy or burden taxpayers. We must assure that consumers of financial products have the information and safeguards that they need, so their life savings are not placed in needless jeopardy. And that’s why I press for the passage of these reforms through Congress when they return, and I will continue to work with President Sarkozy and other world leaders to coordinate our efforts, because we want to make sure that whatever steps we’re taking, they are occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. 

We agreed that sustained and balanced growth includes rejecting protectionism.  France is one of our largest trading partners. And we need to expand global commerce, not constrain it.  With that regard, we think it’s important that Doha trade negotiations move forward this year, and we need all interested parties to push for a more ambitious and balanced agreement that opens global markets. And we look forward to France’s presidency of both the G8 and G20 next year. So Nicolas is going to be very busy.

To address climate change, we agreed that all nations aligned with the Copenhagen accord must meet their responsibilities. And I would note that President Sarkozy’s leadership has resulted in significant new resources to address deforestation around the world. Upcoming meetings at the United Nations and the Major Economies Forum will be an opportunity for nations to follow up their Copenhagen commitments with specific and concrete actions that reduce emissions.

We reaffirmed our commitment to confront the greatest threat to global security —- the spread of nuclear weapons. And I updated President Sarkozy on our new START treaty with Russia. I look forward to welcoming President Sarkozy back to Washington in two weeks for our summit on securing vulnerable nuclear material so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists. 

We discussed our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On this the United States and France are united, are inseparable.  With our P5-plus-1 partners, we offer Iran good faith proposals to resolve this matter through diplomacy. But Iran thus far has rejected those offers. Today, the international community is more united than ever on the need for Iran to uphold its obligations. And that’s why we’re pursuing strong sanctions through the U.N. Security Council. 

And finally we discussed our efforts to advance security and peace around the world, including in the Middle East, where we agree that all sides need to act now to create the atmosphere that gives the proximity talks the best chance to succeed. 

I shared my impressions from my discussions with President Karzai on the urgent need for good government and development in Afghanistan. As I told our troops, we salute our coalition partners, and that includes France, which is one of the largest contributors to the NATO mission, and which has given its most precious resource, the lives of its young men and women, to a mission that is vital to the security of both our countries’ and the world’s security.

So I thank President Sarkozy for his visit and for the progress that our countries have made today, in large part because of his extraordinary leadership. We are global partners facing global challenges together, and I think that Nicolas will agree that when it comes to America’s oldest ally, we’ve never been closer.

So I’ll simply close with words that one American leader expressed to another French partner more than 200 years ago, because Washington’s words to Rochambeau reflect the bonds between our countries today: We are “fellow laborers in the cause of liberty and we have lived together as brothers should do — in harmonious friendship.” 

In that spirit, I welcome President Nicolas Sarkozy.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY:  Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for your invitation. I think that we can say — I stand to be corrected by Bernard Kouchner and Christine Lagarde — but I think we can say that rarely in the history of our two countries has the community of views been so identical between the United States of America and France.

To wit, one example, which is that France would not be stepping next year into the presidency of the G20 had the United States of America not supported France for this presidency. Now, there are the words, there are the statements, and then there are the facts, the acts, and that is a fact. 

Now, I will not repeat what President Obama so eloquently said. On Afghanistan, we support President Obama’s strategy. We cannot afford to lose — not for us, not for ourselves, but for Afghanistan and for the people of Afghanistan, who are entitled to live in freedom. Of course the road is arduous. Of course nothing can be anticipated. And of course we are so sorrowful for the loss of young lives. But we have to have the courage to go to the end of our strategy and explain that there is no alternative strategy.  Defeat would be too high a price for the security of Americans, the French, and Europeans. By fighting in Afghanistan, what we are fighting for is world security, quite simply.

Now, on Iran, I am very satisfied with what President Obama has said. The time has come to take decisions.  Iran cannot continue its mad race. Now, we don’t want to punish Iran, which deserves better than what it has by way of leadership today, and therefore fully support in order to get stronger, tougher sanctions at the Security Council and take the necessary decisions is what you have. I have said to President Obama that with Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown we will make all necessary efforts to ensure that Europe as a whole engages in the sanction regime.

On the Middle East, it’s excellent news to hear that the United States are thus engaged. Of course peace in the Middle East is the — is something which concerns primarily the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the absence of peace in the Middle East is a problem for all of us, because what it does is keep feeding terrorism all over the world. And I wish to express my solidarity vis-à-vis President Obama in condemning the settlement process. Everybody knows how engaged and committed I am vis-à-vis Israel’s security, but the settlement process achieves nothing and contributes in no way to Israel’s safety and security. There comes a time when you have to take initiatives in favor of peace.

Now, on financial regulation, again, it’s great news for the world to hear that the United States is availing itself of rules, adopting rules so that we not go back to what we have already experienced. And during the French presidency of the G20, Tim Geithner, Christine Lagarde are going to be working hand-in-glove in order to go even further in regulating world capitalism, and in particular, raising the issue of a new world international monetary order.

On all these subjects there’s much convergence of views. And of course I want to say to President Obama how glad we were for him and for the USA to hear of the successful passing of the health care reform. 

And insofar as the President has revealed a secret — namely, where I had lunch today — I should say that I have a good friend in Washington who had actually recommended that restaurant. When I walked in I saw a huge photograph of President Obama. And I’m afraid that when you go back to that restaurant you may see a smaller photograph of the French President.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We’ve got time for a couple of questions. I’m going to call on Ben Feller. There you are, Ben — AP.

Q    Thank you, sir. Thank you for your patience. President Obama, you’ve talked about the importance of having consequences for Iran over its nuclear program, but is there ever a real deadline? What is your specific timeline for U.N. sanctions on Iran? And is it one that the American people can believe in?


Q   I’m sorry, sir, I just wanted to ask President Sarkozy, you said yesterday in New York that the world needs an open America, an America that listens. I’m wondering if you can elaborate; specifically if you think President Obama is open to the world and is listening to you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me answer the second question, even though that was to Nicolas. I listen to Nicolas all the time. I can’t stop listening to him.  (Laughter.) 

On Iran, we came in with a very clear approach and a very clear strategy, and it was an open book to the world. We said we would engage Iran and give them an opportunity to take the right path, a path that would lead to prosperity and opportunity for their people and a peaceful region, and one in which they would allow themselves to become a full-fledged member of the community of nations. The alternative path was further isolation and further consequences.

We mobilized the international community around this approach, including partners like Russia that in the past might have been more hesitant to take a firmer stance on Iran’s nuclear program. What we said, though, was that there was going to be a time limit to it and that if we had not seen progress by the end of the year, it was time for us to move forward on that sanctions track.

My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring. So I’m not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place; I’m interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks. And we are working diligently with our international partners, emphasizing to them that, as Nicolas said, this is not simply an issue of trying to isolate Iran; it has enormous implications for the safety and the security of the entire region. We don’t want to see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

A conflict in the Middle East as a consequence of Iran’s actions could have a huge destabilizing effect in terms of the world economy at a time when it’s just coming out of a very deep recession. 

The long-term consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran are unacceptable.  And so Nicolas, myself and others agree that we have engaged; the door remains open if the Iranians choose to walk through it. But they understand very clearly what the terms of a diplomatic solution would be. And in the interim we are going to move forcefully on a U.N. sanctions regime.

Now, do we have unanimity in the international community? Not yet. And that’s something that we have to work on. We think that we are in a much stronger position to get robust sanctions now than we were a year ago prior to us initiating our strategy.

But it’s still difficult, partly because, let’s be honest, Iran is a oil producer and there are a lot of countries around the world that, regardless of Iran’s offenses, are thinking that their commercial interests are more important to them than these long-term geopolitical interests. And so we have to continue to apply pressure not just on Iran but we have to make sure that we are communicating very clearly that this is very important to the United States.

Q   You can get unanimity within weeks?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We think that we can get sanctions within weeks.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: Well, I’ve read many comments — and I must say I’ve been quite amused — on the relations between European leaders and the President of the United States. I say I’m amused because I’ve thought to myself, well, when we speak to one another, people must be listening to our phone calls because I have seen reports on conversations and discussions which in no way resemble anything that has ever taken place between Barack Obama and myself. 

Now, why is it easy for us to work? And I speak on behalf of Chancellor Merkel, Gordon Brown, and other leaders. Well, because President Obama, when he says something, keeps his word. His word is his bond. And that is so important.  There’s a joke among us — we don’t like surprises. Well, from my point of view, there’s no surprises. When he can, he delivers. When he can’t, he says so. So there are no surprises. And we try to be likewise.

Furthermore, secondly, on all topics — and there have been some pretty tough topics. I mean, for instance, bonus — taxes on bonuses, regulation, financial regulations — pretty heavy going stuff — Copenhagen. I mean, I happen to think that President Obama is a step ahead of public opinion in the United States on this. But we’re constantly talking about it. It’s even President Obama who wanted us to have a call conference, a videoconference virtually every month with Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown.

Now, this doesn’t really mean that we absolutely agree neck and neck on everything, but we talk amongst ourselves. And this is a novelty from the point of view of Europe whenever we look at the United States that everything is put on the table, anything can be discussed, everything can be discussed.

What matters, you see, is not whether we agree once systematically before we’ve even started discussing — that’s suspicious — it’s to say whatever divergence of views we have, we can talk about it among ourselves. And I say things very frankly to you, and this is what all we European leaders believe and think.

I’ve also heard it said that Europe was less interested in the United States. Well, for heaven’s sake, how many times do we have to come over to show that we are interested? What would it mean if we were interested?

So, very frankly and very honestly on this, not only is it not an issue, not a problem, but it’s great to be able to work under such conditions. I would say that what I have to say about President Obama is the same as what Bernard Kouchner could say about Hillary Clinton, or Christine Lagarde about Tim Geithner. We’re constantly having a dialogue. 

I could even take you — give you an example of something on which we don’t necessarily agree, such as Syria — or we didn’t agree.  France took an initiative, as you know. Well, I’ll say this to you: At no point, no point, has President Obama turned his back on what we were doing. Constantly he’s watching, he’s listening. We’re constantly exchanging information on the subject. Even when there are more complex topics, including in our relations with the Russians, before even we inform our Russian — the Russians or our partners, I pick up the phone, I call President Obama, and he knows exactly what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it. You follow me on that?

So, there may be disagreements, but never for the wrong reasons. And as we are very transparent on both sides, there’s confidence, there’s trust. And I really think I can say that. There’s a lot of trust.

Now, trust always helps one overcome perhaps diverging interests. It may be that the United States of America has slightly different interests of those of France, but the bedrock of trust between us is something that he also has with all European leaders. And I don’t say this to please you. I said this is true. And I took two examples of two topics that could, in other tide, other times, have led to head-on collision, and which in this case, on the contrary, are looked at on both sides of the Atlantic as a situation where we are complementary.

Perhaps he said, well, maybe on Syria, France is on the right track, and maybe one day we’ll have the opportunity to do likewise, and that’s exactly the way we work.

Go ahead, I’m not the one with the mic.

Q Since you’ve just talked about the United — the relations between Europe and United States, didn’t you get a bad surprise, a nasty surprise, on the Pentagon’s decision on the tanker planes, which reversed the decision which had originally been taken in favor of Airbus? Did you raise this subject with President Obama? And if so, did you try and put together a new approach so as to ensure that the competition would be fairer, new version of this contract with the Pentagon, and don’t you think that it would be probably fair to share this contract with the Europeans, since they are now full members of NATO and that they share the price of the war on the ground?

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: If I said I hadn’t raised it, it would mean that what I’ve just told you would be meaningless and senseless. Of course we’ve talked about it — and President Obama will give you his answer. But I said to him, I trust you. And I do trust him. If you say to me that the request for proposals, the call for tenders will be free, fair and transparent, then we say EADS will bid and we trust you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What I said to President Sarkozy is, is that the process will be free and fair, and that the trust is justified.

Now, it’s important for my European friends to understand that, at least here, the Secretary of Defense makes procurement decisions. The President does not meddle in these decisions. And that’s a longstanding policy. So I maintain an arm’s length approach, but I have assurances from Secretary of Defense Gates that, in fact, the re-bidding process is going to be completely transparent, completely open, and a fair competition. That’s in our interests. It’s in the interest of American taxpayers, and it’s also in the interest of our young men and women who rely on this equipment in order to protect this nation.

And it’s important to note, I think, for those of you who don’t know Secretary Gates, this is somebody who has actually taken on the military and weapons systems establishment and initiated some very significant procurement reforms that nobody ever thought would happen here in Washington. So he’s somebody who’s willing to call it like it is and make difficult decisions, and he will do so in this situation as well.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Dear Baroness Catherine Ashton

March 28, 2010

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2010

Dear Baroness Ashton,

Since December 2009, you have served as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union – in other words, the EU’s foreign policy czar.

A few days ago, your op-ed, “Lessons from a Gaza Trip,” was published in the International Herald Tribune.

You waxed poetic about a project for deaf children and a school for girls you visited in Gaza. You wrote: “For the sake of the little deaf boy who stood and held my hand and for the girls who want to be able to do something with that good education, we have to move from process to peace.”

Astonishingly, though, you ignored some rather obvious facts.

Not once did the word “Hamas” appear in your article. How is it possible to write about Gaza today and fail to mention its governing authority? It’s not a small oversight, either. Hamas is the crux of the problem.

How could you overlook the Hamas Charter, which defines the worldview of those in charge?

The full text should be required reading for anyone, like yourself, involved in Middle East diplomacy.

Here’s a taste of what the Charter says about Jews:

“The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'”

And here’s how the Charter views neighboring Israel:

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Here’s how the Charter refers to so-called infidels:

“The day Islam appears, the forces of infidelity would unite to challenge it, for the infidels are of one nation. O true believers, contract not an intimate friendship with any besides yourselves: they will not fail to corrupt you. They wish for that which may cause you to perish: their hatred hath already appeared from out of their mouths; but what their breasts conceal is yet more inveterate.”

Being from Britain, Baroness, you may want to know how the Second World War really started. The Charter has the answer:

“They (the Jews) were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state.”

And while you may become teary-eyed recalling the school for girls you visited, the Charter’s view of women has little to do with aspiring to a high political office like yours:

“Woman in the home of the fighting family, whether she is a mother or a sister, plays the most important role in looking after the family, rearing the children and imbuing them with moral values and thoughts derived from Islam. She has to teach them to perform the religious duties in preparation for the role of fighting awaiting them. That is why it is necessary to pay great attention to schools and the curriculum followed in educating Muslim girls, so that they would grow up to be good mothers, aware of their role in the battle of liberation.”

The next time you visit Gaza, and before you share with the world what you think you’ve seen, please inquire about the Hamas Charter, the refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, the role of women, the central place of Shari’a in society, and the reasons why the EU designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

Moreover, you might urge your local hosts to show you not only societies for deaf children and schools for girls, but also weapons factories and arms caches – especially those located in mosques, schools and hospitals. Perhaps you might also take a detour to their favorite missile-launching sites for attacking Israeli towns and villages. And maybe your hosts will explain their ties with Iran, including the smuggling of cash and arms, as well as the training of Hamas fighters who go in and out through hidden tunnels.

Further, you might seek a visit with Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier whom you oddly describe as “captured,” when he was, in fact, kidnapped in a cross-border raid from Gaza. And with the EU’s laudable commitment to international humanitarian law, press your hosts on why no one has been permitted to visit him since his abduction in 2006.

I would also recommend that, before your next visit to Gaza, you stop in Ramallah. Ask Palestinian Authority leaders to share their memories of the bloody civil war that Hamas triggered in Gaza, in 2007, leading to the PA’s expulsion. If they’re being honest, PA leaders will hardly subscribe to your sanitized view of Hamas-ruled Gaza today.

And a stop in Cairo could be beneficial. Egypt is no less concerned than Israel about what’s going on next door. That’s why it’s building a wall along the Gaza border. Hamas, after all, proudly proclaims itself part and parcel of the Muslim Brotherhood, a longtime threat to Egypt’s stability.

Frankly, when reading “Lessons from a Gaza Trip,” I couldn’t help thinking of those impressionable Western travelers who visited the Soviet Union and returned with gushing accounts of the Moscow metro, circus and ballet, the well-behaved schoolchildren, and the workers’ paradise.

Dear Baroness Ashton, please wake up.

Yes, the search for peace in the region is unquestionably a sacred duty. But it can only be attained by those truly committed to coexistence and mutual respect.

Hamas – that stunningly missing word in your op-ed – is not a peace seeker, but a peace saboteur. With the terrorist group controlling Gaza, the sooner you grasp this essential point, the better off we will all be.

UN Goldstone Aide to Headline Palestinian Lobby Event

February 26, 2010

Geneva, February 26, 2010 UN Watch, the Geneva-based watchdog organization, today called on UN chief Ban Ki-Moon to stop Francesca Marotta, the head of the UN staff that compiled the Goldstone Report, from participating at a political lobbying event in Lausanne, Switzerland, in support of the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine.”

The full letter follows below.


His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017

February 26, 2010

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We are deeply concerned that the Head of the Secretariat of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict—the staff that drafted the Goldstone Report—is scheduled to participate tomorrow in a pro-Palestinian, political and lobbying event.

Ms. Francesca Marotta is listed as the first speaker at an event to support the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine,” advertised by Collectif Urgence Palestine, to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland, tomorrow, 27 February, at 2:30 pm. (See listing at here.)

The advertisement reads (translated from French original):

“On the eve of the first session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine to be held in Barcelona from 1 to March 3, 2010, the Swiss National Committee of Support to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine Calls to support this international citizen initiative with Francesca Marotta, the Secretariat of the Fact-Finding Mission that established the Goldstone Report, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights…” It goes on to list two other speakers.

As you may know, the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” is a highly partisan and political exercise designed to use the rhetoric of law to lobby against Israel and for a one-sided Palestinian narrative. Its “verdict” is a foregone conclusion.

We further note that the Swiss organizer of this Lausanne event featuring Ms. Marotta, Collectif Urgence Palestine, organized a demonstration last year on 2 March 2009 in Geneva. (See here.) 

The demonstration’s stone throwing and verbal threats against Jewish community members was condemned as an apparently anti-Semitic incident by the UN Human Rights Committee, in its October 2009 report on Switzerland. (See here.)

Article 100 of the UN Charter requires that the UN Secretariat avoid partisan and political entanglements that compromise the principles of neutrality, objectivity and professionalism.

Especially on a day when the UN General Assembly is voting again on the Goldstone Report, we urge you to uphold these principles, and the integrity of your staff, by immediately instructing Ms. Marotta to avoid participating in, or otherwise lending support and legitimacy to, this partisan and political event.

Please know that in all your efforts to assure the adherence of the United Nation to its noble principles, you will have the full support of UN Watch.


Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director
UN Watch
Geneva, Switzerland

President Bill Clinton in Haiti

February 23, 2010

Earlier this month, President Bill Clinton made his second trip to Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010.

Thanks to the tremendous outpouring of support from thousands of individuals and donations from generous businesses, President Bill Clinton delivered relief supplies including water, food, medical supplies, tents, solar flash lights, portable radios and generators on behalf of the Clinton Foundation.

We were able to capture some brief video footage of President Bill Clinton’s visit as he unloaded supplies and met with Haitian and UN officials to help begin the process of recovery and reconstruction.

6 Major Powers Move Closer to Considering More Iran Sanctions

January 18, 2010

Did You Know?

“The (Revolutionary Guard) corps’s two best-known subsidiaries are the secretive Quds Force, which has carried out operations in other countries, including the training and arming of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon; and the Basij militia. The Basiji includes millions of volunteer vigilantes used to crack down on election protests and dissidents,” according to The New York Times. 

Top Stories

The New York Times: “Six major powers agreed Saturday that the Iranian response to proposals to altering its nuclear development program had been inadequate and that it warranted consideration of further measures by the United Nations Security Council.  China, however, which sent a low-level diplomat to the meeting, maintained its position that it opposed new sanctions now.” 
The Associated Press (AP): “Iran’s interior minister is vowing to take revenge on Israel over the slaying last week of a physics professor in a mysterious bomb attack.  Iranian officials have blamed an exiled opposition group, accusing it of acting on behalf of Israel and the U.S. Washington denied involvement. Israel did not comment.” 

Reuters: “Iran has exchanged messages with major powers on its nuclear energy program and sees signs of progress, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Monday, despite Western attempts to impose more sanctions.”

Los Angeles Times (LAT) Editorial Board
: “This week’s indictment of three Glendale men for allegedly smuggling vacuum pumps and other industrial equipment to Iran via the United Arab Emirates is the latest reminder of how easily and frequently U.S. trade sanctions against Tehran have been violated. The charges were reported as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany prepared to meet in New York today to discuss tougher economic measures for pressing Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.”

A message from Bill Clinton, United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti

January 12, 2010

Today, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti who are recovering from a devastating earthquake. Buildings have collapsed, thousands of people are missing, and many are presumed homeless.

My UN office and the rest of the UN system are monitoring the situation. While we don’t yet know the full impact of this 7.0-magnitude earthquake, we do know that the survivors need immediate help.

There’s a way you can help Haiti recover and rebuild right now.

Click here to make a donation and find information on other organizations providing emergency relief efforts.

Approximately 2 million people live in the capital of Haiti and the surrounding areas where the disaster struck.

What we do in these first 48 hours determines how many lives we can save. Together, we can help communities get back on their feet.

I have long been committed to helping Haiti “build back better” from the 2008 hurricanes and prepare for future disasters. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, now needs our assistance more than ever.

Help provide immediate relief and long-term support to earthquake survivors by making a donation today:


Thank you for joining me in praying for the people of Haiti and bringing hope to the survivors. Working together, we can help them build back stronger and better.

Bill Clinton
UN Special Envoy for Haiti

P.S.: For missing family, please call the U.S. State Department hotline at 1-888-407-4747. To submit or request situation or survivor information, visit www.haiti.ushahidi.com.

The debate over intelligence services in Afghanistan

January 5, 2010

The lives of 83 fallen CIA officers are represented by 83 stars on the CIA Memorial Wall in the Original Headquarters building.

The lives of 83 fallen CIA officers are represented by 83 stars on the CIA Memorial Wall in the Original Headquarters building.

A U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, Major General Michael Flynn, Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence (CJ2), for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since June 2009, sharply criticized the work of U.S. intelligence agencies in the country.

In a report issued yesterday by the Center for a New American Security, Flynn said intelligence agencies were still “unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they are trying to protect and persuade.”

He said U.S. intelligence should focus less on al-Qaeda and the Taliban and look at the larger picture of how Afghanistan operates.

Read full story.

Update: Meanwhile, Jordanian officials say the Jordanian double agent, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, who staged a suicide attack on a CIA base last week had supplied intelligence agencies with relevant leads about al-Qaeda plots, amid criticism that lax security procedures allowed the man to enter the CIA base.


Check out also following stories:

British Army Hero Tells UN Human Rights Council: ‘Israeli Defense Forces Most Moral Army in History of Warfare’

October 16, 2009

Today’s emergency United Nations Human Rights Council debate in Geneva on the Goldstone Report predictably saw a line-up of the world’s worst abusers condemn democratic Israel for human rights violations.

In a heated lynch mob atmosphere, Kuwait slammed Israel for “intentional killing, intentional destruction of civilian objects, intentional scorched-earth policy”, saying Israel “embodied the Agatha Christie novel, ‘Escaped with Murder’. Pakistan said the “horrors of Israeli occupation continue to haunt the international community’s conscience.” The Arab League said, “We must condemn Israel and force Israel to accept international legitimacy.” Ahmadinejad’s Iran said “the atrocities committed against Palestinians during the aggressions on Gaza should be taken seriously” and followed up by the international community “to put an end to absolute impunity and defiance of the law.”

What the world’s assembled representatives did not expect, however, was the speech that followed (see video and text below), organized by UN Watch. The speaker is a man who repeatedly put his life on the line to defend the democratic world from the murderous Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. The moment he began his first sentence, the room simply fell silent. Judge Goldstone, author of the biased report that prompted today’s one-sided condemnation, had refused to hear Colonel Kemp’s testimony during his “fact-finding” hearings.

But UN Watch made sure today that this hero’s voice would be heard – at the United Nations, and around the world.


UN Human Rights Council, 12th Special Session
Debate on Goldstone Report – Geneva, October 16, 2009

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Did More to Safeguard Civilians Than Any Army in History of Warfare

Colonel Richard Kemp served in the British Army from 1977 - 2006.
Colonel Richard Kemp served in the British Army from 1977 – 2006.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.

Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.

Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.

And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Thank you, Mr. President.

American Jewish Committee’s Letter in NY Times on Goldstone Report

September 18, 2009


Israel and Gaza: Which Standards Apply?

by Richard Sideman
President, American Jewish Committee
New York, September 18, 2009

To the Editor:
Re “Justice in Gaza” (Op-Ed, Sept. 17):

Richard Goldstone displays the same disregard for Israel and naivety regarding Hamas that permeates the report he wrote for the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since its inception in 2006, the council has consistently demonized Israel while giving a free pass to some of the world’s worst tyrants, from Sudan to Iran. Mr. Goldstone largely neglects what prompted Israel to act militarily against Hamas.

Let’s be clear for historical accuracy. Israel’s military operation came after eight years of relentless rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns and villages. Indeed, thousands of rockets were launched after Israel transferred the entire Gaza Strip to the Palestinians four years ago.

While the United Nations made no effort to stop the Palestinian rockets, Israel showed remarkable restraint over the years until it could not hold back anymore.

More disturbing, the Goldstone report has set a new standard for equating the behavior of democratic nations and terrorists.

He makes no moral distinction between Israel, a United Nations member state, and Hamas, a terrorist organization that violently seized control of Gaza two years ago from the Palestinian Authority.

The implications of this moral equivalency go beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, they undermine the United States and other democracies facing asymmetrical warfare from adversaries who care little for international norms of war and international humanitarian law.

In sum, Mr. Goldstone’s conclusions are a disservice to the credibility of the United Nations itself.

UANI Calls on Gotham Hall to Deny President Ahmadinejad a Platform for Propaganda

September 18, 2009
Press Release
New York, September 18, 2009 – The think tank United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) today called on Gotham Hall to refuse to host President Ahmadinejad and offered Gotham Hall an opportunity to clarify its role as the host of a banquet for the Iranian delegation and as host for a speech by President Ahmadinejad on September 25, 2009 during his stay in New York for the UN General Assembly. 
In a letter to Allen Kurtz, Managing Director of Gotham Hall, UANI President, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace wrote “UANI requests Gotham Hall to clarify and reconsider its decision to host the banquet and address and instead decline to provide such a venue for President Ahmadinejad.  As we expressed to area venues in July, UANI denounces any decision to host President Ahmadinejad in New York and calls upon Gotham Hall to join the international community in isolating Iran and condemning its illicit nuclear program.” 
“By doing business with the Iranian government Gotham Hall is accepting blood money from a regime that brutally suppresses its own people and that is a danger to global security.  Moreover, by providing a forum for President Ahmadinejad’s speech, Gotham Hall is serving as a bullhorn for the propaganda of the illegitimate leader of a brutal theocratic dictatorship.”
To the extent that Gotham Hall persists in its plans to host President Ahmadinejad UANI will call on members of the public to boycott Gotham Hall.
Press Contact: Kimmie Lipscomb
Phone: (212) 554-3296

Boycott Ahmadinejad’s speech at the United Nations!

September 15, 2009

Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war. (1938, Winston Churchill to Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons, after the Munich accords)

An Open Letter to His Excellency Ambassador Thomas Matussek Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations

by Narcisse Caméléon, deputy editor-in-chief HIRAM7 REVIEW


The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced his intention to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York later this month.

We are writing to express our concern that President Ahmadinejad be allowed to abuse the platform of the UN to propagate hate, to spread false accusations against other members of the UN, and to hijack the agenda of the UN, as he has done recently at other UN conferences.

The government of Iran is in defiance of several sets of UN sanctions, has failed to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and might soon be capable of building an atomic bomb.

The Iranian government is also defying the will of its own people. People are imprisoned for their political beliefs, and women and religious minorities are being oppressed and persecuted. President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, spread anti-Semitic libels, and threatened to wipe Israel off the map. He regularly incites to genocide.

Should President Ahmadinejad once again show complete disregard for the UN Charter we would respectfully ask that Germany’s delegation absent itself from the meeting for the duration of his address, in order not to dignify his remarks with the presence of a modern and liberal democracy like Germany.

Remember Munich 1938. No apeasement with ennemies of democracy!

Yours sincerely,

Narcisse Caméléon

Criticism of UN Human Rights Council

August 18, 2009

Seventy-four nongovernmental organizations called for an end to a bloc system that they say allows countries guilty of human rights abuses to hold seats on the UN Human Rights Council.

“We call on all UN member states to bring vote trading arrangements and uncompetitive elections for the council to an end. The credibility of the council and its ability to respond to human rights violations hang in the balance,” the NGOs declared.

The statement comes a month before the Human Rights Council opens its fall session in Geneva.

Read full story.

The targeting of Israel and Darfur by the Arab world

August 2, 2009

by Dr. Kenneth Levin

The world’s media have given scant coverage lately to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and – despite extensive reporting on Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict – they have likewise offered little on the continuing campaign of genocidal incitement against Israel by her enemies.

While seeming very separate issues, the two campaigns, and the choice by media and world leaders largely to ignore both, are, in fact, connected.

On one level, of course, the connection is obvious. Israel-hatred is spearheaded by the Arab world; in virtually every Arab nation, demonizing and delegitimizing of Israel, and often of Jews, is a staple of government-controlled media, schools and mosques. This is true even of the Arab states with which Israel is formally at peace. At the same time, the Arab world is the chief support of fellow Arab leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his Sudanese regime’s genocidal assault on the Muslim blacks of Darfur. Illustrative was the Arab League’s unanimous, effusive embrace and defense of al-Bashir at its meeting in Doha, Qatar, in March, shortly after his indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Efforts at mass murder directed at Israel and the genocidal assault on the Muslim but non-Arab people of Darfur flow from the same mindset.

Tunisian human rights activist Mohammed Bechri several years ago argued that to understand Arab support for the genocide in Darfur, one has to recognize the “twin fascisms” – Bechri’s term – that dominate the Arab world: Islamism and Pan-Arabism. The first rejects the legitimacy of any non-Muslim group within what the Arabs perceive as their proper domain; the latter takes the same view towards any non-Arab group. The genocidal rhetoric, and efforts at mass murder, directed at Israel, and the genocidal assault on the Muslim but non-Arab people of Darfur follow from this mindset. (Bechri’s “twin fascisms” also account for the besiegement of Christians across the Arab world and backing for Sudan’s murder of some two million Christian and animist blacks in the south of the country. They help explain as well broad Arab support for the mass murder of Kurds – a Muslim but non-Arab people – in Iraq by Saddam Hussein and for the besiegement of the Kurds of Syria and the Berbers – another non-Arab Muslim group – in Algeria.)

But the connection between animosity towards Israel and coldness towards the victims in Darfur extends beyond the Arab world. It embraces, for example, all those European leaders who bend their consciences to accommodate Arab power – in oil, money and strategic territories – and who may pay lip service to recognizing the murderous incitement and related threats faced by Israel or to deploring the crimes suffered by Darfur but refuse to take serious steps to curb either.

Nor are American leaders entirely free of similar predilections. President Bush (43) was certainly sympathetic to Israel’s predicament. But he sought to assuage Arab opinion by pushing for rapid movement towards a Palestinian state and endorsing Machmoud Abbas as Israel’s “peace” partner, even as Abbas refused to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, consistently praised anti-Israel terror and stood fast in demanding a “right of return” that would turn Israel into yet another Arab-dominated entity. (On Darfur, the “moderate” Abbas responded to the ICC indictment by declaring, “We must also take a decisive stance of solidarity alongside fraternal Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir.”) Regarding Darfur, President Bush led the way in condemning Sudan’s campaign of mass murder and rape and first calling it a genocide. But — already attacked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — he was not prepared to act aggressively against a third Muslim nation, even though doing so would have been aimed at saving hundreds of thousands of Muslim lives.

President Obama has adopted winning over Arab and broader Muslim opinion as a foreign policy priority and he has shown little interest in according more than verbal acknowledgment to the threats facing Israel. At the same time, those in the Muslim world whose good opinion he is most seeking to win are not the Muslims of Darfur but rather Darfur’s oppressors and their supporters. Some of President Obama’s ardent backers have expressed dismay, and have been openly critical of him, for what they see as his reneging on campaign pledges to put Darfur at the top of his agenda. (For example, Kirsten Powers, “Bam’s Darfur Sins,” in the New York Post, May 11, 2009). But given his focus on appeasing Muslims hostile to America, his inaction on Darfur should not surprise.

In major Western media as well, deference to Arab opinion vis-a-vis Israel has generally been accompanied by silence on the central role of the Arab world in providing support for Sudan’s actions in Darfur. While the Arab League’s embrace in Doha of Sudanese President al-Bashir was widely reported, few major outlets offered editorial criticism of the Arab stance — The Washington Post being a notable exception. The New York Times, which for decades has used both “news stories” and editorials to argue that Israeli concessions are the key to peace and has refused to cover the genocidal incitement against Israel and Jews endemic in Palestinian and broader Arab media, mosques and schools, offered no editorial opinion on the Doha meeting.

Kristoff generally avoided the Arab role in supporting the genocide.

Several years ago, the Times‘ Nicholas Kristof won a Pulitzer Prize for his op-ed coverage of the slaughter in Darfur. Kristof is a constant critic of Israel and, like his bosses, avoids the issue of rejection of Israel’s legitimacy, and promotion of genocidal hatred towards the Jewish state, by its Arab neighbors. In a similar vein, for all his extensive writing on Darfur, he generally avoided the Arab role in supporting the genocide. In some forty op-eds on Darfur published between March, 2004, and April, 2006, shortly after he won the Pulitzer, Kristof devoted only five sentences to Arab backing of the Sudanese regime, and that in an article focused on China’s shameful complicity in Darfur.

But if all this not is very surprising, there are also more curious aspects to the convergence of animosity, often of murderous dimensions, towards Israel and sympathy for, or at least indulgence of, those who perpetrate the genocide in Darfur.

For example, while Egypt has not overtly broken with the unanimous Arab League support for al-Bashir, Egyptian President Mubarak chose not to attend the Doha conference, and he and some other Arab leaders have been worried about the Islamist Sudanese regime’s close ties to Iran and to Iran’s radical Arab allies, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet a number of Western leaders, who advocate “dialogue” with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, prefer to ignore their genocidal agenda towards Israel and their leading role in aiding Sudan’s genocidal government – in effect, outpacing Egyptian backing of al-Bashir by soft-pedaling the role in Sudan of those most supportive of al-Bashir’s murderous regime.

Iran has long given extensive financial assistance to the Sudanese government, has provided its forces with weapons and training and has underwritten Chinese provision of arms to al-Bashir. Sudan, again with Iran serving as financier and mid-wife, has also been a training ground for Hamas, fostering as well an ongoing cross-fertilization between Hamas and the militias responsible for the Darfur genocide. Hezbollah and Syria have likewise been in the forefront of Sudan’s supporters and enablers.

Following the International Criminal Court’s action against al-Bashir, a delegation of his radical allies quickly arrived in Khartoum in a show of solidarity with their indicted brother. It included the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, Syrian parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash and an official of Hezbollah. Hamas also sponsored a large pro-Sudan march in Gaza.

But inevitably, Khartoum’s allies’ contributions to the Darfur genocide, like their promotion of genocide vis-a-vis Israel, are ignored by those eager for diplomatic engagement with them.

Also in early March, around the time of the ICC indictment, the British Foreign Office, led by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, announced its agreement to talks with Hezbollah. More recently, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have met with Hezbollah representatives. Hezbollah head Nasrallah’s commitment to the murder of all Jews – as in his 2002 statement that “if [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” (in the past Hezbollah has gone after them as far afield as in Argentina) – was hardly something Miliband and the Foreign Office, or the Quai D’Orsay, or Solana and the European Union, or those British and continental media sympathetic to Hezbollah, were about to note. Nor were they going to note Hezbollah’s support for Sudan’s policies in Darfur.

Similarly, those many European leaders promoting engagement with Hamas typically avoid acknowledging Hamas’s call in its charter for the slaughter of all Jews, its teaching Palestinian children – in its schools and on children’s television – that Jews are eternal enemies of Islam and must be annihilated, and its other purveying of genocidal Jew-hatred. In April, the Dutch Labor party demanded that the European Union sanction Israel if it refuses to accept Hamas as a negotiating partner. Dutch Labor party leaders and like-minded European politicians, in their efforts to push acceptance of Hamas, soft-pedal its aims regarding Israelis and Jews and likewise say little about Hamas’s support of and contributions to Sudan’s genocidal assault on the blacks of Darfur.

European media that are hostile to Israel also virtually ignore Hamas’s genocidal policies and actions regarding both Israel and Darfur. British news outlets such as The Guardian and The Independent, which had barely covered years of Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli communities, or Hamas use of civilians and civilian facilities as shields for its attacks, but excoriated Israel when it responded with its assault on Hamas beginning in December, 2008, are likewise essentially silent regarding Hamas’s promotion of mass murder in Israel and support for mass murder in Darfur. The same is true for myriad news outlets on the Continent.

Most American political leaders have shunned Hamas for its commitment — in words and deeds – to Israel’s destruction and for its genocidal agenda. (There are some notable exceptions such as Jimmy Carter, who has met with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and urged including Hamas in “peace” talks.) But many American media organizations, particularly those, like the New York Times, most committed to portraying Israeli policy as the major obstacle to peace, have followed their European counterparts in saying little of Hamas’s genocidal policies regarding Jews or of its support for Sudan’s genocidal policies in Darfur.

Even people whom one might expect to identify most closely with the victims of the Darfur genocide often do nothing, or limit their actions to words, or actually lend support to the perpetrators, in large part because of pro-Arab sympathies or hostility to Israel. Congress has one Muslim black representative, Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, and Ellison has at times spoken out against the Darfur genocide. In April, for example, he joined a protest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington and was arrested along with other demonstrators. But Ellison has consistently supported pro-Hamas groups in America. He also aggressively embraced the Hamas line in last winter’s Gaza War in terms of alleged civilian casualties and Israeli misdeeds while remaining silent on Hamas use of civilians and civilian facilities as shields for attacks on Israel. Ellison has likewise never publicly addressed Hamas’s alliance with Sudan and its backing of Sudanese policies in Darfur. Alignment with those arrayed against Israel seems to trump criticism of those arrayed against Darfur for the Minnesota congressman.

The major force driving genocidal agendas toward Israel and Darfur is, again, Arab supremacism. It is abetted in the wider world by power politics, as well as by, in many quarters, a twisted ideological allegiance whose credo requires that hostility to the Jewish state and consequent sympathy for, or prettifying of, those dedicated to her destruction trumps sympathy for Darfur and criticism of those participating in its people’s annihilation. The overall result is that powerful links between murderous hatred towards Israel and support for, or at least accommodation of, genocide in Darfur are a fixture of today’s geopolitics and go largely unchallenged.

A longer version of this article originally appeared on www.frontpagemag.com.

Reprinted with kindly permission of Aish HaTorah International.

Die Unzulänglichkeit des internationalen Rechts

May 13, 2009

Daniel Taub, Jurist und Berater für internationales Recht des israelischen Außenministeriums, setzt sich in einem Artikel erschienen in der amerikanischen Tageszeitung The Boston Globe mit der weltweit verbreiteten Kritik am Vorgehen der israelischen Armee während der Militäroperation Gegossenes Blei im Gaza-Streifen auseinander.

“In starkem Kontrast zu dem komplexen und sogar schmerzvollen Balanceakt, den das internationale Recht von Soldaten und Rechtsberatern gleichermaßen verlangt, weigert sich eine lautstarke Gruppe von ‚Rechtsexperten’ nach wie vor, die Ärmel hochzukrempeln und die harten Komplexitäten von Konfliktsituationen wie Gaza anzupacken. Es mag tatsächlich Anreize dafür geben, das reine Ideal des internationalen Rechts aufrecht zu erhalten. In der Praxis jedoch stellt es ein nicht anwendbares Rechtsmodell dar, das absurderweise postuliert, dass ein Staat desto weniger reagieren darf, je unverantwortlicher, illegaler und moralisch verwerflicher das Vorgehen von Terroristen ist. Am Ende wird das internationale Recht selbst das größte Opfer eines solchen Ansatzes sein.”

Zum Artikel (Englisch).

Israel rejects claims in UN report on Gaza war

May 5, 2009

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israeli officials are rejecting a UN report alleging that Israeli troops deliberately struck UN installations during their offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The AP outlines the findings of the report, which will be presented to the UN Security Council later today.

Read full story.

World Health Organization increases pandemic threat level for Mexico influenza

April 28, 2009

Fears that the outbreak of Mexico influenza could morph into an international pandemic spread yesterday following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that it would raise its alert level to Level Four, indicating the disease has already shown sustained human-to-human transmission.

British broadcaster BBC quotes one WHO official who says it is “too late” to contain the spread of the virus from country to country and that officials should instead focus on mitigating its effects.

The Washington Post reports signs have emerged that the outbreak could be beginning to take a toll on the global economy: oil prices, the Mexican peso, and airline stocks all plunged.

Read full story.

Tyrants Get Another U.N. Platform

April 24, 2009

An op-ed on Durban II by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian dissident and Harvard scholar

The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2009

In 1948, the United Nations recognized the “inherent dignity” and “the equal and inalienable rights” of all human beings when it ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though this week’s U.N. conference in Geneva claimed to stand for these noble values, the world’s dictators were the real winners.

Too many official country delegates didn’t come to Geneva to stand up for the oppressed. They came to condemn the “colonial powers” of the West and Israel. In so doing, they sought to guard against exposing their own regimes’ human-rights records. While the delegates met in the official conference hall, the true defenders of human rights – civil society organizations and dissidents – gathered at their own conference where they examined today’s most pressing human-rights issues.

The deep divide between those who seek to expose human-rights abuses and those who only use the language of human rights as a shield is not new. It started during Rio’s Earth Summit in 1992, where, for the first time, the U.N. agreed to host two forums: one for government representatives and one for NGOs. The divide between government and NGOs, and between the Third World and the West, reached an apex in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The central wedge issue was the treatment of the state of Israel.

Eight years ago, the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA) singled out Israel for the harshest rebuke of any country. It was not that Israel was totally innocent of charges about its continued occupation of the Palestinians. But the vehemence with which the delegates issued this condemnation, and their manner of voting on it – the delegates cheered “Down With Israel” – led many to conclude that the DPPA bordered on anti-Semitism.

What compounded this sentiment is that most of the governments that pile on to condemn Israel and the so-called “neocolonial” West have terrible human-rights records. These include tyrannical regimes such as Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Libya, Iran, Syria and Egypt (my home country). Their atrocious violations have been widely reported by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

But members of like-minded voting blocs – such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States – comprise more than two-thirds of the U.N. membership votes. Together, they can railroad through any resolution, no matter how absurd. It was this Afro-Islamic-Arab bloc that made sure Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be the keynote speaker in the opening session of this year’s U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Rightly anticipating that the Geneva conference would be a forum for anti-Western and anti-Israel propaganda, the U.S. and a score of Western democracies boycotted the conference entirely. More countries – such as Britain, Germany and Holland – walked out of the conference when Mr. Ahmadinejad delivered his usual anti-Israel tirade, calling the Jewish state a “most cruel and racist regime.”

Unfortunately, lost in this circus were the real victims who suffer at the hands of autocratic and theocratic regimes. The most vulnerable groups – the poor, women, children, migrant and stateless people – were ignored this week in Geneva.

Though the decision to boycott the conference was understandable, I believe it was a mistake. The U.S. and other democracies should have attended and fought back. An overwhelming majority of mankind would have applauded their moral courage.

I spent three years alone in an Egyptian prison for the crime of “tarnishing Egypt’s reputation.” Today, prisoners like Roxana Saberi in Iran languish in jails for crimes they did not commit. It is the job of true human-rights advocates to strengthen such victims by standing up to dictators.

Rather than letting Mr. Ahmadinejad steal the headlines, I would have liked to have seen the universally popular President Barack Obama take on the hypocrites who speak in the name of Islam and want to sacrifice such basic rights as freedom of speech by outlawing “Islamophobia.” Mr. Obama could have rescued the human-rights agenda from those who have hijacked it.

Though it didn’t happen in Geneva, I look forward to a campaign, led by Mr. Obama, to return the cause of human rights to its rightful owners.

Mr. Ibrahim was incarcerated by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003. He is now a visiting professor at Harvard.

U.N. Durban Review Conference Final Declaration is biased

April 22, 2009

It is highly disappointing, but not surprising, that more than 100 nations attending the Durban II Racism Conference in Geneva overwhelmingly voted to approve a final declaration that is biased. In a replay of the 2001 original United Nations World Conference against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Israel is again the only nation singled out.

The conference, which is a follow-up to the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, was meant to address those human rights issues and their violators. However, both the Durban Review Conference and its predecessor degenerated into anti-Israel summits. The 2009 declaration reaffirms the conclusions from the original Durban conference. That document asserted that Palestinians are subject to Israeli “racism.”

The expectation that this anti-Israel declaration would again be the outcome prompted Israel, Canada, the United States of America, Italy, Germany, Australia, Holland, New Zealand, Czech Republic, and Poland to withdraw.

Libya helped to seal the negative outcome of the conference. Chosen as the chair of the conference, despite a long history of supporting terrorism and violating human rights, Libya yesterday engineered the swift movement of the declaration from the drafting committee and adoption of the preparatory document of last week.

Any hope for a better outcome document was dashed with an address to the conference by one who calls for the destruction of and supports terrorism against the State of Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Many nations walked out in protest on April 20, 2009, in the face of his hateful, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel tirade.

The 23 European Union nations delegates walked out during Ahmadinejad speech, in which he said that the foundation of the State of Israel rendered “an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering” in order “to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine.”


Quotes from Ahmadinejad’s speech in Geneva



“The victorious powers [of the world wars] call themselves the conquerors of the world, while ignoring or down-treading the rights of other nations by the imposition of oppressive laws and international arrangements.”

“Following World War II, they resorted to making an entire nation homeless on the pretext of Jewish suffering. They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine. In compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”

“It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide, whilst the awakened consciences and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutality and the bombardment of civilians of Gaza.”

“[Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were] a clear example of egocentrism, racism, discrimination or infringement upon the dignity and independence of nations. Today, the human community is facing a kind of racism which has tarnished the image of humanity. In the beginning of the third millennium, the word Zionism personifies racism. [It] falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide hatred.”

“Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their supporters of political and international means…Governments must be encouraged and supported in the fight aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and moving towards reforming the current international mechanisms.”

“You are all aware of the conspiracy of some powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this conference… It should be recognized that boycotting such a session is a true indication of supporting the blatant example of racism.”

Durban II Hatefest

April 17, 2009

A statement by Anne Bayefsky at the Third Substantive Preparatory Meeting of the Durban Review Conference.

April 17, 2009
United Nations, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

The eyes of millions of victims of racism, xenophobia and intolerance are upon YOU, the representatives of states and the United Nations. And instead of hope you have given them despair. Instead of truth you have handed them diplomatic double-talk. Instead of combating anti-Semitism you have handed them a reason for Jews to fear UN-driven hatemongering on a global scale.

The Durban conference – allegedly dedicated to combating racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance – will open April 20th on the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler without agreement on even so much as remembering the Holocaust and the war against the Jews. Your draft words on the Holocaust – the very foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – have been narrowed to the barest mention from previous versions. And if the minor reference survives at all – it will be a testament to your interest in Jews that died 60 years ago, while tolerating and encouraging the murder of Jews in the here and now.

Furthermore, the draft before you demonizes the Jewish state of Israel and then has the audacity to pretend to care about anti-Semitism in a single word buried among 17 pages. Anti-Semitism means discrimination against the Jewish people. Since it is evident that almost none of you have the courage to say it, the face of modern anti-Semitism IS the UN – your – discrimination against Israel, the embodiment of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

Over and over again we have heard a massive misinformation campaign about the content of these proceedings and the draft before you. We have heard the tale that this draft does not single out Israel, that the hate has been removed, that the fault of the anti-Semitism at Durban I was that of NGOs while states and the UN were blameless.

Perhaps you think that journalists and victims will not bother to read for themselves the Durban Declaration adopted by some governments. There is only one state mentioned in it – Israel. There is only one state associated with racist practices in it – Israel. And yet the very first thing that this draft before you does is to reaffirm that abomination, abomination for Jews and Arabs living in Israel’s free and democratic society, and for all the victims of racism ignored therein. Lawyers call it incorporation by reference when they hope nobody reads the small print. The propaganda stops here. We have read it. We understand the game. And we decry the ugly effort to repeat the Durban agenda to isolate and defeat Israel politically, as every effort to do so militarily for decades has failed.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chair of this Preparatory Committee also told us this week that the Durban Declaration in all its aspects is a consensus text. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the Canadian reservations made in Durban in 2001 which state categorically that the Middle East language was outside the conference’s jurisdiction and not agreed. Perhaps they failed to notice that one of the world’s greatest democracies, the United States, voted with its feet and walked out of the Durban I hatefest. The Durban Declaration has never represented a global consensus among free and democratic nations. When the head of the Islamic conference treats Durban as a bible, in their words, it is more accurately a defamation of religions.

This week you decided which states ought to serve in a leadership role at next week’s conference. Among them are some of the world’s leading practitioners of racism, not those interested in ending it. You have also decided to hand a global megaphone to the President of a state which advocates genocide and denies the Holocaust.

So in a state of shock and dismay we address ourselves not to the human rights abusers that glorify the Durban Declaration or its next incarnation, but to democracies – and we ask: Will Germany sit on Hitler’s birthday and listen to the speech of an advocate of genocide against the Jewish people and grant legitimacy to the forum which tolerates his presence? What about the United Kingdom, the birthplace of the Magna Carta? Or France that helped to ship last generation’s Jews to crematoriums?

You could have fought racism. You chose instead to fight Jews. You could have promoted the universal standards against racism already in existence. You chose instead to diminish their importance in the name of alleged cultural preferences. You could have protected freedom of expression. You chose instead to undermine it by twisted concepts of incitement. You could have brought victims of racism together in a common cause. You chose instead to pit victims against each other in an ugly struggle for meager recognition.

For those democracies that remain under these circumstances you are ultimately responsible for what can only be called an appalling disservice to real victims of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance around the world.

About the author: Anne Bayefsky holds a B.A., M.A. and LL.B. from the University of Toronto and an M.Litt. from Oxford University. She is a barrister and solicitor of the Ontario Bar, and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute as well as professor at Columbia University Law School in New York, where her areas of expertise include international human rights law, equality rights, and constitutional human rights law. Visit her website here.

The Myths of U.N. Durban Review Conference

April 10, 2009





The Algerian-chaired United Nations committee is seeking to rewrite international human rights law by definining any criticism of Islamic dogma as a human rights violation, and is endorsed by Article 30 of the current Durban II draft; see UN Watch speech below.

Click also here for New York Times video documenting racist treatment of two million black African migrants by Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, chair of Durban II conference planning committee.


Testimony by Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director, before the United Nations Human Rights Council


10th session of the Human Rights Council (Geneva, March 2009)

Thank you, Mr. President.

Racism is evil. How can we truly fight it?

For starters, by clearing up three myths about next month’s conference.

Myth Number One: that the new draft removes all pernicious provisions.

The truth is that many were removed – thanks only to the credible threat of an E.U. walk-out – but red lines continue to be breached:

  • Articles 10, 30 and 132 encourage the Islamic states’ campaign to ban any criticism of religion.
  • Articles 60 to 62 demonize the West, addressing only its sins of slavery, yet saying nothing of the massive Arab trade in African slaves, thereby politicizing that which should never be politicized.
  • Article 1 breaches President Obama’s red line by reaffirming what his government called the quote, “flawed 2001 Durban Declaration”, a text that stigmatized Israel with false accusations.

Myth Number Two: that going to the conference means dialogue.

In truth, we’ve been negotiating non-stop since August 2007. Going to the conference means endorsing a particular text, and risks legitimizing the greatest perpetrators of racism.

Ironically, many who now claim to support dialogue, are Mideast states belonging to the Arab Boycott Office in Damascus, or radical left campaigners who call for equally bigoted boycotts in the West.

Myth Number Three: that Durban 2 will help millions of victims.

But can anyone name a single victim of racism who was helped by the 2001 conference and countless follow-up committees?

Did Durban help a single victim of Sudan’s racist campaign of mass killing, rape and displacement against millions in Darfur?

Did it help the women of Saudi Arabia subjected to systematic discrimination?

Did it help gays executed by Iran, even as President Ahmadinejad says there are no gays in Iran?

Did it help the 2 million black African migrants in Libya, who, as we read in last week’s International Herald Tribune, say they are treated like slaves and animals?

To truly fight racism, we need to hold perpetrators to account. Tragically, Durban 2 does the opposite.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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