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

Geneva Summit for Human Rights, March 8-9, 2010

February 3, 2010

Human rights NGOs from around the globe have joined hands to organize the 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.

To take place on March 8-9, 2010 – in parallel and to enhance the main annual session of the UN Human Rights Council – this unique assembly of renowned human rights defenders, dissidents and experts will feature victim testimonies, shine a spotlight on urgent human rights issues and situations, and call on governments to guarantee freedom of the internet for democracy and human rights activists.

INTERNET FREEDOM The Google-China Case, Censorship and Hacking: Entrepreneurs & Dissidents Debate

DEFENDING ETHNIC MINORITIES Rebiya Kadeer, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Uighur human rights hero

ATROCITIES IN SUDAN Jan Pronk, former UN Secretary-General Special Representative in Sudan

EQUALITY FOR WOMEN Massouda Jalal, former Afghan Minister of Women Affairs, first female presidential candidate

THE FUTURE OF DISSENT Yang Jianli, 1989 Tiananmen Square Hero, founder of Foundation for China in the 21st Century

•THE BURMESE JUNTA vs. AUNG SAN SUU KYI  Bo Kyi, Burmese dissident and 2008 winner of Human Rights Watch Award

COMBATING CONTEMPORARY SLAVERY Simon Deng, former Sudanese Slave

OPPRESSION IN TIBET  Phuntsok Nyidron, Buddhist nun, longest-serving Tibetan political prisoner, jailed for recording songs of freedom, winner of 1995 Reebok Human Rights Award

NON-VIOLENT PROTEST Matteo Mecacci, Italian MP, OSCE Rapporteur on human rights and democracy, activist

REPRESSION IN LATIN AMERICA  Tamara Suju, Venezuelan human rights lawyer

PRISONER FROM BIRTH Donghyuk Shin, survivor of North Korean prison camp

•“DEFAMATION OF RELIGION” vs. FREE SPEECH Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of Pakistan Press Foundation

Plebiszite: Volksabstimmung oder Volksverstimmung?

December 23, 2009

In einem Essay erschienen in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung klärt der Historiker Christoph Jahr die Frage, wie demokratisch Hitler an die Macht gekommen ist und was Hitlers Machtergreifung für die Debatte um Plebiszite in Deutschland bedeutet. Sind Volksabstimmungen nur noch ein Erfolgsmittel von Populisten?

“Tatsächlich kam Hitler 1933 durch die Entscheidung eines kleinen Zirkels von Beratern des Reichspräsidenten von Hindenburg an die Macht, wobei Letzterer, wie der Historiker Wolfram Pyta jüngst dargelegt hat, keineswegs jene willenlose Marionette war, als die er lange Zeit erschien.

Hitler wurde aber nur deshalb Reichskanzler, weil er zu bieten hatte, woran es den alten konservativen Eliten gebrach: eine Massenbasis.

Und ohne diese waren alle Versuche aussichtslos, Deutschland in einen rechtsautoritären Staat umzuformen, wie die Jahre ab 1930 mit ihren – ab 1932 immer schneller wechselnden – Präsidialkabinetten gezeigt hatten.”

Zum Artikel.

Alan Posener’s Column: Facts about the Swiss minaret controversy

December 2, 2009

by Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

The Swiss referendum on minarets is still causing an uproar around the world, and rightly so. Those who support the majority decision to ban the building of minarets in Switzerland use some arguments that are worth looking at more closely.

1. The Swiss, says Henryk M. Broder, ex-candidate for post of President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and confidant of the new German Minister of Family Affairs, who appears CC on all his e-mails, the Swiss are the first Europeans to declare their will to fight against the “islamization of their country”: www.welt.de/die-welt/debatte/article5386891/Tit-for-tat.html

Bullshit. With less than half a million Muslims in the country, Switzerland is in no danger of being “islamized”. Were that the case, banning minarets would hardly help. The only connection between banning the building of minarets and “islamization” is that presumably some of the more pious and excitable Muslims will feel less willing to integrate into Swiss society. And one can hardly blame them.

By the way, While flexing their muscles against innocent Bosnians and Turks at home, Switzerland has done nothing to help the war effort in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al Qaida are training Djihadists and hope to face down the West in the Long War.

2. Roger Köppel, editor of  the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, actually titled his commentary on the affair “The Courageous Swiss”.


Doublespeak, it seems, is alive and well and living in Zurich. Since when is it courageous when a 95% majority curbs the rights of a 5% minority? Köppel defends direct democracy, as practised in Switzerland via referendums, a “Damocles sword” against the political class, which has lost touch with the “normal” citizenry and therefore got its comeuppance last Sunday.

Switzerland, a country which is generally ruled by a consensus among the political parties, is undoubtedly a good example of the alienation of the political class from the concerns of ordinary people. That doesn’t give ordinary people the right to take out their frustration on the next best (or most visible) minority. Any democracy functions according to rules; these rules ensure that neither the political elite nor the mass of the people can simply impose their will on the country Or, more importantly, on a minority within the country.

That’s what a constitution is for. If the constitution loses its function of protecting the minority and becomes a vehicle for the enforcement of prejudice, it loses its authority. By voting to include a ban on minarets in their constitution, no less, the Swiss have voted to undermined the authority of their constitution.

3. Both Broder and Köppel argue that the vote in minarets does not infringe on religious freedom, as neither the building of mosques nor the wearing of the hijab, neither Muslim prayer nor Muslim ritual practices are banned. Indeed, the whole referendum was an exercise in futility.

But one asks oneself what the reaction would be if, say, the German authorities were to tell the Jewish communities in Germany how to build and how not to build their synagogues. It stands to reason that a discussion on the pros and cons of a particular design – for a church, mosque, synagogue or bank tower – is not only legitimate, but ought to be the rule rather than the exception. But if one can vote to include a ban on minarets in the constitution, what is to prevent further votes on the way Muslims practice their faith and present themselves in public?

4. Broder points out (as do many others) that in most Islamic countries there are severe limits on the freedom of religion; many point to the fact that in Turkey for instance, the churches are not allowed to own land and build houses of worship. Broder argues for the “tit for tat”-principle: No new mosques in Europe until, say, Turkey allows the building of new churches.

There can be no doubt that the positions of the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries are untenable and downright scandalous. Christian countries like the USA and Germany fight to free Muslim Albanian Kosovars from Serbia; to free Iraqui Shia from Saddam Hussein, to free Muslim Afghanis from the Taliban and their Al Qaida allies. And what thanks do they get? The discrimination and persecution of Christians persists.

But surely the answer cannot be to emulate this scandalous practice? The whole point of being a secular Western society is to rise above such petty squabbles. Turkey for instance will have to decide whether it wants to join the European Union, in which case the churches must enjoy all the rights enjoyed by the state-run Diyanet or religious office – or whether it wishes to remain outside. Switzerland has done an immense disservice to those who are trying to convince the Turks to proceed down the road to Europe. Thanks for that, guys.

It is surely no coincidence that after the worst banking crisis in more than half a century, first a central banker – Thilo Sarrazin – implies that Muslim immigrants are the source of constant problems, then a banking nation decides that four minarets are indicative of “Islamization”. Anyone can have an opinion on minarets, most people would be scared of having to decide on whether or not to bail out banks, how much capitalization to prescribe, how to regulate hedge funds etc. So the “brave Swiss” (bullshit!) pretend that there is simply no banking problem to take care of out there. Instead, they create a “Muslim problem”.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles therein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the publisher.

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.

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.

Das Scheitern des neureichen Bürgertums

April 27, 2009

Der Erfolg ist eine Folgeerscheinung, niemals darf er zum Ziel werden. (Gustave Flaubert)

Kultur basiert auf einer Vielfalt von  Traditionen, die sich über Jahrtausende hinweg bewahrt haben. Neureichen können da nicht mitspielen; denen fehlt einfach die Grundlage. In einem Essay erschienen in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung bestätigt der Soziologe und Mitherausgeber der Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft Leviathan und von WestEnd. Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung Prof. Dr. Sighard Neckel diese Vermutung. Mit der weltweiten Finanzkrise ist die ausschließlich an Geld und Status bemessene kulturlose Erfolgskultur der Neureichen definitiv gescheitert:

“Wenn heute unter den Vermögensbesitzern der Verlust von Renditen als persönliches Problem und psychische Krise ankommt, dann schlägt sich darin auch nieder, wie wirksam sich die Maximen des raschen finanziellen Erfolgs im Habitus des modernen Bürgertums bereits verankern konnten.”

Zum Artikel.

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.”

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.

Obama Administration to Join anti-Israel U.N. Human Rights Council

March 31, 2009

The Obama administration has revoked a decision by the Bush administration to boycott the Geneva-based United Nations’ premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive and racist states, according to The Washington Post.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is wholly owned and operated by Islamic states that legitimize Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism, supported by an automatic majority from China, Cuba, and other repressive regimes. Canada, now the true America,  is the only country in the world that has been willing to stand up and resist Orwellian resolutions that are destroying the true principles of human rights.

The resolutions of the U.N. Human Rights Council failed to address human rights violations of Muslim countries, notably Iran’s persecution of Baha’is, Saudi Arabia’s banning of all religious practice aside from Islam, and the persecution of Christian communities in Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq. Instead of this, the U.N. Human Rights Council recommended to criminalize the defamation of Islam.

Durban UN-Conference 2009: Show event of bigots and anti-Semites

March 18, 2009

Ronald S. Lauder: Show event of bigots and anti-Semites

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 14, 2009

The United Nations are inviting to a conference which only serves as a platform for those who hate Israel – and all that on Hitler’s birthday.

April 20th this year will be the 120th anniversary of the birth of Hitler, the most notorious mass murderer and racist in the history of mankind. Coincidentally, this year April 20th will also be the opening day of a United Nations conference on racism in Geneva, Switzerland. Its task will be to review the conclusions of the World Conference on Anti-Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001, and their implementation. It would normally be a positive sign to hold an event like this on such a symbolic day. Alas, the history of the Durban process weighs against this.

Many diplomats and human rights activists will remember with horror the events that occurred in Durban in September 2001. It was turned into a grand show of unity of bigots, despots, anti-Semites and declared enemies of Israel. The Jewish state was denounced as racist and its right to exist – once guaranteed by the United Nations – questioned.

The Durban Review Process has shown that may participating states are not there to discuss ways of combating racism and intolerance but to cover up own failings by launching unfair attacks against Israel and the Jews. Repeatedly, resolutions have been tabled which do not address issues of racism but demonize Israel as racist. Israel is the only country to be singled out for criticism – a unique form of cynicism! If Israel really were the main sponsor of racism and intolerance, wouldn’t we all live in a near-perfect world?

The Durban Review Conference in Geneva will be under the motto ‘Dignity and Justice for All’. One could ask ironically if countries such as Iran, Cuba, Libya, or Pakistan have signed up to this motto. However, irony is lost once you come to realize that it is these very countries that play crucial roles in the run-up to the event. Libya chairs the Preparatory Committee, and the rapporteur is from Cuba.

Given the human rights situation in these countries that makes a mockery of the event. In Pakistan, the Taliban were recently granted the right to introduce Islamic Sharia law in the Swat Valley, which they brought under their control. Once again, women there risk their lives when striving for better education or personal freedom.

Iran’s role is a particularly bad one: the event will provide the preachers of hate in Tehran with another international platform. In Iran, ethnic and religious minorities such as the Bahai suffer from discrimination, and human rights abuses are rife. Iran even executes minors because of their homosexuality, and women are regularly stoned to death for allegedly having committed adultery.

The genocide in Rwanda took place only 15 years ago, and yet there are ominous signs that it could again happen elsewhere in Africa. In Darfur, hundreds of thousands of people were killed in ethnic violence because Sudan’s dictatorial president and the neighboring countries simply didn’t give a damn. The Libyan ruler Kaddafi recently blamed the mass killing in Darfur on Israel. Yet the African Union, whose current president Kaddafi is, doing precious little to solve the conflict.

The country reports on human rights recently published by the US State Department make it crystal clear: the very countries which at the United Nations are supposed act as fighters for human rights and against racism have the worst record when it comes to state-sponsored violations of human rights at home.

The bodies of the United Nations – especially the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council – have been become popular forums for those bigots who like to denounce others in order to deflect from their own failings. In the less than three years of its existence the Human Rights Council has already condemned Israel 15 times. Worse conflicts were not dealt with at all, or diplomatically and discretely dealt with.

There is a danger that the UN anti-racism conference will once again be exploited to pursue aims that have nothing to do with the fight against racism and intolerance. Some Muslim countries event want draconian restrictions of freedom of speech pretending a “defamation of religion.”

Lately, even UN Human Rights Commissioner Navanethem Pillay, who acts as the review conference’s organizer, felt obliged to call on the participating states to be objective and focus on the real aims of the conference. This is honorable, but it also speaks volumes about what to expect from the forum.

As things currently stand, the objectives of the Durban Review Conference cannot be achieved. Before more damage is done, Mrs. Pillay should therefore cancel the event. Otherwise, Western governments must stay away. More than a year ago, the Canadian government announced its boycott. Lately, the US administration and Italy joined them. Unfortunately, others – including the German government – are still hesitant.

Last year, the EU presidency defined clear “red lines”, which, once crossed, would trigger the withdrawal of European governments from the Geneva conference. Although the red lines have been crossed the European governments, except the Italian, are still reluctant to take a decision.

Diplomats always seek to make small progress and find a compromise. However, there are moments when we need political leadership in order to avoid one’s agenda being hijacked by disingenuous actors. Diplomacy is not an end in itself, and the ambition to get some form of consensus on a final declaration must not compromise the respect for liberty and human rights.

This is a test for Europe. It is not too late yet to avoid a repeat of the Durban disaster of 2001. One can only hope that Europe’s leaders do not naively walk into the same trap that was already laid out for them by the self-appointed fighters for human rights. German in particular should make a stand and not attend the Geneva conference on April 20th. Such a decision would be a strong signal.

Ronald S. Lauder, 65, is president of the World Jewish Congress

Durban UN-Konferenz 2009: Schaulaufen der Heuchler und Antisemiten

March 18, 2009


Außenansicht – Ronald S. Lauder: Schaulaufen der Heuchler und Antisemiten

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 14.03.2009

Die Vereinten Nationen laden zu einer Konferenz, die nur als Bühne der Israel-Hasser dient – und das am Geburtstag Hitlers.

Am 20. April jährt sich zum 120. Mal die Geburt Hitlers, des schlimmsten Massenmörders und Rassisten der Menschheitsgeschichte. Und ausgerechnet am 20. April beginnt nun in Genf eine Konferenz der Vereinten Nationen, bei der die Ergebnisse der Antirassismuskonferenz aus dem Jahr 2001 im südafrikanischen Durban und ihre Umsetzung überprüft werden sollen. Die Veranstaltung an einem symbolträchtigen Datum wie diesem abzuhalten, wäre eigentlich zu begrüßen, wenn nicht die Vorgeschichte dagegen spräche.

An die erste UN-Konferenz gegen Rassismus in Durban, Südafrika, im September 2001 erinnern sich Diplomaten und Menschenrechtsorganisationen mit Grauen. Denn sie entwickelte sich zu einem Schaulaufen der Heuchler, Despoten, der Antisemiten und der Israel-Feinde. Der jüdische Staat wurde als rassistisch gebrandmarkt und sein – von den Vereinten Nationen verbrieftes – Existenzrecht in Frage gestellt.

Es zeigt sich in der Vorbereitung der Konferenz fast täglich aufs Neue, dass es vielen teilnehmenden Staaten nicht um die Bekämpfung von Rassismus und Intoleranz geht, sondern darum, eigene Verfehlungen durch unfaire Attacken auf Israel und die Juden zu kaschieren. Israel wird als Apartheid-Staat diffamiert, in dem Juden angeblich Andersgläubige unterdrücken. Mehrfach sind Resolutionen und Anträge eingebracht worden, die nicht Rassismus bekämpfen, sondern Israel als rassistisch verleumden. Israel ist das einzige Land, das namentlich kritisiert wird – ein Zynismus sondergleichen, denn wäre Israel in puncto Rassismus und Intoleranz wirklich das Hauptproblem, dann würden wir in einer fast perfekten Welt leben.

Die Konferenz in Genf steht unter dem Motto “Würde und Gerechtigkeit für alle”. Man kann ironisch fragen, ob sich auch Länder wie Iran, Libyen, Kuba oder Pakistan dem verpflichtet fühlen. Die Ironie bleibt einem jedoch im Halse stecken, weil man erkennen muss, dass diese Länder bei der Veranstaltung das Wort führen. Libyen sitzt dem Vorbereitungsausschuss vor, der Berichterstatter des Organisationskomitees kommt aus Kuba, und auch Iran spielt eine tragende Rolle. Angesichts der Zustände in diesen Ländern ist dies eine Verhöhnung der Konferenz. In Pakistan wurde unlängst den Taliban in dem von ihnen beanspruchten Swat-Tal zugestanden, die Scharia einzuführen. Frauen riskieren nun wieder viel, wenn sie nach Bildung oder persönlicher Freiheit streben. Irans Rolle ist besonders schlimm: Mit der Veranstaltung erhalten die Hassprediger in Teheran erneut eine internationale Bühne. In Iran werden Minderheiten wie die Bahai diskriminiert und Menschenrechte aufs schlimmste verletzt. Iran lässt sogar homosexuelle Minderjährige öffentlich hinrichten, und Frauen droht bei Ehebruch die Steinigung.

Der Völkermord in Ruanda ist erst 15 Jahre her, und doch gibt es wieder bedrohliche Anzeichen, dass er sich anderswo in Afrika wiederholen könnte. In der Region Darfur mussten Hunderttausende sterben, weil das dem diktatorischen Präsidenten des Sudan und den Nachbarstaaten schlicht gleichgültig war. Der libysche Staatschef Gaddafi macht Israel für Darfur verantwortlich, und die Afrikanische Union, welcher Gaddafi vorsteht, unternimmt recht wenig gegen den Konflikt.

Der jüngste Menschenrechtsbericht des amerikanischen Außenministeriums spricht eine deutliche Sprache: Gerade jene Länder, die sich bei den Vereinten Nationen als Kämpfer gegen Rassismus aufschwingen, sind die größten Sünder, wenn es um die Missachtung der Menschenrechte im eigenen Land geht. Die Gremien der UN – insbesondere die Vollversammlung und der Menschenrechtsrat – sind zu beliebten Foren jener Heuchler geworden, die Verfehlungen anderer anprangern, um von eigenen abzulenken. In den zweieinhalb Jahren seines Bestehens wurde Israel durch den UN-Menschenrechtsrat bereits 15 Mal verurteilt. Andere, wesentlich schlimmere Konflikte wurden dagegen gar nicht behandelt oder mittels diplomatischer Formeln diskret ad acta gelegt.

Es besteht die Gefahr, dass auch die UN-Antirassismuskonferenz erneut instrumentalisiert wird, um ganz andere Ziele zu verfolgen als die Bekämpfung von Rassismus und Intoleranz. Manche islamische Länder wollen eine drakonische Beschränkung der Meinungsfreiheit unter dem Vorwand der “Beleidigung der Religion”.

Zuletzt sah sich sogar UN-Menschenrechtskommissarin Navanethem Pillay, die Ausrichterin der Rassismuskonferenz, genötigt, die teilnehmenden Staaten zur Objektivität aufzufordern und sich auf die eigentlichen Ziele der Konferenz zu konzentrieren. Das ist ehrenwert, lässt aber nichts Gutes erahnen.

Klar ist: Die Ziele der Veranstaltung können nach derzeitigem Stand nicht erreicht werden. Bevor nun noch mehr Schaden angerichtet wird, sollte Frau Pillay die Konferenz absagen. Andernfalls müssen die westlichen Regierungen ihr fernbleiben. Bereits vor gut einem Jahr erklärte die kanadische Regierung ihren Boykott, dieser Tage schlossen sich die US-Regierung und Italien an. Andere, darunter auch die Bundesregierung, zögern leider noch.

Die EU-Ratspräsidentschaft hat im vergangenen Jahr vier “rote Linien” definiert, deren Überschreitung nach sich ziehen würde, dass die europäischen Regierungen bei der Genfer Konferenz nicht teilnehmen. Obwohl diese Linien eindeutig überschritten wurden, zögern die europäischen Regierungen, ausgenommen eben Italien, leider noch.

Diplomaten streben nach kleinen Fortschritten und Kompromissen. Es gibt aber auch Momente, die nach politischer Führung verlangen. Diplomatie ist kein Selbstzweck, und das Streben nach einem Abschlussdokument, auf das sich die Staaten einigen können, darf nicht dazu führen, dass Freiheit und Menschenrechte relativiert werden.

Europa ist gefordert. Noch ist es nicht zu spät, eine Wiederholung des Desasters von 2001 zu verhindern. Die Europäer sollten nicht noch einmal gutmütig in die Falle tappen, die ihnen selbst ernannte Streiter für Menschenrechte gestellt haben. Gerade Deutschland müsste am 20. April der Konferenz in Genf demonstrativ fernbleiben. Noch ist es für die Bundesregierung nicht zu spät, ein starkes Zeichen zu setzen.

Ronald S. Lauder, 65, ist Präsident des Jüdischen Weltkongresses.


March 14, 2009

In einem Essay erschienen in der heutigen Ausgabe der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung  betrachtet der polyglotte Schriftsteller Literaturwissenschaftler Adolf Muschg das Sprachenerlernen als Schlüssel zur interkulturellen Kompetenz:

“Man lernt ihre Eigenheit würdigen, eingeschlossen die Willkür, die Freiheit, den Zufall, die in ihr am Werk sind. Daraus ergibt sich eine kulturelle Kompetenz über den Spracherwerb hinaus: eine Disposition, immer auch die andere Seite einer Sache zu hören.”

Zum Artikel.

Stop Swiss Bid to Elect Anti-American and Anti-Israel Extremist Jean Ziegler to U.N.

March 5, 2009


Hillary Rodham Clinton in Geneva tomorrow: Will she stop Swiss nomination of U.N.’s leading anti-American and anti-Israel official?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets in Geneva tomorrow with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, whose government has just nominated Jean Ziegler – a former Swiss politician notorious for his anti-American books, giving a prize to a French Holocaust denier, and apologetics for Libyan’s Qaddafi regime – to a U.N. human rights post. Jean Ziegler is a longtime Socialist party confidante of Ms. Calmy-Rey.

Calmy-Rey’s government nominated Ziegler for re-election to the advisory committee of the UN Human Rights Council, as the only candidate of the council’s Western group. When Western states elect a notorious apologist of dictators and one of the world’s most virulent promoters of hatred against their own embattled civilization, they signal defeatism in the wrong place and at the worst time. Ziegler’s latest French-language best-seller is entitled Hatred of the West. The U.N. vote is scheduled for March 25, 2009.

Who is Jean Ziegler?

As documented in a essay by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, Jean Ziegler is:

  • Apologist for some of the worst human rights criminals of our time. 
  • After Fidel Castro imprisoned 70 journalists, Ziegler proclaimed “total support for the Cuban revolution.”  During an official visit to the Communist island in October 2008, Ziegler hailed the virtues of Castro regime even while he refused to meet Cuban dissidents.

Only pressure from U.S. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, supported by other voices of reason, can stop Swiss Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey from pursing this outrageous nomination.

Click Here to Take Action!

Freudenfeuer der Eitelkeiten

February 26, 2009


Alles muss raus! Trotz globalen Wirtschaftskrise lässt sich im Kunstgeschäft noch Geld verdienen.

In diesem Zusammenhang zieht die Neue Zürcher Zeitung Bilanz zum prominentesten und erfolgreichsteten Winterschlussverkauf des Jahrhunderts bzw. Versteigerung der Sammlung des verstorbenen französischen Couturiers Yves Saint Laurent. Die “Kunstgegenstände” werden diesmal nicht wie am Karnevaldienstag, dem 7. Feburar 1497, auf der Florentiner Piazza della Signoria verbrannt, sondern gegen Bares im Pariser Museum Grand Palais verkauft.

“Gutes Marketing macht sich häufig bezahlt. Die von Christie’s und dem Auktionshaus Pierre Bergé & Associés organisierte (beziehungsweise inszenierte) Versteigerung zog schon im Vorfeld grosse Aufmerksamkeit auf sich. Das lag zunächst natürlich am klangvollen Namen des schon zu Lebzeiten legendären Yves Saint Laurent. Der geniale Couturier hatte bis zu seinem Tod letzten Sommer exakt ein halbes Jahrhundert lang das Leben seines Geschäftspartners geteilt (auch wenn die beiden seit 1976 nicht mehr unter einem Dach wohnten) und mit diesem über Jahrzehnte hinweg eine einzigartige Sammlung aufgebaut.”

Zum Artikel.

Davos World Economic Forum 2009

January 28, 2009

The Financial Times says overall attendance numbers may be up at this year’s World Economic Forum summit at Davos, which opens today, but adds that the overall mood is glum due to the global economic crisis.

The Wall Street Journal reports the summit will focus predominantly on two questions: whether the world economy can be saved from prolonged recession, and if so, where the growth will come from. The article says policymakers are likely to look to rattled U.S. consumers – rather than rattled Chinese and emerging market producers – as the most plausible engine in the short-term.

Bloomberg also reports a markedly different attitude among emerging market leaders, some of whom were perceived as “cocky” at last year’s event.

The Wall Street Journal has also a page focused on summit coverage, pulling together several relevant news and analysis pieces.

Die USA, Barack Obama, der amerikanische Traum und die Suche nach dem Erlöser

January 20, 2009
1in_god_we_trustThe Battle Hymn of the Republic (dt. Die Schlachthymne der Republik)

Der Amerikanist Dr. Götz-Dietrich Opitz schildert in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung die Rhetorik der Inaugurationsreden in den USA insbesondere im Zusammenhang mit der amerikanischen Bedeutung der alttestamentarischen Jeremiade als politischer Predigt, und nicht zuletzt Ausdruck einer zivilen bzw. bürgerlichen Religion.

Heute wird Barack Obama als 44. Präsident der USA vereidigt. Seine Inaugurationsrede wird die Aufmerksamkeit der Weltöffentlichkeit auf sich ziehen. George Washington hat bei seiner Amtseinführung 1789 diesen Brauch etabliert. Die inaugural address folgt einem eigenen Muster des rhetorischen Pathos. […]

Zusammen mit einer Vielzahl religiöser Gesten – wie zum Beispiel ein öffentliches Gebet – sind Amtsantrittsreden Ausdruck eines für die USA typischen Phänomens. Der Soziologe Robert N. Bellah hat es schon 1966 mit dem Etikett civil religion, Zivilreligion, versehen. Bellah wies darauf hin, dass Gott bisher in allen Inaugurationsreden – mit Ausnahme der zweiten von George Washington – angerufen wurde. Amerikas Zivilreligion proklamiere, dass sich die Rechte des Volkes von einer transzendenten Quelle jenseits des Staates herleiten und dass das ganze amerikanische Experiment der Demokratie unter dem Urteil eines gerechten Gottes stehe.”

Zum Artikel.


The Battle Hymn of The Republic / Die Schlachthymn der Republik


Im Februar 1862 in der Zeitschrift The Atlantic Monthly abgedruckt.

Meine Augen haben die Herrlichkeit des Nahens des Herrns gesehen,

Er zerstampft die Weinlese, wo die Früchte des Zorns gelagert sind,

Er hat den verhängnisvollen Blitz seines schrecklichen, geschwinden Schwerts entfesselt: Seine Wahrheit schreitet weiter.


Rühmt ihn, rühmt ihn, Halleluja!
Rühmt ihn, rühmt ihn, Halleluja!
Rühmt ihn, rühmt ihn, Halleluja!
Seine Wahrheit schreitet voran.

Ich habe ihn in den Wachfeuern hunderter Feldlager gesehen,

Im Tau und Dunst des Abends errichteten sie ihm einen Altar.

Ich kann seinen gerechten Spruch im Licht der trüben und flackernden Leuchten sehen: Sein Tag schreitet fort.

Ich habe eine aufwühlende Botschaft gelesen, die in glattem Stahl eingegraben ist:

“Wie Ihr an meinen Nächsten gehandelt habt, so werde ich an Euch handeln.”

Lasst den Menschensohn die Schlange unter seiner Ferse zermalmen,

Denn Gott schreitet weiter.

Er hat in die Trompete gestoßen, die nie zum Rückzug rufen wird,

Er siebt auf seinem Richterstuhl die Herzen der Menschen aus:

Antworte ihm eifrig, meine Seele, jubiliert, meine Füße,

Unser Gott schreitet voran.

Im Glanz der Lilien wurde Christus jenseits des Ozeans geboren,

Mit einer Herrlichkeit in der Brust, die mich und dich verklärt:

Wie er starb, Menschen heilig zu machen, lasst uns sterben, Menschen zu befreien, Da Gott weiterschreitet.

Er kommt wie die Pracht des ersten Lichts in den Wellen,

Er ist Weisheit den Mächtigen und Ehre den Tapferen;

So wird die Erde sein Schemel sein und die Seelen der Ungerechten sein Diener

Unser Gott marschiert voran.

Die geheime Waffe der Elite oder Über die moralische Verwahrlosung des öffentlichen Raums

December 27, 2008

In Zeiten von Handy-Klingeltöne, Käse-Quatsch-Shows  und Ratgeber-und Bevormundung-Sendungen, werden Otto-Normal-Verbraucher Gegenstand des öffentliches Diskurses, während alles was öffentlich ist, privatisiert wird. Damit wird das Politische zur Unterhaltung degradiert. Differenzierung und Komplexität sind eben nicht zur Unterhaltung tauglich.

Dies ist gewiss die sicherste Methode um jegliche Kritik an dem System ins Lächerliche zu ziehen und von den wirklich wichtigen Themen abzulenken: wenn jeder Politiker sein Privatleben erzählen darf, und jeder Hans und Franz ein Promi werden darf, ist das System doch perfekt und gerecht. Der sakrale Charakter des öffentlichen Raums verliert langsam an Bedeutung, je mehr Menschen ihn zu ihrem privaten Wohnzimmer mißbrauchen, stellt in dieser Hinsicht die kroatische Schriftstellerin und Heinrich-Mann-Preisträgerin Dubravka Ugrešić in der heutigen Ausgabe der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung fest:

“Die Grenze zwischen Privatheit und Öffentlichkeit ist unscharf geworden in einer Zeit, die ungeniert nach Selbstverwirklichung drängt. Wo dem Einzelnen unter dem Eindruck des Beobachtetwerdens einst die Kontrolle der persönlichen Gefühle auferlegt war, droht sich dies heute ins Gegenteil zu verkehren. Die Strasse gerät zur Bühne des eigenen Selbst – die Freiheit, die sich einer herausnimmt, wird zur Unfreiheit der anderen.”

Zum Artikel.

Ten worst news stories of 2008

December 23, 2008

by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC)
New York, December 22, 2008

This year, it wasn’t difficult to identify candidates for the worst news stories. The challenge was limiting them to ten. Here’s my list:

An ethical meltdown

An Israeli prime minister compelled to leave office, on the heels of an Israeli president who was obliged to leave his post under a cloud in 2007, sent another disturbing message that all is not well in Israeli politics.

The Bernie Madoff story, embodying greed and fraud to the Nth degree, inflicted more harm this year on the Jewish world than all of our external enemies combined.

And the front-page stories on the accusations against Agriprocessors, the kosher meat plant in Iowa charged with massive labor violations, triggered shock and embarrassment.

For a people whose mission statement puts a moral code front and center, clearly, there’s remedial work to be done.

An American meltdown

For those who believe that a strong, robust United States is critical to the defense of freedom and protection of human rights worldwide, there were troubling signs in 2008.

The world’s leading nation was revealed to have major cracks in its foundation.

Wall Street is teetering and Main Street is reeling. Detroit’s car manufacturers are on the brink of collapse, while many of the nation’s bridges and roadways aren’t far behind.

America was revealed to be #1 in the rates of obesity and incarceration, and at the bottom in the rate of savings. It was strikingly absent from the top ten countries in the Human Development Index, the global barometer of quality of life.

Iran’s nuclear ambition

Iran kept brazenly marching ahead toward nuclear weapons capability. It added substantially to the number of centrifuges – last month, it claimed 5,000 – and was revealed to have enriched sufficient uranium for one nuclear bomb.

At the same time, it brandished its latest missiles with a range of more 2000 kilometers.

Various diplomatic efforts, including sending a senior U.S. official, Bill Burns, to join talks with the Iranians, came up empty.

Legitimizing evil

While Iran violates UN Security Council resolutions, many nations carried on with a business-as-usual attitude toward Tehran.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for a world without Israel, denied the Holocaust, and trampled on the human rights of his own citizens, visited India, Turkey, and China in 2008. Brazil extended an open invitation for him to visit.

In addition, he returned to New York for the opening of the UN session, where he was literally embraced by UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, and hosted at a dinner by Mennonite and Quaker groups.

And the reluctance of China and Russia to support toughened sanctions measures against Iran has stymied the efforts of the U.S., France, and Britain, the other three permanent members of the Security Council.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey traveled to Tehran in March, where she met with Ahmadinejad and was caught on camera laughing with a leader who should be a pariah.

And despite public proclamations to the contrary, many European countries actually increased their volume of commercial dealings with Iran. EU exports for the first eight months of 2008 rose 13 percent over the same period in 2007. Iran’s three largest European partners all increased their exports. Italy registered the most significant jump, followed by France and Germany.

Iran’s proxies gain ground

Hamas and Hezbollah emerged stronger in 2008. The two Iranian-backed terrorist groups are better armed, prepared, and fortified than one year ago.

In the case of Hamas, the just-ended six-month “lull” with Israel allowed it to add to its extensive tunnel network, command-and-control structure, arsenal of advanced weaponry, and training of forces, while keeping a tight grip on Gaza and holding on to kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Hamas believes it can have the best of both worlds – the right to attack Israel at will, while complaining about Israeli counter-measures and seeking sympathy from the international community.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s position was strengthened. True, UNIFIL forces deployed in southern Lebanon have prevented further fighting with Israel. But intelligence reports indicate that Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian help, has doubled its arsenal of missiles from 2006 and increased their range to include most, if not all, of Israel.

Child murderer honored

In a highly controversial exchange, Israel released Samir Kuntar. He was involved in a terrorist attack, in 1979, in the Israeli seaside town of Nahariya. Among his victims was a four-year-old girl, Einat Haran, whose skull was smashed.

Unrepentant, Kuntar returned to Lebanon, where he received a hero’s welcome. In fact, the country was given the day off to celebrate.

Not to be outdone, Syrian President Bashar Assad awarded Kuntar the Order of Merit, the nation’s top honor!

Anti-Semitism on the rise

In September, the highly regarded Pew Global Attitudes Project released its latest report.

Of European countries, Spain had the highest rate of negative attitudes toward Jews. By a margin of 46 to 37 percent, more Spaniards had an unfavorable image of Jews than favorable. In fact, more than twice as many Spaniards hold negative views of Jews than in 2005.

The same study revealed that, since 2004, negative views of Jews have also risen in France (from 11 to 20 percent), Germany (from 20 to 25 percent), Poland (from 27 to 36 percent), and Russia (from 25 to 34 percent).

Previous Pew studies revealed that 76 percent of Turks have a negative view of Jews, while the same figure for Lebanese is 97 percent, Jordanians 96 percent, and Egyptians 95 percent.

The Mumbai massacre

Once again, an open, multicultural society was the terrorists’ target. Once again, Jews were among those sought out for the “crime” of simply being Jewish. As a result, two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg will go through life as an orphan, his parents having been among the targeted victims.

The story is yet another reminder that Pakistan is “ground zero” in the war against radical Islamic forces.

With a weak government, nuclear arsenal, intelligence service with questionable loyalties, Saudi-funded madrassas spreading radicalism, and vast swaths of the country beyond central control, it’s not at all clear how to rein in the forces wreaking havoc in neighboring Afghanistan or plotting terrorist attacks at home and abroad.

Add places like Somalia and Sudan, also havens for jihadists, and the extent of the global challenge becomes still starker.

Russia is back

After reeling toward third-world status in the ’90s, Russia is back, its reemergence highlighted by its August conflict with Georgia.

Though largely dependent on high commodity prices to fuel its superpower ambitions, Russia has the talent and resources to be a major factor once again on the world stage. And it’s wasting no time in underscoring the point.

In 2008, Russia went ahead with providing fuel for the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran, after stalling for several years. And it discussed major arms deals with Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, all of which, if they go forward, will prove destabilizing in a region not known for its stability. (At the same time, ironically, Russia seeks to purchase weapons from Israel.)

And Russia’s coziness with Hugo Chavez, underscored this year by major weapons deals and warships arriving in Venezuelan ports, is a reminder of Moscow’s capacity for long-distance reach. Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, linked by anti-American sentiment, must be joyful at Russia’s reemergence as an alternative big-power address.

Self-inflicted wounds

With all the external challenges faced by Israel and the Jewish people, it would be nice to think that internal differences could be minimized. Hardly.

Instead, the Jewish world continues to be riven by an ever-growing profusion of organizations battling each other for funds, members, publicity, and access. And in tough economic times, the atmosphere only becomes more highly charged.

Moreover, some individuals and organizations hurl charges – privately or publicly – at one another with abandon, as if anyone with an opposing perspective needs to be cut off at the knees.

But then again, what’s new? In 1914, the legendary jurist Louis Marshall, president of AJC, spoke of the threats to Jews in Europe triggered by World War I:

“Unity of action is essential. There should be no division in counsel or in sentiment. All differences should be laid aside and forgotten. Nothing counts now but harmonious and effective action.”

Ninety-five years later, despite the external challenges, we’re no closer to Marshall’s idealistic goal. If anything, we’re only further away.

What a pity!

Gespräch mit dem Philosophen Peter Sloterdijk über die Finanzmarktkrise

November 29, 2008

Im Gespräch mit der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung hält der Philosoph Peter Sloterdijk nicht viel von Wirtschaftswissenschaftlern:

“Man muss endlich auch die Wirtschaftswissenschaften als Wissenschaften vom Irrationalen rekonstruieren, als eine Theorie des leidenschaftsgetriebenen und zufälligen Verhaltens. Die Psychologie beschreibt den Menschen seit über hundert Jahren als animal irrationale. Etwas Ähnliches zeichnet sich jetzt langsam in den Staats- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften ab. Auch dort porträtiert man den Menschen zunehmend als ein Wesen, das sich so gut wie nie als vernünftiger Langzeitrechner verhält. Der wirkliche Mensch, wie er außerhalb der theoretischen Modelle erscheint, lebt durch die Leidenschaften, aus dem Zufall und dank der Nachahmung. Für aufklärerisch gesinnte Menschen enthalten diese Diagnosen starke Zumutungen. Wir wollen als vernünftig, organisiert, selbstdurchsichtig und originell gelten und sind in Wahrheit unberechenbar, chaosanfällig, trüb und repetitiv.”

Vollständiges Gespräch lesen.

Die neue Einsamkeit des Josef Ackermann

October 26, 2008

Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung berichtet über die neueste Hetz- und Medienkampagne gegen den eigentlich ganz vernünftigen und erfolgreichen (nicht der Tod, sondern der Neid ist ein Meister aus Deutschland, um den Spruch von Paul Celan aktueller zu machen) Deutsche Bank-Chef Josef Ackermann, der in seiner Wortwahl über Staatskapitalismus sich nur treu geblieben ist.

Vermutlich versuchen Politiker (die in Aufsichtsgremien von Banken sitzen, und von dem Ernst der Lage wussten) und Mitläufer (sprich Bänker) vom eigenen Versagen abzulenken, in dem sie Ackermanns Aussage, die nicht anders als die blanke Wahrheit ist, anprangern, um ihn als Sündenbock für das gereizte Volk zu präsentieren.

“Er ist jetzt wieder ganz allein. Alle dreschen auf ihn ein: härter, grausamer als jemals zuvor. Josef Ackermann, der Schweizer, hat alle Hochs und Tiefs in Deutschland erlebt. Aber so hoch oben wie in den vergangenen Monaten war er noch nie. So tief gefallen wie in der letzten Woche ist er ebenfalls noch nie. Ob er sich davon je wieder erholen wird, ist ziemlich ungewiss.”

Zum Artikel.

Eine neue Pyramide für Paris

October 18, 2008

Fast 20 Jahren nach dem Bau der Glaspyramide im Innenhof des Pariser Museums Le Louvre, pünktlich fertiggestellt zur Zweihundertjahrfeier der Französischen Revolution, durch den sino-amerikanischen Star-Architekten Ieoh Ming Pei, will nun das Basler Architekturbüro Herzog & de Meuron eine zweite Pyramide namens Tour de Triangle (i.e. dreieckiger Turm) im Süden von Paris bauen, berichtete Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Zum Artikel.

Bernard-Henri Lévy und Michel Houellebecq – Selbstdarsteller unter sich

October 6, 2008

In der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung nimmt der in Paris lebende Germanist Jürgen Ritte die inszenierte und medienwirksame Feindschaft zwischen dem pseudo-Intellektuellen Bernard-Henri Lévy (der Philosophie zur narzisstischen Talk-Show-Veranstaltung herunterwirtschaft hat) und dem möchtegern Enfant Terrible der gegenwärtigen französischen Literatur Michel Houellebecq (der sich gern als der neue Vladimir Nabokov profiliert, nur weil er pornografisch schreibt, in Zeiten wo Pornografie Mainstream ist; sehr mutig…) auseinander.

Der gute Général de Gaulle (der u.a. ein grossartiger Schriftsteller war; siehe seine Mémoires) pflegte zu sagen: “On n’emprisonne pas Voltaire” (Voltaire verhaftet man nicht), um Jean-Paul Sartre den Gefallen nicht zu tun, ihn festnehmen zu lassen, als Sartre 1968 zum Sturz der Republik aufrief. Bernard-Henry Lévy und Michel Houellebecq kann man ruhig links liegen lassen. Voltaire sind sie bestimmt nicht. Halt nur Selbstdarsteller unter sich, i.e. Bullshit-Literatur für Ungebildeten bzw. Möchtegern-Gebildeten.

“Sie sind die Gebrandmarkten, die Aussätzigen, die ‘maudits’ unserer Tage. Das, so Houellebecq, verbinde sie, die doch sonst so vieles trenne, miteinander und beiläufig auch, so Lévy, mit einem Charles Baudelaire. Der Dichter der ‘Fleurs du mal’ wird es dort, wo er jetzt sein mag, mit Erstaunen zur Kenntnis nehmen. Lévy und Houellebecq haben starke Verleger im Rücken, verkaufen ihre Bücher zehn- und hunderttausendfach in aller Welt, jede Zeitung steht ihnen offen, in jeder Fernsehsendung sind sie höchst willkommen. Verfemte? […] Legt man das Buch, dessen Unterhaltungswert kaum höher zu veranschlagen ist als der einer literarischen Talkshow, wieder aus der Hand, fragt man sich, wohl vergeblich, nach dem tieferen Sinn des Unternehmens. Es ist ein Buch aus der Mailbox, eine Art Blogger-Buch, zu Papier geronnenes Gerede. Und möglicherweise macht auch das Schule . . .”

Zum Artikel.

Voilà un homme: Napoléon und Goethe in Erfurt

September 27, 2008
Alea iacta est: Napoléon überquert die Alpen (Gemälde von J.-L. David)

Alea iacta est: Napoléon überquert die Alpen.

“Je näher die Leute bei Napoléon standen, desto mehr bewunderten sie ihn. Bei sonstigen Helden ist das Umgekehrte der Fall. Er war nicht von jenem Holz, woraus man die Könige macht – er war von jenem Marmor, woraus man Götter macht.” Heinrich Heine

“Napoléon war ein Naturereignis. Ihn einen großen Schlächter schmähen heißt nichts anderes, als ein Erdbeben groben Unfug schelten oder ein Gewitter öffentliche Ruhestörung.” Christian Morgenstern

“Goethe hatte kein größeres Erlebnis, als jenes ens realissimum (i.e. das allerwirklichste Sein), das Napoléon heißt.”Friedrich Nietzsche

In der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung  wirft der Literaturwissenschaftler Adolf Muschg einen Blick auf das historische Treffen zwischen dem Retter der Französischen Revolution, Wiederhersteller der staatlichen Ordnung und schöpferischen Genie, dem Kaiser der Franzosen Napoléon Bonaparte (geboren Napoleone Buonaparte im damaligen italienischen Korsika…musste sein Geburtsdatum um ein Jahr fälschen, um in der französischen Armee aufgenommen zu werden, weil er ein Jahr vor dem Verkauf Korsikas an Frankreich geboren wurde; von solchen unbekannten Kleinigkeiten hängt die grosse Weltgeschichte ab) und dem Dichter der Deutschen Johann Wolfgang von Goethe am Rande des Erfurter Fürstenkongresses am 2. Oktober 1808, heute vor 200 Jahren.

Eine zweite Begegnung fand vier Tage später beim Hofball in Weimar statt. Nach der Aufführung von La mort de César, einer Tragödie von Voltaire, bat er Goethe, nach Paris zu kommen und eine Cäsar-Tragödie zu schreiben. Goethe fühlte sich durch diese Audienz und das am 14. Oktober 1808 verliehene Kreuz der Ehrenlegion sehr geehrt.

“Vous êtes un homme (oder Voilà un homme): so Napoléon zu Goethe am Sonntag, dem 2. Oktober 1808, kurz nach 10 Uhr morgens bei ihrer ersten Begegnung in der Statthalterei zu Erfurt. Schlichter und grandioser kann man einen Menschen nicht begrüssen.”

Zum Artikel.

Die offene Gesellschaft und ihre Feinde im 21. Jahrhundert

September 20, 2008
Lebe frei oder stirb, der Tod ist nicht der schlimmste Übel (Zitat von General John Stark vor der Schlacht von Bennington, Höhepunkt des Amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieges, 1777), offizielles Motto des U.S. Bundesstaates New Hampshire seit 1945.

Im Namen der Toleranz sollten wir uns das Recht vorbehalten, die Intoleranz nicht zu tolerieren. (Karl Popper, Die offene Gesellschaft und ihre Feinde)

In einem Essay erschienen in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung kommentiert Feuilletonchef Martin Meyer eine neue Vorlage der diesmal globalen Auseinandersetzung zwischen Liberalismus und Totalitarismus, und stellt dabei einige Widersprüche fest.

“Inzwischen ist Geopolitik zurückgekehrt. Liberale Demokratien sind herausgefordert durch autokratische Regime, deren Werte weder vom Idealismus noch von den soft powers her definiert werden. Ob sich dagegen und à la longue das Regulativ geteilter Herrschaft zum Wohl der Menschheit behaupten kann, wird sich weisen. Schon der Philosoph Reinhold Niebuhr, ein kritischer Analytiker des amerikanischen Geistes, diagnostizierte einen zentralen – und freilich unlösbaren – Widerspruch im Wesen der Supermacht: den Konflikt zwischen realistischer Interessenpolitik und missionarisch moralischer Tugendlehre. Letztere neige zur Hybris, woraus das praktische Handeln den Kürzeren ziehe.”

Zum Artikel.

Siehe auch: Die offene Gesellschaft und ihre neuen Feinde, Dr. Gerhard Engel, Gesellschaft für kritische Philosophie Nürnberg (GKP)

Central Banks respond to worst financial crisis since 1929

September 18, 2008

Several of the world’s most influential central banks unveiled a coordinated response to this week’s market turmoil and broader concerns about financial markets.

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced it would make an additional $180 billion available to foreign banks for overnight and longer-term money markets.

The European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, Bank of England, Bank of Canada, and Swiss National Bank made a joint statement that they would work with the U.S. Fed to help make short-term loans available to financial institutions in their countries.

Separately, the Financial Times reports Russia will inject over $19 billion to support its sputtering financial markets, following a dramatic stock slide.

A backgrounder from the Wall Street Journal says the credit crisis, spawned from bad U.S. mortgage-backed debt, has spread into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, and that there is no clear end in sight.

Read full story.