by FERN SIDMAN
(New York) - TODAY, A MOST important conference entitled, "Hijacking Human Rights: The Demonization of Israel by the United Nations" was held at the UN Millennium Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan. The nine hour conference, sponsored by Touro Law School, the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists featured a veritable cornucopia of speakers representing a broad spectrum of political, religious and academic life.
The credit for spearheading and organizing this conference goes to Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, Director of the Touro Insitute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and editor of www.EYEontheUN.org, as well as www.bayefsky.com, a major human rights website. Professor Bayefsky has served on various delegations to the UN for over twenty years, including the Canadian delegation to the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights, as well as various delegations to the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women and the infamous 2001 Durban Racism Conference. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Oxford University, and is a barrister and solicitor of the Ontario Bar.
While this conference focused on the orchestrated isolation of Israel, the blatant anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric of the United Nations, and the voluminous amount of resolutions passed both in the General Assembly and in the Security Council condemning Israel, the speakers grappled with ways to diffuse the tendentious climate that Israel finds herself in. The issue that dominated and most concerned many speakers was the upcoming Durban II conference to be held in 2009. Said Anne Bayefsky, "the resolution for Durban II was snuck under the table this past Thursday. This Tuesday the General Assembly will vote for prep-com on Passover of 2008. The resolution consists of only two paragraphs and Durban II will have the same NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as Durban I. She urged those assembled to lobby Washington and Jerusalem to vote against it. She also added that Durban II is an effort to enforce Durban I." She also warned those present that the NGOs hold they key to funding of Durban II.
According to an EYEontheUN special report entitled, "The UN-NGO Connection: Spreading the Message of Hate and Terrorism, (June 2006) it states, "The large number of NGOs have been empowered by UN accreditation to spread anti-Semitism, hate and encourage terrorism from a UN platform. The call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel is a central plank of this campaign. The UN accredits NGOS through its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Department of Public Information (DPI), or in Israel's case, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP). Accreditation brings with it a number of entitlements, in particular, the wider dissemination of the NGO's views by way of the UN website, UN conferences and publications. The following is a sampling of direct quotes taken from the sites of UN accredited NGOs:
- "The Star of David, which we are told is originally a religious symbol, symbolized hate and evil. Even today, I couldn't imagine a more hateful sign."
- "We denounce the racist and colonial character of Zionism, Israel's State ideology.."
- "Zionist apartheid, racism, and settler-colonialism in Palestine,,, is violative of the most basic human standards.. Thus, the Palestinian resistance is justified.."
- "What do you think of the suicide bombings?.. First of all we don't call it a 'suicide attack,' we call it a 'martyr attack.'"
According to Shimon Samuels, the Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center based in Paris, "the agenda of Durban II will be similar to the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion'". He said that the platforms for Durban II as discussed in Geneva will be, "40 years of Israel as an apartheid state and 90 years of Zionist colonialism since the Balfour Declaration." He said that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has initiated 'operation push back' to try and "arrest this pernicious aberration."
Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), who was elected to the US Senate in 2002, also addressed the issue of Durban II. He vowed that he will, "support funding restrictions to Durban II and called the original Durban conference, "institutionalized UN bashing of Israel and served to provide a legitimate platform for anti-Semitism." He also added that then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, "turned a blind eye to UN demonization of Israel." He also chided the UN Human Rights Council for placing Israel on its permanent agenda and discussed the bill in the Senate that was passed to prevent US tax dollars going to the UN Human Rights Council. He urged Israel lobbyists to work both sides of the aisle to influence Congress that financial leverage is an effective tool to rein in UN bashing of Israel.
Among the speakers in the morning session were former US ambassador John Bolton, a staunch advocate for Israel, who, during the Lebanon war of 2006 found himself as lonely voice in the wilderness when it came to defending Israel at the world body against charges of engaging in a "disproportionate" response to the incessant Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns.
Bolton called UN resolution 1701, calling for a cease fire, a false resolution and one that can never be enforced. Bolton also believes that the upcoming Annapolis peace summit will only result in Israel and America being placed in a weaker negotiating position. He stressed that Israel can only be treated fairly if the US State department would undergo a cultural revolution of sorts.
Ambassador Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Geneva Human Rights body has hijacked human rights mechanisms and is dominated today by the G 77 comprised of non-democratic countries, 132 in all. He went on to defend the human rights record of Israel and said, "In a sane world, Israel's human rights record is actually superlative." He said, "Our soldiers aim at combatants, not civilians, unlike terrorists who are proud and open about killing civilians. He added that interrogations in Israel are conducted with "respect to the suspect and we do everything to preserve human dignity. There is no torture or coercion, no physical or mental abuse."
Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), first elected to Congress in 2002 and Chairman of the Republican House Policy Committee, came up with an alternative to the "roguesâ€™ gallery" that he calls the UN. Saying that since Israel was accepted as a nation state into the UN in 1949, there have been 321 condemnations of the Jewish state and quoted from the Bob Dylan song, "Neighborhood Bully" to describe Israel's predicament. He also mentioned that only 46 percent of UN countries are free nations and referred to the machinations of the UN as a "global Tammany Hall".
Outraged at the fact that Israel and the USA pay more UN fees than any other nation, totaling about 35 million dollars annually, and infinitely more than other "rogue" nations such as North Korea and Burma, he suggested the formation of a new world body called the Liberty Alliance. He said that this body has its roots in modern history and was envisioned by FDR and Truman. He said the Liberty Alliance would ensure an expansion of liberty and dignity and would extend rights to the enslaved and ensure the rights of those who are free. He added that the new organization would give individuals and communities the right to shape their own destiny and would provide "economic, political and cultural incentives for countries to join."
Ambassador Max M. Kampelman, who served as an ambassador during the Reagan administration, was one of the few speakers who was resoundly booed, after being asked a question about his comments. Ambassador Kampelman suggested that the rabbinate was against John Bolton being confirmed by Congress and he also castigated the leadership of the Jewish community, namely the religious leadership for not politically educating their yeshiva and seminary students. When the questioner asked him if there were Orthodox and Conservative rabbis who opposed John Bolton's confirmation, he answered that there was no difference in the Orthodox, Conservative or Reform branches of Judaism when it came to lack of support for Bolton. It was then that the cat calls and booing commenced.
Nonie Darwish, who was born and raised in Cairo, spoke of the horrific abuse of Muslim women in the Arab world and the deafening silence of the UN in the face of daily honor killings of girls as well as female genital mutilation "For the UN, addressing women's rights violations is less important than condemning Israel", she said, adding that, "the UN is twisting international law to fit Shar'ia law". She also stated that Arab feminists and Muslim reformists are being threatened and intimidated and that the UN is not doing anything to protect them. Ms. Darwish warned that, "through jihad, the free world will be destroyed and Israel will be the first nation to go, and the international community must wake up to this threat". She queried as to why the UN was not asking the leaders of 22 Arab countries to make concessions, only Israel. She said that when she returned to Egypt for a 2001 visit, the media exclusively engaged in Israel and America bashing. She said there were no reports on Muslim on Muslim atrocities and no mention of the slaughter of Algerians.
Father Keith Roderick, an Episcopal priest and Christian Solidarity International's representative in Washington, DC, took the podium and spoke about the daily atrocities and murders perpetrated by Muslim extremists against Christians living in the Gaza strip, in Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon. He spoke of Christians enduring land seizures, their businesses not being protected against Hamas and daily speeches in the Hamas legislature that call for Islamic hegemony. He spoke of damages being sought for the murder of 22 Coptic priests by Muslim extremists and asked if the UN is doing anything to protect the Christian minority in the Middle East.
It would appear that this conference, however well intentioned. was preaching to an audience that was already converted. The audience was comprised of mostly middle aged and older members who represented a number of mainstream Jewish and Zionist organizations and were familiar with the subject matter being discussed Roz Rothstein of Stand With Us, addressed the issue of campus outreach, aimed at targeting Jewish students who are convinced that the world vilification of Israel is completely justified because of the UN voting record and the clout that this "august" body has. She asked the audience to get involved in events such as these, which help educate the public to the truth behind the UN demonization of Israel.
Several members of the Israeli delegation to the UN spoke of the opprobrium casted upon them by the nation states at the UN every time they walk into the building. They told of the outright cynicism and hatred that they confront on a daily basis and of the feeling of being a "pariah" nation with "persona non grata" status.
Perhaps the time has come for Israel to re-think their member status in the United Nations. Why would Israel continue to subject themselves to such consistent condemnations when apparently, according to the speakers at this conference, Israel receives nothing in return except the clear message that they are not wanted. As Nonie Darwish told me, "If Israel should pull out of the UN, I would advise them to do it only with the United States and other democratic countries."
Among the other speakers were Dr. Bernard Lander, President of Touro College, Herb London, President of the Hudson Institute, Dr. Walter Reich, Professor of International Affairs, Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the arts, Amb. Yehuda Blum, former Israeli ambassador to the UN from 1978-1984, Amb. Raphael Walden, Amb. Daniel Carmon, Prof Michla Pomerance, Joe Hess, Prof Malvina Halberstam, Amb Terry Miller, Amb Itzhak Levanon, Prof. Malcolm Shaw, David Matas, Claudia Rosett, Andrea Levin and Roz Rothstein.