U.N. Hypocrisy: Syria accuses Israel of violating freedom of the press

During a meeting today of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva, the United States called a report on Palestinians unbalanced, and described it as part of a ritual at the U.N. to demonize Israel.

That ritual was in full form today when the government of Syria, the Baathist tyranny of Bashir al-Assad, accused Israel of being the world’s only country refusing to abide by international law, in a manner unseen since apartheid South Africa. The Syrian representative said that Israel arrested dissenting journalists, and he lamented “double standards” on Israel.

Whatever Israel’s flaws, Freedom House’s annual survey shows that freedom of speech and freedom of the press find far greater protection there than in any other country in the Middle East.

Syria should be the last one to throw stones on this issue. It regularly arrests and detains its political opponents without fair trial, including bloggers, political analysts, and human rights activists. Pro-democracy activist Kamal Labwani continues to languish in a Syrian prison, serving his third of a 12-year term, despite the recent call for his release by Human Rights Watch in April. The U.N. found his arrest “arbitrary and thus unlawful.”

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