Archive for the 'Middle East' Category

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Algeria tells UN Durban follow-up session: Islamohobia is the new anti-Semitism

In what may be a portent of things to come, Islamic accusations against the West dominated a UN session today dedicated to follow-up of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa. 

This week in Geneva saw the first meeting of the “Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards,” which was created by a UN Human Rights Council resolution on follow-up to the 2001 Durban conference.  Initiated by Algeria on behalf of Africa, it was adopted in December 2006 over the opposition of the EU, Canada and other democratic states on the Council.  The resolution sought to “heed the decision and instruction of the 2001 World Conference against Racism.”

The Ad Hoc committee is not formally part of the planning for the controversial 2009 Durban Review Conference, but is an overlapping entity that treats the same theme and involves the same diplomats.  Its mandate is to elaborate “complementary standards” to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and to provide “new normative standards aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism including incitement to racial and religious hatred.”

The EU this week reiterated its unease with the committee but pledged to cooperate. Egypt on behalf of the African Group justified the need for the committee.

Today’s session quickly turned to familiar UN subjects of “foreign occupation,” the Danish cartoon controversy, Islamophobia, and colonialism:

  • Algerian Deputy Permanent Representative Mohammed Bessedik drew thinly veiled comparisons of today’s treatment of Muslims to the Nazi atrocities against Jews.  “The policy of targeting Muslims would actually aim at dehumanizing them by assaulting their identity to legitimize an attitude of racial discrimination similar to the one that targeted another Semitic people in the 20th century.” He described the threat of “reawakening the hydra of the anti-Semitic campaigns of the 20th century, which we now call Islamophobia.”  Click for full speech (in French)
  • Egypt’s representative cited the Danish cartoon controversy as an example of where legislation exists but was not implemented, or has not been updated. He also criticized recent fires and riots in Paris and other European cities. These, he claimed, can constitute threats to international peace and security. “Let this mechanism prevent these phenomena from escalating, so that the Security Council does not have to deal with them,” he urged. 
  • The representative of Belgium asked that specific country cases not be named, but Egypt denied having made references to any particular country, adding “If political exploitation of migrants or religions for political reasons comes from a particular region, if fires and riots come from a particular region, if resistance to combat these phenomena come from a particular region, this is not my responsibility.”
  • Egypt offered the example of the “Da Vinci Code” film, which was deemed insulting “by the Christian Pope and by the 7-8 million Christians in Egypt.” Egypt did not allow this movie to be shown in any movie theater and “even bringing it in as a tourist can get you in trouble.” Christians are not a majority in Egypt and Sharia law is the pillar of Egyptian law, he said, but respect for all religions is paramount. The devout Muslim members of parliament were the first to push for this legislation, he noted.
  • In thinly veiled jibes against Israel, “foreign occupation” was raised repeatedly by Islamic states. Syria and Algeria called it one of the worst forms of human rights violations. Egypt referred to countries that occupy other countries for a lengthy period as “a form of racism by itself” and “a racist regime of occupation.”
  • Egypt accused the Europeans of lacking political will to combat racism.
  • Senegal stressed the need for finding new language for contemporary manifestations of racism — another way of calling for a reopening of the Durban 2001 declaration.
  • Egypt and Pakistan criticized “racial profiling” against individuals of a different religion. Egypt said that this should constitute a complementary standard.

Saying it all in 420 words: European commentators, Israel and the Gaza Strip

The Times, January 31, 2008

A barrage against Israel
The critics had another field day yesterday. But their arguments are dishonest

By Robin Shepherd

Yesterday’s publication of the Winograd report into Israel’s prosecution of the 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon provides a new opportunity for commentators to demonstrate their capacity for sober, balanced analysis. They will note the criticisms directed against Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister, while lauding the report as a display of democratic accountability unthinkable in any other country in the Middle East. Never failing to see the bigger picture, they will carefully weigh the options faced by a democracy under fire from some of the dangerous people on the planet.

Forget it. Most commentators, of course, will do nothing of the sort. Such is the obsessive desire to beat the Jewish state with any stick available, we should prepare for yet more moral inversion and wilful distortion. To get a sense of the sheer irrationality of the anti-Israeli polemicists, it is worth looking at recents events in Gaza.

Apologists for extremism had long argued that occupation rather than ideology was the “root cause” of terrorism. Terrorism would therefore cease once occupation ended. That argument has now been conclusively defeated. Since Israel withdrew, Palestinian militants have fired more than 4,000 rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets.

Now, there is not a state in the world that could ignore this kind of barrage. So what were the options? One was reoccupation. Another was to carpet-bomb the areas from which the rockets are being fired. Many states would have done both. Israel has done neither.

What has Israel actually done? First, it has built a barrier around Gaza to limit the ability of suicide bombers to kill civilians. Secondly, it makes incursions to target the terrorist infrastructure. Thirdly, it has restricted imports into Gaza to stop bomb-making equipment from getting to the terrorists in aid and food packages. Fourthly, it has applied economic sanctions against the Hamas regime. Israel, in other words, has chosen the strategy least likely to cause heavy loss of life while still exercising its right to self-defence.

The condition of the residents of Gaza is dire. But ultimate blame for this surely rests with Hamas, other militants and the culture of violence in Palestinian society that sustains them. In the absence of all this there would, of course, be no security barrier, no military incursions, no trade restrictions and no sanctions.

In the topsy-turvy world of British and European commentary, however, reasoned argument is cast aside. The frenzied, rhetorical onslaught against the Jewish state is at best intellectually lazy. At worst it forms part of a hateful agenda that shames those who indulge in it.

Robin Shepherd, a senior fellow at Chatham House, is writing a book on European attitudes to Israel.

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UN Watch welcomes clarification by UN rights chief on Arab Charter

UN Watch welcomed the new clarification issued today by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, in response to its Jan. 28, 2008 letter protesting her endorsement of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which contains anti-Semitic provisions.

“Last week the High Commissioner endorsed the Arab Charter, but today she has shown courage in criticizing its ‘incompatibility… with international norms and standards,’ and that’s a step forward,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director.  “We welcome Ms. Arbour’s recognition today that the Arab Charter includes ‘inconsistencies’ in regard to its approach to the death penalty for children, the rights of women and non-citizens, and anti-Zionism.”

“At the same time, we await a response to our demand that the UN official who advised the High Commissioner to sign the initial January 24 announcement be held fully accountable,” said Neuer.  “We are talking about someone who recommended the endorsing of a charter that promotes classically anti-Semitic themes, describing Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, as uniquely evil, and advocating its ‘elimination.’  We trust that the High Commissioner — whose mandate centers on the notion of individual responsibility and accountability, and who opposes the culture of impunity — will lead by example and ask the responsible adviser to draw the necessary conclusions.”

“This latest episode only underscores the kind of dangers that are up ahead. With Ms. Arbour serving as secretary-general of the Durban Review process — ostensibly UN meetings to combat racism, but which is chaired by Libya with the help of Iran and Cuba — we trust that she will immediately and forcefully oppose any similar efforts to hijack the language and idea of human rights for anti-Zionism or to denigrate Western democracies,” said Neuer.

Palestinian Ambassador: “Israel transgresses legal, ethical and moral standards”

The UN Human Rights Council held an urgent “special session” today to address “human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent ones in occupied Gaza and West Bank of Nablus.” This is the fourth out of six emergency sessions dealing with Israel, and was convened at the behest of Syria and Pakistan on behalf of the Arab and Islamic groups.

It had fiasco written all over it, prompting Israel and the United States to stay away from the meeting, the first time they had done so at the new council.

The Palestinian ambassador accused Israeli leaders of being “in competition” as to who could best prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. “Israel,” he said, “transgresses legal, ethical and moral standards.” Syria said that Israel’s true aim is to “deliberately abort all Arab and international efforts to invigorate the peace process.” Egypt called Israel’s recent actions “the most brutal forms of violation of human rights.” Bangladesh said that recent events “did not represent the first time Israel has committed crimes.”

The Sri Lankan delegation equated the horrors of World War II and recent events. “It is bitterly ironic that Israel, having practiced for decades a policy of invasion, annexation, occupation – should now add a policy of ghettoization of the Palestinian people. The people of Israel know very well, given their own history, the horrors of such ghettoization… We see scenes… that could not but remind us of the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.”

Absent from nearly every speech – save the statements of a few states and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour – was any reference to the responsibilities of Hamas and other terrorist groups.

Slovenia on behalf of the EU, and Russia both made one-line references to the “indiscriminate launching of rockets to Israel.” Canada, though, was the only country to express its full and unwavering opposition to any special session or resolution that did not consider “the responsibilities of all parties,” in particular focusing on “Israeli actions, and not condemning or even mentioning the acts of rocket attacks that deliberately target Israeli civilians.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour also took pains to emphasize the hardship on all sides, beginning her remarks by noting that “the right to life [is] imperiled to all, particular for Israel in Sderot, particularly [for] the Palestinians in Gaza.”

Negotiations on a draft resolution continue Wednesday evening, and the Special Session will reconvene and vote Thursday morning.

Egypt, African States Urge End to UN Scrutiny of Sudan

On Thursday the Human Rights Council began the process of reviewing the mandates of UN experts (also called “Special Rapporteurs” in UN parlance) who report to the Council on human rights situations in ten countries and on themes such as torture and religious freedom. While some of the mandates – on adequate housing, or physical and mental health – are broadly supported, others are opposed.
During the debate over the mandate of the expert on internally displaced persons (IDPs), Syria and Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic group insisted that any future mandate include the plight of IDPs “under foreign occupation” – a thinly veiled reference to the Palestinian territories. (As it happens, the working definition of internally displaced persons applies to individuals who fled their homes but did not cross internationally recognized boundaries, and hence cannot apply to people who also claim to be refugees.)
The day ended with the beginning of the debate on one of the most controversial mandates – on the situation of human rights in Sudan. Egypt declared said that “the African Group believes the time has come for ending the proliferation of human rights mechanisms in Sudan.” While Sima Samar, the current Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, spoke of gross and systematic human rights violations, Sudan accused the Council of “politicization.” Portugal on behalf of the EU stated its strong conviction to maintain the expert on Sudan.

Palestinian envoy to UN rights council compares Israelis to Nazis — full transcript

Palestinian representative Mohammad Abu-Koash compared Israelis to racist Nazi murderers during a UN Human Rights Council debate last Wednesday, December 12, 2007. The 47-nation council was debating a report by Martin Scheinin, the UN expert on human rights and counter-terrorism, that had criticized Israel. Below is a video of selected quotes, followed by the full transcript.

Thank you, Mr. Scheinin, for your valuable report, which asks Israel to abide by international law in its policies and practices towards the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Bombarding Palestinian residents and headquarters, committing the massacres of Jenin and Beit Hanoun, using Palestinian children as human shields, torturing detainees, preventing pregnant women from reaching hospitals, the apartheid wall, the colonial settlements, and the very continuation of the occupation of Palestine and Syrian and Lebanese territories constitute a flagrant violation of international law.

It is most regrettable that Israel has decided to expand the settlements on Palestinian mounts and launch attacks against the occupied Gaza, thereby deflating the optimism generating by the Annapolis conference. It is clear that Israel is resorting to all tricks in the lexicon of foreign occupiers to prevent the establishment of a sovereign, independent and contiguous Palestinian state on the territory occupied in 1967 including East Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital.

The Israeli crippling geography has been countered by the Palestinian crawling demography, as the victims of Arian purity have been transformed into the proponents of Jewish purity. … Likewise, we have the right to enjoy our olive trees, carnations, and the ancient passages leading to the holy site of the Dome of the Rock and the Holy Sepulchre that stand out as a grand testimony negating the Israeli claim to the holy town of Jerusalem.

It is December, and both the Eid and Christmas are approaching. Spare a minute of your prayers and deliberations for occupied Jerusalem, sad Bethlehem, besieged Gaza and Palestinian children traumatized by tyrants. Noah’s Ark had no tyrants — it had those who found grace in the eyes of God.

Now I will resort to poetry to deliver my message clearly to the ambassador of Israel:

Mr. Jail Man, don’t you understand?
Scars of concentration camps mark your hand.
Negotiations commenced today, I understand.
Leave our mountains, valleys, seas, air and lands.
Draw your lessons from France and Deutschland.
Our will is strong, seize a drawing line in the sand.
Washington, Mandela or Arafat stand so grand.
Though called terrorists by occupiers and command.
Mr. Jail Man, you don’t want to understand.
You gave occupation, and you alter it with Semitic brand.

Palestine (replying to Israel):
I would like to remind the distinguished member of Israel that the problem is not with any delegation. The problem is that there are the occupiers of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories. My statement is very clear: I would like to remind the distinguished representative of Israel and tell also a poem if he likes poetry:

You made subjugation and occupation your motto.
You remember, we Palestinians like our brothers in South Africa; we will overcome, like those in Soweto.

We can also add that those who suffered in Europe, those who came from concentration camps, from the ghettos, they should not acts as our masters, they should know the meanings of suffering, they should live and let live, and as I said draw your lessons from France or Deutschland, I was referring to the peaceful solution, to the compromise which is based on the withdrawal of Israel from all the Arab territories. Then and only then you will be treating us as equals.

To see the full video of both speeches, click here for the first, and then here for the second. 

World Vision UN speech inimical to Middle East peace and reconciliation

In our latest UN Watch Briefing, we described how the UN last week marked November 29—the date in 1947 when the General Assembly voted to create Jewish and Arab states—by featuring one-sided speeches that incited hatred against Israel, instead of promoting dialogue and friendly relations between both peoples.

For the past 30 years, the UN has officially celebrated this date as “Palestinian Solidarity Day,” as required by an Arab-sponsored resolution in 1977 that was designed to erase from UN memory the organization’s historic endorsement of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The very date that gave birth to the balanced, two-state solution was subverted by Middle East regimes interested only in a state of perpetual hostility against Israel, to distract their populations from failed civil, political and economic structures.

Such “biased UN programs,” U.S. representative Anne Patterson said in a 2005 speech, are “inimical to . . . achieving a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Regrettably, one of the supporters of these biased programs is World Vision International, which raised $944 million last year from Americans, with more than a quarter coming from U.S. taxpayers. It’s an organization that seems to do much good around the world, but in Geneva has been repeatedly led astray into overtly political activities that are inimical to the basic values of the UN Charter and the interests of Middle East peace.

We reported last week on the speech delivered by Thomas Getman, World Vision International’s executive director of international relations in Geneva, formerly its representative to the Palestinian territories. He now responds to UN Watch:

Thank you for featuring me, albeit inaccurately, in the “UN Watch” email release yesterday. I am honored to be featured by you.

In case you or your readers are interested in the full text I have attached it for you. If you were actually in the room you will know that each person could recall whatever child they desired to pray for…indeed including an Israeli child if that is the one who inspired them to the struggle for peace with justice for all.

You will see that in fact I did “condemn indiscriminate attacks and other human rights violations and abuses against civilians by all parties.” You may want in the interest of honest fair play in our ongoing debate to give your readers the full picture of my emphasis for all children of the region who live in fear. That way you cannot be accused of twisting words or intentions for other motives.

As requested, we attach here the full World Vision text. Now the readers can decide: who is it that is “twisting words”?

Let’s see. Mr. Getman’s corrective insists, first, that his moment of reflection and prayer was “indeed” inclusive of Israeli children. Really? When Mr. Getman invited his UN Palestinian Solidarity Day audience to think of “that suffering child who first crossed our paths in Palestine, the surrounding countries, or in pictures”—and that this be a child “who inspired us to do the work for Palestinians we are doing”—did this really include Israeli children?

Why does Mr. Getman now write that he had referred to any child who inspired “the struggle for peace with justice for all,” when his original statement speaks only of work “for Palestinians”?

Second, “in the interest of honest fair play,” Mr. Getman insists that his World Vision statement featured “emphasis for all children of the region who live in fear.” Really? Does a two-page statement replete with Palestinian grievances and attacks on Israel—apart from one fleeting reference to “Palestinian and Israeli children”—really emphasize “all” children?

Last week’s text opened by immediately portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a one-sided affair. It is Israel that destroys Mr. Getman’s Palestine projects, Israel that murders his sponsored children. Then he asks the audience to observe one minute of reflection on “that suffering child” in Palestine who inspired their work for Palestinians. The rest is devoted to Gaza’s isolation, Israel’s violation of humanitarian law, its “illegal” occupation, and so forth.

For all its focus on Gaza, the World Vision statement says not a single word about how Israel handed that land to Palestinian rule, only to watch it descend into a beehive of weapons-smuggling and a launching pad for terrorism. It says nothing about the bloody Hamas take-over of Gaza, where intra-Palestinian fighting led to dozens of brutal murders. It says nothing about Kassam rockets fired at Israeli civilian centers.

Amazingly, a statement supposedly dedicated to children manages to say nothing about why the Israeli town of Sderot needed to build a rocket-proof day-care center. Nor, on the 60th anniversary of the UN vote to create a Jewish state, was there a word by World Vision about the Palestinian Authority’s recent announcement that it would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or Hamas’ call to cancel the 1947 UN decision.

In case anyone missed it, toward the end, a section titled “World Vision’s Over-Arching Message” sums up what the statement is all about: the fear and suffering of children “in the Palestinian Territories and Israel Arab communities.” If you happen to be Israeli and Jewish, however—and the victim of a Kassam rocket or suicide bombing against your school-bus, pizza shop, or baby cradle—you’re out of luck. World Vision isn’t interested.

It’s bad enough to be a full participant and supporter of what the U.S. and other democratic governments recognize as Arab-sponsored, biased UN programs that mask anti-Israel propaganda under the euphemisms of “Palestinian solidarity,” and which are inimical to true dialogue and reconciliation.

Far worse, though, is the cynical attempt to pass off a poisonous text as balanced by invoking a handful of disingenuous references to “all parties.” Yes, some governments do it all the time, but one expects more from a major non-governmental organization.

The real question is this: do the Americans who are paying for World Vision have any idea of how their money is being spent? Is this kind of counter-productive political activity being classified in their official filings as “humanitarian” work? Is funding of World Vision from U.S. government agencies directly or indirectly supporting biased policies that are inimical to the Middle East peace process?

UN marks two-state anniversary by ceremony slamming Israel

Sixty years ago today, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to create two states, one Arab and one Jewish, out of the former British mandate of Palestine. The world body played an integral role in fashioning the original two-state solution that the international community so desperately seeks today. However, not only did the UN today choose not to celebrate this proud moment, but it actually performed rites of mourning — dutifully organizing annual ceremonies around the globe, as called for under Arab-sponsored resolutions, that somberly commemorated “Palestinian Solidarity Day,” featuring carefully screened speakers who repeatedly slammed Israel.

In Geneva, for example, the UN’s “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” saw the UN European Headquarters play host to about 150 people. Following is a brief summary of how co-existence and peace was promoted today at the UN.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s speech was delivered by his Geneva representative. He recalled the “indignities and violence of occupation and conflict” that Palestinians continue to suffer. “The UN has fewer priorities than seeing this conflict resolved. We all know the reasons why the Palestinians have been deprived of their inalienable right to self-determination for 60 years. Palestinian society has been increasingly fragmented – territorially, by settlements, land expropriation and the barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; socially and economically, by closure; and politically, between Gaza and the West Bank.”

“The process must also deliver on the vital interests of Israel: a Palestinian State that is a true partner and not a source of terrorism, secure and recognized borders, and a permanent end of the conflict … Israel faces genuine threats, and Israeli civilians have died and been wounded in rocket attacks… Palestinian civilians have been killed and injured in Israeli military operations.”

He attributed the “grave humanitarian situation” in Gaza to Israeli policies such as restrictions on supplies and movement of people. He called on donors to support the PA to rebuild, reform and perform during the upcoming Paris conference of donors.

Peace, justice and security will only be achieved with the end of the occupation, he said. The secretary-general ended with a statement of solidarity with both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people.

Representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People, Ambassador Victor Camilleri of Malta

Ambassador Camilleri recalled the sufferings, sacrifices and resistance of the Palestinian people in face of adversity having “no similar cases in human history.” Exceptionally for the day’s speakers, he condemned “all attacks, both Israeli and Palestinian, including Palestinian attacks from Gaza.” He also mentioned that the internal breakdown in Gaza has worsened the situation in this territory.
Chairman of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka

Ambassador Kariyawasam listed violations committed by Israel — occupation, confiscation of Palestinian land, construction of the wall, cutting off resources, violation of the 2004 ICJ advisory opinion, incarceration of thousands of Palestinian prisoners including 400 children, military incursions in Gaza, deaths of civilians, denial of access to hospitals, and collective punishment in Gaza. Israeli policies in Gaza led to the complete isolation of the territory since June.

League of Arab States, Ambassador Saad Alfarargi

Ambassador Saad Alfarargi denounced the “ruthless daily attacks by Israel,” its “oppressive policies” vis-à-vis Palestinians and the construction of the “apartheid wall” in violation of the ICJ Advisory Opinion. International organizations including the UN and NGOs constantly report on Israeli practices that led to humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He referred to the report by John Dugard, UN expert on Palestine, to emphasize the excessive, indiscriminate and non-proportional use of force by Israel against the Palestinian people.

Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ambassador Babacar Ba

“Despite innumerable resolutions in the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council, the Palestinians continue to face military incursions; extra-judicial and targeted assassinations; restriction on movement; and demolition of houses and infrastructure.”

 “This year’s solidarity day with the Palestinian people coincides with a period when Israel’s aggression and violation of international law in various parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories is on the increase.”

‘The city of Jerusalem continues to be cordoned off through the racial segregation wall and military barriers … .”

“Peace efforts in the region have always been obstructed by Israel’s intransigence and lack of commitment to the terms of reference of the peace process. Those terms are the resolutions of international legitimacy….”

Non-Aligned Movement, Ambassador Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios of Cuba

In the framework of human rights, the Non-Aligned Movement has supported the convening of special sessions. In this respect, the Non-Aligned Movement praised the existence of a special item on Palestinian rights. The Palestinian situation is not like any others and requires therefore a specific treatment by the council until the end of the occupation.

The Non-Aligned Movement condemned the fact that, 60 years after Resolution 181 has been adopted, the creation of a Palestinian state continues to be an impossible target precisely because “Israel continues to violate international law and international resolutions.”

African Union, Ms K. R. Msri

The representative assured the AU’s full support and admiration for Palestinians in their legitimate fight for dignity and right to self-determination well as for their sacrifices and abnegation to defend their cause. The AU also referred to UN reports (UN report of October 24, 2007 on the deteriorated situation in Gaza) and resolutions to implore the Israeli government to stop its “indiscriminate acts and violations of international humanitarian law.”

Thomas Getman, International Relations Director, World Vision

Thoman Getman called on a minute of silence for children that bear the consequences of the conflict. He called on the audience to think about  “the first child that each of us saw in terrible situation because of the Israeli occupation.; for me it was 20 years ago in Hebron, a 9-year old child trying to find his textbook in the ruins of his house destroyed by a bulldozer.”

Dr. Juliette Sayegh, General Arab Women Federation (on behalf of the NGOs accredited to the CEIRPP, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People).

“The situation of the Palestinian people is worse than ever as evidenced by official UN reports.” The 60th anniversary of the “Nakba” was the “forceful removal of around a million Palestinians from their land.” She presented data to emphasize the terrible living conditions of the Palestinian people. In that respect, she recalled Palestinian children unable to go to schools as schools are being targeted by Israeli army “making education a danger for children.”

The ceremony ended with the Palestinian representative reading a statement made by President Mahmoud Abbas: “Peace cannot be achieved with the construction of the apartheid wall nor by settlements, nor by preventing people from coming to holy places in Jerusalem including Christians, nor by allowing fanatic settlers to attack Palestinians and put fire on their crops.”

— With reporting by UN Watch’s Ophelie Namiech.

Israel approves Palestinian-run ambulances in Jerusalem

Last-minute Israeli approval to the operation of Palestinian ambulance teams in Arab-populated areas of eastern Jerusalem prevented a rocky conclusion to an international Red Cross and Red Crescent conference that wrapped up today in Geneva. The ambulances are staffed by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) but bear Israeli license plates and are subject to Israeli health regulation.

Delegates from national governments and relief societies adopted a consensual resolution expressing “concern” over the implementation of a ground-breaking 2005 memorandum of understanding between the PRCS and its Israeli counterpart, the Magen David Adom, which deals with Palestinian ambulances in Jerusalem and Israeli ambulances operating in the West Bank. Agreement today between Israeli and Palestinian delegates prevented a much harsher text from being introduced by Arab states, which would have sought to condemn Israel in tones similar to those common in many UN bodies.

In his speech to the plenary, the head of the Palestinian society announced it had received guarantees to operate ambulances in eastern Jerusalem, and that an hour and a half later they were operating. The PRCS called on Israel to embrace the cooperation between the two relief societies, “a genuine example of peace-building in the region.”

The Magen David Adom said that the PRCS is the first Palestinian legal entity to operate in Jerusalem with the agreement of Israel, and that it wanted to open relations with the Lebanese and the Syrian societies as well.

The Palestinian government’s representative praised the spirit of the Annapolis peace conference and thanked Israel and its national society for their efforts toward the full implementation of the 2005 cooperation agreement.

The Union of the Arab Red Crescent Societies called for “an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people,” and asked for measures similar to the Israel-Palestinian memorandum be extended to the Golan.

The head of the U.S. delegation, John B. Bellinger, welcomed the resolution and said that the U.S. was committed to results on the ground. The American Red Cross said it was impressed by the cooperation between the two societies offered their good offices for the future.

Pakistan, on behalf of the Islamic group of states, called the consensual adoption of the resolution a “historic moment,” and they appreciated Israel’s resolve to support consensus.

Israel said this was the first Red Cross conference where the Magen David Adom participated as a full member. Israel was committed to continue facilitating the arrangements and today the ambulances were in operation. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly vote to establish a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine, Israeli Ambassador Isaac Levanon said that they “are still waiting for that vision of the two states to become a reality.”

Egypt on behalf of the African Group urged the Israeli authorities to fully implement the 2005 memorandum. Iraq on behalf of the Arab group said that promises had been made to Syria and Lebanon on humanitarian needs.

Dr. Jakob Kellenberger of the International Committee of the Red Cross paid tribute to “the courage” of the Israeli and Palestinian societies, and said his organization would continue to push for the full implementation of the 2005 agreement.

Arab states at Red Cross conference seek to censure Israel and Magen David Adom

At the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent now underway in Geneva, the Arab states are seeking to condemn Israel for “inhumane practices,” “the lack of commitment demonstrated by the Israeli authorities to the principles of international humanitarian law,” alleging that Israel’s relief society is not complying with a recent agreement signed with its Palestinian counterpart.  (See two draft resolutions below.)

One of the draft resolutions cites a new report, authored by former Finnish Prime Minister Mr. Par Stenback, as alleged proof that the Israeli authorities and the Magen David Adom, Israel’s humanitarian society, are not cooperating with the Red Cross Movement or respecting their prior commitments.

The Stenback report itself, however, says no such thing. While shortcomings are identified, Mr. Stenback describes the cooperation between the MDA and the Palestinian Red Crescent in several fields as “exemplary of how sister Societies can and should co-operate.” Mr. Stenback also recognizes the good will shown by the Israeli authorities, stating that “interventions by the Prime Minister’s office have facilitated the process by giving the political directives needed in order to resolve a number of bureaucratic issues.”

It is unfortunate that the Arab relief societies have chosen to drag atavistic politics into the Red Cross Movement, a forum dedicated to the principle of humanitarian cooperation. The danger is real that, if the censure is adopted, the resort to partisan point-scoring might upset the fragile new relationship that the Steinback report seeks to protect and cultivate.

Related texts from this week’s conference:

Red Cross course for Gaza hooded terrorists: Israeli “targets they can attack”

The International Committee of the Red Cross is now teaching terrorist groups in Gaza about the finer points of international humanitarian law, which concerns the protection of civilians during war. Since the main fighting method of organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad is the intentional, mass murder of civilians — by suicide bombers heading for martyrs’ paradise — one wonders what it is precisely that the good people of the ICRC hope to accomplish here. 

The BBC writes about the story here. But the must-see report is an Al Jazeera video — which could easily be mistaken for a clip from Comedy Central — where hooded terrorists gather in a classroom with colored markers to debate international law and rights.

What exactly are they learning, though?

Iyad Nasr, ICRC spokesman, is quoted on the video as saying, “We’d like these armed guys to understand the civilian population, the target, the military targets that they can attack, and the ones they cannot attack.” The reporter tells how the fighters were “absorbing what was sometimes surprising new information, learning that the armed resistance they engage in is a right the law guarantees them.” 

“I have rights,” exclaims one hooded fighter. “Who knew?”

While it is true that under the highly controversial 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions (never ratified by the U.S.) “organized armed groups” are accorded prisoner of war treatment, there is absolutely nothing in international law that condones armed aggression, by state or non-state actors, against civilian or military personnel.

Was the ICRC suggesting that certain Hamas attacks, like the one in June 2006 that killed or wounded five Israeli soldiers (including the captive Gilad Shalit), are not illegal?

Mr. Nasr and the ICRC would do well to clarify what it is exactly that they are teaching.

UN Ends Scrutiny of Cuba and Belarus, Indicts Israel

By a vote of 165 to 7, a UN General Assembly committee last Friday approved “institution-building” changes to the Human Rights Council that actually weaken or eliminate several of its key institutions. The package scraps the independent investigators of abuses in Cuba and Belarus, makes it harder to criticize specific countries for violations, and institutes the permanent censure of Israel as a fixed agenda item, an initiative pushed by the group of Islamic states.

The U.S., Canada, Australia, Israel and three Pacific Island states voted in opposition. The European Union countries supported the package, arguing it was the best possible compromise to preserve a functioning council.

The changes were first adopted on June 19, 2007 by the Human Rights Council in Geneva under dubious circumstances. As documented by a UN Watch photo timeline, “How the Human Rights Council Was Born” — an eye-opener into the dark side of international law and diplomacy — the package was rammed through in middle of the night, with Canada denied its right to vote. Continue reading ‘UN Ends Scrutiny of Cuba and Belarus, Indicts Israel’

Arabs foil PA condemnation of Hamas’ takeover of Gaza at UN

NEW YORK – The Arab lobby at the United Nations, backed by Russia, foiled a Palestinian Authority initiative to include a condemnation of Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip in a UN resolution against Israel.

PA observer Riad Mansour sought to include a clause “expressing concern about the takeover by illegal militias of Palestinian Authority institutions in June 2007” and calling for the reversal of this situation, but moderated the wording under Arab pressure. Russia had made it clear to the Arab delegates that it supported their opposition to a UN resolution including any condemnation of Hamas.

The clause was supposed to be included in a draft resolution against Israel, slated to be voted on this week at a Decolonization Committee meeting. But when Mansour submitted the proposed clause to the Arab representatives for approval, as usual, it met with severe criticism, and he was personally vilified. Reliable diplomatic sources said Mansour was subjected to a barrage of insults, led by the representatives of Egypt, Syria and Libya.

The Arab delegates claimed Mansour’s initiative would be interpreted as an official UN condemnation of Hamas, and would gain Israel international legitimacy for cutting electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza. Mansour agreed to softer language expressing “concern about an illegal takeover.”

(Source: Haaretz,

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