Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?

From an open letter by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer to Mrs. Mary Robinson, former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the 2001 Durban conference, who is set to receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom this week [brief excerpts only - follow the link to the full letter]:

Dear Mrs. Robinson,

...If you are to receive this medal, the American people are entitled to know precisely what the issues are.

I. Your Role at Durban
...As you know, the Durban conference degenerated into an unprecedented international platform for anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hatred,...

...The late Tom Lantos, founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and a respected defender of human rights for all...published an essay in the Fletcher Forum for World Affairs that amounts to a stinging indictment of your role in the events leading up to the conference, including at the fateful preparatory meetings in Tehran and Geneva, with your acts of omission and commission described as “a major contributing factor to the debacle in Durban.”

... you have no choice but to address his charges. ...Lantos never denied that at Durban you stood up to condemn anti-Semitic pamphlets distributed by the Arab Lawyers Union, or that you rejected the viciously anti-Israel NGO declaration. Rather, citing one instance after another, he made a compelling case that throughout the year of lead-up meetings you continuously fanned the flames of anti-Israel prejudice, only to cry “Fire!” once they rose up into a great conflagration.

I urge you to respond to Lantos’ detailed charges concerning your actions during three key moments, in Tehran, Geneva, and Durban:

1. That You Condoned the Tehran Hatred of February 2001
In February 2001, when the Tehran preparatory meeting of Asian states adopted a text condemning only one country — demonizing Israel as a country guilty of a “new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity,” and calling Zionism a “racist and violent movement based on racist and discriminatory ideas” — your response was to congratulate the Tehran delegates for their “high degree of consensus.”..... at the moment when the Islamic states injected the toxic language that would eventually poison the entire Durban process, your actions encouraged it.
Mrs. Robinson, will you respond to this charge?

2. That You Opposed the U.S. at the Geneva Pre-Conference of August 2001
Lantos detailed your actions during the emergency Geneva meeting of August 2001, a last-minute attempt to stave off the impending disaster. “Mrs. Robinson’s intervention with the assembled delegates later in the same day left our delegation deeply shocked and saddened. In her remarks, she advocated precisely the opposite course to the one Secretary [Colin] Powell and I had urged her to take. Namely, she refused to reject the twisted notion that the wrong done to the Jews in the Holocaust was equivalent to the pain suffered by the Palestinians in the Middle East. Instead, she discussed ‘the historical wounds of anti-Semitism and of the Holocaust on the one hand, and…the accumulated wounds of displacement and military occupation on the other.’ Thus, instead of condemning the attempt to usurp the conference, she legitimized it.”...

3. That You Opposed the U.S. at the Durban Endgame in September 2001
Finally, at the endgame in Durban, Lantos documents your counter-productive role: “As the U.S. pressed its case, Robinson seemed to be working to stymie our efforts. In her public and private statements, as was the case in Geneva, she insisted that the conference had to recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people. In a meeting on Sunday, September 2, with [U.S.] Ambassador Southwick, she lashed out at him, characterizing the U.S. threat to pull out if the Norwegian language was not accepted as ‘warped, strange and undemocratic.’”
“In a meeting I had with Commissioner Robinson later that same day… [I] told her that the U.S. government was extremely displeased with the way she had handled the conference, and we indicated that we held her responsible for her actions that contributed to its failure.”

....Let’s face it: Tom Lantos never “misunderstood” your role. Known as “Mr. Human Rights,” he was a veteran lawmaker on U.N. affairs who directly engaged with you on the issues in Washington, Geneva, and Durban. He knew exactly what measures of influence and responsibility you exercised over the process as Secretary-General, and it was on that nuanced basis that he denounced your record...

II. Your Role as High Commissioner
But the concerns about your actions on the Middle East are not limited to Durban. They extend to your entire 5-year tenure as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

...when it came to Israel, you effectively encouraged the Commission’s anti-Israel obsession-an obsession that epitomized the politicization and selectivity that ultimately doomed the now-defunct body.

Examples abound. To name but a small portion:
  • On May 15, 1998, as we reported, you legitimized Palestinian demonstrators hurling bricks, rocks and Molotov cocktails as a “peaceful assembly.”
  • On September 2000, we protested your breach of impartiality and integrity when you named Ms. Mona Rishmawi, notorious for having written articles comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, as your senior advisor. She continues to serve at the office of the High Commissioner.
  • In November 2000, when you led a fact-finding mission with the cooperation of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, we noted your distinct policy of listening to the Palestinians, while asking hard questions only of the Israelis.
  • The subsequent report that you published was found by UN Watch to have denounced Israeli actions without considering their cause and context, including self-defense from armed attacks, and to have presumed Israel to be the aggressor.
  • In December 2001, as documented by UN Watch, you gave special support to an extremist Palestinian demonstration held on the sidelines of a gathering of Geneva Convention signatories that was convened to condemn Israel.
  • At the Commission’s April 2002 special session against Israel, your speech gave more credence to Palestinian propaganda than to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had witnessed Palestinian unloading of an explosive suicide belt from an ambulance.
    Unfortunately, whenever we met with you in Geneva to raise such concerns, you rejected them out of hand.
  • Last week, when Jean Ziegler was elected vice-chair of the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee, we were reminded of your legacy. In the year 2000, it was you who invited Ziegler — the 1989 co-founder of the Moammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize – to become a U.N. human rights expert. He has since distinguished himself as the most anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israel U.N. official in the history of the organization, cynically abusing his mandate.

Did your actions, however selective, at least help Palestinians? No. Your support of one-sided U.N. measures only encouraged Palestinian extremists, deterred Israelis from trusting international institutions, and promoted the futile path of feel-good unilateral censure, instead of the necessary path of dialogue and reconciliation....

...I look forward to your response, which we offer to publish in its entirety.

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