Saturday, November 17, 2007

US slams UN Human Rights Council, says body too focused on Israel

From Ynet, 16/11/07, by Reuters:

US ambassador blasts [UN Human Rights] council for failing to address grave human rights violations across world while 'focusing relentlessly' on Israel.

Israel took the unusual step of calling a vote at a UN General Assembly committee on a resolution that would normally have passed by consensus, saying it wanted to put its criticism about the work of the Human Rights Council on the record....

... Friday's vote on a resolution endorsing the council's working rules, including a periodic human rights review for all countries, passed overwhelmingly, but Israel won backing from the United States, Canada, Australia and three other countries in voting against.

Explaining the US "no" vote, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the new body had failed to address the "deficiencies that had politicized the council and prevented it from acting as a serious and effective human rights institution."

He said it had been "a very bad first year" for the council because of its "relentless focus" on Israel and failure to address serious human rights violations in other countries such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran, Belarus and Cuba.

Israel's deputy ambassador, Daniel Carmon, said the council had shown double standards and hypocrisy. "It is high time to see moral conviction in the Human Rights Council - so that it becomes a shield to protect victims of human rights and not a weapon for those who abuse them," he told the committee.

... French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, who voted in favor, said he shared concerns about the council's focus on Israel but he said the resolution had [to] pass to allow the council to do its work effectively.

Iran buying time ...

From THE JERUSALEM POST, by JPost and AP, Nov. 16, 2007:

The IAEA's report on Iran's nuclear activities released Thursday makes it clear that ....that nation continues to buck UN demands and develop its nuclear program, Israel said Friday.

...the long-awaited report ... warned that its knowledge of Teheran's present atomic work was shrinking.

The report also confirmed that Teheran continued to defy the UN Security Council by ignoring its repeated demands to freeze uranium enrichment ...

..... on Friday, Britain's Foreign Office said that talks planned for next week to discuss hardening sanctions over Iran's nuclear program have been postponed....

...A European Union official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chinese could not attend due to scheduling problems. China, along with Russia, is opposed to a hardening of sanctions against Teheran.

....Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported the meeting had been postponed because China had refused to attend.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

Putin reneges

From DEBKAfile November 16, 2007:

In a dramatic reverse swing, Putin decides to send uranium to fuel Iran’s atomic power station in Bushehr

The Russian president Vladimir Putin indicated Friday that Moscow would send uranium to Iran’s atomic reactor in Bushehr (a reactor unconnected with Iran’s suspect military program) ....

... by this step, Moscow has backed away from the commitments Putin gave President Bush and Israeli prime minister Olmert, after his mid-October talks with Iranian leaders in Tehran broke down in discord. He then promised to withhold the fuel from the Bushehr reactor and indeed pulled all the Russian staff out before they had completed work on the project’s final stages.

Olmert received Putin’s commitment to withhold the uranium fuel from Iran when they met in the Kremlin on Oct. 18 and passed it on to President Bush and later to French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British premier Gordon Brown in special trips he made to Paris and London. The Israeli prime minister announced then that Israel had a true friend in the Russian leader. He is deeply embarrassed by Putin’s about-face.

It also bodes ill for the third round of sanctions, for which the Bush administration is pushing at the UN Security Council, where Russian holds a veto, now that the nuclear watchdog confirmed in its latest report Nov. 15 that Iran had not given up uranium enrichment.

DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources report that the Russian president has reverted to his previous tactic of broadcasting to Muslim nations a message that Moscow has its own agenda and is willing, unlike Washington, to help them develop their nuclear programs.

The question mark hanging over UN sanctions also affects the decision on military action against Iran’s suspect military nuclear facilities, which President Bush had put on a back burner under the influence of Putin’s breach with Tehran. There was a brief thaw in the tense relations between Washington and Moscow and signs of a new willingness for compromise on both sides on such matters as the US plan to deploy anti-missile systems in East Europe.

The month-long détente was abruptly curtailed Friday, Nov. 16, with Moscow’s decision to let Iran have the uranium to fuel its Bushehr reactor six months before its scheduled start-up. The step was gladly welcomed in Tehran.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"difficult and painful sacrifices"?

From DEBKAfile, November 14, 2007:

Rice: Israelis must be prepared for "difficult and painful sacrifices" now that they have a negotiating partner in President Abbas

In an address to the United Jewish Communities meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday, Nov. 13, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Israelis must sacrifice some of their “longest held aspirations” in talks with Palestinian leaders. A strong Palestinian state was more urgent than ever, she insisted, as a bulwark against threats from violent extremists, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and to Iran.

DEBKAfile’s sources reveal: Rice confirmed what Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni are holding back from the Israeli public: Their acceptance of deep withdrawals from the West Bank in favor of a Palestinian state, the uprooting of 100,000 Israelis living there, and additional broad concessions ahead of the Annapolis peace conference.

The audience applauded Rice when she reassured them of Washington’s commitment to protect longtime ally against threats from Tehran, fight anti-Semitism and confront Hamas and Iran.

But the crowd was silent when she called Abbas “a true partner for peace” and said Israel now had “responsible leadership” with which to deal.

The concessions exacted from Israel, DEBKAfile has learned, include the ceding of West Bank natural resources to Palestinian control, including shared sources of water. Talks have already begun for a US-Israeli Palestinian mechanism to supervise water sources, possibly including Jordan.

Olmert has further consented to start negotiations with Syria on Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan. The talks will kick off at the follow-up to the Annapolis conference, which will take place in Moscow. He agreed to attend when he met Putin in the Kremlin Oct. 18.

The Annapolis conference, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, is not just an event lasting a few hours, as Olmert downplays it, but part of a broad cooperative US-Russian initiative aimed at bringing the Russian president aboard Washington’s push for tough sanctions against Iran.

Israel’s willingness to negotiate the Golan’s return was offered by Washington as bait to draw the Syrian president away from his pact with Tehran and stop meddling in Lebanon. The success of this ploy will be tested before the Annapolis conference, on Nov. 21, when Damascus must keep its hands off Lebanon’s presidential election.

At some point, the Israeli prime minister and foreign minister will have some hard explaining to do for relinquishing the fundamental demand for secure and defensible borders, and overriding the country’s majority objections to the sweeping concessions to the Palestinians, which he is laying at the Bush administration’s feet.

Olmert will no doubt try and explain that these concessions were mandatory for the sake of achieving US-Russian cooperation for the imposition of sanctions against Iran. The fact that this cooperation will have relieved Tehran of the military threat hanging over its head for continuing to develop a nuclear weapon will not figure in Olmert’s arguments to the nation.

In her Nashville speech, the US secretary of state presented the “difficult and painful sacrifices” Israel must make to meet the most excessive Palestinian demands as a diktat: Failure of the Israeli-Palestinian talks is not an option. She justified it by determining: “What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East.”

Sending our youth the wrong signals

From JPost by Isi Leibler, November 13, 2007 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

...[a] recent survey of American [non-Orthodox] Jewish attitudes toward Israel ...[finds that] 54% of the under-35 category was "comfortable" with the concept of a Jewish state, in contrast to 81% of those over 65. More disturbingly, over half of those under 35 would not even be inclined to regard the destruction of Israel as a "personal tragedy."

The findings demonstrate that non-Orthodox American Jews under the age of 35 are moving from indifference to outright alienation with respect to their attitude toward the Jewish state. The report challenges the viability of sustaining any meaningful long term Israel-Diaspora relationship.

In retrospect, some erosion was predictable. The memory of the Holocaust has receded from public consciousness and young Jews today simply lack any appreciation of the implications of the powerlessness which prevailed among Jews before the state was created.

Nor does the current generation share the emotional attachments to Israel of their parents who witnessed the Zionist struggle and battles for survival climaxing with the euphoria of the Six Day War and the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. In addition, the combination of media demonization and burgeoning anti-Semitism have influenced many youngsters to transfer their support for Israelis as noble underdogs, toward identifying with what is commonly referred to as the "anti Zionist chic."

While we were aware that this was the prevailing atmosphere in Europe, we had hoped that America, home of the largest, most affluent and influential Diaspora community in Jewish history, would be different. Besides, in contrast to the intensification of hatred against Israel in Europe, over the past decade, American public support for Israel has reached a higher level than ever before. The report also suggests that in the absence of birthright israel visits, the situation would have been considerably worse.

And yet, beyond religious observance, a connection to Israel remains to this day the most important element in Jewish identity. Thus, unless negative attitudes toward Israel are reversed, a further snowballing impact on assimilation is inevitable.

How should we endeavor to reverse these negative trends? First, the government of Israel must become more directly involved. From the onset of the Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments had distanced themselves from the Diaspora, on the false grounds that with an "irreversible peace process" a reality, mobilizing on behalf of Israel by Diaspora Jews was superfluous and even counterproductive.

Despite subsequent efforts to reverse the situation by Rabbi Melchior and Natan Sharansky respectively as ministers of Diaspora Affairs, by and large, government leaders have taken little interest in overseas Jewish communities beyond lauding potential donors....

.....We must end this madness by launching global educational campaigns to endow our youngsters with an appreciation of what Jewish life was like before the rebirth of the Jewish state and provide them with an understanding of a genuine Israel narrative and the morality of our case.

Let there be no illusions. If the process of alienation from the Jewish state is not reversed, the Diaspora is doomed.

The writer is a former chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress and a veteran international Jewish leader.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Neo-Nazi rally in Prague

From BBC NEWS, 10 November 2007:

There have been clashes in Prague between neo-Nazis and protesters trying to block their right-wing march.

More than 1,000 people rallied in the Czech capital's old Jewish quarter to try to stop the march by members of the Young Nationalist Democrats (MND)..... for the anniversary of the 1938 anti-Jewish purge known as Kristallnacht.

Police managed keep most of the 400 right-wing marchers and the anti-Nazi demonstrators separate. But there were scuffles in side streets near the Jewish quarter and at least one person was injured, witnesses said. Police arrested several of the right-wing marchers.
Anarchists in other parts of the city also clashed with police.

... A shot was apparently fired at a crowd outside the city's law faculty, leading to skirmishes, he adds.....Some of the MND skinheads arrested were armed with batons, truncheons and home-made Molotov cocktails, reports said.

"The march [by the extreme right] was unacceptable," Prague's mayor Pavel Bem told the AFP news agency. "We need to cultivate the national memory to avoid what happened in the past."
Czech President Vaclav Klaus also condemned the MND march.

Some of the anti-fascist protesters wore a yellow Star of David, while others carried red flags and wore slogans reading "Never Again". They gathered in front of a Prague synagogue near a museum dedicated to the memory of some 77,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust who came from the former Czechoslovakia.

....On Friday, Czech tour operators warned tourists to keep out of central Prague and said organised tours would not travel into the area. There were reports that busloads of German far-right supporters had been detained at the Czech border by police.