Friday, April 24, 2009

Clinton: US Prepared for New Sanctions if Outreach to Iran Fails

From VOA News, 22 April 2009, by David Gollust, State Department [my emphasis added - SL]:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is laying groundwork for new sanctions against Iran if outreach to Tehran on its nuclear program fails to produce results. Clinton says the Obama administration's call for dialogue provides more leverage in efforts to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Clinton told Congress the administration's conciliatory policy toward Iran is not open-ended, and that if efforts to persuade that country to halt enrichment and return to negotiations on its nuclear program fail, Tehran would face tighter sanctions.

The Secretary raised the prospect of additional sanctions at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing under questioning from committee chairman Howard Berman, who said he is concerned Iran might see a more friendly U.S. approach as merely a green light to pursue nuclear weapons...

...Clinton told Berman the Obama administration has no illusions about its engagement with Iran and is operating on two tracks, offering dialogue but also preparing for additional punitive action if the outreach is spurned or inconclusive.

"Yes we are more than willing to reach out to the Iranians to discuss a range of issues assuming they are willing to reach back," said Hillary Clinton. "....But we are also laying the groundwork for the kind of very tough, I think you said, crippling sanctions that might be necessary in the event our offers are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful."

The Secretary said the administration's effort to engage Iran - on the nuclear issue and other topics - will strengthen its position in a drive for additional international sanctions if that proves necessary.

...Efforts by the previous administration for more sanctions were blocked last year amid resistance from Russia and China...

Hear the Gollust report: Download (MP3) or Listen (MP3)

Video: Clinton on a Nuclear Iran: Download (WM) or Watch (WM)

'World leaders must drop 'land for peace' slogans, stop Iran'

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 24, 2009, by DAVID HOROVITZ and AMIR MIZROCH [my emphasis added - SL]:

The international community has to "stop speaking in slogans" if it really wants to help the new Israeli government work toward a solution to the Palestinian conflict and help bring stability to the Middle East, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday...

"Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues around the world," he said. "Just today, I saw the political adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Chinese foreign minister and the Czech prime minister. And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're in a campaign: Occupation, settlements, settlers..." Slogans like these, and others Lieberman cited, such as "land for peace" and "two-state solution," were both overly simplistic and ignored the root causes of the ongoing conflict, he said.

The fact was, said the Israel Beiteinu leader, that the Palestinian issue was "deadlocked" despite the best efforts of a series of dovish Israeli governments. "Israel has proved its good intentions, our desire for peace," he said.

The path forward, he said, lay in ensuring security for Israel, an improved economy for the Palestinians, and stability for both. "Economy, security, stability," he repeated. "It's impossible to artificially impose any political solution. It will fail, for sure. You cannot start any peace process from nothing. You must create the right situation, the right focus, the right conditions."

He said the government would be completing its thorough foreign policy review in the next two weeks, and that it would be made public for the first time at the scheduled May 18 White House talks between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu....

...Lieberman insistently refused to rule in, or rule out, Palestinian statehood alongside Israel as the essence of a permanent accord, but emphatically endorsed Netanyahu's declared desire not to rule over a single Palestinian.

Equally emphatically, he said no peace proposal that so much as entertained the notion of a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees could serve as a basis for negotiation. "It cannot be on the table. I'm not ready to even discuss the 'right of return' of even one refugee," he said.

But he also made clear that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was not a precondition for progress. "You know, we don't want to torpedo the process," he said. "But somebody who really wants a solution, somebody who really desires a real peace and a real agreement, must realize that this would be impossible to achieve without recognizing Israel as a Jewish state."

Lieberman said the new government would have no dealings with Hamas, which needed to be "suffocated," and that the international community also had to maintain the long-standing Quartet preconditions for dealing with the Islamist group.

The real reason for the deadlock with the Palestinians, said Lieberman, "is not occupation, not settlements and not settlers. This conflict is really a very deep conflict. It started like other national conflicts. [But] today it's a more religious conflict. Today you have the influence of some nonrational players, like al-Qaida."

And the biggest obstacle to any comprehensive solution, he said, "is not Israel. It is not the Palestinians. It's the Iranians."

Lieberman said the prime responsibility for thwarting Iran's march to a nuclear capability lay with the international community, not Israel, and especially the five permanent members of the Security Council. He was confident that stringent economic sanctions could yet achieve the desired result, and said he did not even "want to think about the consequences of a crazy nuclear arms race in the region."

He said it would be "impossible to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem." This, he said, related to Lebanon, Syria and problems with Islamic extremist terror in Egypt, the Gaza Strip and Iraq.

Nonetheless, Lieberman stressed that Israel did not regard stopping Iran as a precondition for Israeli efforts to make progress with the Palestinians. Quite the reverse, he said. "No, we must start with the Palestinian issues because it's our interest to resolve this problem. But there should be no illusions. To achieve an agreement, to achieve an end of conflict, with no more bloodshed, no more terror, no more claims - that's impossible until Iran [is addressed]."

Noting what he called Syria's deepening ties with Iran, Lieberman said he saw no point whatsoever in resuming the indirect talks with Damascus conducted by the last government. "We don't see any good will from the Syrian side," he said. "Only the threats, like 'If you're not ready to talk, we'll retake the Golan by military action...'"

Asked whether it troubled him to be perceived as an extremist in some circles, including overseas, Lieberman laughed and said, "So it's easy for me to surprise them." He said he believed his international colleagues "respect me, and that they understand that I say what I mean, and I mean every word that I say." ...

Hamas Terrorist Tactics in the Gaza Strip

This video explains the background to operation Cast Lead, specifically the terrorist tactics that Hamas employs. It shows how Hamas smuggles in weaponry in order to arm itself and how it employs the civilian population and infastructure in order to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. Hamas' use of human shields during operation Cast Lead caused many civilian casualties.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Outrage reserved for Israel

From The Australian, April 22, 2009, by Brett Stephens [my emphasis added - SL]:

...Here's a contrast to ponder. Since the beginning of the second intifada in the autumn of 2000, about 6000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. That figure includes combatants as well as those killed in January's fighting in Gaza.

As for Chechnya, there are no solid figures for the number of civilians killed since the second war began in late 1999; estimates range from 25,000 to 200,000. Chechnya's population, at a little more than one million, is about one third or one fourth that of the Palestinians. That works out to between 25 and 200 Chechen deaths per 1000 as against 1.5 to two Palestinian deaths per 1000.

Now type the words Palestine and genocide into Google. When I did so on Monday, I got 1,630,000 results. Next, substitute Chechnya for Palestine. The number is 245,000.

Taking the Google results as a crude measure of global outrage, that means the outrage over the Palestinian situation was 6.6 times greater than over the Chechen one. Yet Chechen fatalities were between 13 to 133 times greater.

Final calculation: With an outrage ratio of 6.6 to one, but a proportional kill ratio of one to 13 (at the very low end), it turns out that every Palestinian death receives somewhere in the order of 28 times the attention of every Chechen death. Remember that in both cases we're mainly talking about Muslims being killed by non-Muslims.

...Why is Palestinian life so dear in the eyes of the world, and Chechen life so cheap?

Maybe the answer is that the Palestinian cause is morally worthier than that of Chechnya. But that can't be right. Yes, Chechen terrorists have committed spectacular atrocities, notably the 2004 Beslan school massacre. Yet modern terrorism is a genre Palestinians practically invented. As it is, Chechnya has been suffering grievously under Russia's thumb since the 1800s. (Just read Tolstoy's Hadji Murad.) If colonialism is your beef, the case for Chechen independence is inarguable.

Maybe, then, the answer is that there is no shortage of imagery of Palestinian death, and thus it engages more of the world's attention. By contrast, the Russians imposed a virtual media blockade on Chechnya, and journalists who covered the story, such as Anna Politkovskaya, had a way of ending up dead.

But imagery need not be televised to be vivid, nor does the world lack for testimonials of Russian brutality. "I remember a Chechen female sniper," a Russian soldier told Los Angeles Times reporter Maura Reynolds. "We just tore her apart with two armoured personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it."

Maybe it's that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simply more important strategically than Russia's war against Chechnya, in the same way that the attacks of 9/11 mattered more in the scheme of things than, say, atrocities by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

Yet even before 9/11, there was evidence that al-Qa'ida was feeding money and arms to Chechen fighters, putting Chechnya squarely into the context of what became the global war on terror. Evidence of al-Qa'ida involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sparser and only came to light in 2007.

Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inflames the Muslim world in a way the Chechen one does not. But why is that, when so many more Muslims are being victimised by Russia?

Then too, why does the wider world participate in the Muslim world's moral priorities? Why, for instance, do high-profile Western writers such as Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago make "solidarity" pilgrimages to Ramallah but not to the Chechen capital of Grozny? Why do British academics organise boycotts of their Israeli counterparts but not their Russian ones?

Why is Palestinian statehood considered a global moral imperative, but statehood for Chechnya is not?

Why does every Israeli prime minister invariably become a global pariah, when not one person in 1000 knows the name of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a man who, by many accounts, keeps a dungeon near his house in order to personally torture his political opponents? And why does the fact that Kadyrov is Vladimir Putin's handpicked enforcer in Chechnya not cause a shudder of revulsion as the Obama administration reaches for the reset button with Russia?

I have a hypothesis. Maybe the world attends to Palestinian grievances but not Chechen ones for the sole reason that Palestinians are, uniquely, the perceived victims of the Jewish state. That is when they are not being victimised by other Palestinians. Or being expelled en masse from Kuwait. Or being excluded from the labour force in Lebanon. Things you probably didn't know about, either.

As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew is ever likely to become president of Russia.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Muslim "cleric" incites hatred and genocide

From Al-Rahma TV (Egypt) - January 26, 2009 (translated by MEMRI):

Egyptian Cleric Amin Al-Ansari Justifies the Holocaust, Airs Footage, and Publicly says on Arab TV: "This Is What We Hope Will Happen [another Shoah...] But, Allah Willing, at the Hand of the Muslims"

Ahmadinejad's Wager, The World's Peril

From The Gloria Center, April 21, 2009, by Barry Rubin [my emphasis added - SL]:

Why did Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with the full backing of Iran's regime, behave as he did at the Durban-2 conference? One reason, of course, is that he believed every word he said ...Ideology was central.

...The second factor that should be remembered is that of miscalculation. A leader, particularly if reckless and overconfident, will take an action he thinks is in his interest but turns out to be a disaster. The best internal Middle East examples are those of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser provoking the crisis that led to the 1967 war and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

...For Ahmadinejad ...ideology and miscalculation are major factors. They will continue to be major factors if Iran gets nuclear weapon.

But of course, as with Nasser and Saddam Hussein, there are shorter-run calculations. Three are important:

Domestic popularity. This is always a basic factor with Middle Eastern radical regimes. Not all Iranians will support Ahmadinejad and many hate the regime. But among the 20 percent hardcore and perhaps 50 percent total who can be mobilized, they may cheer Ahmadinejad. Iran is strong, its enemies are weak, and its leadership is courageous. America, the Jews, and the West are satanic. Rally to the Islamic regime!

Regional popularity. Iran's regime is seeking to be leader of the Muslim world and the leading power in the Middle East. But in doing so it has two very big problems: Iran is mostly Shia Muslim; most Muslims (especially Arabs) are Sunni Muslims. Iran is mostly ethnically Persian; Arabs are Arab. How to overcome these barriers? Iran already has Arab and largely Sunni allies--Syria, Hamas, Hizballah-but that's not enough. So by becoming the leader against America, the West, and Israel, Iran hopes to override these problems. Who cares if we are Persian and Shia, Ahmadinejad says, we are the true Muslims doing what your governments aren't doing.

Global popularity. While this is a miscalculation, Ahmadinejad and other regime leaders believe that this kind of behavior can make them popular throughout the world. This includes not only Muslim-majority countries but also the Third World and even the West. In a recent interview with Der Spiegel magazine [see source below] Ahmadinejad said that he believed most Germans also hated Israel and wanted to see it wiped out. Certainly, there is reason for him to believe such things.

Some better-informed regime leaders view Ahmadinejad as a disaster. The problem is that the top leadership is backing him, and thus his words and actions do represent the regime. The June elections will almost certainly return him to office for more years, years during which Iran will get nuclear weapons.

There's one other extremely important point on which Ahmadinejad is misunderstood. It is true that he does not control the government. The most powerful man in Iran remains the supreme guide, Ali Khamenei. But Ahmadinejad, allied with powerful current and former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, is building his own apparatus. In the future, he could well emerge as the uncontested leader of Iran. For the moment, though, it is enough that he has the regime's backing.

Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders-though not all-believe the West is weak and cannot respond to their aggression. They are not, as sympathizers portray them in the West, trembling people motivated by fear of external attack. Clearly, Iran has legitimate security concerns. But the real threats are heightened by their own behavior. If they were in fact so frightened they could change policy and reduce the threat. Some regime leaders, though not those in control right now, advocate just such a policy. Unfortunately, the West hasn't helped them enough by making that threat more credible through denunciations and effective sanctions.

So here's the bottom line: by failing to oppose Iran more effectively, the West is unintentionally encouraging it to be more extremist and dangerous. By failing to help relatively moderate Arab regimes, the West is making them more susceptible to having to appease Iran. By pressuring and criticizing Israel, the West is encouraging Iran's regime to believe it can be destroyed.

Not a pretty picture. But neither is that of the would-be fuehrer being an honored guest at UN meetings. No wonder Ahmadinejad and his backers believe that theirs is a winning bet.

See Ahmadinejad's interview with Der Spiegel.

Durban Diary, day one: ugly Ahmadinejad

From The New York Daily News, 21/4/09, by Anne Bayefsky:

...The UN's idea of combating racism and xenophobia is to encourage more of it.

(picture from Hyscience)

Ahmadinejad was the very first speaker as the substantive session opened. Handed a global megaphone by the UN, out flowed unadulterated hate speech.

The phenomenon was astonishing. The UN provided a platform for a virulent antisemite on the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. In the name of fighting intolerance, they translated his words into six languages and broadcast them around the world...

... this is what he said.

He began by denying the Holocaust: The "Zionist regime" had been created "on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question of holocaust."

And he continued with a genocidal agenda: "the egoist and uncivilized Zionism have been able to deeply penetrate into their political and economic structure including their legislation, mass media, companies, financial systems, and their security and intelligence agencies. They have imposed their domination to the extent that nothing can be done against their will. As long as they are at the helm of power, justice will never prevail in the world. It is time the ideal of Zionism, which is the paragon of racism, to be broken. The world Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuse religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces."

As he spoke, the European Union countries that had not withdrawn earlier finally stood up and walked out. But they didn't really understand what had just happened at all, for when he was finished, all but the Czech Republic went right back in.

Ten countries have now boycotted this second Durban hatefest: Canada, Israel, the United States, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The rest of the world remains inside, providing legitimacy to a forum for hatemongering. They are under the impression that there is no lasting damage being done here either to the credibility of the institutional host or to the cause of protecting human rights. They are wrong.

And the real victims of human rights are all the poorer for it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

May their memories be for a blessing

Today on Yom Hashoah (27th of Nisan) I wish to honour the memory of

Hersz Lieblich צבי בן יוסף
Chaja Lieblich (Bratshpis) חיה בת יצחק
Moniek Lieblich מרדכי בן צבי

...and to transmit the light of their yahrzeit candles around the world.

I'd like to share with you some words I spoke on the occasion of the consecration of a memorial, on Friday 26th December 2008, at Karrakatta Cemetery in Western Australia.

...They were the grandparents and uncle of my cousins Anne and Karen, and my sister Helen and I …three gitte neshumes, simple folk from a farming region in the south-east of Poland, who died as martyrs …al kiddush Hashem, probably in July 1942, when their Ghetto was transported to the Belzec death camp.

...we are thankful, and feel privileged, that we can place a memorial to them here at Karrakatta, close to where we laid our fathers to rest a few years ago.

…Obviously we never met these ancestors, because they were murdered before we were born, however I think it’s appropriate to tell you a little of what we know about them.

Hersz Lieblich
My grandfather Hersz Lieblich was born c1890. He was a farmer and a grain dealer in the village of Kamien, just north of Rzeszow.

When Dad and I visited Hersz’s farm in northern summer of 1990, it was full of strawberries. Perhaps he also grew strawberries in his time. He certainly grew beans, because during that visit, a neighbour recalled that when the Nazis came to evict the family from their home, Hersz ran and hid in the bean fields.

I gather from this anecdote that Hersz didn’t readily submit to Nazi authority.

Chaja Lieblich (Bratshpis)
Hersz’s wife, my grandmother, Chaja, was born in Stobierna, also near Rzeszow, in 1896. We recently discovered that her grandfather Mordechai emigrated to Philadelphia in 1914, following six of his children, and leaving the seventh child Isaak (Chaja’s father) in charge of their horse-trading business. Mordechai purchased a ticket to also bring Chaja to USA, but she never used it.
I guess her emigration was prevented by the Great War, after which she fell in love, married Hersz, and went on to have three sons with him: Josef (Yossel), Israel (Srulec) and their youngest, Mordechai (Moniek).

I gather that Chaja was a seamstress, because a neighbour told us in 1990 that she still had a handkerchief that Chaja had made her.

Moniek Lieblich
Moniek was born c1925-6, almost certainly not long after Chaja’s grandfather died in Philadelphia, and so he was also named Mordechai after that patriarch.

He was about Bar Mitzvah age when the Nazis evicted the family from their farm and forcibly transferred them to the Rseszow Ghetto.

Their Deaths
In the Ghetto, the elder boys, Yossel and Srulec were forced to work for the Nazis. They were on a work detail at nearby Jasionka Airport, for several months, at which time the Ghetto was transported to the Belzec Death Camp.

History shows that it was a particularly brutal transport, with the residents of the Ghetto being herded through the town to the railway by the Nazis and the local population who jeered and beat them in the street.

Some of the leaders of the Ghetto were killed in the town or in the nearby Glogow Forest. I imagine that perhaps the rebellious Hersz died that way, in his early fifties.

Chaja, then 46 years old and her 13-or-14-year-old son, Moniek were probably herded onto the train and gassed to death at Belzec soon after that.

When our fathers Yossel and Srulec were brought back to the Ghetto from Jasionka, their parents and brother were gone.
Rebuilding the family
Yossel and Srulec survived the Shoah and eventually settled here in Perth to rebuild their lives.

I’m sure that Hersz, Chaja and Moniek would be satisfied that their surviving sons raised four children and ten grandchildren, all true to the tradition from which they sprang.

They are in our thoughts, together with Yossel and Srulec, each time we name a new-born child, celebrate a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or celebrate a marriage. With each milestone the family grows stronger and builds anew on what was destroyed.

...We are proud that, the family is going from strength to strength …and that Am Yisroel Chai, v’Kayam!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Omar Barghouti, enemy of Israel, studies in Tel Aviv

From, 19/4/09, by Hillel Fendel:

Academic Watchdog Works to Expel Anti-Israel Activist from TAU

IAM, the Israel Academia Monitor organization, has set itself the goal of alerting the public to the outspokenly anti-Israel professors and others in Israeli universities.

Its top project at the moment: A drive to have the positions of Tel Aviv University doctoral student Omar Barghouti – “clearly an enemy of Israel,” IAM says – exposed and publicized.

IAM has initiated a petition against Barghouti, a member of the same clan that includes convicted terrorist murderer and Palestinian Authority leader Marwan Barghouti. The petition is addressed to the Rector, President, and supporters of Tel Aviv University, and states:

“Literally thousands of people all over the world are working very hard to demonize and de-legitimize Israel. An especially strident and persuasive voice is that of Omar Barghouti, whose devastating accusations against Israel can be found on dozens of internet sites, newspapers all over the world and even at international conferences. What makes his work especially repugnant is his wide use of half-truth, selective omission and outright lie. He is clearly an enemy of Israel.

“…Omar Barghouti is a founding member of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and has personally called, on countless occasions, for an international boycott of all Israeli universities as well as [cutting off] trade and cultural ties.

“…We can’t help wondering at the logic of Tel Aviv University [providing] this enemy of Israel with the means to obtain a doctorate in Ethics. Can this indeed be true? Ethics!!! As Israeli citizens we are also deeply dismayed that an academic institution, which gets part of our hard-earned taxes to keep it going, is enabling such a person to use its facilities. We are sure a lot of Jews around the world who donate generously to academic institutions in Israel would be quite devastated to learn how their monies are used…”

Thus far, over 16,000 people have signed the Hebrew petition, including nearly 4,000 in the past 18 hours. The lesser-known English version has been endorsed thus far by more than 300 signatories.

The IAM website features selections from anti-Israel articles written by Israeli university professors and lecturers, an article on “How Palestinians use Israeli academics,” a listing of “358 Israeli academics calling on Israeli students to refuse army service,” video clips of “Israeli activists and academics interfering with the IDF,” and more.

From, 17/4/09, by Maayana Miskin:

Anti-Israel Leader Wants Boycott – and Diploma

Omar Barghouti, an outspoken anti-Israel activist who has accused the Jewish state of “genocide,” is currently a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University. Barghouti, who is studying philosophy with a specialization in ethics, is at the same time calling on the international community to boycott Israeli academics and universities.

While Barghouti has learned at TAU for some time while calling for it and other Israeli schools to be boycotted, it was his statements following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that apparently spurred his fellow students to action. Following Barghouti's latest speeches abroad accusing Israel of murder and genocide, and of planning a Holocaust against Arabs, more than 11,500 people have signed a petition calling for him to be dealt with. The petition offers three options: convincing Barghouti that his position is intellectually dishonest, suing him for libel, or expelling him from the school.

The petition, created by Israel Academia Monitor, calls Omar Barghouti “an especially strident and persuasive voice” in the campaign to “demonize and delegitimize” Israel. "What makes his work especially repugnant is his wide use of half-truth, selective omission and outright lie. He is clearly an enemy of Israel... As Israel citizens we are dismayed that an academic institution, which gets part of our hard-earned taxes to keep it going, is enabling such a person to use its facilities,” it continues.

Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which calls to boycott every Israeli, from researchers to authors to dancers, until they agree to demand that the Israeli government give in to Arab demands, including the demand to grant citizenship to millions of foreign Arabs who claim descent from Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence.

Among those millions would be Barghouti himself, who was born in Qatar and grew up in Egypt, but identifies as “Palestinian” because his parents were born in an area now controlled by the PA. His parents have chosen not to return to their place of birth, preferring to remain in Jordan.
Barghouti has chosen not to respond to the controversy, stating only that his studies at TAU are “a personal matter.”

The REAL Geneva Summit

From the UN Watch blog, April 19, 2009:

Human rights defenders and activists gather at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy

Just a day before the “Durban II” Review Conference, the U.N.’s talkfest ..., human rights defenders and activists from around the world gathered in Geneva this morning to address the issues they wish the conference would itself address. Brought to the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy by a broad coalition of more than thirty NGOs., including UN Watch, these activists spoke out for victims of genocide and challenged the world’s authoritarian regimes.

Opening remarks were delivered by Nazanin Afshin-Jam, former Miss Canada and co-founder/ President of “Stop Child Executions.” She stated that Ahmadinejad’s presence at Durban II will be a “slap in the face” to the international community. She called on countries that believe in freedom and democracy to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran and walk-out when Ahamdinejad is set to speak.

She went on to cite Ahmadinejad’s statement that the freest women in the world are the women in Iran when, in fact, Iranian penal code provides that women are worth half as much as men. She described how Iranian police beat girls simply because they wear their boots over their jeans.

Afshin-Jam recounted Ahmadinejad’s remarks at Columbia University, where he said there were no homosexuals in Iran. Is this because they are executed, she asked. She went on to cite various other abuses of the Iranian government, including its imprisonment of HIV activists who are accused of conspiring with foreign governments.

Afshin-Jam was followed by Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, Counsel for genocide victims and dissidents. Cotler moderated the first panel discussion on “Racism, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity,” and also shared his thoughts on the subject. He said that the first and enduring less of of the Holocaust and following genocides is that they begin with words. He too expressed his regret that Ahmadinejad will be a welcome guest at Durban II, despitehis incitement to genocide.

On a positive note, Cotler pointed to the judgment of the International Criminal Court to prosecute Sudan’s leader Al-Bashir. At the same time, he regretted that the Darfur atrocities are still ongoing. He said the importance of the present summit is to empower the powerless victims of the world.

Next to speak was Gibreil Hamid, President of the Darfur Peace and Development Center. He began by deploring the fact that 99% of Darfuris are dependent on relief organizations, which have recently been thrown out. He stated his concern that Darfuris are a forgotten people.

At this point Darfuris in the audience rose with passionate calls of “Justice, justice!”

Mr. Hamid then continued to speak about the atrocities of the Sudanese governments against black Africans, including the recent government death sentences for another ten of them accused of attacking Khartoum. This is ethnic cleansing and genocide, he said.

He complained that the Arab and Muslim governments agreed to speak about Palestine or Afghanistan at Durban II, but will not tolerate a word about Darfur. Are we not human beings, he asked? He said that Darfuris are treated as second class even if they are Muslims, because they are not Arab.

Tustsi survivor of the Rwandan genocide and founder of an organization to aid refugees, Esther Mujawayo spoke about her feelings of despair that genocides continue to happen over and over again.

She recounted the horrors of the genocide she witnessed. She noted that being Tutsi is not even a feature one can see. The Tutsis were targeted simply because they are Tutsi.

She repeated President Obama’s statement that behind the statistics of Rwanda, are the individual faces of the genocide’s victims. She displayed pictures of her own family, all but a few of whom were killed in 1994. She spoke of the emptiness, guilt, and anger she felt being one of the fortunate to survive.

She went on to deplore the inaction of the international community, who did nothing to halt the genocide. Mujawayo said she could pardon countries for this failure, but only if they would do more, 15 years later, to help those who survived. There are so many who escaped, but are not physically and emotionally handicapped, she said.

Mujawayo recounted how many of the surviving women were constantly raped and infected with HIV. In the end, the rapists were given retro-viral drugs, but not their victims. She called on Switzerland to grant asylum to a young survivor who was found by the Red Cross amidst the bodies of his family members.

President of SOS Racism, Dominique Sopo reiterated that genocidal violence starts with words, for example, when people begin dehumanizing people by giving them animal names like “rats” for Jews or “cockroaches” for Tutsis.

He explained that racism is a cultural construct. To combat it, one has to look back at its progression through history with an eye, not to seeking revenge, but to building a common future. He said France should examine the Algerian War. He also decried the populist attitudes against foreigners in certain countries, including in Switzerland.

Sopo then spoke about the perversion of the anti-racist agenda by the world’s dictators. They themselves are racist, sexists and homophobic, yet suggest that all good comes from the South and all bad from the North. He cited the example of how Al-Bashir called himself a victim of Western imperialism after his indictment for genocide, when, in reality, he was the perpetrator against the victims of Darfur.

He argued that Durban II has become ridiculous. “It is unbelievable that Darfur is not an issue” of the conference, he said. “Why are we holding this conference then?” he asked.

Elen Bork of Freedom House moderated the next panel discussion on “Resisting Authoritarianism: Human Rights, Democracy and the Dissident Movement.” She said it is appropriate that this discussion follows the one on genocide, because it is under authoritarian governments that genocide is committed.

Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo spoke about his experience as a dissident, activist and political prisoner in Cuba. He discussed his defiance in the face of the Castro regime as he continued to organized activities for his pro-democracy group in Cuba, despite the repression and intimidation he faced. Not only was he sentenced to twenty years in prison, but his family was also targeted. His wife was fired from her job and his daughter was expelled from school and confined to a hospital.

Castillo denounced Durban II as an example of people refusing to denounce injustice. He said the conference is like giving an “oxygen booth to dictatorships so they can continue to trample on peoples’ lives.”

Castillo was followed by Zimbabwean lawyer and human rights advocate, Marlon Zakeyo. He described his journey as a human rights defender, which began when he joined a student movement seeking democracy and justice for his country.

Commenting on the present political situation in Zimbabwe, he said the new government should only be viewed as a transitional one, the result of a pact between political elites. The voices of the masses of Zimbabwe were not heard, he said.

He deplored the massacres unleashed on the Zimbabwean people since 2000, not to mention the atrocities of 1982-1987. He warned that there is no guarantee that Zimbabwe will not lash back into the “dark days.” He discussed the precarious situation of human rights defenders who face enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. He called this “state terrorism” by the government of Zimbabwe.

He deplored the overcrowding of Zimbabwean prisons, filled in part with political prisoners, where diseases, such as cholera and HIV/AIDS are rampant. There is no freedom of expression or free media, he said.

He called on the U.N. to send a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe, which has not been done.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dutch foreign minister boycotts racism conference

From The Washingtom Post, Sunday, April 19, 2009, by The Associated Press:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Dutch foreign minister says he is boycotting a U.N. anti-racism conference because some nations are using it as a platform to attack the West.

...Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in a statement Sunday that some countries were planning to use the summit to put religion above human rights and rein in freedom of speech.

He has called the proposed closing declaration "unacceptable." ...

Australia to boycott UN racist "anti-racism" conference

From The Australian, 19/4/09:

AUSTRALIA will not take part in a controversial United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva this week.

The Federal Government's decision to boycott the Durban Review conference was prompted by the outcome of the original event in 2001, which was marred by claims of anti-Semitism.

Delegates from the United States and Israel walked out of the meeting in Durban because much of the discussion focused on Israel being a racist state.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said the Geneva meeting reaffirms the 2001 outcomes, singling out Israel and the Middle East.

"Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the review conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views," Mr Smith said.

"Of additional concern are the suggestions of some delegations in the Durban process to limit the universal right to free speech."

Canada, Israel, Italy and the United States have also indicated that they will not participate.

UN Watch Turns Tables on Libyan Chair, Exposes Durban 2 Hypocrisy

From UN Watch (Geneva) Briefing No. 190, April 18, 2009:

Qaddafi rep panics and cuts off torture victim testimony story on Swiss TV news last night was the surpise "coup d'eclat" by UN Watch, when it turned the tables on the Libyan chair of the Durban II planning committee, in a showdown yesterday that exposed the U.N. hypocrisy whereby the chief organizers of a world "anti-racism" conference are themselves the worst perpetrators of racism and discrimination.

See the full exchange below, and watch out for for the YouTube video of the full debate.

United Nations Durban Review Conference
Preparatory Committee, Third Substantive Session
17 April 2009, Geneva

Statement by United Nations Watch
Delivered by Ashraf Ahmed El-Hojouj

Thank you, Madame Chair.

I don’t know if you recognize me. I am the Palestinian medical intern who was scapegoated by your country, Libya, in the HIV case in the Benghazi hospital, together with the five Bulgarian nurses.

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop... stop.... I ask you to stop. You are, you are not addressing the agenda item... I will allow you to resume only if you address the agenda item we are discussing.

[Victim resumes testimony]

Section 1 of the draft declaration for this conference speaks about victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Based on my own suffering, I wish to offer some proposals.

Starting in 1999, as you know, the five nurses and I were falsely arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, brutally tortured, convicted, and sentenced to death.

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop... You are again not addressing the agenda item. I urge you to address the agenda item.

[Victim resumes testimony]

All of this, which lasted for nearly a decade, was for only one reason: because the Libyan government was looking to scapegoat foreigners. Madame Chair, if that is not discrimination, then what is?

On the basis of my personal experience, I would like to propose the following amendments regarding remedies, redress and compensatory measures:

One: The United Nations should condemn countries that scapegoat, falsely arrest, and torture vulnerable minorities.

Two: Countries that have committed such crimes must recognize their past, and issue an official, public, and unequivocal apology to the victims.

Three: In accordance with Article 2, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such countries must provide victims of discrimination with an appropriate remedy, including adequate compensation for material and immaterial damage.

Madame Chair, Libya told this conference that it practices no inequality or discrimination.

But then how do you account for what was done to me, to my colleagues, and to my family, who gave over thirty years serving your country, only to be kicked out from their home, threatened with death, and subjected to state terrorism?

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: There is a request for a point of order. I give Libya the floor for a point of order.

LIBYAN DIPLOMAT: Madame Chair, I object to the testimony by UN Watch. This is not the correct agenda item. Thank you, Madame Chair.

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI: We shall now move on to the next speaker...

[Due to the unjustified cut-off by the Chair, the following portions were unable to be read.]

How can your government chair the planning committee for a world conference on discrimination, when it is on the list of the world’s worst of the worst, when it comes to discrimination and human rights violations?

When will your government recognize their crimes, apologize to me, to my colleagues, and to our families?

This week, at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, the five nurses and I will present our complaint and compensation claim against Libya, filed with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual petitions.

The slogan for this Conference is “Dignity and justice for all.” Does this include your own country’s victims of discrimination?

Thank you, Madame Chair.


Bulgarian Nurses Sue Libya in International Tribunal; UN Watch as Co-Counsel

Related to the above testimony, click here for the new 100-page legal complaint filed by the Bulgarian nurses against Libya with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual human rights complaints.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer formerly with the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, is serving as co-counsel in the action together with Dr. Liesbeth Zegveld, an international law professor and attorney in the Netherlands. The complaint is released here for the first time to the public. (Click here for the related complaint filed by Dr. El-Hojouj last year.)

Both Dr. Dr. El-Hojouj and Bulagrian nurse Kristiyna Valcheva will speak tomorrow at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, on Sunday, 19 April 2009. Watch live webcast at This time Dr. El-Hojouj will be able to deliver his full speech — without interruptions...

US Will Boycott Durban 2

From VOA News, 18 April 2009:

The United States announced Saturday it will not attend a United Nations conference on racism set to start Monday in Geneva.

State Department Spokesman Robert Wood says the U.S. will boycott the conference "with regret" because of objectionable language in the meeting's draft declaration.

Wood said Saturday that despite some improvements, it seemed clear the declaration will not address U.S. concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression.

Still, he said the United States "will work with all people and nations" to put an end to racism and discrimination.

European Union members have yet to decide whether they will attend.

...Human rights groups had been urging the U.S. to take part in the conference, and called the boycott a "missed opportunity." New York-based Human Rights Watch says the draft declaration has improved considerably since negotiations first began.

Many Muslim nations want curbs to prevent what they say are insults to Islam. Riots erupted across the Muslim world in 2006 after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to attend the conference. The Iranian leader has raised concerns by questioning whether the Holocaust happened and has said that Israel should be wiped off the map.

U.S. officials warned in late February the Obama administration would not attend the conference unless significant changes were made.