Friday, March 04, 2011

Iran deserves what Libya got

From WSJ, MARCH 3, 2011, by Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of "Iran: The Looming Crisis" (Profile Books, 2010):

The West should show the same moral clarity against Tehran's human-rights abuses as it has against Gadhafi's.

While the world focuses on Libya's popular uprising and Moammar Gadhafi's murderous response, Iran has also—far from the international spotlight—been ratcheting up its repression.

In the last few days, Tehran has moved to arrest the two leading figures of Iran's opposition, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and has reportedly transferred them from house arrest to a political prison run by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Mass protests have erupted again, in open defiance of the regime, and are spreading far beyond Tehran.
But Iran's rulers already showed in 2009 that they take no chances and no prisoners when it comes to shielding themselves from their people's wrath. Another bloodbath now is not hard to imagine.

Western democracies have been quick to condemn Gadhafi, and have passed a number of measures against him and his regime since Tripoli's crackdown began. By contrast, Iran's violent political repression is only part of the latest, gory wave that has been ongoing for more than a year and a half, and yet there appears no urgency in the West to adopt human-rights sanctions against Tehran.

There are compelling reasons to rectify this policy discrepancy.
Like Libya, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a place where dissent has been put down, with varying degrees of brutality, for decades—since the early days of the 1979 Revolution. There, torture is rife and the family members of dissidents are intimidated, kidnapped and sometimes raped; hundreds of political prisoners, minorities, homosexuals and women die at the hangman's hands every year, following hasty trials held in utter disregard for the most elementary rules of fairness and justice; and cruelty is dispensed regularly for the sole purpose of instilling fear in the population.

Until Iranians openly challenged their regime following the June 2009 fraudulent elections, Western democracies did little to question Iran's treatment of its own people. But then, Iran erupted. Its people, chanting "death to the dictator," made it clear even to the most obtuse observers that their rulers kept power by force, not consent. Western leaders offered words of condemnation, but little else. Now is their second chance to show they're not indifferent to Iranian people's suffering, by hitting Tehran with similar measures to the ones they're imposing on Gadhafi.

Last week U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, gave a decent start, sponsoring a resolution calling for human rights to become a key tool of U.S. foreign policy toward Iran—a call the Obama Administration should now heed.

The European Union, meanwhile, still has Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on its travel-ban list, on account of his recent role as the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Since his appointment as Iranian Foreign Minister, there has been talk of lifting the travel ban to allow Salehi to fulfill his stately functions. But at a time when Iran's entire state apparatus is intent on silencing the opposition and crushing peaceful street protests, Salehi should not be given the gift of travel.

The same travel ban, along with asset freezes, should immediately be slapped on other Iranian officials, starting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and all the other figures who bear command responsibility for human-rights violations. Obvious candidates include Iranian "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council; and their gaggle of policy advisors.

The EU should not stop at the top brass—for every order given at the top to fire on protesters, torture prisoners, coerce confessions, issue harsh sentences and otherwise intimidate, violate and abuse innocents, an army of enforcers carries out the deed. So the EU should next name hundreds of Iranian officials at various levels of authority: Basij and Revolutionary Guards local commanders, judges in political trials, prison wardens, and their mid-level bosses in Iran's ministries of Intelligence, Interior and Justice, for a start. These officials should also be barred from travelling, and their assets frozen. International arrest warrants should be contemplated against them for crimes against their own people. And diplomatic immunity—which the U.K. has now lifted for Gadhafi—should be similarly denied to all top Iranian officials.

The EU should immediately recall all its member states' ambassadors who are still in Tehran, and refuse to return them until Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi are released. The same applies to other Western countries, such as Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Switzerland, who enjoy full diplomatic relations with Iran.

The EU, along with other Western democracies, should also move to undermine Iran's standing in international forums. The farce of Libya sitting as a full member of the U.N.'s Human Rights Council finally came to an end this week, but an equally absurd spectacle continues with Iran's membership in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. May it come to an abrupt end.

Beyond that, the West needs to invest in helping the Iranian opposition. The country's battered democrats desperately need free information, which the West can provide through boosting its Farsi-language radio and television broadcasts inside Iran. They also need the communication technology to bypass government strictures and keep them safe from Tehran's digital monitors, which the West could help provide with licenses to export the relevant machinery and transfer it to the right people inside Iran. Finally, Iran's dissidents need a safety net in the West for those who manage to escape; political asylum should be offered to those who flee Iran.

International sanctions are no substitute for the courage the Iranian people need to confront their tyrants. But sanctions would offer them some succor, and would finally extract a price for the drunken orgy of violence that has gone on in Iran for far too long.

In a rare moment of moral clarity, last week Western policy makers adopted punitive measures against Gadhafi. Here's hoping that same clarity now informs their policy with the Iranian regime.

40 million Egyptians are about to become very, very hungry (but they still mutilate their women)

From The Asia Times Online, 10 Feb 2011, by Spengler (David P Goldman):

...Not until June will we know the extent of the damage to China's winter wheat crop, virtually all its production. Extremely low rainfall this winter parched more than 5 million hectares of 14 million hectares planted, and the next few weeks' weather will determine if the world faces a real shortage of the staff of life.
Hoarding on the part of North African countries, starting with Algeria, has already pushed up the wheat price in the Mediterranean to a 20% premium over the price shown on the Chicago futures market. The immediate risk is that pre-emptive purchases of wheat will price the grain out of the reach of poor Egyptians, not to mention Pakistanis and Bengalis.

And if reserve-rich China, usually self-sufficient, goes into the world market to buy millions of tons of wheat, the price of wheat can rise to an arbitrarily high level.

There is a root cause to the Egyptian uprising ...and it is not Israel, but China:
prosperity in Asia creates inelastic demand for grain, such that a minor supply disruption such as the 2010 droughts in Argentina and Russia causes huge price increases. American economist Larry Kudlow observes as well that ethanol subsidies artificially inflate grain demand as well, contributing to the present price spike.
About 40 million Egyptians live on less than US$2 a day - far poorer than the Gazans who are now selling the food they received through Western largesse to Egypt...

...The trouble is that people want to eat almost every day. Pundits and political scientists talk of a choice of political models as if they were at a Ford dealership rather than the scene of a national catastrophe. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen titled his February 7 offering, "Tehran 1979 or Berlin 1989?"...

...Automobile models and political models, though, have one thing in common: you can't have them unless you can pay for them. Iran in 1979 pumped 6 million barrels of oil a day, and petrodollars can pay for a lot of stupidity. Germany was in 1989 and remains one of the world's most productive economies...

  ...Egypt has no oil, insignificant industry, small amounts of natural gas, and 40 million people who are about to become very, very hungry. Without figuring out how to feed the destitute bottom half of the Egyptian population, all the talk of "models" is window-shopping.

That is also why an Iranian outcome is less likely than Iran's exultant leaders seem to think. A radical Islamist state is like J P Morgan's yacht. If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.

Iran wants "another Gaza in Egypt", Netanyahu warned on February 2. That might be true.
But there's a difference between a Gaza floating in foreign aid, and the bankrupt failed state that Egypt is about to become. The difference will be measured in starvation.

The United States alone has pledged $580 in annual aid per Gazan, slightly less than the annual per capita income of the bottom half of Egypt's people. The Palestine Authority (PA) transfers $1.2 billion a year to Gaza, mostly in salaries for the 77,000 PA employees still on the payroll. The United Nations throws in about $250 million. Iran subsidizes the Hamas government with at least $100 million a year, although the PA claims that the flow is much greater.

The numbers are slippery, but according to a study for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published in the January 13 Jerusalem Post, the Hamas government in Gaza takes in several thousand dollars for each of the strip's 450,000 residents.

Being such a statelet is great work, if you can get it. The misplaced fixation of the major powers on Israeli-Palestinian peace gives Hamas (the Palestine offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) an enormous claim on foreign aid. The Brothers back in Egypt won't be so lucky. There are 178 Egyptians for every Gazan, and not much aid to go around...

...What happens next? Egypt's stock market has collapsed, and its pound has fallen to the lowest level since 2005, with some brokerage-house analysts warning of a 20% decline during the next several weeks. Foreign investors have deserted the market for Egyptian treasury securities, so the central bank will print money to give to the banks to buy government debt.

After half a century of military rule since the 1952 Free Officers' coup, Egypt's wealth is concentrated in the hands of the old regime and its family and friends. If this regime is overthrown, and the corrupt nexus of army and business faces expropriation, the entire liquid wealth of Egypt will make a run for the border, along with its current proprietors.

This is a formula for a classic currency breakdown and galloping inflation, which invariably means panic purchases of commodities and hoarding: a collapse of the Egyptian pound, uncontrolled capital flight, inability to finance a current account deficit in the $15 billion range, and chaos in the Egyptian economy. Egypt might appeal to the international community for help, but the largesse offered to 450,000 Gazans will not extend to the 40 million Egyptians living on less than $2 a day.

...At this point, Egyptians will begin to starve. The government's immediate response is to spend more. Egypt's new Finance Minister Samir Radwan promised on February 5 that government subsidies would offset the rise in the world market price of food. The government budget would help to "achieve social justice", Radwan told reporters.

The trouble, as the rating agency Standard and Poor's explained, is that the government deficit will climb into the teens, from the 8.1% deficit registered last year.

How long Egypt can finance its external deficit, or its internal deficit, without recourse to the printing press, depends less on internal events than on the weather in China.

The Times' Friedman writes rapturously that Egyptians "want to shape their own destiny". Unless Egyptian intelligence has secretly mastered weather modification, Egyptians have very little say about their own destiny.

The New York Times on February 8 quotes Mohamed ElBaradei, the figurehead opposition leader, complaining that the Arab world is "a collection of failed states who add nothing to humanity or science" because "people were taught not to think or to act, and were consistently given an inferior education. That will change with democracy."

It's too late. A country that still practices female genital mutilation cannot undertake a grand leap into modernity (by way of comparison, China began to abolish foot-binding in 1911 and eradicated it entirely shortly after 1949).

In Food and failed Arab states, February 2, Spengler also noted that
"35% of all Egyptians, and 45% of Egyptian women can't read. Nine out of ten Egyptian women suffer genital mutilation... The most authoritative Egyptian Muslim scholars [such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who last week addressed the demonstrators in Tahrir Square] continue to recommend genital mutilation... Three-quarters of acts of genital mutilation in Egypt are executed by physicians. What does that say about the character of the country's middle class? ..."
In this case, Oswald Spengler's motto applies: Optimism is cowardice. Memo to the temporary residents of Tahrir Square: pray for rain in China.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

USA condemns UN Human Rights Council's 'structural bias' against Israel

From American Thinker, March 02, 2011, BY Leo Rennert:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Geneva on Feb. 28 for a major U.S. policy address to the UN Human Rights Council. ...[she] welcomed the ouster of Libya from the Council ...[but] her speech was more newsworthy on two other counts.

First, she called for creation by the Council of a special rapporteur to document human-rights abuses in Iran -- "Why do people have the right to live free from fear in Tripoli but not in Tehran?" she asked

and second, she slammed the Council for its "structural bias against Israel."

This was a dramatic, public spanking of a Human Rights Council that has disgraced itself by its singular determination to demonize Israel, while ignoring real human-rights abuses in China, Russia, Burma, Iran, Cuba and, until last week, Libya. Only four months earlier, the Council actually had heaped praise on Qaddafi's regime.

Here is what Clinton had to say about the abysmal behavior of the Human Rights Council vis a vis Israel:

"The structural bias against Israel -- including a standing agenda item for Israel, whereas all other countries are treated under a common item -- is wrong. And it undermines the important work we are trying to do together. As member states, we can take the Council in a better, stronger direction.

"The Council must apply a single standard to all countries based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It cannot continue to single out and devote disproportionate attention to any one country."

...another newsworthy nugget in Clinton's speech in Geneva --her flat rejection of a long-standing campaign by Muslim countries to criminalize criticism of Islam.

While Jerusalem welcomed her defense of Israel to be treated equally with other UN members, there must have been lots of rumpled feelings in capitals throughout the Muslim world for her demand that the Council "move beyond a decade-long debate over whether insults to religion should be banned or criminalized. It is time to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression."

Supporters of the First Amendment have been in the forefront of pushing back against Islamic efforts to criminalize criticism of passages in the Koran....
Clinton's sharp denunciation of the Council's vendetta against Israel was doubly newsworthy; first, because she delivered it directly to its intended target at a plenary session of the Council, and, second, because it came from the foreign policy chief of the Obama administration, which has been more wont to blame Israel than to defend it on the world stage. Prime Minister Netanyahu still has personal scars from withering Clinton criticisms to prove the point.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Can the Arab world leave anti-Semitism behind?

From The Washington Post, Monday, February 28, 2011, by Richard Cohen:

During World War II, the leader of the Palestinians lived in a Berlin villa, a gift from a very grateful Adolf Hitler, who clearly got his money's worth. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and as such the titular leader of Muslim Palestinians, broadcast Nazi propaganda to the Middle East, recruited European Muslims for the SS, exulted in the Holocaust and after the war went on to represent his people in the Arab League. He died somewhat ignored but never repudiated.

Husseini might have been a Nazi to his very soul, but he was also a Palestinian nationalist with genuine support among his own people. The Allies originally considered him a war criminal, but to many Arabs, he was just a patriot. His exterminationist anti-Semitism was considered neither overly repugnant nor all that exceptional. The Arab world is saturated by Jew-hatred.

Some of this hatred was planted by Husseini and some of it long existed, but whatever the case, it remains a remarkable, if unremarked, feature of Arab nationalism. The other day, for instance, about 1 million Egyptians in Tahrir Square heard from Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an esteemed religious leader and Muslim Brotherhood figure whose anti-Semitic credentials are unimpeachable. Among other things, he has said that Hitler was sent by Allah as "divine punishment" for the Jews. His al-Jazeera program is one of that TV network's most popular.

I have read the assurances of scholars and journalists alike that the Muslim Brotherhood has mutated into the Common Cause of Egypt (Jordan, too) and that its anti-Semitism is merely an odd and archaic quirk, like the anti-fluoride positions of some American conservatives. I hope this is the case. But in truth, I put more faith in the staying power of anti-Semitism than I do in the forecasting gifts of my colleagues. If they are right, wonderful. If not, we all have something to worry about.

The trouble with democracies is that they tend to cater to the prejudices of the people - not just to their good sense. This explains why almost all the nations of Central and Eastern Europe turned rabidly anti-Semitic when democracy was instituted after World War I.

Anti-Semitism was a popular sentiment and it was exploited by unprincipled politicians. The result in Poland, for instance, was the stated policy of declaring the Jews - about 10 percent of the country - personae non gratae. By then, they had been in Poland for only about 1,000 years.

There are nearly no Jews in Arab lands - they were kicked out after Israel was established in 1948.

Nowhere in the Middle East is peace with Israel popular.

Nowhere in the Middle East is anti-Semitism considered aberrant or weird.

It is inconceivable to me that Arab politicians will not attempt to harness both sentiments, combining nationalism with anti-Semitism - a combustible and unstable compound. History instructs about what follows...

...The prominence of Qaradawi cannot be reassuring to Israelis. They know that words can be weapons and hate is a killer. Nonetheless, since the days of Husseini, a true Hitlerian figure, Arab nations have shamefully been granted an exception to the standards expected of the rest of the world, as if they were children.

If I were an Israeli, I'd be worried.

If I were an Arab, I'd be insulted.

If I were a critic only of Israel, I'd be ashamed.

Mideast turmoil vindicates Bush and exposes Obama's errors

From The NY Post March 1, 2011, By MATTHEW MAINEN*:
...his June 2009 Cairo speech on US-Islamic reconciliation...and Obama's subsequent policies showed the same single-minded belief that delivering a Palestinian state would be the panacea for America's troubles in the region.

Recent weeks have shown Bush's views were more in tune with the Arab masses than Obama's. Unless radically realigned, US policy could pulverize any hope for friendly US-Arab relations.

When Obama took office, America had spent the last eight years pushing democracy in the region. Bush
  • pressured the Saudi monarchy into holding partial municipal elections in 2005.
  • That same year, elections in Egypt yielded 114 members of parliament unaffiliated with President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
  • In 2006, the United Arab Emirates held partial parliamentary elections, and
  • in 2002 women won the right to vote in Bahrain.

Under Obama,
  • Saudi Arabia's scheduled second election has been indefinitely postponed.
  • The 2010 Egyptian elections saw an upswing in vote-rigging and dropped the number of elected non-NDP representatives to 84.
  • Last year, Freedom House's definitive "Freedom in the World" report downgraded Bahrain from "partially free" to "not free."

The administration's public moves showed no support for freedom, either.
  • Filling a slot that Bush had pointedly left vacant, Obama sent an ambassador to Syria, where a miniscule Alawite elite rules a Sunni majority.
  • The administration failed to renew the visa of leading Bahraini human-rights activist Professor Abdul Jalil al-Singace, who is disabled and was later detained and tortured in Bahrain, where a Sunni minority rules a Shia majority.
  • When a Bahraini MP asked her about the monarchy's arrest of lawyers and human-rights activists, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she saw Bahrain's glass as "half full."
  • And Obama drastically cut US aid for Egyptian democratic causes from $54.8 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2009.

At the same time, he applied unprecedented pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. This ultimately yielded a 10-month settlement freeze, but no substantial Palestinian response.

By contrast, Bush's hands-off approach to the conflict didn't prevent then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from offering the Palestinians a capital in Jerusalem, all of Gaza and 94 percent of the West Bank, with territory in Israel to bridge the difference. (The Palestinians refused.)

President Bush's emphasis on democratization certainly led to mistakes -- as in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor did it prevent him from selling $20 billion in weapons to the Gulf autarchies with no strings attached. But its basic tenet -- that the Muslim masses are hungry for democracy -- has been vindicated.

To achieve his goal of friendship between the US and Islamic world, Obama must admit his mistake, at least tacitly.

A failure to support the Arab world's growing demand for democracy will leave the US with a handful of deposed friendly autocrats and 350 million enraged Arabs.

*Matt Mainen is an Institute for Gulf Affairs analyst.

India-Israel trade will triple to $15 billion (equalling EU-Israel trade)

From MSN News, 1 March 2011, by Lalit K Jha:
Washington, Mar 1 Describing as dynamic its relationship with India, Israel has said that it has been of assistance to New Delhi in its security needs. ...However, [Israeli Ambassador to New Delhi, Mark] Sofer refused to divulge further details about India-Israel defence ties.

...Sofer identified India and Israel as ...two countries who viewed the world with very similar eyes... referring to the terrorist attacks [in Mumbai, 2008] by the Pakistan-based LeT.

...Sofer cited experts to say that the Indo-Israel trade will triple within four years once a bilateral free trade agreement is signed.
"That would bring us to trading about USD 15 billion; which will be of the same size of that with the European Union," he said.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Why are Obama and Clinton Propping Up Human Rights Demons?

From Eye on the UN, 28 Feb 2011, by Anne Bayefsky:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration are on an urgent rescue mission – for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Clinton is not in Geneva today to do something about human rights. She is in Geneva to protect the administration’s investment in the U.N. human rights organization’s top body, which only six months ago welcomed Libya as a full member and only three months ago passed it through its meaningless “universal periodic review” process, touted as its number one monitoring procedure.

Saving the Council’s reputation will be no mean feat. After all, the U.N. has spent years promoting Libya as a human rights authority figure – it was president of its Human Rights Commission in 2003 before being elected to the “reformed” Human Rights Council. Clinton’s trip assumed such urgency because President Obama made the decision to join the Council the flagship of his U.N.-focused foreign policy.

...The Council has two obvious flaws. Number one it has a standing agenda that governs all of its operations, with ten items on it. One is dedicated to condemning the state of Israel and one is for the remaining 191 UN countries that it might be interested in should it ever decide there was another “human rights situations that require[d] the Council’s attention.” The singular effort to use its so-called human rights system to demonize the Jewish state has been a roaring success. Half of its special sessions on specific countries and half of all its resolutions and decisions critical of any state condemn Israel alone.

When the President Obama joined the Council it promised that changing the discriminatory agenda would be their first priority. On Thursday, we discovered, it was a hoax. The review process has been going on in the context of a working group of all interested members of the U.N.

The working group adopted its report on Thursday by consensus – with the U.S. present. And in the usual opaque U.N. language, the consensus report states: “The Council’s agenda and framework for programme of work are as is specified in the annex to Council resolution 5/1.” In plain English, that means business as usual, resolution 5/1 being the discriminatory agenda adopted in June 2007.

The loss can be measured by the administration’s own words. On October 27 of last year the U.S. delegation placed on the table its demands for reform – duly transmitted to an American audience. Agenda reform was top of the list. “The most entrenched and indefensible manifestation of structural bias in this Council comes in the form of…the only agenda item devoted to one country…The United States believes strongly that…as a group charged with examining what must be done to improve the credibility and efficacy of this Council it is incumbent upon us to….to do what is right to help the Council become more evenhanded and depoliticized.”

Secretary Clinton today repeated the mantra. But what she did not say is that when the business-as-usual U.N. “reform” report was approved late Thursday, the only thing the U.S. delegation did was to make a short statement that it “did not support” the permanent Israel-bashing item. In the world of U.N. diplomacy that is backstabbing at its finest.

If the Obama administration had really wanted to stand on principle they could have
  • said “we do not join consensus on this document.”
  • They could have demanded that there be a vote in the Council on the document before sending it to the General Assembly for formal approval, and then voted against it for the world to see.
  • And most importantly, they could have made it very clear that the absence of a change would result in the U.S. departure from the Council.
They did none of the above.

Instead, Obama caved. Saving the Council was most important and the U.S. was going down with the ship. The “reform” process will now proceed merrily through the U.N. system without a glitch. The President of the General Assembly said this morning: “I congratulate the Working Group on adopting the Human Rights Council review by consensus.” The U.S. delegation was all present. Nobody peeped.

The second obvious flaw with the Human Rights Council that Hillary is trying her hardest to paper over is its membership. How did Libya get on the Council in the first place?

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton pointed out – when the U.S. voted against the General Assembly resolution that adopted the Council – that it had no membership criteria. The only requirement is this: “when electing members of the Council, Member States [of the U.N. General Assembly] shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.”

The U.N. set up a lovely website where candidates can deposit their “pledges.” Here is what Libya pledged last May, which was just fine by the vast majority of members of the General Assembly.
“The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights principles…including the right to direct participation in public life…The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has paid great attention to human rights over the past 30 years.”
That statement was good enough to garner the votes of 155 of 188 UN members and to send Libya to the Council.

But Libya was not alone. Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba and company are all members of this morally bankrupt institution which Secretary Clinton is doing her damnedest to save.

And then there’s this:
On Friday, March 4, Iran – the country that buries women naked to their waist and then stones them to death for “adultery” – is going to take its seat as a full-fledged member of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

If President Obama and his secretary of state really understood the error of using the United Nations to prop up human rights demons, then rather than attempting, even today, to help the Human Rights Council cover its tracks, it should be telling the world and the U.N. to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women.

And it should resign from the Human Rights Council effective immediately now that its “reform” has proved to be impossible – as was obvious to human rights victims from the start.

But don’t hold your breath. The Obama administration would rather promote the institution of the United Nations than save real people from the U.N.’s grotesque neglect.

Hypocrisy Exposed: UN Report Praises Libya's Human Rights Record

From UN Watch, 1 March 2011, by Hillel Neur :

Report hailing Gaddafi's human rights record scheduled for adoption in current session 

GENEVA, February 28, 2011 -- UN Watch, which heads the Global NGO Campaign to Remove Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton, who are today addressing the 47-nation body in Geneva, as well as UN rights chief Navi Pillay, to urge the council president to cancel a planned resolution praising Libya's human rights record, scheduled to be adopted in the current session. (See quotes of praise below.)

Despite having just voted to suspend Libya from its ranks (expected to be finalized by the UNGA tomorrow), the UN Human Rights Council, according to the agenda of its current session, is planning to "consider and adopt the final outcome of the review of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”. According to the council's timetable, the lengthy report hailing Libya's human rights record will be presented on March 18, and then adopted by the council at the end of the month. The report, which the UN has published on the council website, is the outcome of a recent session that was meant to review Libya's human rights record.
Although the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism is often described by council defenders as its saving grace, the vast majority of council members used it to falsely praise the Gaddafi regime for its alleged promotion of human rights. Only a handful raised genuine issues.
The report also includes praise of Libya's record by the regime's representatives -- click here for quotes. Given that Libya's UN diplomats have defected and admitted that the Gaddafi regime is a gross violator of human rights, it would be nonsensical for the UN to now adopt this false report.
UN Watch called on the council president to acknowledge that the session on Libya was largely a fraud, withdraw the report, and schedule a new session in which council members would tell the truth about the Gaddafi regime's heinous crimes, which were committed over four decades yet ignored by the UN. Libya's long-suffering victims deserve no less.
The UN report's summary notes that delegations "commended" Libya, and that they "noted with appreciation the country’s commitment to upholding human rights on the ground."
Following are quotes from the UNHRC report on Libya's human rights record:
Iran noted that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya had implemented a number of international human rights instruments and had cooperated with relevant treaty bodies. It noted with appreciation the establishment of the National Human Rights Committee as an independent national human rights institution, and the provision of an enabling environment for non-governmental organizations.
Algeria noted the efforts of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to promote human rights, which reflected the country’s commitment to complying with Human Rights Council resolutions and cooperating with the international community. Algeria welcomed the national institutional framework that had been set up, in particular the National Human Rights Committee. It noted that the country had made some progress in the area of education, as well as social and economic progress since the lifting of economic sanctions.
Qatar praised the legal framework for the protection of human rights and freedoms, including, inter alia, its criminal code and criminal procedure law, which provided legal guarantees for the implementation of those rights. Qatar expressed appreciation for the improvements made in the areas of education and health care, the rights of women, children and the elderly, and the situation of people with special needs.
Sudan noted the country’s positive experience in achieving a high school enrolment rate and improvements in the education of women.
The Syrian Arab Republic praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its serious commitment to and interaction with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. It commended the country for its democratic regime based on promoting the people’s authority through the holding of public conferences, which enhanced development and respect for human rights, while respecting cultural and religions traditions.
North Korea praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its achievements in the protection of human rights, especially in the field of economic and social rights, including income augmentation, social care, a free education system, increased delivery of health-care services, care for people with disabilities, and efforts to empower women. It noted the functioning of the constitutional and legislative framework and national entities.
Bahrain noted that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya had adopted various policies aimed at improving human rights, in particular the right to education and the rights of persons with disabilities. Bahrain commended the free education system and praised programmes such as electronic examinations and teacher training. It commended the country for its efforts regarding persons with disabilities, particularly all the services and rehabilitation programmes provided.
Palestine commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for the consultations held with civil society in the preparation of the national report, which demonstrated its commitment to the improved enjoyment of human rights. Palestine praised the country for the Great Green Document on Human Rights. It noted the establishment of the national independent institution entrusted with promoting and protecting human rights, which had many of the competencies set out in the Paris Principles. It also noted the interaction of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya with human rights mechanisms.
Iraq commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for being a party to most international and regional human rights instruments, which took precedence over its national legislation. It welcomed the efforts to present a comprehensive overview of the human rights situation in the country based on the unity among democracy, development and human rights. It also commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its cooperation with the international community.
Saudi Arabia commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s achievements in its constitutional, legislative and institutional frameworks, which showed the importance that the country attached to human rights, and for the fact that international treaties took precedence over its national legislation. It noted that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya had become party to many human rights conventions and had equipped itself with a number of institutions, national, governmental and non-governmental, tasked with promoting and protecting human rights.
Tunisia welcomed [Libya’s] national report, as well as the efforts of the National Committee, such as the website created to gather contributions. Tunisia noted progress made by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, such as the adoption of the Great Green Charter, which was very comprehensive and enshrined fundamental freedoms and rights as enshrined in international human rights instruments.
Venezuela acknowledged the efforts of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to promote economic, social and cultural rights, especially those of children. It highlighted progress achieved in ensuring free and compulsory education.
Jordan welcomed the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s achievements in the promotion and protection of human rights, including the establishment of institutions, particularly in the judiciary system. Jordan praised progress in the fields of health, education and labour, as well as the increased attention to the rights of women. Jordan noted the participation of women in public life, including decision-making, and emphasized the fact that women held one third of all judicial posts.
Cuba commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for the progress made in the achievement of one of the Millennium Development Goals, namely, universal primary education. It noted that the country had also made a firm commitment to providing health care.
Oman commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its diligent efforts in the field of human rights and for making them its priority. It referred to the legal framework for the protection of human rights, and its clear commitment in that regard, which was reflected in the ratification of most human rights instruments, and its cooperation with United Nations mechanisms. The country’s report focused on both achievements and challenges, which demonstrated its sincerity in addressing human rights issues.
Egypt commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for progress in building a comprehensive national human rights framework of institutions and in drafting legislation and supporting its human resources in that area. It commended the separation of the Ministries of Justice and the Interior and the development of a new criminal code, and it praised the cooperation with international organizations in combating human trafficking and corruption, and the improvement made in the conditions related to illegal migration.
Malta fully recognized the difficulties faced by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and welcomed the action taken at the national, bilateral and regional levels to suppress the illegal activities that gave rise to migration. Malta welcomed the cooperation of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya with the International Organization for Migration.
Bangladesh referred to the progress made in the enjoyment of economic and social rights, including in the areas of education, health care, poverty reduction and social welfare. Bangladesh noted with appreciation the measures taken to promote transparency.
Malaysia commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for being party to a significant number of international and regional human rights instruments.
Morocco welcomed the achievements in promoting social protection, especially for women, children and persons with special needs. It welcomed the efforts to protect the rights of children. It welcomed the establishment of a national committee for the protection of persons with special needs. Morocco also praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its promotion of human rights education, particularly for security personnel.
Pakistan praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for measures taken both in terms of legislation and in practice, noting with appreciation that it was a party to most of the core human rights treaties. Pakistan praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s commitment to human rights, in particular the right to health, education and food, even when the country had faced sanctions in the 1990s. Pakistan was encouraged by efforts to address the root causes of illegal migration, and noted the good practice of settling political disputes and developing infrastructure in source countries.
Mexico thanked the delegation for the presentation of the national report and the answers that it had provided. It expressed appreciation for the political will of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to address the human rights challenges facing it. Mexico hoped that the universal periodic review of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya would make a positive contribution to national efforts to overcome challenges to guaranteeing the full enjoyment of human rights.
Myanmar commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its economic and social progress, and recognized efforts in domestic legislation aimed at guaranteeing equal rights. Myanmar noted that the country had acceded to many international human rights instruments and established a national Human Rights Committee. Myanmar praised efforts to realize basic education for all and a free health-care system.
Viet Nam congratulated the delegation on the quality of the national report. It noted with satisfaction the commitment of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the protection and promotion of the human rights of its people, particularly the country’s accession to the main international human rights conventions. It welcomed achievements made in the exercise of human rights.
Thailand welcomed the national report, which presented both progress and challenges. Thailand highlighted efforts made with regard to education, persons with special needs and vulnerable groups.
Brazil noted the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s economic and social progress and acknowledged the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, the free health care and the high enrolment in primary education. Brazil noted the successful cooperation with international organizations in areas such as migrant rights, judicial reform and the fight against corruption.
Kuwait expressed appreciation for the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s initiative to improve per capita income and to ensure social justice and the fair distribution of wealth. It praised the measures taken with regard to low-income families. Kuwait called upon the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to continue its efforts to integrate people with disabilities into society while recognizing their positive role.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Palestinian myths of victimization

From The Canadian Jewish News, Thursday, 06 January 2011, by Gerald Steinberg:

Palestinian myths of victimization have been the major obstacle to peace for more than 60 years, but they’re largely ignored by journalists, diplomats and would-be peace activists.

Instead, the spotlight has been misplaced exclusively on Jewish settlements and the “occupation” that resulted from the 1967 war. The first two years of the Obama administration’s peace efforts were entirely wasted because of the illusion that settlements are the cause of the conflict.

In order to break the long stalemate and end decades of failure, the myths of Arab victimization must be exposed – in place of a “settlement freeze,” we need a “victimization freeze.” False histories that blame Zionism (or European antisemitism) only serve to make peace based on mutual acceptance even more unlikely.

To move forward, Palestinians and their supporters need to be brought back to reality. In place of the myths, they will have to acknowledge that their “suffering” and the refugee problem were the result of the unanimous Arab rejection of the UN Resolution 181 – the November 1947 version of the two-state solution. This was followed by military invasions that killed one per cent of the Jewish population. The Arab defeat on the battlefield was followed by the entirely fictitious claim to a “right of return” as refugees from illegal wars for which the Arabs themselves were responsible.
... the Palestinian refugee industry is thriving, reinforcing the wall it has created to block any peace agreement based on a two-state framework that ends the conflict. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) provides hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and many officials are totally devoted to this anti-peace mythology, and to perpetuating the false refugee claims. When one UNRWA employee, Andrew Whitley, dared to question the myth, he was immediately attacked and forced by UNRWA’s victimization police to recant his honest assessment. Expect him to be looking for alternative employment soon.

In addition, a vast network of non-governmental organizations using the language of human rights and humanitarian aid promote Palestinian refugee myths. Powerful groups such as BADIL (“The Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights”) get hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from a number of European governments to fuel the conflict in this way. For many years, allies in the International Development Research Centre funnelled Canadian taxpayer funds to BADIL.
In parallel, young Jews, many of whom have joined groups such as J-street and the misnamed “Jewish Voices for Peace,” as well as some Israelis, have been exposed incessantly to these images and myths, and adopted the false narrative. Exploiting this situation, Palestinian officials such as Saeb Erekat – described by diplomats and journalists as a “moderate” because he looks and sounds reasonable – continue to weave false tales to sell to naive audiences.

...Until these dimensions are addressed, peace efforts will be stillborn. ...a freeze on refugee myths and false narratives is long overdue.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grave Robbing and Other Stories of Polish Complicity with the Nazis

From The Jewish Daily Forward issue of March 04, 2011, by Donald Snyder:

 â€˜Golden Harvest’: Polish peasants with skeletal remains at Treblinka, where Gross said they dug for gold and jewels in the killing
fields. Gross said the photograph was the starting point for his new book.

Photo from Gazeta Wyborcza: ‘Golden Harvest’: Polish peasants with skeletal remains at Treblinka, where Gross said they dug for gold and jewels in the killing fields. Gross said the photograph was the starting point for his new book.

Jan Gross is once again forcing Poland to take a new look at its past.

The Polish-American historian, whose previous books generated heated controversy and self-examination, has written a searing new indictment of Polish behavior toward Jews during World War II.

“Golden Harvest,” a new book by Gross and his former wife, Irena Grudzinska-Gross, charges that some Poles tried to profit from the Holocaust by digging for gold and jewels in the killing fields at Treblinka, the Nazi death camp where Germans murdered more than 800,000 Jews.

The book, which will be published in Poland on March 10, also accuses Poles of looting Jewish property.
“Poles accepted the fact that Jews were going to be destroyed,” Gross, a Princeton University historian, said in a telephone interview with the Forward. “The Poles participated in the murder of Jews, and this was done all over the country.”
In response, some of Poland’s right-wing media have branded Gross as anti-Polish.

“Jan Tomasz Gross has earned the deserved name of an untiring enemy of Poland and Poles. A swindler and a cheat,” Jerzy Robert Nowak wrote in the February 2 edition of Niedziela, a Roman Catholic publication distributed in churches.

“There is no place in Gross’s book for decent Poles, not an example,” complained a writer in the far-right tabloid Nasz Dziennik. “He only describes barbarians and villains. The purpose of the book is to make the American elite see Poles the way Jan Gross sees them.”

When asked about criticism of his work and about the allegations that he is anti-Polish, Gross responded gruffly: “This is all nonsense.”

Gross, who was born in Poland shortly after World War II, is no stranger to Polish readers. Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, he fled his native country in 1968 because of an anti-Semitic campaign conducted by the Communist Party.

Gross has published two other books whose negative images of Poles provoked anger in the country of his birth.

“Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” published in 2001, investigated the 1941 massacre of about 1,600 Jewish villagers by their Polish neighbors. Poles were outraged when a government commission confirmed Gross’s findings.

A later book, “Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz,” published in 2006, asserted that Poles persecuted and murdered Jewish survivors.

Despite the controversy over “Golden Harvest,” Gross is not the first scholar to bring to light the Polish conduct at Treblinka. “The book is a synthesis of information uncovered by young Polish scholars,” said Michal Bilewicz, director of the University of Warsaw’s Center for Research on Prejudice. Bilewicz, who read a review copy of the book, said during a phone interview with the Forward that this information is little known outside Poland.

Gross acknowledges getting much of his material from Polish scholars who have conducted “excellent work” about Polish-Jewish relations during the war. “Much of this material has not been published in English, and it adds to our knowledge of Polish complicity in the murder of Jews,” he said.

The book also includes a photograph of Polish peasants at the edge of the gravesite at Treblinka, which previously had been published only in Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading Polish daily newspaper.

 ...Gross said he first saw the picture in Gazeta Wyborcza and learned that it had been given to a museum at Treblinka in the 1960s by an employee of a local railroad station. The photograph was the starting point for his book.
“On the surface, it appears to be a very banal photograph,” he said. “But when you realize that the crops in front of [the peasants] are not beets or potatoes but skulls and bones, that is a very freaky experience,” he observed.

...The book hits a raw nerve because Poles believe they acted honorably during the brutal German occupation. Six million Polish citizens — half of them Jews — were killed during the war, and the Polish Underground performed courageously, including during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. And Poland has had more citizens honored as Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem than any other European country. This is part of the Polish identity....

...An English edition of the book is scheduled for publication in August.

Contact Donald Snyder at

Read more:

WAKE UP Syrians!!

From The Huffington Post, February 26, 2011, by Saad Khan, Freelance journalist from Islamabad:

Where are the Syrians? There are millions of protesters on the Arab street but Syrians are surprisingly missing from the crowd. This eerie absence is disturbing, to say the least. We are talking about a country with one of the worst human rights records. A dictatorship in the garb of a thin and contorted cover of democracy that essentially calls for a single-party rule. Add to that the repetition of the Bahrain formula: minority ruling the majority. These are the ingredients that could have cooked up a storm but there is not even a feeble thunder.

There have been reports of police beating up activists who were staging a peaceful sit-in outside the Libyan embassy in Damascus. They earlier dispersed a handful of supporters of the Egyptian uprising who were holding a candle-light vigil. The Guardian reports of a crackdown on the internet where people are even afraid to use proxy servers to access social networking sites. Those who dare end up in jail like Tal al-Mallouhi, who was 17 when she was rounded up by Bashar thugs in 2009. Her only crime was to write blogs about democracy and people empowerment. Other bloggers and journalists are facing a similar fate.

There is little attention being paid to Syria in the international press.

United States is following the policy of re-engagement with Syria, almost on the same lines it did with Libya. Although some sanctions are still in place, there is a general feeling of warmth with the inauguration of the Obama administration.

...Bashar has been in power for almost 11 years. It has been a one-party dictatorship since 1970 when his father Hafez staged an intra-party coup. It appears that he will try his best to emulate his father's "success," which would be the most shameful insult to happen to Syrians in modern times.

His support among the minorities is waning; he does not represent the majority in the first place. He is from the Alawite sect that is less than 10% of Syria's population. An overwhelming majority of Ba'ath party members share his faith. This might protect him from inter-cine struggle or a coup. He does not represent the majority. This might work against him.

He surely enjoys an unwavering support from Iran, with which his party shares religious and strategic ties. Perhaps in a bid to support their friend, Iranians have sent warships through the Suez Canal to participate in a war game. They might come to his help if they fear that the Assad empire is about to fall. This will, however, put them on the spot as they are supporting the current uprisings. How will they explain their double standards?

All things considered, it is the right time for Syrians to stand for their rights. It is true that they are afraid. They fear that Bashar might follow in his father's footsteps when he killed thousands of dissenters during the infamous Hama massacre in 1982. There is, however, a remote possibility of him repeating his father's crime against humanity. He can be as tough on protesters as his father's friend Qaddafi is, killing in dozens and hundreds. He cannot, however, afford to start a full-blown massacre sitting right in the heart of Arabia and with the changing dynamics. He is even trying to tame them by distributing aid after a wait of five years in which millions of Syrians living in rural areas lost everything to a severe drought. This, however, is too little and too late. It can't erase the decades of repression, poverty, and injustice.

This is where the Syrians diaspora comes into play. They can throw the first stone. They are free of the state oppression and can openly voice their opinion. They can also pressure the international community to get tough on Bashar. This will provide an impetus to their brethren in Syria to overcome the decades-old fear of brutal state repression. It is party time on the Arab street. Better not miss this opportunity.

Russians arm Hezbollah

From JPost 26 Feb 2011*:

Following Russia's announcement that it will transfer missiles to Syria, Defense Ministry fears weapons could fall into "wrong hands." ...Security officials warned that the Russian cruise missiles "are potentially dangerous weapons and they may come fall into the hands of Hezbollah, just as other weapons systems came from Syria."

The announcement came after Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that Russia would fulfill its contractual obligation and complete the transfer of cruise missiles to Syria...despite the objections of Israel and the United States...

*Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

Europe's absurd obsession with Israel is laid bare

From The Observer, Sunday 27 February 2011, by Nick Cohen:

The Middle East meant only Israel to many.
Now the lives of millions of Arabs have been brought to Europe's attention.

The Arab revolution is consigning skip-loads of articles, books and speeches about the Middle East to the dustbin of history. In a few months, readers will go through libraries or newspaper archives and wonder how so many who claimed expert knowledge could have turned their eyes from tyranny and its consequences.

To a generation of politically active if not morally consistent campaigners, the Middle East has meant Israel and only Israel. ...the lives of hundreds of millions of Arabs, Berbers and Kurds who were not involved in the conflict could be forgotten.

If you doubt me, consider the stories that the Middle Eastern bureau chiefs missed until revolutions that had nothing to do with Palestine forced them to take notice.

...Far from being a cause of the revolution, antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interests of oppressors.

Europeans have no right to be surprised. Of all people, we ought to know from our experience of Nazism that antisemitism is a conspiracy theory about power...

Fascistic regimes reached for it when they sought to deny their own people liberty. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forgery the far-right wing of the decaying tsarist regime issued in 1903 to convince Russians they should continue to obey the tsar's every command, denounces human rights and democracy as facades behind which the secret Jewish rulers of the world manipulated gullible gentiles.

Syrian Ba'athists, Hamas, the Saudi monarchy and Gaddafi eagerly promoted the Protocols, for why wouldn't vicious elites welcome a fantasy that dismissed democracy as a fraud and justified their domination? Just before the Libyan revolt, Gaddafi tried a desperate move his European predecessors would have understood. He tried to deflect Libyan anger by calling for a popular Palestinian revolution against Israel.

....Europe's amnesia about how tyranny operated in our continent explains why the Libyan revolution is embarrassing a rich collection of dupes and scoundrels who were willing to laugh along with Gaddafi. His contacts in Britain were once confined to the truly lunatic fringe.
  • He supplied arms to the IRA,
  • funded the Workers' Revolutionary Party,
  • Vanessa Redgrave's nasty Trotskyist sect, and
  • entertained Nick Griffin and other neo-Nazis.
We should not forget them when the time comes to settle accounts. But when Tony Blair, who was so eloquent in denouncing the genocides of Saddam, staged a reconciliation with Gaddafi after 9/11, his friendship opened the way for the British establishment to embrace the dictatorship.

It was not only BP and other oil companies, but British academics who were happy to accept his largesse.

The London School of Economics took £1.5m from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, money which by definition had to have been stolen from the Libyan people, despite being warned to back away by Professor Fred Halliday, the LSE's late and much-missed authority on the Middle East, who never flinched from looking dictators in the eye.

"I've come to know Saif as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration,"

Human Rights Watch, once a reliable opponent of tyranny, went further and described a foundation Saif ran in Libya as a force for freedom, willing to take on the interior ministry in the fight for civil liberties. Meanwhile, and to the surprise of no one, Peter Mandelson, New Labour's butterfly, fluttered round Saif at the country house parties of the plutocracy.

Last week, Saif, the "liberal" promoter of human rights and dining companion of Mandelson, appeared on Libyan television to say that his father's gunmen would fight to the last bullet to keep the Gaddafi crime family in business, a promise he is keeping.

The thinking behind so many who flattered him was that the only issue in the Middle East worth taking a stand on was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the oppression of Arabs by Arabs was a minor concern.

The longevity of the regimes presided over by the Gaddafi, Assad and Mubarak families and the House of Saud ought to be a reason for denouncing them more vigorously, but their apparent permanence added to the feeling that somehow Libyans, Syrians, Egyptians and Saudis want to live under dictatorships.

The European Union, which did so much to export democracy and the rule of law to former communist dictatorships of eastern Europe, has played a miserable role in the Middle East. It pours in aid but never demands democratisation or restrictions on police powers in return.

That will have to change if the promise of the past month is to be realised.

If it is to help with democracy-building, Europe will need to remind itself as much as the recipients of its money that you can never build free societies on the racist conspiracy theories of the Nazis and the tsars. They are and always have been the tunes that tyrants sing.
purred the [London School of Economics'] David Held as he accepted the cheque.