Saturday, April 25, 2009

MuzzleWatch - 7 new reports from Durban II

I should have said it sooner: Having Cecilie Surasky's reports does not imply JPN's endorsement/agreement of every point she makes. We, the editors, don't always agree on everything among ourselves, and this applies to Cecilie, too.


"MuzzleWatch" - 7 new articles

1 Countering Palestinian/Nazi analogy and Never again, for all
2 Durban Conference ends with a bang
3 Indigenous peoples and Israel-Palestine
4 Jewish groups and 1 Iranian group yanked from conference
5 UN Side-Events: The silencing of Palestinian NGOs
6 Is Israel being singled out? Well, yeah.
7 Pt. III Israel a racist state? Usama Halabi and Alan Dershowitz
8 More Recent Articles
9 Search MuzzleWatch

Countering Palestinian/Nazi analogy and Never again, for all

A must-read for fighting back- Moshe Yaroni watched Alan Dershowitz's shameful association of Palestinians with Nazis and deconstructs the arguments:

Let's be clear about Hajj Amin: he was a venomous anti-Semite, and his hatred eclipsed the bounds of the Palestinian national struggle. There is no disputing that he worked with the Nazis and that he espoused murderous hatred of Jews, not just Zionism. But such diverse scholars as Zvi Elpeleg, Idith Zertal and Peter Novick have all concluded that his actual role in Nazi plans was insiginificant and that, as Zertal put it, "…in more correct proportions, [he should be pictured] as a fanatic nationalist-religious Palestinian leader."

Meanwhile, Sol Salbe's Middle East News Service has translated from its original Hebrew this article about Jewish suffering and the Holocaust. Salbe writes as a preface:

Yediot Acharonot columnist Ariana Melamed's comments are not particularly original. Others have observed the Israeli attitude to other peoples' suffering summed up in the saying "after what they have done to us…". But not only does Melamed puts it better than anyone else that I have read, she does bring it up to date. As the UN Conference on Racism is about to wind down, it is important to remember that the "never again" lesson need to be applied universally and that the ethos of victimhood exempts no one from doing the right thing.

Hebrew original:,7340,L-3703925,00.html

As victims, we're allowed

Ariana Melamed

Mistakenly, we continue to believe that being historical victims completely frees us of the need to develop solidarity with humanity and of the duty to consecrate the living, not only the dead.

From one Holocaust Day to the next, one registers a worrisome rise in Israeli racism. Between one compulsory mourning siren and another, the official Israel flatly denies other holocausts and sells arms to countries that use them against civilians. The official daily command to remember those murdered during the Second World War will not prevent the soldier at the checkpoint from then abusing those who aren't our citizens,. All the tours in Yad Vashem, even now that it is revamped and renovated, have evidently failed to have an impact on our society. We have apparently not learned that being children and relatives of victims does not justify our own injustices. Maybe it is too late for learning.

For too many years now we've been living within a false ethos of victimhood. In the name of those victims – those whose opinions were never sought – youths enshroud themselves in blue and white flags in Auschwitz and most of them immediately understand that a strong military is the key to our continued existence, but too few understand or question the benefit of such an army when our conscience is faltering.

For too many years we compelled the world to look at the horrors committed against the Jews. We made a visit to Yad Vashem obligatory for visiting dignitaries. We employed a sophisticated rhetoric that makes a connection between the Nazi and Iranian threats, between the Khmelnytsky-led pogroms and the Intifada, as though all these events – the actuality of which must never be underestimated – granted us a sweeping, almost automatic permit to mimic those nations we accuse of ignoring our victims; as though the Holocaust endowed us with exclusivity over suffering for all time.

As far as official Israel and most of its citizens are concerned, there are no other holocausts, and the arguments are always beautifully constructed: no regime in the history of humanity has made its aim to annihilate a whole people, nor has this ever been done with such monstrous efficiency. Therefore, when the Argentinean military regime wiped out tens of thousands of dissenters, official Israel said nothing; when villains in Cambodia slaughtered millions of their own people, this surely was no holocaust but an internal matter, and what's happening in Darfur is something between Muslims anyway, while Rwanda – there are no Israelis in Rwanda. So there's nothing to worry about. If they have an earthquake, we'll send over crews with blankets.

The Armenian holocaust was not as sophisticated as the Nazi assembly-line of death, hence it is not worthy of attention either, particularly since our relationship with Turkey is more important than our clear conscience. Regarding the Tibetans, we really have nothing to say; this Dalai Lama is nice enough – but our amazing trade with China is much more advantageous than a denunciation, however weak and polite, of what was clearly genocide and the ongoing dispossession of millions of their land.

In the name of the dead

We are victims, so we are allowed: this is the immoral defiant assertion uttered in the Israeli discourse between one Holocaust Day and the next. We are victims of Arabs wherever they may be, so we shall also apply dollops of disgust and fear to Arab citizens of Israel as well. Why not? Such a manoeuvre is worth 15 electoral seats and an honoured place at the Israel government's table.

We are victims, so when someone speaks of racism within, the horror is never real and is always placed in a totally foolish juxtaposition to the actions of the Nazis. No one remembers that those actions started with words. When no one is punished for calling an Ethiopian a "dirty nigger"; when soldiers can abuse Palestinians uninterrupted, knowing full well that their punishment will be, at worst, a rebuke; when a Jew massacres Arabs and his tombstone is consecrated with no one even contemplating removing the temple blockading his house. When the IDF showers Gazan civilians with molten lead, questions must not be asked in wartime and mistakes must not be admitted to. It is as if we are permitted to do so, because we were killed first.

On 9 May, sixty-four years will have passed since the Allies defeated the Nazis and freed the world. There were those who believed then that it was the last battle against murderous ideologies, but they were wrong. We continue to believe this mistake, and the even worse error, that our historical victimhood completely rids us of the need for human solidarity, of the duty to consecrate the living and not only the dead, and of the lesson that is as important as sovereignty and power: the duty to create a moral society that is sensitive to injustice.

For too many years we told ourselves that we do all this in the name and memory of the dead. This was too easy a lie. Would the dead and the survivors have rejected a more moral stance towards the world and the Other among us? Does the annual siren exempt us of the need to care for the Holocaust survivors, which is surely a more difficult matter than state-sponsored mourning, but no less important? Is the only thing the State can promise its citizens, as a real lesson from the Holocaust, is limitless military power – but not the knowledge that power alone will not be enough on a real day of reckoning?

A few years ago in a CNN broadcast dedicated to one of the periodic holocausts in Africa, a Baptist American priest stood before the camera holding a dead baby's carrier. He said, "People ask where was God during Auschwitz and I want to know where was man." And I want to know that this man, the man who possesses sufficient compassion to see the horror of others and know they are just like him, that this man is still among us. Perhaps.

[Translated from Hebrew by Keren Rubinstein.]


Durban Conference ends with a bang

This is from the final press statement of Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who announced the likely adoption of the final report and then launched into it:

It was very difficult. I had to face a widespread, and highly organized campaign of disinformation. Many people, including Ministers with whom I spoke, told me that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which as you know was agreed by 189 states at the original World Conference Against Racism in 2001 was anti-Semitic, and it was clear that either they had not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidely exaggerated.

Many others have labelled the entire Durban process as a "hate fest." We have had some rough moments in the process, but a "hate fest?" I'm sorry, this is hyperbole. It is a gross exaggeration. But it is everywhere on the Internet. And I'm sorry to say many mainline newspapers who incidentally declined many op-eds that I sent up to them. Because I kept urging States to take part, one of the most vociferous opponents of the conference called me the "dangerous High Commissioner for Human Rights." So if you see a special look about me, that's the danger. Another called me the "ludicrous High Commissioner for Human Rights." That look I have dropped since. I expect these types of personal attacks to continue for the rest of my tenure. But I can live with them because I see this conference as a success and I know that you will judge this process in a valid and fair way.

If people actually read the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, they would have realized that it includes a paragraph which says that "the Holocaust should never be forgotten". It includes two paragraphs that denounce "anti-Semitism and Islamophobia", and one paragraph which mentions the suffering of the Palestinians, their right of self-determination and the security of all States, including Israel, and two paragraphs calling for peace. That's all there is on the Middle East. And I could not get these corrections published in some important newspapers, particularly in the US, who used the word hate fest without checking these paragraphs.

The final document of this conference – the Conference product, if you like – also says the Holocaust must never be forgotten and deplores anti-Semitism along with Islamophobia and all forms of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and related intolerance. But already the propaganda machine is starting to wind up to term this conference a failure, a "hate fest and all the rest of it." This is extraordinary. Yet no one has really written up the true story of this Conference – a strange rough and tumble affair full of smoke and mirrors, I must admit, yet very definitely a success story, with plenty of good will as well as plenty of bad will of the type I have described just now.

I want to say at this point particularly to you that the Geneva press corps has been terrific during the later stages of this process. You have seen through the propaganda, you have read the DDPA and the Review Conference's outcome document, and you have reported accurately, fairly and professionally. So on behalf of my entire office, I would like to extend you a very warm thank you for that. I believe you have played an exceptionally important role. I know that some of you have had to argue with editors who, like so many others, have succumbed to the mythology.

But because of this campaign that was so determined to kill the conference, some countries decided to boycott it, although a few days earlier, they had actually agreed on what is now the final text. I consider this bizarre. You agree the text on Friday evening, and walk out on Sunday. I think, it was unfortunate that a few states disengaged from the process. Although almost all of them had agreed this text, they are not part of the consensus that adopted it. I do hope they will come back into the process now. They can still add their names to the list of 182 states that have adopted the outcome document. And by the way, Iran is part of that consensus. When the final call came, Iran did not oppose the text.


Indigenous peoples and Israel-Palestine

Harley Eagle works with First Nations peoples with the Mennonite Central Committee in Canada. I was stunned to learn that he has been approached on multiple occasions by Canadian Jewish groups who identify as aboriginal. "They come to us and tell us 'our paths are similar. We have gotten our land back. We hope the same for you. We are cut of the same cloth.'" (I wrote about former Canadian AG Irwin Cotler's Jews-are-aboriginal formulation here.)

Harley says they tend to target Christian aboriginal people as well as inter-tribal political groups to form a larger political body. They invite people on trips to Israel.

But Harley's group had already been doing an exchange program with Palestinians. "For we younger First Nations people who haven't experienced colonialism and being put on reservations directly, the Palestinian program helps us remember what our people went through. It's very powerful, but for the Palestinians, visiting Native American reservations is shocking because they see the future of their own people."


Jewish groups and 1 Iranian group yanked from conference

{update: 1 member from B'nai Brith was also kicked out} Thursday, the Associated Press writes:
UN kicks Jews, Iranians out of racism meeting


GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations expelled three groups from its conference on global racism Thursday for unacceptable behavior related to the opening speech that Iran's president gave denouncing Israel.

The disciplinary action was the latest sign of the rancor at the weeklong conference caused by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad's claim that the West used the Holocaust as a "pretext" to harm the Palestinians. But it did not prevent officials from around the world from achieving their main goal on Tuesday: a consensus document calling for action against racism and xenophobia.

The groups whose passes were withdrawn are the French Union of Jewish Students; Coexist, a related French-based organization that fights racism and anti-Semitism; and the Tehran-based Neda Institute for Political and Scientific Research, said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He told reporters that members of the first group had been involved Monday in disrupting Ahmadinejad's speech.

He did not elaborate, but a pair of rainbow-wigged protesters threw clown noses at Ahmadinajad, while others shouted, "You are a racist!" and "Shame! shame!" from the gallery. Iranian spectators also cheered loudly. Later about 100 members of pro-Israel and Jewish groups tried to block Ahmadinejad's entrance to a news conference.

The Neda Institute from Iran distributed inflammatory material to meeting participants, Colville said.

Altogether, 64 badges of representatives of the three non-governmental organizations were revoked, he said.

On Tuesday, U.N. officials announced that the badges of some members of these groups were withdrawn. But "After examining the types of conduct, and patterns of conduct, as well as the risk of possible disruptive behavior during the remainder of the conference, the High Commissioner has issued an instruction that the badges of all the participants of three NGOs be removed," Colville said. That ends the groups participation in the conference.


UN Side-Events: The silencing of Palestinian NGOs

[Pictured from left: Ingrid Jaradat Gassner of Badil, Maysa Zorob of Al Haq, and Harley Eagle of the Mennonite Central Committee] According to the United Nations website:

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has organized a series of events and cultural activities during the Durban Review Conference to highlight the issues being discussed at the conference.

Under themes such as the rights of indigenous peoples, the link between racism and poverty, and policing in diverse societies, the side events organized by OHCHR have enabled a large number of stakeholders to exchange views and share good practices on the issues at the heart of the Durban review process.

Non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors, such as victims' groups and academics, are essential in combating all forms of racism and OHCHR has encouraged their participation in the review process.

To help showcase the activities of civil society actors, OHCHR also made several meeting rooms available for the organization of further side events for organizations accredited to take part in the Conference.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, the head of Palestinian residency and refugee rights group Badil. She told me they were called into the UN office a few weeks before the conference started and told that they could not hold side-events that were region-specific.

Ingrid told me that
a) the Palestinian people rather than Palestine, is the human rights category (that would include dispersed Palestinians in other countries, for example) and so, like the Roma, they should still be entitled to a panel.

b) the UN staff said the Palestinian delegation had given up any demands for specific mention of I-P
issues in the outcome document, to enhance the likelihood that the US and other countries would attend, and that it was suggested that the Palestinian NGOs do the same (this is all oral, there is no documentation). and

c) all of the Palestinian NGOs- Adalah, Al Haq and Sabeel submitted proposals that were turned down, and not once did the UN office communicate with them a way to make it work. "We would have happily changed it, if they had told us," said Ingrid.

Meanwhile, I've been to sessions sponsored by UN Watch, Anne Bayefsky's Eye on the UN and the Hudson Institute, all extended attacks on the UN, Muslims and Palestinians. There was also a Simon Wiesenthal Center panel that I did not attend. You can look at the list of (sometimes Orwellian-named) side-events here.

Maysa Zorob of Al Haq (who I just met this week and who I continue to be impressed by) just called the conference to task for purposely excluding Palestinian NGOs before her searing indictment of separate and unequal laws in Israel.


Is Israel being singled out? Well, yeah.

It's easy to fall for the extreme polarization here. They hate the UN so you suddenly defend it. They say everyone is an anti-Semite so you want to say no one is. It's a natural emotional response to this kind of elevated rhetoric, but in the end, it's not helpful.

In fact, Israel does have some very legitimate claims when they talk about being singled out in the United Nations. For example, in January, the UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into Israeli human rights violations during the attack on Gaza. But they neglected to call for an investigation into Hamas and other armed groups.

Or there is the Durban I 61-page outcome document- Israel and Palestine are the only countries/territories that are mentioned. Everything in it that is said about Israel and Palestine is both fair and mild. The hullaballoo about the Durban II document, which makes no mention of Israel and Palestine, is simply that it endorses the Durban I document. Of course, Durban I also singles out the Holocaust for acknowledgment. That kind of singling out would be greeted warmly.

There are numerous examples of a range of human rights concerns that get, relatively speaking, little attention, while the Israeli occupation gets a lot of attention-almost all of it, I might add, apparently useless, given that we are in the 41st year of occupation. Obviously many Muslim countries in particular use this issue so they need not address their own. I have found myself rolling my eyes when forced to listen to Iran lecture Israel on human rights, even if I agreed with many elements of their critique.

But none of that makes what Israel is doing OK or even remotely acceptable.

The right wing Israel advocates use this evidence of singling out in the UN to repeat the mantra, "this is anti-Semitism, pure and simple," as a way to delegitimize absolutely any kind of international criticism or rebuke.

And those of us from the United States are tempted to snarkily respond, "now you know what the Palestinians feel like when it comes to the US Congress," whose defining quality when it comes to Israel-Palestine is that it is more unanimous in its unconditional support for anything Israel does than the Knesset.

Israel often gets singled out in terms of world opinion because it considers itself a kind of European nation plopped down in the Middle East. It's a Western style democracy, and as such it is judged that way. And in recent years, both the United States and Israel have been equally singled out because we have failed miserably by Western standards and international law. That can't be blamed on anti-Semitism.

But it shouldn't be used to suggest that those in non Western countries are going to suffer anyway, so why summon the moral outrage. And that's why those of us committed to a genuinely universal human rights should respond to this targeting in the UN not by letting Israel off the hook, but by demanding that other countries be held accountable. That's entirely reasonable.

And as I have said before, I think the fear of Iran destroying Israel is very real. Israel is in a precarious place both politically and geographically. As one friend says, "Not even the most sophisticated army in the world can keep them safe from a nuclear bomb." While I categorically reject the campaign of demonization of Iran, and the threats of bombing rather than diplomacy, I do understand there is real fear behind it.

Me, I am scared for Israel. For so many reasons. Sometimes I'm terrified- which is why I think the only way to be pro-Israel (and yes, we work with so many phenomenal Israeli justice activists who love their country and work against every last shred of discrimination, repression or inequality both in and outside of its boundaries)…the only way to be pro-Israel is to be anti-occupation. Israel simply must end this occupation now. That of course is the terrible heartbreak about what I'm seeing here today: The American Jewish Congress, Eye on the UN and other groups are not just fueling anti-Semitism by overplaying their hand, they are helping push Israel down a path from which it may never return.

Right now, that concerns me much more than the singling out of Israel in the UN. If Anne Bayefsky, UN Watch et al want to stop the phenomenon, they might try using their resources to pressure Israel to end their occupation.


Pt. III Israel a racist state? Usama Halabi and Alan Dershowitz

[Updated] Seumas Milne of the UK Guardian has one of the best analyses I've seen thus far of Durban and the hypocrisy and gamesmanship of the European countries.

He looks at the issue of calling Israel a racist state, which is considered verboten by the European diplomats, but entirely uncontroversial for most of the Arab the world.

In fact, some 700,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes to make room for the Jewish state, and while people in my family who have never set foot in the Middle East have the right to citizenship under Israel's Right of Return law, Palestinians who still have the keys to their homes can not go back. The Israel Land Authority (ILA) holds nearly 94% of Israeli land in trust for Jews only [see video about JNF's Canada Park], and now Israel has a foreign minister who openly advocates for transfer of Arab Israelis and wants those left, I suppose, to take a loyalty oath. (And of course, the litany regarding racist history and institutions in my own country, the United States, is longer. Talking about it openly hardly means I want to destroy the United States. On the contrary, it means I want to make it live up to its promise.)

The issue of racism within Israel comes up in the conference in a dramatic way. At the Dershowitz/Voight panel on Palestinians as Nazis, Palestinian civil rights lawyer Zaha Hassan questions Natan Sharansky about the bombing of Gaza. Sharansky's response is too mild and Dershowitz steps in and starts demanding loudly that Zaha tell him just one international law that has been violated by Israel during the war on Gaza. Usama Halabi shouts out "proportionality" and suddenly the focus is on him. He says he is an Israeli citizen, but he has transgressed by trying to get a word in and suddenly Dershowitz is arguing with him. (Usama tells me that someone told him that later, Dershowitz told him to go back to Ahmedinejad. I'm going to review my tape on the plane.)

Halabi is an expert on the legal status of Arab Israelis: he is a lawyer, has written 7 books, and has served on the boards of Adalah, and Betselem. And like every other Palestinian here, he is forced to make his point in 60 seconds if he is lucky enough to get called on by a speaker. He has no official voice here, no place to make his presentation, no space to share his analysis.

I talk to Halabi in the hallway the next day:

Our lands are taken to this day, even those who go into the army. I am a Druze. So our land is being taken despite the fact that many people go into the army and serve. A false argument in Israel: if you don't give full obligations, you don't deserve full rights. This is totally false, because I know of many people who give everything and get nothing or almost nothing.

This distinguished professor said tell me about some international law. But when he said to this lady tell me about one international law that was violated by Israel, I just shouted "proportionality". Maybe both were acting wrongfully, but proportionality is THE issue. So what is that? And when I am an Israeli citizen, and you talk about facts. Show me facts and I'll show you facts. My facts show that there is total discrimination from affiliation. I can show you texts in some Israeli laws and many other texts from national institutions that are used against us.

My facts are on the ground, from discrimination I can show you texts of laws, 93.5 % of the lands in Israel are held for Jews only. I can show you, I have a chart, maybe tomorrow I will talk somewhere here I will find a venue and explain. And talk about laws and facts, not propaganda.

I'm sorry to say that he is accusing others of being anti-Semites. Arabs are Semites. If you are really human rights, as he said, activists, you do not distinguish between you and others. He was acting the same as those who he was accusing. It is shameful.

The Palestinian delegation made a big sacrifice for this conference. They omitted every single reference to our case, because other countries were opposed to that. There's no language accusing anybody of anything. So me, I don't understood what's going on.

This is a conference against racism, but we think some of it was used to do something wrong, like this.

The whole [Dershowitz/Voight] gathering was not to have asked for sympathy for Jews who suffered in 1945…but to attack others using this. This is a misuse of Shoah, which I don't want to deny. Not the Shoah itself. Nobody is denying Shoah/Holocaust. It is the misuses of this very tragic event that I am opposed to

I didnt hear that- he called me Ahmedinejad, he told me to go back to my people. He called me Ahmedeinajed. This is shameful.

Yesterday, Mr Cotler is right wing. I just wanted to ask him if he had heard something else, but they did not take questions.

Then Halabi shares something fantasticly awful about Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's new foreign minister:

I have 2 masters. I went to Hebrew University. Since 1977 Lieberman was a selector [bouncer] at the door of the nightclub at the dorms where I lived. And he would do everything not to have us [Arab Israelis] enter. I saw it in my own eyes. It's a fact. This guy has not changed. He's trying to say he wants to transfer us. Not me, he won't transfer me. Because I don't live in that area. If I talked about transfering you and your family out of Israel, you'd call me an antisemite.

He wouldn't let Arabs in…he stood at the door of that club, now he's standing at the door of the country as foreign minister.

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