Sunday, September 08, 2013

In memory of Leonard Garment (1924 - 2013)

   This summer saw the passing of a great American attorney and public servant.  He was a colourful figure, a professional jazz musician, a Democrat who became a consultant to Richard Nixon.  It was due to his advice that the infamous tapes survived and the truth of Watergate came to light.

Later Garment became a member of the staff of Patrick Moynihan, US ambassador to the United Nation.  It was during that period of the mid 1970s that an alliance of Muslim and sub-Saharan Africa nations, under the tutelage of the Russians, proposed a resolution that would have declared Zionism to be a form of racism.  Although the resolution was never passed, the idea took roots and to this day people, without actually checking out facts, keep parroting it.  This unfortunately is enforced by statesmen like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not to mention the likes of leaders of the Hammas and Hezbollah.

It is worth reproducing here Leonard Garment's statement on this issue presented to the United Nations General Assembly on October 17, 1975.

My delegation has read the new proposal before us. It is unusually straightforward. It asks to determine "that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination."

As simple as this language is, we are concerned that what may not be fully understood is that this resolution asks us to commit one of the most grievous errors in the 30-year life of this organization.

This committee is preparing itself, with deliberation and foreknowledge, to perform a supreme act of deceit, to make a massive attack on the moral realities of the world.

Under the guise of a program to eliminate racism the United Nations is at the point of officially endorsing anti-semitism, one of the oldest and most virulent forms of racism known to human history. This draft explicitly encourages the racism known as anti-semitism even as it would have us believe that its words will lead to the elimination of racism.

I choose my words carefully when I say that this is an obscene act. The United States protests this act. But protest alone is not enough. In fairness to ourselves we must also issue a warning.
This resolution places the work of the United Nations in jeopardy.

The language of this resolution distorts and perverts. It changes words with precise meanings into purveyors of confusion. It destroys the moral force of the concept of racism, making it nothing more than an epithet to be flung arbitrarily at one’s adversary. It blinds us to areas of agreement and disagreement, and deprives us of the clarity of vision we desperately need to understand and resolve the differences among us. And we are here to overcome our differences, not to deepen them.

Zionism is a movement which has as its contemporary thrust the preservation of the small remnant of the Jewish people that survived the horrors of a racial holocaust. By equating Zionism with racism, this resolution discredits the good faith of our joint efforts to fight actual racism. It discredits these efforts morally and it cripples them politically.

The language of this resolution has already disrupted our efforts here to work together on the elimination of racism and it will continue to do so. Encouraging anti-semitism and group hostility, its adoption would bring to an end our ability to cooperate on eliminating racism and racial discrimination as part of the official work of the Decade.

Once again our failure to reason together has encouraged some delegations to exploit our collective shortcomings and individual vulnerabilities and impede our attempts to further the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The United Nations, throughout its 30-year history, has not lived by the force of majorities; it has not lived by the force of arms. It has lived only—I repeat, only—because it has been thought that the nations of the world, assembled together, would give voice to the most decent and humane instincts of mankind. From this thought has come the moral authority of the United Nations, and from this thought its influence upon human affairs.

Actions like this do not go unnoticed. They do not succeed without consequences, many of which while only imperfectly perceived at the time soon become an ineradicable part of a new and regrettable reality. Let us make no mistake: at risk today is the moral authority which is the United Nations’ only ultimate claim for the support of our peoples.

This risk is as reckless as it is unnecessary. But it is still avoidable.

Accordingly the United States will support resolutions A and B. We support, without reservation, the work of the United Nations to combat racism and racial discrimination. We have taken part in these vitally important activities in the past and want to be able to do so without obstruction in the future. We will vote against the third resolution. We call upon other delegations to do likewise.

On its adoption the third resolution becomes inseparably linked to the first two. Therefore, if all three are sent to Plenary the United States will vote against all three at that time.

It is a pity Leonard Garment is not here with us any more to voice his most probable concerns about present day goings-on at The United Nations, a body that very rapidly looses its credibility in the eyes of the world.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Terrorists of London are actually victims

We have witnessed the latest terror attack in London, we saw the terrorists and the bloody results of their actions in Boston. They all eventually get shot by police, as true Jihadists are supposed to in order to reach Heaven to get their rewards from Allah. But, pray, think about it! Who are really the true criminals behind these acts?

In both cases the perpetrators were “home grown”. In the London case they were recent converts. So I ask everyone to ponder, where did they get those skewed ideas? How did these last two get so convinced that British soldiers go around chopping up poor innocent Muslims around the world that their righteous indignation forced them to do what they did? All the time believing that their action was rightful revenge. To quote : “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

They were ready to die and they got shot. Hopefully, though, they do not die before they will be fully questioned. Because the ones who truly deserve to die are those who go on “converting” people like these two, and filling their heads with propaganda of hatred so poinonous that the new converts become ticking time bombs, ready to sacrifice themselves at an opportune moment. How come we never hear of any of those mosque activists so busy with their conversions and teachings ever participating in these terror attacks themselves?

If you are someone who has been listening to an imam or activist lately who was encouraging people to become shahids, please, stop and think. How come he is urging you, yet deep in your heart you know that he would never do it himself? Aren’t you then a victim of the one who eggs you on? What if that imam is wrong and thus your action will be wrong in the eyes of Allah? Then what?

I call upon all those who still have their ability to reason. When you sit in that mosque or community centre and listen to a rousing speech about the evil West or the evil Jews, describing in gruesome detail how these are all enemies of your Muslim Ummah, think a moment – what IF this is not really all true? What IF it is not Allah’s wish for you to act the way the imam or that community activist urges you to act? What if the actual meaning of Jihad in the Qur’an is not the way these people want you to understand it? WHAT IF…. ?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another ray of hope for the Middle East. A website (blog?) with contributors from fourteen countries from around the area, including Israel! I would have been even happier if the board of directors, which includes three eminent Arab members among the ten, would also include at least one with Jewish background in order to create a proper balance. In spite of that omission, the blog is one of the most balanced I have seen yet. Although articles still contain the occasional snipets of rhetoric, something that is extremely hard to get rid of given people's backgrounds, one can feel the efforts in them, trying to be as neutral and fair as possible. Worth following it and see how it will evolve.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Not much help in BC for children with mental health problems.

The Bradley family from Victoria, BC, Canada, are pleading to the public asking for help. They wish to apply pressure on the BC health system to change their approach regarding emergency in-patient cases when children have serious mental health crises. The Bradleys' 11 year old daughter, J., suffers from bipolar disorder which often manifests in extreme depression and sometimes violence towards other family members. After such episodes the children's feeling of remorse makes them hurt themselves, some even attempting suicide.

In the case of the Bradleys the family saught help from Victoria General Hospital three times this January. They were sent away all three times. After their case became known, countless other families came forward expressing their frustration and feelings of abandonment when their own children were refused hospitalization. The stress caused by such mental health crises is enormous. For parents to witness their child's anguish, for the whole family to put up with the physical aspects of the disorder that manifests in severe depression, often violence towards others or self-mutilation, can mean a life of living hell. Their daily lives revolve around the problem child, often to the point of needing constant nighttime vigils to protect the safety of the child or other members of the family. They are also often stigmatized by society for the problems, giving them no chance to have a social life or leisure time to relax.

Health officials admit that something needs to be done in the system. They themselves complain that the ratio of patients per health workers is not very healthy, sometimes up to eight children or adolescents per worker, with those that come into emergency on top of these numbers. Hospitals do not have specialized mental health units or simply enough mental-health staff to properly deal with emergency situations. As a result suicides are today the second leading cause of death for young people.

We cannot blame the government, they do try. There are programs offered by the Ministry of Health delivers, and more by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. But they are not properly co-ordinated. The action these affected families are taking, and I am referring to the petition they started, is to draw attention to the need for better organization, for a more efficient system that can improve the development of children and youth who suffer of mental illness, to improve their ability to live a productive life. And not the least, to provide the necessary support to the families so they can cope, so their situation will not affect their productivity at work, thereby helping society at large. If you feel that these issues are important, you can show your support by signing the petition I mentioned above here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

EU should show the door to some of its members...

It is time for the EU to consider the expulsion of Hungary from the union. The country is run by the FIDESZ party, by now an extreme right governing body.

FIDESZ was founded in 1988, originally as a liberal youth movement with stars in their eyes, aiming at political power. They had a shaky start, defeated in several elections and, after taking the pulse of the country, they decided that it is more advantageous for them to become a conservative movement. In 1995 they officially became right wing. Their first success came in 1998, when they managed to become the governing party by entering into a coalition with two smaller parties. Then they lost again in 2002. After this loss the party decided to tap into the ultra nationalist sentiments that were rekindled after the passing of the Communist era. These ideologies, remnants of pre-WWII times, were kept under the lid during Communism but they never died. When Communism fell, these ideas resurfaced as fresh as if decades have never passed in-between.

In the summer of 2007 the German magazine Spiegel called the newly formed Magyar Garda, "Hungary's shame". Unfortunately FIDESZ rose to power by winning the with a 54% vote in 2010 thanks to the support of these groups. Then again, 54% is clearly a majority, and it is rather fitting when people say "a country deserves their government".

As it was the second time around for the party, they did not waste time in implementing their agendas. Within the first year they raised concerns in the rest of Europe, calling Hungary a "Fuhrerstaat". The media law is enforced by a national media authority that wields unprecedented power over radio, TV, newsprint, even online material. But the real heavyweight is the new constitution, adopted in April last year. According to this New York Times article, it's clear that Hungary is slipping into authoritarianism.

During this time Hungary happened to have its turn for the EU presidency. During that time, Orban showed a different face to the international community than to his supporters at home. He feigned allegiance to principles in Brussels which he repeatedly denounced at home, both before and since. Orban is very good though to at playing one side against the other while he appears to emerge from all that stronger and victorious.

2012 started with growing opposition among Hungary's extreme right to the membership in the EU. Today's March 15 celebrations were the final icing on the cake. During his speech, Viktor Orban declared that he will not allow foreign powers to turn Hungary into a colony. Since the European Union is a body which all member states joined voluntarily, it is just natural that if they wanted to leave they should. For the sake of European dignity it would be beneficial to politely ask Hungary to go in the direction of the back door.

But it does not stop there. Hundreds of Polish guests were treated to a free holiday in Budapest for the March 15 celebrations. They belong to the Polish right and they consider Orban an example whom their leader, Jaroslaw Kaczinsky should follow. They were asked to participate in the demonstrations so the international media could report their enthusiastic support of the Hungarian government.

There is a great article in Telos that points out the reasons for the anti-liberal populist movements in East Europe, and it also explains that "all is not lost", things could still turn out all right. Maybe...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Geneva Summit for Human Rights

Unfortunately I became aware of this live webcast only today. I will post it in other places also but if you chance on my blog in time I encourage you to watch it tomorrow, March 13. It will be going on from 9:00 to 17:39 Geneva time. A link to the webcast will appear on the Summit homepage just before the start.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New York Times article by Judge R. Goldstone

Richard J. Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court, led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-9. At the time he focused mainly on Gaza, which then resulted in the infamous 500-page U.N. report that bears his name: the accusation that Israeli leaders deliberately targeted civilians during the 2009 war with Hamas. In April this year Judge Goldstone publicly retracted the core charge of the report in an article published in the Washington Post. That article, as well as this new one which I post here in its entirety, resulted in vicious personal attacks from certain members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, a fact that further proves their terribly biased position. Let us hope that a lot of people who will read this article will have the moral fortitude to accept the actual truth.


Israel and the Apartheid Slander

Nov. 1, 2011


THE Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.

I know all too well the cruelty of South Africa’s abhorrent apartheid system, under which human beings characterized as black had no rights to vote, hold political office, use “white” toilets or beaches, marry whites, live in whites-only areas or even be there without a “pass.” Blacks critically injured in car accidents were left to bleed to death if there was no “black” ambulance to rush them to a “black” hospital. “White” hospitals were prohibited from saving their lives.

In assessing the accusation that Israel pursues apartheid policies, which are by definition primarily about race or ethnicity, it is important first to distinguish between the situations in Israel, where Arabs are citizens, and in West Bank areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement.

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

To be sure, there is more de facto separation between Jewish and Arab populations than Israelis should accept. Much of it is chosen by the communities themselves. Some results from discrimination. But it is not apartheid, which consciously enshrines separation as an ideal. In Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court.

The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.

But until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed. As things stand, attacks from one side are met by counterattacks from the other. And the deep disputes, claims and counterclaims are only hardened when the offensive analogy of “apartheid” is invoked.

Those seeking to promote the myth of Israeli apartheid often point to clashes between heavily armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank, or the building of what they call an “apartheid wall” and disparate treatment on West Bank roads. While such images may appear to invite a superficial comparison, it is disingenuous to use them to distort the reality. The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks; while it has inflicted great hardship in places, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the state in many cases to reroute it to minimize unreasonable hardship. Road restrictions get more intrusive after violent attacks and are ameliorated when the threat is reduced.

Of course, the Palestinian people have national aspirations and human rights that all must respect. But those who conflate the situations in Israel and the West Bank and liken both to the old South Africa do a disservice to all who hope for justice and peace.

Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank cannot be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination. There is hostility and suspicion on both sides. Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence. Even some Israeli Arabs, because they are citizens of Israel, have at times come under suspicion from other Arabs as a result of that longstanding enmity.

The mutual recognition and protection of the human dignity of all people is indispensable to bringing an end to hatred and anger. The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.