Hamas leader ismail al-ashqar_370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
On March 19, 2012 the UN Human Rights Council and its UN staff in Geneva
advertised and facilitated an event featuring a representative of the
terrorist organization Hamas. Facing an immediate outcry, a massive
misinformation campaign is now underway to protect the already
discredited UN body. But there is no avoiding the facts: the UN handed a
UN entrance pass and a UN microphone, in a UN room, to Hamas’s own
US, European and Israeli laws designate Hamas
as a terror group. Hamas’s hate-filled Charter advocates genocide, or
in its words: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam
will obliterate it…The Day of Judgment will not come about until
Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews)…” The organization is
pursuing that goal on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, the Council
published a formal UN “Bulletin” – with the Council’s name splashed
across the top and a formal UN symbol number – containing the following
message. Anyone wanting to catch a lecture by a Hamas human rights
authority should head off to Meeting Room XXVII in the UN’s Palais des
Nations from 10 to 12 Monday morning.
Or in more formal UN-eze
“Human Rights Council, Nineteenth session, Geneva, Bulletin of informal
meetings, Held in parallel to the session, Monday, 19 March
2012…Subject: Arrest of parliamentarians, Public. A/HRC/19/BI/16.”
out to face the subsequent barrage of criticism, Director of the United
Nations Information Service in Geneva Corinne Momal-Vanian told AP that
the meeting was “on the sides of the Human Rights Council session" and
any UN-accredited group “can organize side events and invite speakers of
Indeed, the event featuring the Hamas member of
the Palestinian Legislative Council was organized by the UN-accredited
NGO "Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development." But here are a few
facts Momal-Vanian managed to leave out.
UN facilities would
only have been available to a non-governmental organization that had
been awarded UN accreditation and then only after they had requested the
services from the UN secretariat. Though the UN bulletin carries a
standard disclaimer for what may or may not be said during such events,
the application to hold the meeting in the first place must have been
vetted and approved by UN staff.
Moreover, locating meetings on
the “side” of the Human Rights Council’s regular session – which is now
in full swing – is a deliberate attempt to influence information flow to
Council participants. And while in theory any UN group can ask
permission to hold a side event, it is no accident that approval is
actually granted to a raft of Israel-bashing NGOs.
This week alone radical organizations with extreme ideologies are scheduled to hold two more two-hour sessions on UN premises: “Human rights in Palestine” and “Follow-up to the Goldstone Report.” The organizing NGOs, including Al Haq, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, all hold official UN accreditation. Standard fare is to claim that Israel’s creation was a catastrophe that has to be walked back; Israel is an apartheid state; Israelis are foreigners transplanted onto Arab land; Israel should be subject to debilitating sanctions. BADIL’s website and activities, for example, are studded with antisemitic images and rants.
The controversy comes at an inopportune
moment for the Obama administration, which is in the middle of a drive
to renew its three-year term on the Human Rights Council. So somehow a
twitter campaign joined Monday’s effort to ward off the public relations
disaster of a terrorist UN human rights buff.
Tweet: “NGOs can invite people without the UN being aware or
responsible.” In fact, no person can get through UN security at the Palais des Nations without their name being provided to UN officials in
advance; officials must then grant access and issue a UN pass. Even the
UN spokesperson has not alleged that al-Ashqar evaded security and
Then there was this tweet: “Hamas representative
invited by NGO is distraction.” Welcoming a terrorist into the midst of
a facility supposedly dedicated to human rights is indeed a distraction
– from the UN’s raison d’etre. Another read: “Contrary to Hamas boast,
its representative spoke to empty room.” Photos of the audience
posted on the web contradicted that tweet. And then there was the
bleat: “Invited not by UN but Sudanese group.” Except that the Sudanese
group was not just any bunch of hate-mongers, but UN-accredited, and
nothing would have prevented UN staff from turning al-Ashqar away at the
According to Momal-Vanian, however, what worried the UN
most about the Hamas agent’s visit was this: “the global body assessed
the possibility of security threats in connection with the event and
allowed it to go ahead.”
A perversion from beginning to end.
Only the UN could twist the security threat so that the terrorist front
man became the victim.The writer is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.