Where Israel still = racism

As the American representative spoke, Aboul-Nasr kept laughing.

By HILLEL NEUER
August 10, 2006 02:09
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The convening Friday of a UN Human Right Council emergency session to condemn "gross human rights violations by Israel in Lebanon" caps a month-long mad rush by the world body's human rights institutions to single out Israel for special censure. The Muslim states that initiated the meeting dominate the large African and Asian blocs, guaranteeing the adoption of an anti-Israel motion that will become only the third country resolution of the new council - all of which have targeted the Jewish state to the exclusion of the UN's other 191 member states. A typical example of how key UN human rights bodies are being subverted is the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). If you thought the UN's 1991 repeal of the "Zionism is Racism" resolution, achieved by the determined efforts of then assistant secretary of state John Bolton, marked an end to the world body's promotion of this canard, guess again. On the same day that Iran's President Ahmadinejad renewed his call for the destruction of the Jewish state, the UN's top racism committee supplied Teheran with renewed international moral justification for that goal. Last Thursday, the CERD suspended its normal work to address "the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon." Not only is this topic entirely outside CERD's mandate, but it was framed in a lopsided manner, so that the humanitarian suffering of Israeli civilians would be entirely ignored. Since July 12, when Hizbullah ignited the crisis by crossing the international border to murder and kidnap Israeli soldiers, the Iran-sponsored terrorist organization has fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel. A million Israelis are either displaced or living in and out of bomb shelters, dozens have been killed, while a further 2,000 have been injured or required hospital treatment. Yet one would not know any of this from the CERD's presentation of the issue. CERD IS a body of supposedly independent, impartial experts mandated to oversee the implementation of the 1965 International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It reviews the periodic reports that the treaty requires every signatory state to submit, and issues "concluding observations" on the state's level of compliance. As we saw this week, however, some CERD members are neither independent, nor impartial - nor even very expert. The special CERD session was the initiative of a few panel members led by Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr, a former Egyptian diplomat and Arab League official. Aboul-Nasr is notorious for his 1998 support of convicted Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, which was roundly criticized at the time by his colleague (now CERD Chairman) Regis de Gouttes. Aboul-Nasr had stated before the panel that the Holocaust was "not sacrosanct" and that it was justified to question the number of Jews killed. To his credit, Chairman de Gouttes began Thursday's debate by listing the other UN entities already dealing with the crisis, and by warning his colleagues that "the trust and legitimacy of the Committee is at stake." In response, Aboul-Nasr objected to being "lectured on our competence and what we can't do," and demanded that the members "condemn Israel in the strongest terms." Some of his colleagues were all too happy to oblige. Brazilian expert Jos Augusto Lindgren Alves accused Israel of "blatant racism," which, he added, was "at the root of its disproportionality" in Lebanon. He asked if Israel "would react the same way to exterminate an entire population if Hizbullah launched the same attacks from a non-Arab country." Jos Francisco Cali Tzay of Guatemala suggested that Israel's actions were close to "mass genocide." The South African, Patricia January-Bardhill, said that Israel's response reflected "institutionalized racism." Pakistani member Agha Shahi justified Hizbullah's attacks on Israel as an exercise of "the right of resistance against occupation." Aboul-Nasr similarly asserted that Hizbullah is not a terrorist group but "a resistance movement," like the French resistance in World War II. Never mind that the UN in 2000 certified Israel's complete withdrawal from southern Lebanon to the international border, or that, in the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "Hizbullah's provocative attack on July 12 was the trigger of this particular crisis." A FEW lonely voices disagreed with the decision to tackle the Israel-Lebanon issue and the utter disregard of Hizbullah's role in provoking the crisis and attacking Israeli civilians, but they had little impact. The Danish and American experts both argued that the issue was beyond the panel's mandate, but to no avail. The American expert - Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., former Civil Rights Division chief at the US Department of Justice - also strongly criticized his colleagues for giving Hizbullah, and its Syrian and Iranian sponsors, a free pass. As Boyd spoke, Aboul-Nasr, in a shocking display of disrespect, kept laughing in response. As the chairman had feared, the members who abused CERD's mandate - in service of a one-sided political agenda - seriously damaged the body's credibility, not to mention their own. With only incomplete and not necessarily reliable information about a distant and still ongoing conflict - the Brazilian even admitted his statements were based on what he saw on television and that he did not know exactly what was happening on the ground - they were quick to indict Israel on absurd charges of racism. Yet they said nothing at all about a genuine concern: the longstanding, vicious incitement of racial and indeed genocidal anti-Semitism that Hizbullah spreads around the world, including via its Al Manar satellite TV network. This does not speak well for their purported "expertise." Resolutions from the UN's vast archive of one-sided condemnations of Israel are frequently cited by Teheran to justify its goal of eliminating the Jewish state. Such denunciations are issued routinely by the U.N's political bodies, particularly the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which are dominated by the Arab and Islamic blocs. Unfortunately this week, the anti-Israel virus that has long plagued those bodies spread to infect a supposedly professional committee. Chalk this one up as a win for Ahmadinejad - and a loss for Israel, CERD, and the UN as a whole. It is also a loss for the genuine victims of race discrimination in the world, who deserve a truly expert and objective UN racism body. Regrettably, tomorrow's session of the Human Rights Council will simply be more of the same. The writer is executive director of UN Watch and editor of www.unwatch.org


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