Tag Archives: UN

No Gaga Here: Extreme Summer Camps in the Middle East

By Rebecca Borison

While I grew up at a Jewish summer camp playing Gaga, kids growing up in slightly (read: very) different areas than me are partaking in slightly (read: very) different activities in summer camp. The Times of Israel recently published two separate articles on Extreme Summer Camps. The first article discusses a Hamas-run Gaza summer camp, where “activities include walking on knives, cleaning beaches and experiencing life as a security prisoner in an Israeli jail.” Five days later, the Times of Israel released a second article about a right-wing camp in Ramat Migron, where the girls learn “self-defense techniques, how to construct temporary dwellings and basic agriculture.”
So we have two camps representing the extremes of Israelis and Palestinians. But let’s take a closer look at these camps.

We’ll start with camp “We will live honorably” in Gaza. Now that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) no longer runs summer camps in Gaza, “We will live honorably” is the only option for kids in Gaza. This Hamas-run camp attracts around 70,000 kids from across the Gaza strip.  According to one of the camp directors, Omar Aql, the camps try to “strengthen the importance of volunteer work and create a clean social environment.” For example, campers participated in a campaign to clean the Nuseirat beach.

But then there are some disturbing camp activities as well. Campers are introduced to a model of an Israeli security prison in order to “reenact the daily suffering of Palestinian prisoners,” according to the Palestinian Maan news agency. The “prison” consists of an investigation room, a detention room, a confession extortion room, a solitary confinement room, a courtyard and an infirmary.
At Camp “Hilltop Youth,” the campers partake in some disturbing activities as well, learning krav maga in order to fight against any Arabs that may happen to attack them. The girls are also introduced to extreme living arrangements, spending four days without electricity or running water.  Unlike the “We will live honorably” camps, the “Hilltop youth” camp is one of many summer camps available in Israel. An Israeli child can have a normal camp experience at Camp Kimama or Camp Tapuz.

Both camps promote the immense value of devotion to one’s people. A camper from Gaza named Abdulaziz A-Saqa explained, “We learned that Palestinian prisoners suffer greatly for the Palestinian people.” One of the campers at Ramat Migron named Esther told the Israeli Newspaper, Ma’ariv, “Whoever comes here isn’t looking to go to a luna park (amusement park), rather to fight on behalf of the State of Israel.”

Both campers have been taught to devote their lives to their nation. They are instilled with a great sense of patriotism—to the extent that they will fight no matter the cost.

While Gaza camp counselor Abdul-Ghafour denies that the camp is training future Hamas militants, it definitely appears to be a strong possibility. Why else would these campers need to learn how to “slide over thorns using his elbows for propulsion” and run and jump through flaming hoops? According to the Washington Post, the campers are “told to fight Israel to liberate Palestine.”

According to Ma’ariv, the goal of the “Hilltop Youth” camp “is to train and recruit the next generation of warriors to settle the hills.” They even bring in speakers from the settlement movement, such as MK Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Yes, that sounds just as extreme as training Gaza youth to be Hamas militants, but there is one crucial difference between the two: the camps’ relationship to their nation. The camp in Gaza is organized by Hamas. As the ruling power in Gaza since 2007, Hamas is not only condoning such camps but is funding and running them. The camp in Ramat Migron, on the other hand, is run solely by extremists. According to Ma’ariv, “security forces came to the outpost tens of times and destroyed the wooden shacks that the youth had built,” but each time the youth return to rebuild it. The State of Israel is not supporting extremists. They are trying to stop them. In fact, Ramat Migron is scheduled to be evacuated by August 1.

You can make an argument that likens these two camps, and you could make an argument that contrasts the two.  What it comes to at the end of the day is does the camp represent an extremist minority or an extremist people.

United (Nations) We Fall

By Adina Rosenthal

Richard Falk was criticized for posting this cartoon on his blog.

Anthony Weiner may have proved that social media can reveal the naked truth, but a far more stark reality has emerged from the personal blog of the United Nations Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk.  Earlier this month, he posted a cartoon on his personal blog depicting a dog on a leash wearing a kippah bearing the Star of David, bloodied by chewing on a pile of bones while urinating on his owner, Lady Justice. In response, both the United States and Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League, have called for U.N. Human High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, to condemn Falk, and demanded his resignation.

Though initially denying the cartoon’s anti-Semitic connotations, as Falk himself is Jewish, he eventually deleted the post and issued an apology, claiming he did not see the Jewish star on the small image, but adding the final caveat: “I am quite aware that many of the messages were motivated to discredit me due to my views of Israeli policies and behavior.”

However, this is not Falk’s first time around the questionable comments block. In his tenure as U.N. Special Rapporteur, Falk has been accused of conflating the personal with the professional, sympathizing with 9/11 conspiracy theories through his infamous blog (you be the judge), likening Israelis to Nazis as perpetrators of a Palestinian Holocaust, and flat-out accusing Israelis of ethnic cleansing. As ADL National Director, Abraham H. Foxman, correctly points out in his letter to U.N. High Commissioner Pillay, “Mr. Falk has a long record of incendiary and blatantly biased criticism of Israel, including statements comparing Israeli defense measures to Nazi atrocities…Such biased behavior and clear intolerance is fundamentally against the values and ideals a Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council should uphold.”

But will the U.N. heed Foxman’s advice and deal with Falk? Don’t count on it. Last week, Rupert Coleville, spokesman for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights  (OHCHR), told The Jerusalem Post “that the matter had effectively been dealt with, since Falk had apologized for the cartoon, and although it was ‘clearly unfortunate and shouldn’t have been there,’ it was not the place of the OHCHR to comment.”

U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, however, disagreed with this assessment in a letter to the OHCHR, citing past precedent as evidence for such condemnation to be within the scope of the OHCHR’s responsibilities. Neuer concluded, “For the U.N. human rights system to be credible in the fight against racism, its own representatives must not be allowed to incite hatred and racial discrimination with impunity.”

Neuer makes an important point. Doesn’t the U.N. have the obligation to uphold its purported commitment to human rights and not turn a deaf ear to its representatives who tarnish this image?

Apparently not when it comes to Israel. The U.N. has a long history of singling out Israel for atrocities and ignoring actions committed against Israelis. Since its inception almost 70 years ago, the U.N. has passed well over 200 resolutions against Israel, more than any other state. Though it was rescinded in December 1991, on November 10, 1975 (the anniversary of Kristallnacht), the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 declaring Zionism as tantamount to racism.  To this day, Israel is blocked from serving on both the Security Council, unlike neighbors Syria and Lebanon, and the Human Rights Council, a post Libya held until its membership was suspended in March. Just last week, the U.N. condemned Israel for firing on Lebanese protestors, numbering 10,000, who attempted to breach the border in May, accusing the Jewish state of violating the 2006 cease-fire agreement that ended the six-week conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In the report, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon stated, “I call on the Israel Defense Forces to refrain from responding with live fire in such situations, except where clearly required in immediate self-defense.”

 

Based on this ostensibly hypocritical track record regarding Israel versus the rest of the world, Falk’s actions and the U.N.’s response—inaction—seem to meet the status quo. For an organization that claims to be the paragon of human rights and freedoms around the world, the U.N. loses credibility due to its clear anti-Israel bias. United we stand, divided we fall; unless the U.N. gets its act together, the latter will hold true.

NGOs Fail Palestinian Women at the UN

By Paula Kweskin

In April 2010, a 32-year-old woman was shot to death in a town in the northern Gaza Strip.  Several men, including her father, were arrested for the crime.  A year prior, a girl from a Palestinian village south of Qalqilya was smothered to death by her brother.  In 2005, a father murdered two of his daughters and badly injured a third for an alleged sexual affair.  In December 2008, two Palestinian girls were killed when militants’ rockets directed at Israel fell short of their targets.  Two years later, a teenage girl was injured in central Israel when Hamas militants fired rockets on her kibbutz.

Unfortunately, at the UN review of Israel’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in January, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) squandered the opportunity to give voice to these Palestinian and Israeli victims. Instead, they pursued a politicized, anti-Israel agenda, which excludes victims that do not fit an ideological paradigm.

In advance of the review, the Israeli government and various NGOs submitted statements for consideration regarding the women’s rights record in Israel.  NGOs and civil society actors could have highlighted discrepancies in the workplace, human trafficking, gender violence, and other obstacles facing women within Israel. (Israel asserts they are not responsible for the application of the Convention to the Palestinian Authority or Gaza, but some NGO submissions focused on these populations as well.) Notable submissions failed to mention these issues; others avoided an honest discourse on gender discrimination entirely.

One such joint NGO submission, co-authored by Palestinian NGOs Badil, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, blames injustices suffered by Palestinian women on  Israeli “apartheid” and “occupation.”  These NGOs attribute violence against Palestinian women solely to settlers and Israeli security forces. In their distorted perspective, Israel’s security policies, not the local authorities charged with providing key services, are responsible for the lack of adequate healthcare for women in the Palestinian Authority.

Similarly, the NGOs claim, without evidence, that “cultural discrimination can also mean that girls are more likely to be withdrawn from school as a result of these [i.e. settler violence] incidents, with parents particularly fearful for the safety of their daughters.” More probable factors for students’ withdrawal, such as early marriage and societal obstacles to education, are ignored.

In a supplemental submission, Badil argues that “Israel’s repeated military incursions

characterized by the indiscriminate and excessive use of force” causes unemployment and poverty in the Palestinian Authority. The $3 billion in annual foreign aid to the PA, that could be used to improve the situation of women, is absent from Badil’s discussion.

Domestic violence was not discussed in the NGO submissions either. A 2005 survey revealed that over 60 percent of Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian Authority were psychologically abused by their husbands, 23 percent had been beaten, and 11 percent experienced some form of sexual violence.

So-called “honor” killings in the Palestinian Authority have increased in recent years and are treated with impunity.  According to a 1999 UNICEF report, two-thirds of all murders in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza are “honor” killings.  These crimes go unpunished and laws grant impunity to those who kill based on “family honor.” In interviews and press releases on their websites, the NGO authors have decried “honor” killings and the lack of legal protection for Palestinian women; yet they are silent when given a forum to address these problems before a UN committee.

By ignoring these realities, which do not conform to the narrative of Israeli violence and Palestinian victimization, these NGOs demonstrate that the advancement of Palestinian and Israeli women’s rights is not their aim. Rather, they hijack an international platform and the rhetoric of human rights to demonize Israel, using Palestinian women as pawns to advance a singular political agenda.  These groups have abandoned the women they purport to advocate for, and as such, have once again called into question the sincerity of their pursuit of universal human rights.

Paula Kweskin is a legal researcher at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution.

 

 

 

 

 

UN Racism Conference Starts Today–Ahmadinejad Accuses Israel of Genocide

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

European diplomats walk out in protest as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacks Israel during a speech Monday at a U.N. conference in Geneva. (Michael J. Jordan)

European delegates walk out during Ahmadinejad's speech (via JTA)

Well, it’s not as if the United Nations Durban II conference against racism was ever going to avoid controversy. The primary storyline going into the conference was the contentious–if not by any means surprising–abstention by the United States and Israel (as well as Canada, Italy, Germany, Australia, and Holland). 

But news has just come out about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech earlier today that we must post first.

JTA has the scoop on the speech, which occurred a few hours ago, in which European diplomats walked out in protest:

In a speech at the U.N.-sponsored anti-racism conference in Geneva, the Iranian president first blamed the West for injustice, then went on the offensive against Israel, calling it the “racist perpetrators of genocide.”

“Under the pretext of Jewish suffering, they have helped bring to power the most oppressive, racist regime in Palestine,” Ahmadinejad said, to heavy applause from Iranians in the upper gallery and pockets of Muslims elsewhere on the floor. “They have always been silent about their crimes.”…

At the first mention of “Jewish,” representatives of the 23 European Union countries that chose to participate in the conference noisily got up from their seats and marched out the door—a move met by more clapping from Iranian and Arab delegates, while other diplomatic delegations refrained…

Ahmadinejad went on to criticize the United States for the bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the global economic crisis.

He railed against those who use their “economic and political influence” and control of the media to back the “barbaric racism” of the “Zionist regime.” He called for the world to “put an end to abuses by the Zionists” and the “conspiracies by some powers and Zionist circles.” Continue reading

Israel Expels Richard Falk

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

Richard Falk

Richard Falk

Israel refused to allow senior UN rights official and Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk into the country earlier today, sending him back to the US after he landed at the Tel-Aviv airport.

Falk planned the trip to investigate human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip but was expelled, according to Israeli sources in the foreign ministry, because of statements he made comparing Israeli policies in Gaza to Nazi policies during WWII.

Falk was notified before his trip that he would not allowed into Israel, whose foreign ministry believes the Princeton professor emeritus has not viewed the circumstances fairly. The BBC has this quote:

“[He] does not try to advance human rights, but instead comes with his conclusions ready and those conclusions are of course extreme, methodic criticism of Israel and only of Israel,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. Continue reading

This Falafel Was Made For You And Me

It looks like the international system of governance is finally paying off. I mean, despite reports that the US and its allies are looking to bypass the UN in order to impose sanctions on Iran, we can all rest assured. The international system of dialogue is finally being put to good use.

Right.

Lebanon is suing Israel for ownership of its national foods, including falafel, hummus, and tabouleh. I am not making this up. The LA Times and Ha’aretz report:

“In a way the Jewish state is trying to claim ownership of traditional Lebanese delicacies like falafel, tabouleh and hummus” [Lebanese Industrialists Association Fadi] Abboud said. According to Abboud, the Lebanese are losing “tens of millions of dollars annually” because Israel is selling and marketing traditional Lebanese dishes.

“The Israelis are marketing our main food dishes as if they were Israeli dishes, Continue reading

Jews for Ahmadinejad, Onion-style

Ahmadinejad tries to make out with Jewish man

Ahmadinejad tries to make out with Jewish man

In an effort to improve his standing among Jews, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried yesterday to make out with a member of the ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta.

Ahmadinejad has been in the dumps among pro-Semites since giving a speech at the UN earlier this week condemned by Barack Obama as anti-Semitic (see below for the full text).

On Wednesday, though, Ahmadinejad met with a group of Neturei Karta rabbis who presented him with a $700 silver trophy and told him they loved him. Continue reading