Tag Archives: United Nations

The Goldstone Saga

by Erica Shaps

Every year at Brandeis University there is at least one Israel/Palestine-related event that lights a fire under the campus. My freshman year, it was a well-publicized and well-attended debate between Justice Richard Goldstone and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold over the contents of the 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (known as the Goldstone Report). To be honest, I remember the speakers’ rhetorical styles better than their arguments. Gold’s voice echoed abrasively, and he came armed with an aesthetically disarming Powerpoint. Goldstone, on the other hand, tried to explain himself calmly in a lilting South African accent. He came across as a gentle Jewish grandfather. Although I disagreed with many of his report’s harshest conclusions, some of which he later retracted, it was impossible to deny that he had good intentions when accepting the mandate. At some point during the debate, I realized I felt terrible for Richard Goldstone.

Justice Goldstone has had an incredibly prolific career, becoming one of the most trusted and respected judges across the globe. The Goldstone Commission played a critical role in even-handedly subduing apartheid-related violence as South Africa began to transition to true democracy. He served as Chief U.N. prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and his efforts were critical in successfully recognizing rape as a war crime in the Geneva Convention.

In spite of this, in many elements of the Jewish community, the judge is now being judged solely based on the Goldstone report. After the report, his own community called him a self-hating Jew and a traitor. It was widely reported that he was initially going to be restricted from his grandson’s bar mitzvah. Various media sources reported that he had a hard time sleeping and was under great distress.

In April, Goldstone wrote a Washington Post op-ed in which he expressed regret over some of the Goldstone Report’s conclusions, particularly that Israel killed civilians intentionally. Recently, Goldstone wrote a New York Times op-ed debunking the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. His well-articulated argument against the apartheid claim was particularly potent since he was an anti-apartheid judge in South Africa.

In the wake of these writings, we are seeing the delegitimization and redemption of Richard Goldstone on a very large public scale.

Some commentators are now starting to welcome Goldstone back into the fold of the Jewish community, or are considering “ forgiving him” because of his last two op-eds. Alan Dershowitz, the famed lawyer and Israel advocate who once considered Goldstone a friend, called him a traitor to the Jewish people and stated that the Goldstone Report was written by “an evil, evil man.” After Goldstone published his retraction, Dershowitz wrote an article explaining that Goldstone was moving in the right direction but still “needs to do teshuvah.”

Conversely, many who once lauded Goldstone as a courageous hero now condemn him as a desperate sell-out who is no longer relevant. Some behave as if his last two op-ed articles completely undermine the initial Goldstone Report and his entire body of work. Richard Falk, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights and Princeton professor, wrote that Goldstone had fallen from grace to “this shabby role as legal gladiator recklessly jousting on behalf of Israel” after his New York Times op-ed was published.

I don’t know why Goldstone chose to write his op-ed. But the claim that he did so in an act of “caving in to Zionist pressure” is preposterous. Perhaps he is trying to work toward the same mission he was when he accepted the UN mandate: Pursuing his understanding of justice and truth using the resources at his disposal.

Justice Goldstone’s case reveals some sad human tendencies. When we agree with someone, we quote them endlessly, respect them and use their work to further our arguments and cement our understanding of the universe without guilt or struggle. When we disagree with someone’s conclusions, he is a liar, a traitor, and we are required to be suspicious of his motivations and intentions.  We should be capable of objecting to a person’s work and questioning his or her opinions’ accuracy and validity without character assassinations. I do not agree with all of the conclusions drawn in the Goldstone Report, and think its flaws had some terrible ramifications; I still have immense respect for Justice Goldstone. It is easier to dismiss a person than to dismiss their argument, but for precisely this reason, it is important that we maintain standards of civility in the public discourse.

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 Roundup

What with non-stop hoopla at the convening of the United Nations General Assembly this week in New York, we offer a quick recap of the main issues to help you sift through the news coverage.

  • Predictably, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has created the most amount of controversy. One example: The American Jewish Committee wrote an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon protesting a dinner at which Ahmadinejad will be honored.
  • Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has also made headlines, primarily because of her planned appearance at a rally organized today to voice opposition to Ahmadinejad. This is the rally that Hillary Clinton pulled out of because she didn’t want to make it a political circus. In turn, it has become a political circus. Update 3:05 PM: JTA puts the number of protesters in the thousands.
  • Palin will meet with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in an attempt to bolster her foreign policy credentials (not unlike Barack Obama’s trip to Europe and the Middle East this summer).
  • Richard Holbrooke and other government officials write in the Wall Street Journal today that Iran is the primary story of this session for good reason: “A nuclear-armed Iran would likely destabilize an already dangerous region that includes Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, and pose a direct threat to America’s national security.” (HT: The Telegraph)
  • Israeli President Shimon Peres has his hands full with political turmoil in Israel, so he will not attend a General Assembly reception hosted by President George W. Bush tonight. Israel will be represented by UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev.
  • President Bush will be making his farewell address to the UN. (Hold for applause?)

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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