Commentary Magazine


Topic: General Assembly

Further Food for Reflection

Daniel Mandel, the author of H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel, has a letter in the New York Times succinctly responding to an op-ed column in which Robert Wright argued that the UN “created a state six decades ago, and it can create a Palestinian state now”:

First, the United Nations didn’t “create” Israel — sovereignty was asserted by its provisional government at the termination of British authority in the territory — nor indeed was the 1947 General Assembly partition resolution even legally binding. It would have been, had both Jews and Arabs accepted it, but Arabs did not. Had Arab arms prevailed over the Jewish forces, there would have been no Israel, regardless of United Nations resolutions.

Second, despite the importance of that resolution in changing the conditions surrounding Israel’s emergence, the United Nations came onto a scene that Britain, the governing power, was vacating. In short, it filled a vacuum. There is no such vacuum today.

Third, this idea suffers from the flawed tendency to believe that creating a Palestinian state will produce peace. Yet no perusal of Palestinian sermons, statements or publications suggests that Palestinians accept the idea of a peaceful state alongside Israel. If a Palestinian state won’t bring peace, why create it?

Mandel’s third point deserves a place high on the list of peace-process topics that merit further reflection.

It has been assumed, without much evidence to support it, that a Palestinian state would bring peace. But given the Palestinian unwillingness to recognize a Jewish one, or relinquish a “right of return” (which was never a right, only a short-term recommendation in another non-binding UN resolution from 1949, which the Arab states voted against), or cease the continuous incitement that permeates Palestinian schools and civil society, or dismantle Hamas as required by Phase I of the Roadmap, or express a willingness to put an end-of-claims provision in a peace agreement, the factual basis of the assumption is unclear.

Nor is it clear that the creation of a 22nd Arab state, including a second one within the area that was promised to the Jews under the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate, or the transfer of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria to create the Judenrein state the Palestinians demand, would serve American interests. After 17 years of a peace process that has produced multiple offers of a Palestinian state but no peace, the unexamined belief that such a state should continue to be a central American concern is debatable at best — and should be debated.

Unfortunately, most readers of the New York Times will not get the chance to think about Mandel’s points. His letter was posted on the Times‘s website yesterday but was not published in the national deadwood version of the Times either yesterday or today.

Daniel Mandel, the author of H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel, has a letter in the New York Times succinctly responding to an op-ed column in which Robert Wright argued that the UN “created a state six decades ago, and it can create a Palestinian state now”:

First, the United Nations didn’t “create” Israel — sovereignty was asserted by its provisional government at the termination of British authority in the territory — nor indeed was the 1947 General Assembly partition resolution even legally binding. It would have been, had both Jews and Arabs accepted it, but Arabs did not. Had Arab arms prevailed over the Jewish forces, there would have been no Israel, regardless of United Nations resolutions.

Second, despite the importance of that resolution in changing the conditions surrounding Israel’s emergence, the United Nations came onto a scene that Britain, the governing power, was vacating. In short, it filled a vacuum. There is no such vacuum today.

Third, this idea suffers from the flawed tendency to believe that creating a Palestinian state will produce peace. Yet no perusal of Palestinian sermons, statements or publications suggests that Palestinians accept the idea of a peaceful state alongside Israel. If a Palestinian state won’t bring peace, why create it?

Mandel’s third point deserves a place high on the list of peace-process topics that merit further reflection.

It has been assumed, without much evidence to support it, that a Palestinian state would bring peace. But given the Palestinian unwillingness to recognize a Jewish one, or relinquish a “right of return” (which was never a right, only a short-term recommendation in another non-binding UN resolution from 1949, which the Arab states voted against), or cease the continuous incitement that permeates Palestinian schools and civil society, or dismantle Hamas as required by Phase I of the Roadmap, or express a willingness to put an end-of-claims provision in a peace agreement, the factual basis of the assumption is unclear.

Nor is it clear that the creation of a 22nd Arab state, including a second one within the area that was promised to the Jews under the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate, or the transfer of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria to create the Judenrein state the Palestinians demand, would serve American interests. After 17 years of a peace process that has produced multiple offers of a Palestinian state but no peace, the unexamined belief that such a state should continue to be a central American concern is debatable at best — and should be debated.

Unfortunately, most readers of the New York Times will not get the chance to think about Mandel’s points. His letter was posted on the Times‘s website yesterday but was not published in the national deadwood version of the Times either yesterday or today.

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Good News on Durban III?

The 10th-anniversary commemoration of the UN’s “Durban I” conference on racism will apparently face opposition from the United States. It was announced earlier this month that the conference, billed as Durban III, will be held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly session in September 2011. That would make New York City host to the third in a series of conferences that have twice served as forums for vociferous anti-Semitism and invective against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reports today, however, that the U.S. opposes holding Durban III at the proposed time. This was to be expected, considering that the U.S. delegation walked out of the first Durban conference and pulled out of the second one in advance. But the proposal to hold Durban III in New York raises a deeper issue. Will the U.S. merely oppose holding Durban III on our soil, or will we prohibit it? We may have to do the latter if we want to prevent an episode of unseemly triumphalism in our most iconic metropolis. But doing so would not be without hazards. The choice of the UN headquarters in New York sets up the potential for a confrontation. It’s an ambiguous venue from the standpoint of sovereignty: on American soil, but in theory dedicated to multilateral UN purposes.

The traditional U.S. reluctance to exercise force majeure over the UN’s political activities has good arguments behind it. In the case of Durban III, however, American national sentiment is unlikely to tolerate the principle of host-nation quiescence regarding UN activism. The New York Daily News captured it crudely but accurately with its assessment of the Durban III planners: “Clearly, they intend to stick it in America’s eye.”

President Obama’s speech of national self-abnegation to the General Assembly in September 2009, delivered on America’s behalf, opened the door to attempts of this kind. I have no doubt that his representatives in the UN honestly oppose the current plan for Durban III, but it’s a natural consequence of the president’s rhetoric and policies. This is what the UN’s anti-liberal factions do: take miles when inches are given. In terms of posturing and rhetoric, there is no meeting them halfway.

If American diplomats can induce our fellows on the UN Human Rights Council to think better of their Durban III plan, that will be a satisfactory outcome. If the Durban III proponents force the issue, the U.S. will have some choices to make. I’m optimistic that the American people will oppose a Durban III in New York with vigor; if it ends up being held here, it will galvanize and focus domestic political opposition to the Durban process in a way neither previous conference has. Unfortunately, it will also increase public alienation from the Obama presidency. Americans are accustomed — and properly so — to presidents keeping our nation’s name out of the foreign political movements we find vile and distasteful.

The 10th-anniversary commemoration of the UN’s “Durban I” conference on racism will apparently face opposition from the United States. It was announced earlier this month that the conference, billed as Durban III, will be held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly session in September 2011. That would make New York City host to the third in a series of conferences that have twice served as forums for vociferous anti-Semitism and invective against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reports today, however, that the U.S. opposes holding Durban III at the proposed time. This was to be expected, considering that the U.S. delegation walked out of the first Durban conference and pulled out of the second one in advance. But the proposal to hold Durban III in New York raises a deeper issue. Will the U.S. merely oppose holding Durban III on our soil, or will we prohibit it? We may have to do the latter if we want to prevent an episode of unseemly triumphalism in our most iconic metropolis. But doing so would not be without hazards. The choice of the UN headquarters in New York sets up the potential for a confrontation. It’s an ambiguous venue from the standpoint of sovereignty: on American soil, but in theory dedicated to multilateral UN purposes.

The traditional U.S. reluctance to exercise force majeure over the UN’s political activities has good arguments behind it. In the case of Durban III, however, American national sentiment is unlikely to tolerate the principle of host-nation quiescence regarding UN activism. The New York Daily News captured it crudely but accurately with its assessment of the Durban III planners: “Clearly, they intend to stick it in America’s eye.”

President Obama’s speech of national self-abnegation to the General Assembly in September 2009, delivered on America’s behalf, opened the door to attempts of this kind. I have no doubt that his representatives in the UN honestly oppose the current plan for Durban III, but it’s a natural consequence of the president’s rhetoric and policies. This is what the UN’s anti-liberal factions do: take miles when inches are given. In terms of posturing and rhetoric, there is no meeting them halfway.

If American diplomats can induce our fellows on the UN Human Rights Council to think better of their Durban III plan, that will be a satisfactory outcome. If the Durban III proponents force the issue, the U.S. will have some choices to make. I’m optimistic that the American people will oppose a Durban III in New York with vigor; if it ends up being held here, it will galvanize and focus domestic political opposition to the Durban process in a way neither previous conference has. Unfortunately, it will also increase public alienation from the Obama presidency. Americans are accustomed — and properly so — to presidents keeping our nation’s name out of the foreign political movements we find vile and distasteful.

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Here’s How Congress Could Help

As I noted, the new Congress certainly can make its views known on foreign policy. Anne Bayefsky offers yet another instance of what the new Congress can help with. Durban III is being planned for New York City. As you will recall, the U.S. walked out of the last Durban anti-Israel bash-a-thon. She writes:

In the next three weeks, the Obama administration will have to vote on the General Assembly resolution containing the “modalities” for September’s Durban III in New York City. The administration should not only vote no, but must also respond clearly and unequivocally to the following question. Does President Obama plan to attend Durban III, and will his administration take immediate steps to prevent the U.N.’s use of New York City as a vehicle to encourage anti-Semitism under the pretense of combating racism?

Congress could certainly prevent funds from being used for this purpose and go on record opposing the conference. On this — as on Israel and Iran — I am certain there is a bipartisan consensus to be forged. Obama would do well to not only adjust his domestic policy but also to assess what domestic support there is for his current approach to the Middle East. An honest assessment would tell him that, outside the far left, there is very little backing for his brand of “smart” diplomacy. And even on the left, there is widespread discontent with his human-rights approach in Sudan, China, Burma, and elsewhere. In short, not-Obamaism may be the basis for a reasonable and broadly accepted foreign policy.

As I noted, the new Congress certainly can make its views known on foreign policy. Anne Bayefsky offers yet another instance of what the new Congress can help with. Durban III is being planned for New York City. As you will recall, the U.S. walked out of the last Durban anti-Israel bash-a-thon. She writes:

In the next three weeks, the Obama administration will have to vote on the General Assembly resolution containing the “modalities” for September’s Durban III in New York City. The administration should not only vote no, but must also respond clearly and unequivocally to the following question. Does President Obama plan to attend Durban III, and will his administration take immediate steps to prevent the U.N.’s use of New York City as a vehicle to encourage anti-Semitism under the pretense of combating racism?

Congress could certainly prevent funds from being used for this purpose and go on record opposing the conference. On this — as on Israel and Iran — I am certain there is a bipartisan consensus to be forged. Obama would do well to not only adjust his domestic policy but also to assess what domestic support there is for his current approach to the Middle East. An honest assessment would tell him that, outside the far left, there is very little backing for his brand of “smart” diplomacy. And even on the left, there is widespread discontent with his human-rights approach in Sudan, China, Burma, and elsewhere. In short, not-Obamaism may be the basis for a reasonable and broadly accepted foreign policy.

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Dual Debacles in the Middle East?

In case you thought the Middle East couldn’t become more contentious and unstable than it already is, there is this report:

The United Nations backs Palestinian efforts to be ready for statehood by August and believes they will achieve that goal, the organization’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert H. Serry said Monday.

“All international players are now in agreement that the Palestinians are ready for statehood at any point in the near future. We are in the homestretch of your agenda to reach that point by August next year, and you have our full support,” said Serry.

He added, “Palestinian statehood is not only a right, and in everyone’s interest: it is also doable.”

As I noted before, the legality of such a maneuver by the General Assembly is somewhat in doubt, but the impact on Israel and its foes would be serious. An Israel hand explains that the Palestinians may seek to be recognized “without a mention of exact borders in the resolution,” or they might opt for a straightforward anti-settlement resolution. The Israel guru notes, “So far, the Palestinians are keeping all their options open, using a variety of spokesmen who are not really authoritative.”

And we have gotten to this point because of diplomatic malpractice by the Obama administration. By distancing himself from Israel, condemning its building in its capital, elevating the settlement issue, and putting his own prestige on the line, Obama has made continued negotiations nearly impossible and UN gamesmanship quite likely. Where is the administration vowing not to allow the UN to dismantle Israel? Where is the pressure on the PA, financial and otherwise, to knock off this sort of talk? It’s not coming from the White House. It will be up to pro-Israel groups and the new Congress to insist that the Obama team head off the Jewish state’s dismemberment.

And while they are dealing with that potential calamity, the Obami might want to attend to Iran. The dual debacles — allowing a UN resolution to carve up Israel and allowing Iran to go nuclear — would define this presidency as one of the most feeble in history. Certainly the world it would leave to its successors would be infinitely more dangerous than the one it inherited.

In case you thought the Middle East couldn’t become more contentious and unstable than it already is, there is this report:

The United Nations backs Palestinian efforts to be ready for statehood by August and believes they will achieve that goal, the organization’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert H. Serry said Monday.

“All international players are now in agreement that the Palestinians are ready for statehood at any point in the near future. We are in the homestretch of your agenda to reach that point by August next year, and you have our full support,” said Serry.

He added, “Palestinian statehood is not only a right, and in everyone’s interest: it is also doable.”

As I noted before, the legality of such a maneuver by the General Assembly is somewhat in doubt, but the impact on Israel and its foes would be serious. An Israel hand explains that the Palestinians may seek to be recognized “without a mention of exact borders in the resolution,” or they might opt for a straightforward anti-settlement resolution. The Israel guru notes, “So far, the Palestinians are keeping all their options open, using a variety of spokesmen who are not really authoritative.”

And we have gotten to this point because of diplomatic malpractice by the Obama administration. By distancing himself from Israel, condemning its building in its capital, elevating the settlement issue, and putting his own prestige on the line, Obama has made continued negotiations nearly impossible and UN gamesmanship quite likely. Where is the administration vowing not to allow the UN to dismantle Israel? Where is the pressure on the PA, financial and otherwise, to knock off this sort of talk? It’s not coming from the White House. It will be up to pro-Israel groups and the new Congress to insist that the Obama team head off the Jewish state’s dismemberment.

And while they are dealing with that potential calamity, the Obami might want to attend to Iran. The dual debacles — allowing a UN resolution to carve up Israel and allowing Iran to go nuclear — would define this presidency as one of the most feeble in history. Certainly the world it would leave to its successors would be infinitely more dangerous than the one it inherited.

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The End of Obama’s Non-Peace-Talk Charade

No surprise here:

In perhaps the shortest round of peace negotiations in the history of their conflict, talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have ground to a halt and show little sign of resuming.

But this explanation has to make one smile:

Pressure to restart the talks eased after the Arab League said it would wait a month — until Nov. 8 — before ending Abbas’s mandate for negotiations, thus pushing the issue beyond the U.S. midterm elections. But if Republicans score big gains, some Israelis argue, that could limit Obama’s ability to pressure Israel to make concessions.

Because, for all the whining about making Israel a partisan issue, there is no doubt that support for Israel and opposition to Obama’s pitched assault on it are strongest on the Republican side of the aisle.

The extent of the administration’s naivete and incompetence is something to behold (my comments in brackets):

The Obama administration, worried that the impending end of the settlement freeze would leave a potentially dangerous vacuum, rushed forward with talks without a plan for dealing with the end of the moratorium, analysts say. The hope was that sheer momentum would carry the talks forward. [What momentum?]

That decision has come with costs, including some to Obama’s credibility. [Some? It does rather shatter it, no?] The president invested his personal prestige in launching the talks, and even appealed to Israel to extend the freeze during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. [Because he imagined that the sheer swellness of himself, coupled with threats, could achieve what the Israelis plainly said was unacceptable?]

The Palestinians, taking their cue from previous administration statements, have made a settlement freeze a key requirement for continued talks, so any reversal in that stance would make them appear weak. Netanyahu, concerned about the impact an extension of the freeze would have on his right-leaning coalition, has put new demands on the table, such as upfront Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. [In other words, he screwed up the whole thing.]

Having demonstrated that the U.S. is such a feckless friend of Israel and an unreliable interlocutor for the PA, Obama now faces the prospect that his beloved multilateral institution will try to dismember the Jewish state:

“We are going to go to Washington to recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go to the U.N. Security Council and will ask Washington not to veto,” [PA negotiator Muhammad] Shatayeh said. If Washington vetoes, he said, then the Palestinians will appeal to the U.N. General Assembly.

Does the UN General Assembly have such power? Two foreign policy experts tell me that the involvement of the UN General Assembly is not unprecedented in such matters. The General Assembly was responsible for the 1947 partition. More recently, as they gurus explained, “after Kosovo declared its independence, Serbia asked the U.N. General Assembly to intervene and U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion, which it did.”

General Assembly resolutions are not, strictly speaking, binding. But legality is not the issue; this is a thugocracy, after all, which has been empowered and elevated by none other than Barack Obama. It is hard to believe that a single administration in just two years could have made such hash out of Middle East policy.

No surprise here:

In perhaps the shortest round of peace negotiations in the history of their conflict, talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have ground to a halt and show little sign of resuming.

But this explanation has to make one smile:

Pressure to restart the talks eased after the Arab League said it would wait a month — until Nov. 8 — before ending Abbas’s mandate for negotiations, thus pushing the issue beyond the U.S. midterm elections. But if Republicans score big gains, some Israelis argue, that could limit Obama’s ability to pressure Israel to make concessions.

Because, for all the whining about making Israel a partisan issue, there is no doubt that support for Israel and opposition to Obama’s pitched assault on it are strongest on the Republican side of the aisle.

The extent of the administration’s naivete and incompetence is something to behold (my comments in brackets):

The Obama administration, worried that the impending end of the settlement freeze would leave a potentially dangerous vacuum, rushed forward with talks without a plan for dealing with the end of the moratorium, analysts say. The hope was that sheer momentum would carry the talks forward. [What momentum?]

That decision has come with costs, including some to Obama’s credibility. [Some? It does rather shatter it, no?] The president invested his personal prestige in launching the talks, and even appealed to Israel to extend the freeze during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. [Because he imagined that the sheer swellness of himself, coupled with threats, could achieve what the Israelis plainly said was unacceptable?]

The Palestinians, taking their cue from previous administration statements, have made a settlement freeze a key requirement for continued talks, so any reversal in that stance would make them appear weak. Netanyahu, concerned about the impact an extension of the freeze would have on his right-leaning coalition, has put new demands on the table, such as upfront Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. [In other words, he screwed up the whole thing.]

Having demonstrated that the U.S. is such a feckless friend of Israel and an unreliable interlocutor for the PA, Obama now faces the prospect that his beloved multilateral institution will try to dismember the Jewish state:

“We are going to go to Washington to recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go to the U.N. Security Council and will ask Washington not to veto,” [PA negotiator Muhammad] Shatayeh said. If Washington vetoes, he said, then the Palestinians will appeal to the U.N. General Assembly.

Does the UN General Assembly have such power? Two foreign policy experts tell me that the involvement of the UN General Assembly is not unprecedented in such matters. The General Assembly was responsible for the 1947 partition. More recently, as they gurus explained, “after Kosovo declared its independence, Serbia asked the U.N. General Assembly to intervene and U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion, which it did.”

General Assembly resolutions are not, strictly speaking, binding. But legality is not the issue; this is a thugocracy, after all, which has been empowered and elevated by none other than Barack Obama. It is hard to believe that a single administration in just two years could have made such hash out of Middle East policy.

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Scammed Again (Even Without the Dolphin Show)

Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh from flacking for Fidel Castro, moves on to Castro’s sidekick Hugo Chavez:

One day after I posted Fidel Castro’s condemnation of anti-Semitism on this blog, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, announced that he too, felt great “love and respect” for Jews, and he invited the leaders of his country’s put-upon Jewish community to meet with him. The meeting took place a short while later. Chavez’s statement, and the meeting that followed, were widely interpreted in Latin America as a signal from Chavez his mentor, Fidel, that he understood that Venezuela was developing a reputation as a hostile place for Jews.

And he relates an e-mail saying how thrilled Argentine Jews were to have the meeting.

There was such a meeting. The group presented Chavez with a dossier on anti-Jewish incidents, which Chavez “promised to read,” but it’s absurd to consider this anything more than a PR stunt. Does Goldberg really imagine his dolphin encounter has spurred Chavez to retreat from his state-sponsored anti-Semitism and voracious anti-Israel foreign policy? Read More

Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh from flacking for Fidel Castro, moves on to Castro’s sidekick Hugo Chavez:

One day after I posted Fidel Castro’s condemnation of anti-Semitism on this blog, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, announced that he too, felt great “love and respect” for Jews, and he invited the leaders of his country’s put-upon Jewish community to meet with him. The meeting took place a short while later. Chavez’s statement, and the meeting that followed, were widely interpreted in Latin America as a signal from Chavez his mentor, Fidel, that he understood that Venezuela was developing a reputation as a hostile place for Jews.

And he relates an e-mail saying how thrilled Argentine Jews were to have the meeting.

There was such a meeting. The group presented Chavez with a dossier on anti-Jewish incidents, which Chavez “promised to read,” but it’s absurd to consider this anything more than a PR stunt. Does Goldberg really imagine his dolphin encounter has spurred Chavez to retreat from his state-sponsored anti-Semitism and voracious anti-Israel foreign policy?

This June report explains:

In the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla affair, President Chavez cursed Israel as a “terrorist state” and an enemy of the Venezuelan revolution and claimed Israel’s Mossad spy agency was trying to assassinate him.

“Extreme criticism and the de-legitimization of Israel continue to be used by the government of Venezuela as a political tool,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “The atmosphere of extreme anti-Israel criticism and an unsettling focus on the Venezuelan Jewish community’s attitudes creates an environment for anti-Semitism to grow and flourish.  So far this hasn’t translated into attacks against individual Jews or Jewish institutions.  However, we cannot forget that the Jewish community in Venezuela has already witnessed violent anti-Semitic incidents in the past few years.”

In a new online report, the League documents recent anti-Semitic expressions in Venezuela in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident, including those of government and political leaders, conspiracy theories and accusations in the government-run media, and statements on various anti-Israel websites.

In a June 12 interview with the government-owned national television network, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro . . suggested that should a terrorist attack be carried out on Venezuelan soil, a likely culprit would be the “intelligence assassin apparatus of the State of Israel,” the Mossad.

Vilification of Zionism is particularly present in the government-run media and the so-called “alternative” media run by government sympathizers who are intricately intertwined with the government apparatus, according to the ADL.  Media and political leaders seem to take their cues from Chavez, who has in the past few years made his feelings about Israel all-too clear.

Moreover, Chavez’s overeager Atlantic scribe overlooks an inconvenient truth: Chavez has made common cause with Ahmadinejad. As the Washington Post explained last year:

Mr. Chávez was in Tehran again this week and offered his full support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line faction. As usual, the caudillo made clear that he shares Iran’s view of Israel, which he called “a genocidal state.” He endorsed Iran’s nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran’s assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own. He also announced that his government would begin supplying Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day — a deal that could directly undercut a possible U.S. effort to curtail Iran’s gasoline imports.

Such collaboration is far from new for Venezuela and Iran. In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau . . . says he believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions. He also points out that Iranian factories have been located “in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela” that lack infrastructure but that could be “ideal . . . for the illicit production of weapons.”

Moreover, Benny Avni writes in the New York Sun that Chavez’s mentor — notwithstanding the lovely visit with Goldberg — is behaving as he always does:

On the eve of hearings that had been set to open in the United States Congress on whether to ease the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba, Havana’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, has been taking a hard, even strident line here at the United Nations, very much at odds with the way Fidel Castro is trying to portray Cuba in the American press these days.

It has prompted old hands here at the United Nations to quote another, albeit different kind of, Marxist —  Groucho, who famously asked: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? . . .

Mr. Parrilla, however, was, in his address at the annual General Assembly debate, as rigid as ever, blaming America’s aggression for all the isle’s troubles, saying Israel is behind all that’s wrong in the Middle East, and expressing solidarity with Venezuela’s caudillo, Hugo Chavez.

Avni chastises Goldberg for stunning naivete and relaying Cuba’s business-as-usual rhetoric:

And no, for Cuba the holocaust-denying Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not the aggressor. “As Comrade Fidel has pointed out, powerful and influential forces in the United States and Israel are paving the way to launch a military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr. Parrilla warned, adding that the General Assembly must stop such a plot to commit a “crime against the Iranian people” and such “an assault against international law” in order to prevent a nuclear war.

Mr. Parrilla’s entire speech was an old-style Cuban assault on America and Israel, harking back to the glorious days of the Cold War when the Castros drew as much attention at international fora like the U.N. as is now reserved for Mr. Ahmadinejad or Mr. Chavez.

It’s bad enough that Goldberg was taken in by Soros Street (many liberals were), but he really should stay away from Latin American dictators.

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Watching History Be Rewritten

From an AP report by Edith M. Lederer:

Just ahead of Obama’s speech, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin sharply criticized the United States, saying that the 2003 invasion of Iraq demonstrated that the “blind faith in intelligence reports tailored to justify political goals must be rejected.”

“We must ban once and for all the use of force inconsistent with international law,” Amorin told the General Assembly, adding that all international disputes should be peacefully resolved through dialogue.

The Bush administration did not seek authorization from the U.N. Security Council for the invasion, which would have legitimized the action under international law.

A quick reality check: The administration sought UN authorization via months of speeches, presentations, and UN Security Council resolutions. Jacques Chirac and others were prepared to veto any authorization for as long as the debate raged.  Now, according to the AP, Bush didn’t even seek UN authorization. In another year we’ll read that he flew Air Force One over Baghdad to drop the first bomb himself.

From an AP report by Edith M. Lederer:

Just ahead of Obama’s speech, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin sharply criticized the United States, saying that the 2003 invasion of Iraq demonstrated that the “blind faith in intelligence reports tailored to justify political goals must be rejected.”

“We must ban once and for all the use of force inconsistent with international law,” Amorin told the General Assembly, adding that all international disputes should be peacefully resolved through dialogue.

The Bush administration did not seek authorization from the U.N. Security Council for the invasion, which would have legitimized the action under international law.

A quick reality check: The administration sought UN authorization via months of speeches, presentations, and UN Security Council resolutions. Jacques Chirac and others were prepared to veto any authorization for as long as the debate raged.  Now, according to the AP, Bush didn’t even seek UN authorization. In another year we’ll read that he flew Air Force One over Baghdad to drop the first bomb himself.

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Going Far Beyond Goldstone

Is there anything left to be said about the notorious Goldstone Report, which has now been decisively discredited by Alan Dershowitz, Moshe Halbertal, Joshua Muravchik, and Richard Landes, among others, extensively contradicted by three lengthy reports prepared by Israel itself — before, during, and after the issuance of the report — and dramatically refuted by Dore Gold in direct debate with Goldstone himself?

The answer is yes — in the form of Peter Berkowitz’s superb article in the August issue of the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review, entitled “The Goldstone Report and International Law,” a study of the politicizing of international law. It concisely summarizes the “stunning defects” in the Goldstone Report and then discusses a “deeper issue” — a larger and more fundamental problem that “cannot be resolved [simply] by showing that the Goldstone’s findings of fact about the Gaza operation are severely biased, or by demonstrating that the report misapplied or misunderstood the test for determining whether Israel exercised force in a proportional manner.”

All three of Israel’s reports, totaling 554 pages, received almost no attention in the press, from international human rights organizations, from the Human Rights Council, or from the General Assembly, nor from Goldstone or his supporters, who have not only largely ignored them but also failed to respond to the other critical studies listed above. In Berkowitz’s analysis, the reason goes far beyond the defects of a single report; it reflects a cynical attempt by a transnational elite and international bodies dominated by authoritarian states to revise traditional standards of international law to punish their enemies — who are not limited to Israel — with potential consequences for the common struggle against transnational Islamic terrorism.

It is a convincing study, one that not only demonstrates the travesty of the HRC but that of Barack Obama’s decision to join it (and remain a member long after it has become obvious that U.S. participation has legitimized rather than moderated it). Worth reading in its entirety.

Is there anything left to be said about the notorious Goldstone Report, which has now been decisively discredited by Alan Dershowitz, Moshe Halbertal, Joshua Muravchik, and Richard Landes, among others, extensively contradicted by three lengthy reports prepared by Israel itself — before, during, and after the issuance of the report — and dramatically refuted by Dore Gold in direct debate with Goldstone himself?

The answer is yes — in the form of Peter Berkowitz’s superb article in the August issue of the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review, entitled “The Goldstone Report and International Law,” a study of the politicizing of international law. It concisely summarizes the “stunning defects” in the Goldstone Report and then discusses a “deeper issue” — a larger and more fundamental problem that “cannot be resolved [simply] by showing that the Goldstone’s findings of fact about the Gaza operation are severely biased, or by demonstrating that the report misapplied or misunderstood the test for determining whether Israel exercised force in a proportional manner.”

All three of Israel’s reports, totaling 554 pages, received almost no attention in the press, from international human rights organizations, from the Human Rights Council, or from the General Assembly, nor from Goldstone or his supporters, who have not only largely ignored them but also failed to respond to the other critical studies listed above. In Berkowitz’s analysis, the reason goes far beyond the defects of a single report; it reflects a cynical attempt by a transnational elite and international bodies dominated by authoritarian states to revise traditional standards of international law to punish their enemies — who are not limited to Israel — with potential consequences for the common struggle against transnational Islamic terrorism.

It is a convincing study, one that not only demonstrates the travesty of the HRC but that of Barack Obama’s decision to join it (and remain a member long after it has become obvious that U.S. participation has legitimized rather than moderated it). Worth reading in its entirety.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

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UN Still Pondering Flotilla Inquiry

The UN secretary-general and the UN Human Rights Council are tussling over whether the General Assembly or the council will conduct the kangaroo court to examine Israel’s conduct in the flotilla probe. This debate should have been short-circuited long ago by the U.S., with a unequivocal statement that it would block any such effort. (The Human Rights Council, of course, has been emboldened ever since Obama decided to rejoin that band of thugocracies.) While the U.S. cannot veto a General Assembly action, the U.S. could refuse to fund it, make its adamant opposition clear, and then leave the HRC.

The Obama administration, in its never-ending quest to ingratiate itself with international bodies in which Israel’s enemies exercise influence disproportionate to their standing in the world and whose own human rights records are atrocious, may be forced to end its straddling. Will it defend Israel or cave in to the wolves seeking a reprise of the Goldstone Report?

After opening the door to an international inquiry, the Obami may now be hard pressed to slam it shut. The president can assure us all he wants that the bond between Israel and the U.S. is “unbreakable,” but all that really matters is what his administration does when the chips are down. At this point, it is not clear that Obama has the will or the skill to put the international witch hunt to rest.

The UN secretary-general and the UN Human Rights Council are tussling over whether the General Assembly or the council will conduct the kangaroo court to examine Israel’s conduct in the flotilla probe. This debate should have been short-circuited long ago by the U.S., with a unequivocal statement that it would block any such effort. (The Human Rights Council, of course, has been emboldened ever since Obama decided to rejoin that band of thugocracies.) While the U.S. cannot veto a General Assembly action, the U.S. could refuse to fund it, make its adamant opposition clear, and then leave the HRC.

The Obama administration, in its never-ending quest to ingratiate itself with international bodies in which Israel’s enemies exercise influence disproportionate to their standing in the world and whose own human rights records are atrocious, may be forced to end its straddling. Will it defend Israel or cave in to the wolves seeking a reprise of the Goldstone Report?

After opening the door to an international inquiry, the Obami may now be hard pressed to slam it shut. The president can assure us all he wants that the bond between Israel and the U.S. is “unbreakable,” but all that really matters is what his administration does when the chips are down. At this point, it is not clear that Obama has the will or the skill to put the international witch hunt to rest.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

You can’t parody Joe Biden if he’s going to talk this way: “My grandfather used to always say, ‘Joey, you have to have somebody to beat somebody.’”

You can’t get more blunt than this ad on Iran.

You can’t find any evidence of a “civil war” between conservatives in Gallup’s polling on Tea Party activists: “Americans who say they support the Tea Party movement share a common concern about government and its scope, particularly with regard to deficit spending. Their views do set them apart from those who are neutral or opposed to the Tea Party movement, but hardly distinguish them from supporters of the Republican Party more broadly.”

You can’t be seen with Obama if you’re a Democrat who wants to win in 2010: “PPP has polled on the impact of a Barack Obama endorsement in 5 key Senate races over the last month, and it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.”

You can’t miss the telltale sign that Obama is doing something unpopular: he says it’s all Eric Holder’s idea. “The White House has said the decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law was out of its hands, left completely up to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the lawyers at the Justice Department.”

You can’t expect the president to go, so David Axelrod will appear at a fundraiser for Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile: “Giannoulias’ camp released his income tax returns last Friday, which showed that the ex-banker paid neither federal nor state taxes in ’09. In fact, Giannoulias received a $30K tax return, which he promised to give to charity.”

You can’t be reading things if you want to be a cable talking head! On the lawsuit claiming that the Arizona law is pre-empted by federal immigration law, Dana Perino sanely suggests: “Perhaps we should do something novel like read the complaint before commenting … surely the administration would appreciate that courtesy?”

You can’t imagine it was a long speech: “Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed the United Nations for the first time since 1957 on Tuesday, paying homage to the organization’s accomplishments since she last stood at the famous green podium of the General Assembly.”

You can’t parody Joe Biden if he’s going to talk this way: “My grandfather used to always say, ‘Joey, you have to have somebody to beat somebody.’”

You can’t get more blunt than this ad on Iran.

You can’t find any evidence of a “civil war” between conservatives in Gallup’s polling on Tea Party activists: “Americans who say they support the Tea Party movement share a common concern about government and its scope, particularly with regard to deficit spending. Their views do set them apart from those who are neutral or opposed to the Tea Party movement, but hardly distinguish them from supporters of the Republican Party more broadly.”

You can’t be seen with Obama if you’re a Democrat who wants to win in 2010: “PPP has polled on the impact of a Barack Obama endorsement in 5 key Senate races over the last month, and it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.”

You can’t miss the telltale sign that Obama is doing something unpopular: he says it’s all Eric Holder’s idea. “The White House has said the decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law was out of its hands, left completely up to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the lawyers at the Justice Department.”

You can’t expect the president to go, so David Axelrod will appear at a fundraiser for Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile: “Giannoulias’ camp released his income tax returns last Friday, which showed that the ex-banker paid neither federal nor state taxes in ’09. In fact, Giannoulias received a $30K tax return, which he promised to give to charity.”

You can’t be reading things if you want to be a cable talking head! On the lawsuit claiming that the Arizona law is pre-empted by federal immigration law, Dana Perino sanely suggests: “Perhaps we should do something novel like read the complaint before commenting … surely the administration would appreciate that courtesy?”

You can’t imagine it was a long speech: “Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed the United Nations for the first time since 1957 on Tuesday, paying homage to the organization’s accomplishments since she last stood at the famous green podium of the General Assembly.”

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The UN Farce Continues

Anne Bayefsky — who had a “j’accuse moment” and was roughed up by the UN thugs when she criticized the Goldstone Report before having her credentials snatched – reports on the latest outrage:

On Thursday, the General Assembly elected 14 members to its top human-rights body, the U.N. Human Rights Council. U.N. human-rights policymakers now include Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Qatar, and Uganda. On a secret ballot, a whopping 155 countries, or 80 percent of U.N. members, thought Libya would be a great addition.

Obama’s diplomats, sitting in the General Assembly Hall throughout the election, made no attempt to prevent the farce or even to object. On the contrary, Ambassador Susan Rice left the hall before the results were announced in order to hightail it to the microphone. Attempting to spin what was a foregone conclusion, she refused to divulge those states which the U.S. supported. When pressed, she said only that the Obama administration regretted some states on the ballot, but “I am not going to name names. I don’t think that it’s particularly constructive at this point.”

Which is worse — allowing another Muslim thugocracy into the clown show that is the Human Rights Council or the cowardice of Rice and the Obama team, which won’t come clean on precisely which thugocracies it is sucking up to? Rice’s remarks are beyond parody:

She described the countries on the Council — which include human-rights experts Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba in addition to the incoming freshman class — as just “countries whose orientation and perspectives we don’t agree with.” And later on she described the election as one which “yielded an outcome that we think is a good reflection on the potential of the Human Rights Council.”

Rice was also asked to defend last month’s deal, made with the help of the Obama administration, which saw Iran withdraw its candidacy for the Council in exchange for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). With no apparent sign of embarrassment, she responded that Iran had been on the CSW before, so it “was not something new.”

Bayefsky gets one thing wrong, however, when she writes: “The fact that the Council’s main priority is to demonize Israel and keep the spotlight off abominations around the world has had no impact on Obama’s calculations.” One can’t help but conclude it is because the council’s main function is to Israel-bash that a seat means so much to the despotic regimes and, in turn, becomes a trinket that the Obama team can dispense to get on the good side of Israel’s foes.

When Hillary Clinton delivered her disingenuous speech at AIPAC earlier in the year, she had the nerve to assert that the “United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” And she threw in this doozy: “This Administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself.” Why then does the administration fund the UN Human Rights Council and sit idly by as one human rights abuser after another is added to the body? Rather than leading the fight on Israel’s behalf, the Obama team is facilitating it and providing cover for those who persistently challenge Israel’s legitimacy.

And the officialdom of American Jewry? Still sending bouquets to Obama for nominating a Jew to the Supreme Court.

Anne Bayefsky — who had a “j’accuse moment” and was roughed up by the UN thugs when she criticized the Goldstone Report before having her credentials snatched – reports on the latest outrage:

On Thursday, the General Assembly elected 14 members to its top human-rights body, the U.N. Human Rights Council. U.N. human-rights policymakers now include Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Qatar, and Uganda. On a secret ballot, a whopping 155 countries, or 80 percent of U.N. members, thought Libya would be a great addition.

Obama’s diplomats, sitting in the General Assembly Hall throughout the election, made no attempt to prevent the farce or even to object. On the contrary, Ambassador Susan Rice left the hall before the results were announced in order to hightail it to the microphone. Attempting to spin what was a foregone conclusion, she refused to divulge those states which the U.S. supported. When pressed, she said only that the Obama administration regretted some states on the ballot, but “I am not going to name names. I don’t think that it’s particularly constructive at this point.”

Which is worse — allowing another Muslim thugocracy into the clown show that is the Human Rights Council or the cowardice of Rice and the Obama team, which won’t come clean on precisely which thugocracies it is sucking up to? Rice’s remarks are beyond parody:

She described the countries on the Council — which include human-rights experts Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba in addition to the incoming freshman class — as just “countries whose orientation and perspectives we don’t agree with.” And later on she described the election as one which “yielded an outcome that we think is a good reflection on the potential of the Human Rights Council.”

Rice was also asked to defend last month’s deal, made with the help of the Obama administration, which saw Iran withdraw its candidacy for the Council in exchange for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). With no apparent sign of embarrassment, she responded that Iran had been on the CSW before, so it “was not something new.”

Bayefsky gets one thing wrong, however, when she writes: “The fact that the Council’s main priority is to demonize Israel and keep the spotlight off abominations around the world has had no impact on Obama’s calculations.” One can’t help but conclude it is because the council’s main function is to Israel-bash that a seat means so much to the despotic regimes and, in turn, becomes a trinket that the Obama team can dispense to get on the good side of Israel’s foes.

When Hillary Clinton delivered her disingenuous speech at AIPAC earlier in the year, she had the nerve to assert that the “United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” And she threw in this doozy: “This Administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself.” Why then does the administration fund the UN Human Rights Council and sit idly by as one human rights abuser after another is added to the body? Rather than leading the fight on Israel’s behalf, the Obama team is facilitating it and providing cover for those who persistently challenge Israel’s legitimacy.

And the officialdom of American Jewry? Still sending bouquets to Obama for nominating a Jew to the Supreme Court.

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The Speech He Chose Not to Give

November 9 — the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — was a slow day at the White House. (How slow? Look at the Picture of the Day posted on the White House website for that day.) The main events were a brief afternoon reception and an evening meeting with a foreign leader, neither of which had been on the calendar 48 hours before.

President Obama might have used the relatively slow day to give the speech he had planned to give on November 10 to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (considered one of the most important meetings of the year for the organized Jewish community, with several thousand in attendance, meeting less than three miles from the White House), since he’d had to cancel his November 10 appearance to travel to Fort Hood.

But proceeding with that speech would undoubtedly have invited comparison to his 2008 “Let Me Be Clear” speech to AIPAC — the one in which he had said he would use “all elements of American power” to pressure Iran:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. …

We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing. …

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. …

I will make known to allies and adversaries alike [a pledge] that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.

Does anyone think that Obama’s diplomacy with Iran has been “aggressive,” “tough,” and “principled”? Or that he was the one who chose the time and place it started? Or that an agenda was built before it commenced? Or that the threat of military action remains on the table? Or that America’s friendship with Israel under his administration is unwavering?

Or that the reason he chose not to give his speech to the General Assembly a day early was that he could not fit it into his schedule?

November 9 — the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — was a slow day at the White House. (How slow? Look at the Picture of the Day posted on the White House website for that day.) The main events were a brief afternoon reception and an evening meeting with a foreign leader, neither of which had been on the calendar 48 hours before.

President Obama might have used the relatively slow day to give the speech he had planned to give on November 10 to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (considered one of the most important meetings of the year for the organized Jewish community, with several thousand in attendance, meeting less than three miles from the White House), since he’d had to cancel his November 10 appearance to travel to Fort Hood.

But proceeding with that speech would undoubtedly have invited comparison to his 2008 “Let Me Be Clear” speech to AIPAC — the one in which he had said he would use “all elements of American power” to pressure Iran:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. …

We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing. …

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. …

I will make known to allies and adversaries alike [a pledge] that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.

Does anyone think that Obama’s diplomacy with Iran has been “aggressive,” “tough,” and “principled”? Or that he was the one who chose the time and place it started? Or that an agenda was built before it commenced? Or that the threat of military action remains on the table? Or that America’s friendship with Israel under his administration is unwavering?

Or that the reason he chose not to give his speech to the General Assembly a day early was that he could not fit it into his schedule?

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Judge Goldstone: I Participated in a Farce

Richard Goldstone seems to use interviews to chip away at the legitimacy of his own work. He told the Forward that nothing he uncovered in Gaza is credible enough to be admissible in court. And now he has admitted this to Haaretz:

Many Israelis are right to feel that the United Nations and its member bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have devoted inordinate and disproportionate attention to scrutinizing and criticizing Israel. This has come at the price of ignoring violations of human rights in other countries, some of them members of those very same bodies. The time has come for the investigation of all violations of international human rights law and international law whenever they are committed, in any state.

A few thoughts: First, this is almost exactly what Bob Bernstein argued in his New York Times op-ed about Human Rights Watch — for which he was accused by HRW, on whose board Goldstone sat, of claiming that no scrutiny whatsoever should be applied to Israel. Will HRW now distort Goldstone and level the same charge? Not a chance.

Second, this statement would seem to validate Shimon Peres’s critique that Goldstone is a “small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence” who was “on a one-sided mission to hurt Israel.” Goldstone has admitted that the lawfare campaign against Israel, of which he has become the de facto leader, is a perversion of justice: disproportionately and selectively applied. It is the equivalent of a police force that pursues the arrest of Jews, and scarcely anyone else, for violations. Such a police force is inherently illegitimate. Yet Goldstone chose to become the chief of that police force, and now denounces the fact of its — his — own iniquity. What psychodrama. What a small man.

Third, there is one person perfectly situated to rise to the challenge of even-handedness and proportionality that the good judge has placed before the world: his name is Richard Goldstone. He has earned his bona fides as a harsh and tendentious critic of Israel. Because of this, he has immense credibility at the UN and among “human-rights” activists worldwide. When will his campaign of inquisition against other democracies begin? Someone should ask him.

Richard Goldstone seems to use interviews to chip away at the legitimacy of his own work. He told the Forward that nothing he uncovered in Gaza is credible enough to be admissible in court. And now he has admitted this to Haaretz:

Many Israelis are right to feel that the United Nations and its member bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have devoted inordinate and disproportionate attention to scrutinizing and criticizing Israel. This has come at the price of ignoring violations of human rights in other countries, some of them members of those very same bodies. The time has come for the investigation of all violations of international human rights law and international law whenever they are committed, in any state.

A few thoughts: First, this is almost exactly what Bob Bernstein argued in his New York Times op-ed about Human Rights Watch — for which he was accused by HRW, on whose board Goldstone sat, of claiming that no scrutiny whatsoever should be applied to Israel. Will HRW now distort Goldstone and level the same charge? Not a chance.

Second, this statement would seem to validate Shimon Peres’s critique that Goldstone is a “small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence” who was “on a one-sided mission to hurt Israel.” Goldstone has admitted that the lawfare campaign against Israel, of which he has become the de facto leader, is a perversion of justice: disproportionately and selectively applied. It is the equivalent of a police force that pursues the arrest of Jews, and scarcely anyone else, for violations. Such a police force is inherently illegitimate. Yet Goldstone chose to become the chief of that police force, and now denounces the fact of its — his — own iniquity. What psychodrama. What a small man.

Third, there is one person perfectly situated to rise to the challenge of even-handedness and proportionality that the good judge has placed before the world: his name is Richard Goldstone. He has earned his bona fides as a harsh and tendentious critic of Israel. Because of this, he has immense credibility at the UN and among “human-rights” activists worldwide. When will his campaign of inquisition against other democracies begin? Someone should ask him.

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The U.N.’s Action

In 2005, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said that the United Nations suffered from a “culture of inaction.” This was after he had made public his findings about the organization’s oil-for-food scandal. Mr. Volcker’s analysis of the body’s lackadaiscal approach to policing the behavior of its own employees and programs was apt. But it does not accurately describe what the UN is now doing to an internal panel tasked with investigating corruption in its procurement office.

For UN bureaucrats have been busy, busy bees in seeing that the unit tasked with investigating corruption in the awarding of contracts be eliminated. Thus far, these private investigators have uncovered over $600 million in “tainted United Nations contracts and [are] currently investigating an additional $1 billion in suspect agreements.” Much of this corruption has occurred within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Kofi Annan’s old stomping grounds, which operates mostly in war-torn and developing countries. Many of those nations and the UN employees who staff the DPKO have been sucking at the international teat far too long and successfully to give the game up now. Today, the General Assembly will vote on a measure to shut the investigation down.

The United Nations has long been incapable of enforcing its own resolutions. This has never been a secret. What we discover now is that it is utterly incapable–even unwilling–to enforce its own workplace procedures, adopted in the aftermath of a massive financial scandal. The United Nations can’t police its own employees, let alone the world. Its defenders become irate when the United States insists on the organization fulfilling these rather basic expectations in return for the billions of dollars it receives every year. But what can they possibly say in response to this?

In 2005, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said that the United Nations suffered from a “culture of inaction.” This was after he had made public his findings about the organization’s oil-for-food scandal. Mr. Volcker’s analysis of the body’s lackadaiscal approach to policing the behavior of its own employees and programs was apt. But it does not accurately describe what the UN is now doing to an internal panel tasked with investigating corruption in its procurement office.

For UN bureaucrats have been busy, busy bees in seeing that the unit tasked with investigating corruption in the awarding of contracts be eliminated. Thus far, these private investigators have uncovered over $600 million in “tainted United Nations contracts and [are] currently investigating an additional $1 billion in suspect agreements.” Much of this corruption has occurred within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Kofi Annan’s old stomping grounds, which operates mostly in war-torn and developing countries. Many of those nations and the UN employees who staff the DPKO have been sucking at the international teat far too long and successfully to give the game up now. Today, the General Assembly will vote on a measure to shut the investigation down.

The United Nations has long been incapable of enforcing its own resolutions. This has never been a secret. What we discover now is that it is utterly incapable–even unwilling–to enforce its own workplace procedures, adopted in the aftermath of a massive financial scandal. The United Nations can’t police its own employees, let alone the world. Its defenders become irate when the United States insists on the organization fulfilling these rather basic expectations in return for the billions of dollars it receives every year. But what can they possibly say in response to this?

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China’s Global Truce

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all member states to observe a truce during next year’s Beijing Olympics and the subsequent Paralympic Games. Ancient Greek states halted warfare for the Olympics, and the General Assembly has adopted Olympic truce resolutions since 1993. This year, China sponsored the UN resolution and crowed about it in state media afterward.

This is one Chinese Communist initiative that I endorse heartily. In fact, I like it so much I think the concept should be extended. For example, during these sporting events Beijing could withdraw its support for the Sudanese government and the murderous Janjaweed militia; refuse to sell small arms to Iran so that it can send them to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; stop its diplomatic backing of Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs and pull back its nuclear technicians in Iran; suspend its assistance to North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma; discontinue its campaign of cyber-attacks on other governments; and, if all of this is not too much to ask, take a break from conspiring with Moscow to commit mischief around the world.

Even more important, I suggest that, during the Olympic events next year, the Chinese Communist Party suspend its struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese people. While the truce is in effect the Party would, among other things, lift all censorship of the media, allow people to assemble and protest, free all jailed dissidents, stop all forced sterilizations and abortions, end the practice of destroying places of worship and beating parishioners, and prohibit local officials from engaging in their normally rapacious behavior.

Under my temporary truce proposal, the Party could resume its malignant practices, both at home and abroad, once the Games are over. Of course, the risk is that the world enjoys the breather so much that the General Assembly decides to ban Beijing’s despotism forever. That is a lot to ask from the UN, but we don’t have to worry. I’m sure the Chinese people would not let the Communists go back to their old way of doing things.

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all member states to observe a truce during next year’s Beijing Olympics and the subsequent Paralympic Games. Ancient Greek states halted warfare for the Olympics, and the General Assembly has adopted Olympic truce resolutions since 1993. This year, China sponsored the UN resolution and crowed about it in state media afterward.

This is one Chinese Communist initiative that I endorse heartily. In fact, I like it so much I think the concept should be extended. For example, during these sporting events Beijing could withdraw its support for the Sudanese government and the murderous Janjaweed militia; refuse to sell small arms to Iran so that it can send them to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; stop its diplomatic backing of Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs and pull back its nuclear technicians in Iran; suspend its assistance to North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma; discontinue its campaign of cyber-attacks on other governments; and, if all of this is not too much to ask, take a break from conspiring with Moscow to commit mischief around the world.

Even more important, I suggest that, during the Olympic events next year, the Chinese Communist Party suspend its struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese people. While the truce is in effect the Party would, among other things, lift all censorship of the media, allow people to assemble and protest, free all jailed dissidents, stop all forced sterilizations and abortions, end the practice of destroying places of worship and beating parishioners, and prohibit local officials from engaging in their normally rapacious behavior.

Under my temporary truce proposal, the Party could resume its malignant practices, both at home and abroad, once the Games are over. Of course, the risk is that the world enjoys the breather so much that the General Assembly decides to ban Beijing’s despotism forever. That is a lot to ask from the UN, but we don’t have to worry. I’m sure the Chinese people would not let the Communists go back to their old way of doing things.

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The Price of UN Membership

As noted yesterday on contentions, Libya was elected on October 16, 2007 to the UN Security Council, a position it will assume in January. Last month Syria was elected Vice-Chair of the General Conference of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. These goings-on at the UN have been presented not only as perfectly normal but as laudable. While they have provoked strong reaction in some people, they should not come as a surprise.

The UN, we are told, is an essential institution because of its unique inclusivity. The argument goes that the goals and values of democracies on the world scene are dependent on their doing business with dictators as equals. One state, one vote. Regardless of the numbers of real people being subdued in various ways back home. Regardless of the financial contribution made by each member state to the world organization. Regardless of the extent to which the founding principles and purposes of the UN are flaunted by the member state every day of the week.

So Libya and Syria join a long list of dictatorships, despotisms, and human-rights violators in UN leadership positions—positions that entail responsibilities diametrically opposed to their incumbents’ qualifications.

Here are only a few of today’s UN authority figures:

• UN Security Council: Libya
• International Atomic Energy Agency General Committee, Vice-President: Syria
• UN Disarmament Commission, Vice-Chairman: Iran. Rapporteur: Syria
• Committee on Information: China, Kazakhstan
• UN Program of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination, and Wider Appreciation of International Law Advisory Committee: Iran, Lebanon, Sudan
• Commission for Social Development: North Korea
• Commission on the Status of Women: Qatar, Togo, United Arab Emirates
• Commission on Sustainable Development: Sudan
• Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Libya, Russia
• UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Vice-President: Myanmar
• UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Board: China
• UN Development Program Executive Board: Algeria, Kazakhstan
• General Assembly Vice-Presidents: Egypt, Turkmenistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo
• General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, Vice-Chairman: Syria
• Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Seyed Mohammad Hashemi of Iran
• Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Member: Saied Rajaie Khorasani of Iran
• UN Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) Governing Council: Zimbabwe
• UN High Commissioner for Refugees Executive Committee: Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan
• International Labor Organization Governing Body: Saudi Arabia
• World Food Program Executive Board: Sudan, Zimbabwe

In short, membership in the UN has no price tag, although, as this list suggests, Israel-bashing and anti-Americanism are its all-but universal currency.

As noted yesterday on contentions, Libya was elected on October 16, 2007 to the UN Security Council, a position it will assume in January. Last month Syria was elected Vice-Chair of the General Conference of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. These goings-on at the UN have been presented not only as perfectly normal but as laudable. While they have provoked strong reaction in some people, they should not come as a surprise.

The UN, we are told, is an essential institution because of its unique inclusivity. The argument goes that the goals and values of democracies on the world scene are dependent on their doing business with dictators as equals. One state, one vote. Regardless of the numbers of real people being subdued in various ways back home. Regardless of the financial contribution made by each member state to the world organization. Regardless of the extent to which the founding principles and purposes of the UN are flaunted by the member state every day of the week.

So Libya and Syria join a long list of dictatorships, despotisms, and human-rights violators in UN leadership positions—positions that entail responsibilities diametrically opposed to their incumbents’ qualifications.

Here are only a few of today’s UN authority figures:

• UN Security Council: Libya
• International Atomic Energy Agency General Committee, Vice-President: Syria
• UN Disarmament Commission, Vice-Chairman: Iran. Rapporteur: Syria
• Committee on Information: China, Kazakhstan
• UN Program of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination, and Wider Appreciation of International Law Advisory Committee: Iran, Lebanon, Sudan
• Commission for Social Development: North Korea
• Commission on the Status of Women: Qatar, Togo, United Arab Emirates
• Commission on Sustainable Development: Sudan
• Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Libya, Russia
• UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Vice-President: Myanmar
• UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Board: China
• UN Development Program Executive Board: Algeria, Kazakhstan
• General Assembly Vice-Presidents: Egypt, Turkmenistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo
• General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, Vice-Chairman: Syria
• Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Seyed Mohammad Hashemi of Iran
• Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Member: Saied Rajaie Khorasani of Iran
• UN Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) Governing Council: Zimbabwe
• UN High Commissioner for Refugees Executive Committee: Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan
• International Labor Organization Governing Body: Saudi Arabia
• World Food Program Executive Board: Sudan, Zimbabwe

In short, membership in the UN has no price tag, although, as this list suggests, Israel-bashing and anti-Americanism are its all-but universal currency.

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Libya, Newest Security Council Member

Meet the newest members of the United Nations Security Council: Vietnam, Croatia, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, and Libya, all elected yesterday for two-year terms starting next January 1. The United States chose not to fight Tripoli’s bid, which was unopposed. “We have not actively campaigned against them,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey in the beginning of this month. Previously, Washington had engaged in a fifteen-year campaign to keep Colonel Qaddafi’s repugnant regime off the Council.

At one time, that regime was considered an international pariah. Yesterday, 178 of 192 nations in the General Assembly voted for the North African state. As Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, said, “The world obviously does change.”

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Meet the newest members of the United Nations Security Council: Vietnam, Croatia, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, and Libya, all elected yesterday for two-year terms starting next January 1. The United States chose not to fight Tripoli’s bid, which was unopposed. “We have not actively campaigned against them,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey in the beginning of this month. Previously, Washington had engaged in a fifteen-year campaign to keep Colonel Qaddafi’s repugnant regime off the Council.

At one time, that regime was considered an international pariah. Yesterday, 178 of 192 nations in the General Assembly voted for the North African state. As Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, said, “The world obviously does change.”

But has Libya? The same one-man system still rules the North African state. That tyrant was responsible for the deaths of two Americans in the 1986 bombing of a Berlin nightclub—and for the killing of 270 people from 21 countries over Lockerbie in 1988. “I feel that the U.S. has totally lost its moral compass,” said Susan Cohen, who lost her twenty-year-old daughter in the downing of Pan Am 103.

The outraged mother is right. In reality, the only thing that has changed is Qaddafi’s take on geopolitics. That is a slim reed—the Libyan strongman is, after all, known to be mercurial. Yet, if there is any justification for Washington’s passive stance toward Libya—and this is not much comfort for Ms. Cohen and the other grieving parents, children, spouses, and friends—it is the need to show a path for bad governments to return to the international community.

But which governments will learn from Libya? Iran, unfortunately, is bound to be unimpressed by the rewards offered to Qaddafi for his apparent conversion, because Tehran’s mullahs are much more determined to upset the global order. Perhaps the unpredictable Kim Jong Il will see a lesson in yesterday’s events. Yet, if Washington cannot convince the Korean to do a Qaddafi, America’s acceptance of Libya ultimately will be seen as an act of weakness instead of one of forgiveness.

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Taiwan’s Rejection

Taiwan’s rejection—for the fifteenth time in a row—by the agenda-setting committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations last Wednesday may well be seen, before too long, to have been a turning point. After all, who can believe that Taiwan will be turned down another fifteen times?

Chinese diplomats are nervous. They don’t want Taiwan even on the agenda, because they fear, correctly, that an open discussion might not go their way. They know that no one believes on principle that Taiwan should be excluded. Other countries are simply afraid of China.

How long can China continue to intimidate otherwise free-thinking nations? The answer is, not indefinitely.

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Taiwan’s rejection—for the fifteenth time in a row—by the agenda-setting committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations last Wednesday may well be seen, before too long, to have been a turning point. After all, who can believe that Taiwan will be turned down another fifteen times?

Chinese diplomats are nervous. They don’t want Taiwan even on the agenda, because they fear, correctly, that an open discussion might not go their way. They know that no one believes on principle that Taiwan should be excluded. Other countries are simply afraid of China.

How long can China continue to intimidate otherwise free-thinking nations? The answer is, not indefinitely.

Consider India. In an article on the op-ed page of the Times of India, Ramesh Thakur, formerly a senior vice rector of the U.N. University in Tokyo, wrote:

The biggest and longest running scandal is the way in which Taiwan has been banned from the U.N.. Taiwan is refused membership, is not granted observer status, and does not figure in the U.N.’s statistical databases.

Concluding that the exclusion of Taiwan “has little to do with the merits of the application and everything to do with the geopolitics of China as a permanent member of the Security Council,” Thakur asked:

Where does this leave all the fine talk of democracy, human rights, and self-determination in Kosovo, East Timor, and elsewhere? Taiwan is better credentialed than most of them. Its population of 23 million is almost the combined total of Australia and New Zealand, and bigger than scores of U.N. member states, including East Timor (under one million) and Kosovo (over two million).

To our shame, official jaws in Washington have been clenched tightly shut with respect to this issue, except when reiterating hoary formulas whose authors, with a handful of exceptions, are long dead.

The Bush administration portrays Taiwan’s increasingly audible demands as no more than local political posturing and manipulation, for which their elected president is to blame, and resolutely declines comment on the merits of Taiwan’s case.

Some former officials, however, are talking sense: Michael Green, for instance, Bush’s former top Asian aide, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was recently quoted as saying:

For the U.S. side, we need to recognize the issue of identity in Taiwan is not a political game, it’s not a tactical move in Taipei, it’s a very fundamental issue, not at all unique to its 23 million people…. Look at Korea, Japan, the national identity is at the top of the agenda in every country in Asia and there is no reason why Taiwan should be any different.

Thakur and Green are absolutely right. The issues and processes they describe will not disappear or cease simply because we and China wish they would. We are dealing with nationalism. Difficult as it may be, we need to think ahead.

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