Commentary Magazine


Topic: UN Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Farce Gets Worse

Over the past few decades, the bias against Israel at the United Nations has reached the level of caricature. The disproportionate interest in anything that the Jewish state does matched with the world body’s general indifference to real crimes being perpetrated anywhere else is an object lesson in the definition of prejudice. But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the choice of a man to head a UN Human Rights Council probe of the fighting in Gaza who has already called for the prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrates just how ridiculous the anti-Israel farce there has become.

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Over the past few decades, the bias against Israel at the United Nations has reached the level of caricature. The disproportionate interest in anything that the Jewish state does matched with the world body’s general indifference to real crimes being perpetrated anywhere else is an object lesson in the definition of prejudice. But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the choice of a man to head a UN Human Rights Council probe of the fighting in Gaza who has already called for the prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrates just how ridiculous the anti-Israel farce there has become.

That the UN Human Rights Council, whose membership is made up of many of the worst dictatorships and human-rights offenders in the world, wouldn’t give Israel a fair hearing was already a given. The Council devotes most of its attention to attempts to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy or to promote libelous attacks on its policies. While a lot of the attention on this panel was devoted to the decision of George Clooney’s fiancée to decline participation in the probe, the appointment of Canadian law professor William Schabas demonstrates that the Council is not even interested in the appearance of fairness.

Schabas has already demonstrated his animus for Israel and actually called for Netanyahu to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for prosecution. Lest anyone think he takes sides in Israeli political debates, he also advocated the prosecution of Shimon Peres in a comment in which he compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to the genocide in Darfur.

The organization UN Watch, which performs the tiresome yet essential task of monitoring the unfortunate doings of the Human Rights Council, assembled this collection of quotes and dubious positions from Schabas. A dive into his record shows that he is not only an avowed foe of Israel but also something of an apologist for Iran.

Of course, the appointment of someone like Schabas is hardly unique in the history of the UN, a world body where anti-Semitism and hatred for Israel is deeply embedded into the culture of the institution. Why, then should we bother even commenting on this?

The first reason is that the UN probe into Gaza will undoubtedly be used to bolster attacks on Israel and to delegitimize its right of self-defense against Hamas terrorists. No matter how outrageous the nature of anything produced by the Human Rights Council, the mere fact that such a report will bear the imprimatur of the UN will give it a hearing and a bogus legitimacy in the mainstream media.

Second, Schabas’s appointment is significant because it marks the further descent into Jew hatred at the world body.

It should be remembered that the last time the Human Rights Council injected itself into the war between Israel and Gaza, it took great pains to appear to be fair to the Jewish state. The appointment of Judge Richard Goldstone to head that probe was seen as an attempt to avoid accusations of prejudice since he was a respected member of the South African Jewish community. Goldstone was merely the beard for a UN panel determined to destroy Israel’s reputation and, until he subsequently recanted his involvement in an unfair attack on the Jewish state, an effective defense against accusations of prejudice against Israel.

More than five years later, the Human Rights Council has no such compunctions. Rather than bother putting up a chair that would pretend to be even-handed, Schabas’s anti-Israel advocacy is a statement of contempt for even the pretense of fairness. It demonstrates that in the UN world, Israel is so hated that no one there even thinks it worth the bother to staff this commission with people who are, at least in principle, unbiased.

While Schabas attempted to defend himself in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 today, he actually just dug himself a deeper hole. Schabas not only attempted to explain his comments about Netanyahu in a way that made it clear he already thought Israel’s actions were unjustified and that he had no opinion about whether Hamas is a terrorist group; he even tried to claim that Israel gets favored treatment by the UN, an assertion so absurd that it would barely merit an attempt at refutation.

Israel should not have anything to do with a commission headed by a person whose view of the conflict is already a guarantee of bias. But the main takeaway here is not the obvious one about a report whose anti-Israel conclusions are already a certainty. It’s that anti-Semitism and hate for Israel has now reached such high levels that no one at the UN thinks it necessary to veil their bias.

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Proud and Pleased to Join Venezuela

On Monday, Hillary Clinton issued a press release stating that the U.S. is “pleased” at its election to a second term on the notorious UN Human Rights Council. Like the winner of an academy award, she said she wanted to “thank the countries that voted for us in what was a highly competitive race” among “several qualified Western candidates.” Susan Rice held her own briefing the same day to say how “pleased and proud” the U.S. is, and to “thank all four of our highly qualified competitor countries for what was a very spirited campaign.” 

All 192 members of the UN vote on each UNHRC candidate, but membership is limited by region. The U.S., Germany, and Ireland beat out Greece and Sweden for the three available Western spots. Fifteen states from other regions were also elected on Monday, including seven countries that (according to Freedom House) “clearly fail to meet the Council’s criteria for membership” (since they do not “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”): Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. All seven got substantially more votes than the U.S. did.

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On Monday, Hillary Clinton issued a press release stating that the U.S. is “pleased” at its election to a second term on the notorious UN Human Rights Council. Like the winner of an academy award, she said she wanted to “thank the countries that voted for us in what was a highly competitive race” among “several qualified Western candidates.” Susan Rice held her own briefing the same day to say how “pleased and proud” the U.S. is, and to “thank all four of our highly qualified competitor countries for what was a very spirited campaign.” 

All 192 members of the UN vote on each UNHRC candidate, but membership is limited by region. The U.S., Germany, and Ireland beat out Greece and Sweden for the three available Western spots. Fifteen states from other regions were also elected on Monday, including seven countries that (according to Freedom House) “clearly fail to meet the Council’s criteria for membership” (since they do not “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”): Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. All seven got substantially more votes than the U.S. did.

At yesterday’s State Department press conference, spokesperson Mark Toner was asked if the U.S. had a reaction to Venezuela’s election. He gave this response:

MR. TONER: Well, you buried the lead, because we’re very pleased to have been elected by the UN General Assembly to a second term on the Human Rights Council. And I believe Ambassador Rice spoke to this yesterday from New York. We certainly thank the countries that have voted for us in what was a very highly competitive race among several well-qualified Western European and Others Group [WEOG] candidates.

QUESTION: What was it, three out of five got elected?

MR. TONER: We received 131 votes, first-place in the WEOG group.

QUESTION: Ooh, first place.

In other words, the big story (in the view of the State Department) in an election packing the UNHRC with still more human-rights violators is: the election of the U.S. to another term. It shows that the world likes us. It really, really likes us (although not as much as Venezuela, Kazakhstan, et al.). On the other hand:

QUESTION: Don’t you think there is like a contradiction because Venezuela has been pointed out at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for not accomplish [sic] with human rights? So how do you put this in context, or –

MR. TONER: Well, in creating the Council, member states pledge to take into account the contribution of candidates, the promotion and protection of human rights. We think some countries elected to the Human Rights Council on clean slates have failed to show their commitment.

QUESTION: Aha. That’s what I want to get at. Because quite apart from Venezuela, you’ve got such paragons of human rights protection as Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan –

MR. TONER: I didn’t single out Venezuela.

QUESTION: – Pakistan, Gabon. Are you comfortable sitting on a body that’s supposed to make judgments about other countries’ human rights records when there are serial offenders on it?

MR. TONER: Again, Ambassador Rice in New York spoke to this very effectively yesterday. … We decided four years ago that we could best improve the Council by working within it rather than criticizing from outside.

The State Department also released Monday a fact sheet on U.S. “accomplishments” during “our first term,” including eight resolutions on Syria since 2011 (count ’em!); “suspending” Libya in 2011 from its seat on the Council (for massacring its own citizens); and a special rapporteur “speaking out” on human rights violations in Iran (which does not seem to have had any effect).

Missing from the list is any reduction in what the department diplomatically calls the UNHRC’s “excessive and unbalanced focus” on Israel. As Elliott Abrams more forthrightly notes, that focus is “ludicrous”: the “only country listed on the Council’s permanent agenda” is Israel — “Not North Korea, not Sudan, not Cuba — only Israel.” After four years, smart power has been unable to address that problem, but the U.S. is pleased and proud to have been re-elected.

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NAACP Turns Voter ID Spat Into Satire

The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.

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The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.

The UN Human Rights Council is itself a standing mockery of the entire cause of human rights not just because it is comprised of tyrannies who routinely practice the atrocities the council is supposed to combat, but also because it devotes the vast majority of its time and effort to attacking Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The UN’s obsession with delegitimizing Israel has long since crossed the line into anti-Semitism. But the world body’s lack of interest in doing something about China’s abuses in Tibet, the plight of women in the Arab world or the suppression of dissent in Cuba and China is just as outrageous.

The internationalization of the voter ID issue is also particularly inane because most developed countries, including the democracies, require citizens to have ID cards as a matter of law.

It should also be remembered that the argument that voter ID laws disenfranchise minorities is a thinly veiled attempt to incite racial distrust at the expense of a good government measure. The notion that there is something discriminatory about requiring voters to properly identify themselves in a nation when such photo IDS are already required for all airline travel and many other routine measures is absurd. The best that Attorney General Holder could do when overruling Texas’ voter ID law last week was to cite the fact that approximately 94 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to about 96 percent of non-Hispanics. Interestingly, there was no mention in the complaint about any disparity between African-Americans and other citizens even though we are told voter ID laws target the poor.

In fact, as Rich Lowry noted last week in National Review, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that voter ID laws were legal. That 6-3-majority opinion was written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote, “there is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters.” Stevens also noted “we cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters.” That is especially true because the states that have passed or considered voter ID laws have made provisions to give such cards free of charge to the tiny minority of citizens who don’t already have them.

Hillary Shelton, the NAACP’s senior vice president for advocacy, claims that by going to Geneva, “We can learn a lot from those who haven’t gone through as much as we have.” But the only thing that can be learned about democracy from China, Cuba or Saudi Arabia or the United Nations is how to suppress rights, not to protect them. Imagine what imprisoned dissidents in those countries will think about the NAACP granting their torturers this sort of legitimacy.

In bringing their flimsy complaint to such a tainted forum, the NAACP isn’t just illustrating the weak nature of their argument. By going before the council in this manner, the NAACP, which once actually stood for principle in the civil rights struggle, is demonstrating indifference to the real abuses of democratic rights around the globe. That isn’t comical. It’s shameful.

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Media- and NGO-Fueled Ignorance on Egypt and Tunisia

Amnon Rubinstein, a former Knesset member and minister from Israel’s left-wing Meretz Party, made an important point in today’s Jerusalem Post. The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt took the West by surprise, he wrote, because Westerners know almost nothing about what goes on in undemocratic societies. And this ignorance stems largely from the fact that the bodies it relies on to provide information — the media and nongovernmental organizations — devote most of their energy to the low-hanging fruit, exposing real or imagined failings by democracies, instead of focusing on dictatorships, where getting information is much harder.

The openly pro-Palestinian reporter Amira Hass provided an excellent example in Monday’s Haaretz. At a Ramallah store where everyone was watching Al Jazeera, an employee asked if she had caught what a Tunisian protester just said: that “the Palestinians’ situation is better than that of the Tunisians, that they [the Palestinians] have food.”

I told him this was the same impression members of Egyptian solidarity delegations had upon visiting the Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead [Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas]. They were amazed at the abundance of food, especially fruits and vegetables, they were able to find in Gaza. And I heard that not from the Israeli Civil Administration spokesmen but from Egyptians and Palestinians.

But nobody would know this from media or NGO reports. Can anyone remember reading a news story about food shortages in Egypt or Tunisia in recent years? Yet hundreds of articles have been published about alleged humanitarian distress in Gaza, including many that claimed Israel’s blockade was causing starvation.

Indeed, the UN has run an annual humanitarian-aid appeal for the West Bank and Gaza since 2003; this year, it’s seeking $567 million, making it the organization’s fifth-largest “emergency campaign.” Can anyone remember the last UN appeal for aid to Egypt or Tunisia?

The same goes for NGOs. On Amnesty International’s website, the “features” page has nothing about either Egypt or Tunisia. Yet Israel merits two condemnatory features (the only country so honored), including the top-billed story — which, naturally, alleges food shortages in Gaza due to Israel’s blockade.

Then there’s the UN Human Rights Council — which, as Rubinstein noted, actually praised the human-rights situation in both Egypt and Tunisia, even as it issued 27 separate resolutions slamming Israel.

Thus most Westerners were utterly clueless about the economic distress and oppression that fueled the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Indeed, based on the available information, the reasonable assumption would have been that Gaza, not Egypt or Tunisia, was the place most likely to explode.

Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein decried his own organization in 2009 for betraying its “original mission to pry open closed societies” — to shed light precisely on those dark corners where information isn’t easily available — in favor of a focus on open societies, especially Israel. That, as I’ve argued repeatedly, leaves the world’s most oppressed people voiceless.

But it turns out the obsessive media/NGO focus on Israel also has another price: depriving the West of the information it needs to make sound judgments and set wise policy.

Amnon Rubinstein, a former Knesset member and minister from Israel’s left-wing Meretz Party, made an important point in today’s Jerusalem Post. The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt took the West by surprise, he wrote, because Westerners know almost nothing about what goes on in undemocratic societies. And this ignorance stems largely from the fact that the bodies it relies on to provide information — the media and nongovernmental organizations — devote most of their energy to the low-hanging fruit, exposing real or imagined failings by democracies, instead of focusing on dictatorships, where getting information is much harder.

The openly pro-Palestinian reporter Amira Hass provided an excellent example in Monday’s Haaretz. At a Ramallah store where everyone was watching Al Jazeera, an employee asked if she had caught what a Tunisian protester just said: that “the Palestinians’ situation is better than that of the Tunisians, that they [the Palestinians] have food.”

I told him this was the same impression members of Egyptian solidarity delegations had upon visiting the Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead [Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas]. They were amazed at the abundance of food, especially fruits and vegetables, they were able to find in Gaza. And I heard that not from the Israeli Civil Administration spokesmen but from Egyptians and Palestinians.

But nobody would know this from media or NGO reports. Can anyone remember reading a news story about food shortages in Egypt or Tunisia in recent years? Yet hundreds of articles have been published about alleged humanitarian distress in Gaza, including many that claimed Israel’s blockade was causing starvation.

Indeed, the UN has run an annual humanitarian-aid appeal for the West Bank and Gaza since 2003; this year, it’s seeking $567 million, making it the organization’s fifth-largest “emergency campaign.” Can anyone remember the last UN appeal for aid to Egypt or Tunisia?

The same goes for NGOs. On Amnesty International’s website, the “features” page has nothing about either Egypt or Tunisia. Yet Israel merits two condemnatory features (the only country so honored), including the top-billed story — which, naturally, alleges food shortages in Gaza due to Israel’s blockade.

Then there’s the UN Human Rights Council — which, as Rubinstein noted, actually praised the human-rights situation in both Egypt and Tunisia, even as it issued 27 separate resolutions slamming Israel.

Thus most Westerners were utterly clueless about the economic distress and oppression that fueled the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Indeed, based on the available information, the reasonable assumption would have been that Gaza, not Egypt or Tunisia, was the place most likely to explode.

Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein decried his own organization in 2009 for betraying its “original mission to pry open closed societies” — to shed light precisely on those dark corners where information isn’t easily available — in favor of a focus on open societies, especially Israel. That, as I’ve argued repeatedly, leaves the world’s most oppressed people voiceless.

But it turns out the obsessive media/NGO focus on Israel also has another price: depriving the West of the information it needs to make sound judgments and set wise policy.

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The Logic Behind Israel’s Parliamentary Inquiry on NGO Funding

Israel’s much-discussed parliamentary inquiry into nongovernmental organizations’ funding seems set to go ahead, after the ruling Likud Party’s Knesset faction voted yesterday to support it. The inquiry carries real risks, as it could easily degenerate into McCarthyism. But if done right, it could serve the same valuable purpose many previous parliamentary inquiries have: providing the Knesset with the information needed to craft sensible legislation.

The inquiry’s opponents charge that since it will focus on leftist NGOs specifically, it can’t be anything but a political witch hunt. Yet there’s a valid reason for this focus that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the reality of NGO funding in Israel.

Almost all Israeli NGOs receive funding from foreign individuals or foundations, and most would likely collapse without it. That widely known fact makes an inquiry into foreign donations in general unnecessary, because no MK would even consider curbing them: it would destroy Israel’s nonprofit sector. At most, the Knesset may (and should) promulgate regulations to increase transparency.

Hence the inquiry is focusing on one specific subset of foreign funding that gained prominence due to the Goldstone Report on the Gaza war: funding by foreign governments.

Set up by the virulently anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council, the Goldstone Committee was never intended to be anything but a tool to bludgeon Israel. Thus the fact that certain Israeli NGOs collaborated with it made many Israelis question their hitherto widely accepted claim to have Israel’s best interests at heart — especially when it later emerged that many of the anti-Israel allegations they supplied were false. Even Hamas, for instance, now admits that Israel’s army was right and Israeli NGOs wrong about the combatant-to-civilian casualty ratio.

When it also emerged that many of these groups receive funding from foreign governments, Israelis concluded that this issue needed to be addressed. But right now, that is impossible, because too much crucial information is unknown.

How many groups are funded by foreign governments? Are foreign governments a major or marginal source of these groups’ funding? Are government donations mainly made directly or channeled through foreign foundations? Without answers to such questions, it’s impossible even to decide whether legislation is really needed, much less craft sensible regulations.

One thing, however, is known: foreign governments fund left-wing NGOs exclusively. They don’t fund groups that, for instance, build Jewish housing in East Jerusalem. Hence, to investigate this issue, the Knesset has to focus on left-wing groups.

Previous parliamentary inquiries have successfully amassed information that led to legislation. A five-year inquiry into Holocaust-era assets in Israel, for instance, recently resulted in the establishment of a government company to restitute such assets. And while NGO funding is clearly a more controversial topic, legislatures elsewhere often hold inquiries on equally controversial subjects — for example, Rep. Peter King’s planned congressional hearings on radical Islam in America — for the same reason: to find out what the scope of a problem really is.

The NGO inquiry could easily go wrong. But in principle, it’s a legitimate use of legislative powers for legislative ends. And it deserves to be treated as such.

Israel’s much-discussed parliamentary inquiry into nongovernmental organizations’ funding seems set to go ahead, after the ruling Likud Party’s Knesset faction voted yesterday to support it. The inquiry carries real risks, as it could easily degenerate into McCarthyism. But if done right, it could serve the same valuable purpose many previous parliamentary inquiries have: providing the Knesset with the information needed to craft sensible legislation.

The inquiry’s opponents charge that since it will focus on leftist NGOs specifically, it can’t be anything but a political witch hunt. Yet there’s a valid reason for this focus that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the reality of NGO funding in Israel.

Almost all Israeli NGOs receive funding from foreign individuals or foundations, and most would likely collapse without it. That widely known fact makes an inquiry into foreign donations in general unnecessary, because no MK would even consider curbing them: it would destroy Israel’s nonprofit sector. At most, the Knesset may (and should) promulgate regulations to increase transparency.

Hence the inquiry is focusing on one specific subset of foreign funding that gained prominence due to the Goldstone Report on the Gaza war: funding by foreign governments.

Set up by the virulently anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council, the Goldstone Committee was never intended to be anything but a tool to bludgeon Israel. Thus the fact that certain Israeli NGOs collaborated with it made many Israelis question their hitherto widely accepted claim to have Israel’s best interests at heart — especially when it later emerged that many of the anti-Israel allegations they supplied were false. Even Hamas, for instance, now admits that Israel’s army was right and Israeli NGOs wrong about the combatant-to-civilian casualty ratio.

When it also emerged that many of these groups receive funding from foreign governments, Israelis concluded that this issue needed to be addressed. But right now, that is impossible, because too much crucial information is unknown.

How many groups are funded by foreign governments? Are foreign governments a major or marginal source of these groups’ funding? Are government donations mainly made directly or channeled through foreign foundations? Without answers to such questions, it’s impossible even to decide whether legislation is really needed, much less craft sensible regulations.

One thing, however, is known: foreign governments fund left-wing NGOs exclusively. They don’t fund groups that, for instance, build Jewish housing in East Jerusalem. Hence, to investigate this issue, the Knesset has to focus on left-wing groups.

Previous parliamentary inquiries have successfully amassed information that led to legislation. A five-year inquiry into Holocaust-era assets in Israel, for instance, recently resulted in the establishment of a government company to restitute such assets. And while NGO funding is clearly a more controversial topic, legislatures elsewhere often hold inquiries on equally controversial subjects — for example, Rep. Peter King’s planned congressional hearings on radical Islam in America — for the same reason: to find out what the scope of a problem really is.

The NGO inquiry could easily go wrong. But in principle, it’s a legitimate use of legislative powers for legislative ends. And it deserves to be treated as such.

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The Fierce Urgency of UNRWA

At tomorrow’s hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider recommendations that the U.S. end its funding for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). An even more urgent issue, however, relates to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Some argue that the U.S. should stop funding UNRWA as well, but the urgency involves more than UNRWA’s financing. Its latest three-year mandate comes up for renewal in June, and the U.S. needs to decide soon what its position should be.

UNRWA is a “temporary agency” currently in its 62nd year. It was established in 1949 to serve approximately 700,000 Arabs and more than 800,000 Jews who became refugees as a result of the Arab war against Israel. In 1952, UNRWA stopped assisting Jewish refugees, since they had been resettled in Israel and other countries. But in its 62 years, UNRWA has yet to resettle a single Arab refugee. It is instrumental in keeping them in squalid camps, generation after generation, expanding their numbers with a unique definition of “refugee” not applied in other refugee situations.

Forget the controversy over how many Palestinians left at Arab urging to make way for the promised destruction of Israel by the invading Arab armies; how many fled the horrors of war on their own initiative; how many were pushed out in the course of the war. That issue is the subject of faux Palestinian scholarship, but the fundamental fact is there would be no refugees at all if the Arabs had accepted the UN’s two-state solution in 1947 instead of starting a war – and trying it again in 1967.

It is a human-rights violation of the first order that Arab refugees and their descendants have not been offered citizenship in the Arab countries where they have now lived most or all of their lives. But UNRWA rules out such resettlement – unlike the remedy used for all other refugees in the world. As Jonathan D. Halevi has demonstrated in a compelling analysis, and as Michael Bernstam has shown in his extraordinary article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, “The Palestinian Proletariat,” the refugee problem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and UNRWA is part of the problem.

Before the “temporary” agency’s mandate is renewed again, that mandate needs to be reconsidered. Instead of holding refugees in camps for decades, hoping to force them on Israel — the state that resettled an even greater number of Jewish refugees resulting from the 1948 war — Arab states should finally assume moral and financial responsibility for the refugees their war created, and UNRWA should start resettling them there. After 62 years, the time is now.

At tomorrow’s hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider recommendations that the U.S. end its funding for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). An even more urgent issue, however, relates to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Some argue that the U.S. should stop funding UNRWA as well, but the urgency involves more than UNRWA’s financing. Its latest three-year mandate comes up for renewal in June, and the U.S. needs to decide soon what its position should be.

UNRWA is a “temporary agency” currently in its 62nd year. It was established in 1949 to serve approximately 700,000 Arabs and more than 800,000 Jews who became refugees as a result of the Arab war against Israel. In 1952, UNRWA stopped assisting Jewish refugees, since they had been resettled in Israel and other countries. But in its 62 years, UNRWA has yet to resettle a single Arab refugee. It is instrumental in keeping them in squalid camps, generation after generation, expanding their numbers with a unique definition of “refugee” not applied in other refugee situations.

Forget the controversy over how many Palestinians left at Arab urging to make way for the promised destruction of Israel by the invading Arab armies; how many fled the horrors of war on their own initiative; how many were pushed out in the course of the war. That issue is the subject of faux Palestinian scholarship, but the fundamental fact is there would be no refugees at all if the Arabs had accepted the UN’s two-state solution in 1947 instead of starting a war – and trying it again in 1967.

It is a human-rights violation of the first order that Arab refugees and their descendants have not been offered citizenship in the Arab countries where they have now lived most or all of their lives. But UNRWA rules out such resettlement – unlike the remedy used for all other refugees in the world. As Jonathan D. Halevi has demonstrated in a compelling analysis, and as Michael Bernstam has shown in his extraordinary article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, “The Palestinian Proletariat,” the refugee problem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and UNRWA is part of the problem.

Before the “temporary” agency’s mandate is renewed again, that mandate needs to be reconsidered. Instead of holding refugees in camps for decades, hoping to force them on Israel — the state that resettled an even greater number of Jewish refugees resulting from the 1948 war — Arab states should finally assume moral and financial responsibility for the refugees their war created, and UNRWA should start resettling them there. After 62 years, the time is now.

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House Republicans Want to Cut UN Funding

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, has come up with another superb proposal. The congresswoman wants to cut funding for the UN — particularly the money that goes toward supporting the UN Human Rights Council.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings and hearings on UN reform.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a panel tomorrow that will discuss the problems with the UN and how Congress can take steps to solve them.

One of the main issues with the Human Rights Council, of course, is that its entire existence revolves around demonizing Israel at every opportunity. It’s also composed of many of the same countries that commit the worst human-rights abuse.

The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told the Hill that out of the 45 resolutions passed by the UNHRC over the past half-decade, 35 of them have been “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel over the head and not to promote peace,” added Neuer.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the U.S. from funding the UNHRC unless the secretary of state certified that this funding was in the “national interest of the United States” or if the U.S. were a member of the council.

The U.S. was voted off the UNHRC under the Bush administration, but President Obama lobbied to get us back on after he was elected. So even if the council works against our national interest, there’s no current prohibition against funding it.

Also, defunding the UNHRC would be mainly a symbolic act, since the U.S. allocates money to the entire UN, not specific parts of it. Because of that, we could withhold a budgetary amount that’s equal to the cost of the UNHRC, but it appears that there’s no way of knowing whether the money will be spent on the council or not.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, has come up with another superb proposal. The congresswoman wants to cut funding for the UN — particularly the money that goes toward supporting the UN Human Rights Council.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings and hearings on UN reform.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a panel tomorrow that will discuss the problems with the UN and how Congress can take steps to solve them.

One of the main issues with the Human Rights Council, of course, is that its entire existence revolves around demonizing Israel at every opportunity. It’s also composed of many of the same countries that commit the worst human-rights abuse.

The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told the Hill that out of the 45 resolutions passed by the UNHRC over the past half-decade, 35 of them have been “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel over the head and not to promote peace,” added Neuer.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the U.S. from funding the UNHRC unless the secretary of state certified that this funding was in the “national interest of the United States” or if the U.S. were a member of the council.

The U.S. was voted off the UNHRC under the Bush administration, but President Obama lobbied to get us back on after he was elected. So even if the council works against our national interest, there’s no current prohibition against funding it.

Also, defunding the UNHRC would be mainly a symbolic act, since the U.S. allocates money to the entire UN, not specific parts of it. Because of that, we could withhold a budgetary amount that’s equal to the cost of the UNHRC, but it appears that there’s no way of knowing whether the money will be spent on the council or not.

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U.S. Adopts Israeli Anti-Terror Tactics, but Waffles on Defending Israel’s Use of Them

One cable from the WikiLeaks trove raises a disturbing possibility: the Obama administration’s obsession with Israeli settlements could end up undermining America’s own war on terror.

Shortly before Israel announced a 10-month freeze on settlement construction last year, Germany urged Washington to threaten that absent such a moratorium, the U.S. would refuse to block a UN Security Council vote on the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza. U.S. officials correctly responded that this would be “counterproductive” but agreed to tell Israel “that their policy on settlements was making it difficult for their friends to hold the line in the UNSC” — thus implying that Washington might so threaten in the future. And last month, the U.S. indeed implicitly conditioned future efforts to block Goldstone on another settlement freeze.

Yet America has a vital interest of its own in burying Goldstone: facing many of the same military problems in its war on terror that Israel does, it has increasingly adopted many of the same tactics.

Last month, for example, the New York Times reported that in Afghanistan’s Kandahar region, “American forces are encountering empty homes and farm buildings left so heavily booby-trapped by Taliban insurgents that the Americans have been systematically destroying hundreds of them” in order “to reduce civilian and military casualties.” They even destroyed houses that weren’t booby-trapped because “searching empty houses was often too dangerous.” And as an Afghan official correctly noted, “It’s the insurgents and the enemy of the country that are to blame for this destruction, because they have planted mines in civilian houses and main roads everywhere.”

This is precisely what Israel did in its 2008-09 Gaza war, for the same reason: it found hundreds of booby-trapped houses, schools, even a zoo. But Goldstone, like the so-called human rights organizations, pooh-poohed this claim, accusing Israel of wantonly destroying civilian property in a deliberate effort to target civilians. Far from blaming Hamas for booby-trapping houses, they blamed Israel for destroying the traps.

The same goes for drone strikes on wanted terrorists — not just in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and Yemen. Israel has used this tactic for years, also for the same reason: sometimes, it’s the only way to neutralize a dangerous terrorist short of a major ground operation with massive casualties on both sides. But aerial strikes can also produce unintended civilian casualties.

The U.S. recently defended this tactic to the UN Human Rights Council, stressing that targeted killings are “lawful, they constitute neither extrajudicial killing nor political assassination.”

But human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced similar Israeli strikes as “extrajudicial executions” even when there have been no civilian casualties. And the outcry has been much worse when there were. Just last year, for instance, a Spanish court considered indicting several senior Israeli officials over a 2002 strike on Hamas mastermind Salah Shehadeh that, due to flawed intelligence, also killed 14 other people. (The case was halted after Spain moved to amend its universal-jurisdiction law.)

In short, America’s own self-interest demands that it thwart legal assaults on Israeli counterterrorism tactics. Otherwise, it’s liable to find itself in the dock next.

One cable from the WikiLeaks trove raises a disturbing possibility: the Obama administration’s obsession with Israeli settlements could end up undermining America’s own war on terror.

Shortly before Israel announced a 10-month freeze on settlement construction last year, Germany urged Washington to threaten that absent such a moratorium, the U.S. would refuse to block a UN Security Council vote on the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza. U.S. officials correctly responded that this would be “counterproductive” but agreed to tell Israel “that their policy on settlements was making it difficult for their friends to hold the line in the UNSC” — thus implying that Washington might so threaten in the future. And last month, the U.S. indeed implicitly conditioned future efforts to block Goldstone on another settlement freeze.

Yet America has a vital interest of its own in burying Goldstone: facing many of the same military problems in its war on terror that Israel does, it has increasingly adopted many of the same tactics.

Last month, for example, the New York Times reported that in Afghanistan’s Kandahar region, “American forces are encountering empty homes and farm buildings left so heavily booby-trapped by Taliban insurgents that the Americans have been systematically destroying hundreds of them” in order “to reduce civilian and military casualties.” They even destroyed houses that weren’t booby-trapped because “searching empty houses was often too dangerous.” And as an Afghan official correctly noted, “It’s the insurgents and the enemy of the country that are to blame for this destruction, because they have planted mines in civilian houses and main roads everywhere.”

This is precisely what Israel did in its 2008-09 Gaza war, for the same reason: it found hundreds of booby-trapped houses, schools, even a zoo. But Goldstone, like the so-called human rights organizations, pooh-poohed this claim, accusing Israel of wantonly destroying civilian property in a deliberate effort to target civilians. Far from blaming Hamas for booby-trapping houses, they blamed Israel for destroying the traps.

The same goes for drone strikes on wanted terrorists — not just in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and Yemen. Israel has used this tactic for years, also for the same reason: sometimes, it’s the only way to neutralize a dangerous terrorist short of a major ground operation with massive casualties on both sides. But aerial strikes can also produce unintended civilian casualties.

The U.S. recently defended this tactic to the UN Human Rights Council, stressing that targeted killings are “lawful, they constitute neither extrajudicial killing nor political assassination.”

But human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced similar Israeli strikes as “extrajudicial executions” even when there have been no civilian casualties. And the outcry has been much worse when there were. Just last year, for instance, a Spanish court considered indicting several senior Israeli officials over a 2002 strike on Hamas mastermind Salah Shehadeh that, due to flawed intelligence, also killed 14 other people. (The case was halted after Spain moved to amend its universal-jurisdiction law.)

In short, America’s own self-interest demands that it thwart legal assaults on Israeli counterterrorism tactics. Otherwise, it’s liable to find itself in the dock next.

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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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FPI Conference (Part 2): Defending the Indefensible

Jackson Diehl moderated a panel on the administration’s human-rights policy. A human-rights activist from Burma (Win Min), Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Amb. Michael Kozak from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, politely discussed the Obama administration’s dismal record. The crowd, filled with human-rights activists and scholars, reacted with restraint and even sympathy to Kozak’s plight: he was there to defend the indefensible and to take arrows for the administration. He is a well-traveled and respected foreign-policy figure and emerged with his reputation intact. The administration’s reputation is another matter.

Kozak stated the case: the administration cares deeply about human rights. Obama talked about it at the UN, is actively discussing democracy promotion in Egypt, and has joined the UN Human Rights Council to “speak truth” and engage on human rights. His fellow panelists were cordial but, to put it mildly, skeptical. The crowd sat in stony silence.

Win Min spoke with optimism about the recent release of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest but explained this was an effort to “deflect criticism” from the recent elections, which the U.S. and the West have roundly condemned. He urged the administration to step up sanctions, not relax them.

Dunne was quite tough on the administration. She reminded the audience that the Bush administration had made considerable progress on democracy in Egypt, but the perception now is that Egypt has been dropped or severely downgraded by the Obama team. She wryly noted that, after all, we have given the Mubarak government $1.5 billion in aid without any improvement, and indeed some deterioration, of human rights in that country. In the Q&A, Dunne was even more blunt. She accused the Obama team of coming into office with an “anything-but-Bush” mentality that derided the Bush freedom agenda. She explained that only now is the administration beginning to treat democracy promotion with seriousness, but having frittered away nearly two years, the administration is “behind zero.”

What could Kozak say? Well, he tried his best. We really are talking to Egypt about democracy, and although Hillary Clinton didn’t mention human rights or democracy promotion last week in her news conference with the foreign minister, we have to understand there are lots of issues on the table. On Iran, where was the administration with respect to the Green Revolution? Well, there was a concern that it would be like Hungary in 1956 — we’d encourage people to take to the streets but not be able to help them. (But weren’t they already in the streets?)

The problem with the administration’s human-rights policy lies not with the dedicated professionals charged with carrying it out. The problem is the president — who occasionally talks a good game but, when the chips are down, relegates human rights to the bottom of the list. Until there is a new president, Kozak’s job won’t get any easier.

After the session, I asked Kozak if the administration was conducting any evaluation of its decision to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. Weren’t we doing more harm than good by legitimizing the thugocracies? He smiled. He paused. No, there wasn’t any talk like that. But we had taken away the argument that the UNHRC is dysfunctional because we weren’t there! (Umm, so now it’s dysfunction with us there?) We’re going to see if we can make it better. One suspected that even he didn’t buy that answer.

Jackson Diehl moderated a panel on the administration’s human-rights policy. A human-rights activist from Burma (Win Min), Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Amb. Michael Kozak from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, politely discussed the Obama administration’s dismal record. The crowd, filled with human-rights activists and scholars, reacted with restraint and even sympathy to Kozak’s plight: he was there to defend the indefensible and to take arrows for the administration. He is a well-traveled and respected foreign-policy figure and emerged with his reputation intact. The administration’s reputation is another matter.

Kozak stated the case: the administration cares deeply about human rights. Obama talked about it at the UN, is actively discussing democracy promotion in Egypt, and has joined the UN Human Rights Council to “speak truth” and engage on human rights. His fellow panelists were cordial but, to put it mildly, skeptical. The crowd sat in stony silence.

Win Min spoke with optimism about the recent release of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest but explained this was an effort to “deflect criticism” from the recent elections, which the U.S. and the West have roundly condemned. He urged the administration to step up sanctions, not relax them.

Dunne was quite tough on the administration. She reminded the audience that the Bush administration had made considerable progress on democracy in Egypt, but the perception now is that Egypt has been dropped or severely downgraded by the Obama team. She wryly noted that, after all, we have given the Mubarak government $1.5 billion in aid without any improvement, and indeed some deterioration, of human rights in that country. In the Q&A, Dunne was even more blunt. She accused the Obama team of coming into office with an “anything-but-Bush” mentality that derided the Bush freedom agenda. She explained that only now is the administration beginning to treat democracy promotion with seriousness, but having frittered away nearly two years, the administration is “behind zero.”

What could Kozak say? Well, he tried his best. We really are talking to Egypt about democracy, and although Hillary Clinton didn’t mention human rights or democracy promotion last week in her news conference with the foreign minister, we have to understand there are lots of issues on the table. On Iran, where was the administration with respect to the Green Revolution? Well, there was a concern that it would be like Hungary in 1956 — we’d encourage people to take to the streets but not be able to help them. (But weren’t they already in the streets?)

The problem with the administration’s human-rights policy lies not with the dedicated professionals charged with carrying it out. The problem is the president — who occasionally talks a good game but, when the chips are down, relegates human rights to the bottom of the list. Until there is a new president, Kozak’s job won’t get any easier.

After the session, I asked Kozak if the administration was conducting any evaluation of its decision to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. Weren’t we doing more harm than good by legitimizing the thugocracies? He smiled. He paused. No, there wasn’t any talk like that. But we had taken away the argument that the UNHRC is dysfunctional because we weren’t there! (Umm, so now it’s dysfunction with us there?) We’re going to see if we can make it better. One suspected that even he didn’t buy that answer.

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Human Rights Policy Gone Mad

Lost in the post-election coverage last week was the latest development concerning the Obama administration’s inexplicable decision to let four of the world’s worst human rights abusers off the hook for employing children as soldiers:

Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers. The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials.

Nor is this the only instance in which the administration’s occasionally more robust rhetoric on human rights departs from its actions. Recall that we joined the UN Human Rights Council (from which George W. Bush had properly extracted the U.S.) in order to have some impact on the world’s thugs and despots. But now we are under the microscope:

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, told the U.S. it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

This is what comes from empowering and taking seriously the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. And if all that were not enough, the State Department is taking all the criticism to heart:

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

There is no better example of the cul-de-sac of leftist anti-Americanism — that insatiable need to paint the U.S. as the source of evil in the world — than Obama’s human rights policy, which is, quite simply, obscene. The bipartisan revulsion at this policy is the regrettable but reassuring result. At least there remains a strong consensus rejecting the idea that cooling tensions with despots is more important than robustly defending our own values and the lives and rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

Lost in the post-election coverage last week was the latest development concerning the Obama administration’s inexplicable decision to let four of the world’s worst human rights abusers off the hook for employing children as soldiers:

Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers. The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials.

Nor is this the only instance in which the administration’s occasionally more robust rhetoric on human rights departs from its actions. Recall that we joined the UN Human Rights Council (from which George W. Bush had properly extracted the U.S.) in order to have some impact on the world’s thugs and despots. But now we are under the microscope:

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, told the U.S. it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

This is what comes from empowering and taking seriously the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. And if all that were not enough, the State Department is taking all the criticism to heart:

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

There is no better example of the cul-de-sac of leftist anti-Americanism — that insatiable need to paint the U.S. as the source of evil in the world — than Obama’s human rights policy, which is, quite simply, obscene. The bipartisan revulsion at this policy is the regrettable but reassuring result. At least there remains a strong consensus rejecting the idea that cooling tensions with despots is more important than robustly defending our own values and the lives and rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

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Congress, Israel, and Iran

In addition to the areas that Max has pointed to, there is much Congress can do both rhetorically and with the power of the purse regarding Obama’s wholly ineffective efforts to stop Iran from going nuclear. Rigorous oversight hearings, resolutions declaring that the U.S. remains committed to denying Iran nuclear weapons, and full funding for human rights and dissident groups would all be useful. Next, defund the UN Human Rights Council. As to Israel specifically, here too oversight hearings and the power of the bully pulpit can be employed to confront and hopefully modify Obama’s aggressive stance toward the Jewish state.

None of these suggestions are suitable substitutes for a wise commander in chief, but Congress can do its best to curb the Obami’s worst instincts.

In addition to the areas that Max has pointed to, there is much Congress can do both rhetorically and with the power of the purse regarding Obama’s wholly ineffective efforts to stop Iran from going nuclear. Rigorous oversight hearings, resolutions declaring that the U.S. remains committed to denying Iran nuclear weapons, and full funding for human rights and dissident groups would all be useful. Next, defund the UN Human Rights Council. As to Israel specifically, here too oversight hearings and the power of the bully pulpit can be employed to confront and hopefully modify Obama’s aggressive stance toward the Jewish state.

None of these suggestions are suitable substitutes for a wise commander in chief, but Congress can do its best to curb the Obami’s worst instincts.

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New Challenges for Pro-Israel Activists

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, as he is wont to do, sounds a warning:

Once past Nov. 2 and faced with the impending and embarrassing collapse of direct talks, President Obama may well be moved to punish Israel or at least fashion a teachable moment out of his diplomatic failure.

The Obama administration has a jaundiced view of Israel, but actual U.S. recognition of “Palestine” seems a remote prospect in the near term. The domestic political firestorm for the president—already likely to be badly wounded in midterm elections and deeply concerned about his own prospects in two years—would simply be too much.

A more indirect but still effective course is to let statehood emerge through a Security Council resolution. Prior U.S. administrations would unquestionably have voted “no,” thus vetoing such a proposal, but Mr. Obama’s penchant for publicly pressuring Israel is a foreshadow that Washington may decide not to play its traditional role. While even Mr. Obama is unlikely to instruct a “yes” vote on a Security Council resolution affirming a Palestinian state and subsequent U.N. membership, one could readily envision the administration abstaining. That would allow a near-certain majority, perhaps 14-0, to adopt the resolution.

In any other administration, this would be inconceivable; however, this administration is like no other. Yes, this would be a major step forward for the delegitimizers. (“By defining ‘Palestine’ to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel’s authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.”) Yes, it would be politically unpopular, given the country’s pro-Israel orientation. And yes, it would send a dangerous signal to Iran that Israel’s fate is not tied to our own, and that Israel’s existential threat is Israel’s problem alone.

But the possibility is real given Obama’s track record, the leaks about an imposed peace deal, and the president’s own rhetoric. (“In his September 2009 speech at the U.N., for example, he supported a Palestinian state ‘with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.’”) So what should pro-Israel groups and lawmakers do?

Well, come January, one or both houses of Congress will be in GOP hands. It is time to start using the power of the bully pulpit (in the form of resolutions) and the purse (to defund the UN Human Rights Council, for example) to push back on the Obama assault on Israel.  A shot across the bow of the White House — a resolution condemning any effort to impose a deal or divide territory that does not arise from direct negotiations — would be a good start.

But as frightening a prospect as all this is, it pales in comparison to the threat to which Obama turns a blind eye: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. This is quite a bit more difficult. The Congress can’t order a military strike if needed. But here, too, pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers should not dally. A declaration of support for Israel, oversight hearings on the paltry results from sanctions, and a robust effort to inform and rally the American people are all needed. Mainstream Jewish pro-Israel groups have been befuddled by the administration, falling prey to the same non-direct, non-peace-talk obsession that has snared the Obami. They should reorient themselves to dual missions: heading off any scheme to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and encouraging the administration to stand by its declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is truly “unacceptable.”

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, as he is wont to do, sounds a warning:

Once past Nov. 2 and faced with the impending and embarrassing collapse of direct talks, President Obama may well be moved to punish Israel or at least fashion a teachable moment out of his diplomatic failure.

The Obama administration has a jaundiced view of Israel, but actual U.S. recognition of “Palestine” seems a remote prospect in the near term. The domestic political firestorm for the president—already likely to be badly wounded in midterm elections and deeply concerned about his own prospects in two years—would simply be too much.

A more indirect but still effective course is to let statehood emerge through a Security Council resolution. Prior U.S. administrations would unquestionably have voted “no,” thus vetoing such a proposal, but Mr. Obama’s penchant for publicly pressuring Israel is a foreshadow that Washington may decide not to play its traditional role. While even Mr. Obama is unlikely to instruct a “yes” vote on a Security Council resolution affirming a Palestinian state and subsequent U.N. membership, one could readily envision the administration abstaining. That would allow a near-certain majority, perhaps 14-0, to adopt the resolution.

In any other administration, this would be inconceivable; however, this administration is like no other. Yes, this would be a major step forward for the delegitimizers. (“By defining ‘Palestine’ to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel’s authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.”) Yes, it would be politically unpopular, given the country’s pro-Israel orientation. And yes, it would send a dangerous signal to Iran that Israel’s fate is not tied to our own, and that Israel’s existential threat is Israel’s problem alone.

But the possibility is real given Obama’s track record, the leaks about an imposed peace deal, and the president’s own rhetoric. (“In his September 2009 speech at the U.N., for example, he supported a Palestinian state ‘with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.’”) So what should pro-Israel groups and lawmakers do?

Well, come January, one or both houses of Congress will be in GOP hands. It is time to start using the power of the bully pulpit (in the form of resolutions) and the purse (to defund the UN Human Rights Council, for example) to push back on the Obama assault on Israel.  A shot across the bow of the White House — a resolution condemning any effort to impose a deal or divide territory that does not arise from direct negotiations — would be a good start.

But as frightening a prospect as all this is, it pales in comparison to the threat to which Obama turns a blind eye: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. This is quite a bit more difficult. The Congress can’t order a military strike if needed. But here, too, pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers should not dally. A declaration of support for Israel, oversight hearings on the paltry results from sanctions, and a robust effort to inform and rally the American people are all needed. Mainstream Jewish pro-Israel groups have been befuddled by the administration, falling prey to the same non-direct, non-peace-talk obsession that has snared the Obami. They should reorient themselves to dual missions: heading off any scheme to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and encouraging the administration to stand by its declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is truly “unacceptable.”

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The Human Rights “Charm Offensive”

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

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Time for Democrats to Correct Course on Israel

In an interesting interview with Steve Moore, Minority Whip Eric Cantor explains the new face of the Republican Party — reform-minded, fiscally disciplined, and energetic. He also has this interesting observation on the pro-Israel coalition:

Mr. Cantor believes the American-Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic because Jews “are prone to want to help the underdog.” But he thinks the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party is changing, in large part because of Israel. “I tell the Jewish groups that more and more of the problems with convincing folks that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own comes from the Democrats. There are a lot in the progressive movement in this country who do not feel that the U.S. should ever be leaning towards Israel. They are openly hostile” toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Cantor points to a poll indicating that 46% of American Jews say they would consider voting for another individual for president. “That is astonishing given the history. Reagan got 40%—that was probably the high water mark.”

There are multiple reasons for Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party, and I tend to favor an explanation other than Cantor’s. But his analysis of the Democratic caucus is candid and accurate. However, there is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, or a significant segment of it, to right itself and re-establish its full-throated support for Israel.

Certainly there are hard-core leftists who played footsie with Soros Street, signed on to the Gaza 54 letter, and cheered Obama’s Israel policy. But far more members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and House were pulled by partisan concerns and felt obliged to run interference for Obama. For months and months they dared not criticize the administration. When Obama “condemned” Israel, many reacted with platitudes rather than a sharp rebuke of the president. When it came to the flotilla, the Senate letter (and the House letter to a lesser extent) revealed Democrats’ reluctance to challenge the president on his straddling at the UN.

But the landscape is about to shift dramatically. Obama’s approval ratings are tumbling. Those Democrats who survive the 2010 tsunami will owe little loyalty to the Obama team. And the putrid results of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy are now there for all to see. In other words, there is little reason for House and Senate Democrats to follow the Obama administration’s lead on Israel. We already saw a hint of this when 87 senators signed on to a letter that, in effect, warned Obama not to blame Bibi for the potential collapse of the peace talks.

Once the 2010 midterms are behind us, J Street completes its collapse, and the damage to the Democratic Party is assessed, there is an opportunity for those pro-Israel Democrats who pulled their punches to reconnect with their Republican colleagues and re-establish that broad-based pro-Israel coalition. A good start would be a unified message on Iran along the lines Joe Lieberman detailed in his recent speech on the subject. Another would be some congressional action with regard to political and human rights abuses in the Muslim World. Why are we giving billions to Mubarak when he represses his people? Why aren’t we cutting funds to the UN Human Rights Council?

There are still liberal Democrats who will shy away from such moves and be uneasy about confronting the administration. But frankly, carrying water for the Obami is not good for one’s political health. And Democrats will be all too familiar with that truism come November.

In an interesting interview with Steve Moore, Minority Whip Eric Cantor explains the new face of the Republican Party — reform-minded, fiscally disciplined, and energetic. He also has this interesting observation on the pro-Israel coalition:

Mr. Cantor believes the American-Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic because Jews “are prone to want to help the underdog.” But he thinks the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party is changing, in large part because of Israel. “I tell the Jewish groups that more and more of the problems with convincing folks that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own comes from the Democrats. There are a lot in the progressive movement in this country who do not feel that the U.S. should ever be leaning towards Israel. They are openly hostile” toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Cantor points to a poll indicating that 46% of American Jews say they would consider voting for another individual for president. “That is astonishing given the history. Reagan got 40%—that was probably the high water mark.”

There are multiple reasons for Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party, and I tend to favor an explanation other than Cantor’s. But his analysis of the Democratic caucus is candid and accurate. However, there is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, or a significant segment of it, to right itself and re-establish its full-throated support for Israel.

Certainly there are hard-core leftists who played footsie with Soros Street, signed on to the Gaza 54 letter, and cheered Obama’s Israel policy. But far more members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and House were pulled by partisan concerns and felt obliged to run interference for Obama. For months and months they dared not criticize the administration. When Obama “condemned” Israel, many reacted with platitudes rather than a sharp rebuke of the president. When it came to the flotilla, the Senate letter (and the House letter to a lesser extent) revealed Democrats’ reluctance to challenge the president on his straddling at the UN.

But the landscape is about to shift dramatically. Obama’s approval ratings are tumbling. Those Democrats who survive the 2010 tsunami will owe little loyalty to the Obama team. And the putrid results of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy are now there for all to see. In other words, there is little reason for House and Senate Democrats to follow the Obama administration’s lead on Israel. We already saw a hint of this when 87 senators signed on to a letter that, in effect, warned Obama not to blame Bibi for the potential collapse of the peace talks.

Once the 2010 midterms are behind us, J Street completes its collapse, and the damage to the Democratic Party is assessed, there is an opportunity for those pro-Israel Democrats who pulled their punches to reconnect with their Republican colleagues and re-establish that broad-based pro-Israel coalition. A good start would be a unified message on Iran along the lines Joe Lieberman detailed in his recent speech on the subject. Another would be some congressional action with regard to political and human rights abuses in the Muslim World. Why are we giving billions to Mubarak when he represses his people? Why aren’t we cutting funds to the UN Human Rights Council?

There are still liberal Democrats who will shy away from such moves and be uneasy about confronting the administration. But frankly, carrying water for the Obami is not good for one’s political health. And Democrats will be all too familiar with that truism come November.

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It’s Not the “Right Wing” That Did in J Street

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.

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A Really Big Whopper

Joe Sestak’s campaign is going down the tubes. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee may decide to stop pouring money down the drain. So what does he do? He panics and tries to regain Jewish voters turned off by his anti-Israel positions. He makes a big error though: he drags AIPAC into it. Ben Smith writes:

The pro-Israel group AIPAC says a campaign ad from Rep. Joe Sestak that claims that, “According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record” is inaccurate. … “Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. I couldn’t be true, we don’t rate or endorse candidates,” said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sestak has faced repeated attacks over his stand on Israel since signing a January letter aimed at easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though critics point more to letters and to sponsorship than to any votes that break with Congressional Democrats’ generally pro-Israel party line. (There haven’t been many actual difficult votes on the issue, one way or the other). And Sestak has sought in the past to associate himself with AIPAC.

No, AIPAC generally doesn’t appreciate candidates who keynote for CAIR or sign Soros Street’s Gaza 54 letter. And they really aren’t fond of those who tout the UN Human Rights Council. But they don’t do electioneering. Still, there is no doubt what the mainstream Jewish community thinks of him:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

And by the way, is he going to give Soros’s money back?

Joe Sestak’s campaign is going down the tubes. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee may decide to stop pouring money down the drain. So what does he do? He panics and tries to regain Jewish voters turned off by his anti-Israel positions. He makes a big error though: he drags AIPAC into it. Ben Smith writes:

The pro-Israel group AIPAC says a campaign ad from Rep. Joe Sestak that claims that, “According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record” is inaccurate. … “Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. I couldn’t be true, we don’t rate or endorse candidates,” said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sestak has faced repeated attacks over his stand on Israel since signing a January letter aimed at easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though critics point more to letters and to sponsorship than to any votes that break with Congressional Democrats’ generally pro-Israel party line. (There haven’t been many actual difficult votes on the issue, one way or the other). And Sestak has sought in the past to associate himself with AIPAC.

No, AIPAC generally doesn’t appreciate candidates who keynote for CAIR or sign Soros Street’s Gaza 54 letter. And they really aren’t fond of those who tout the UN Human Rights Council. But they don’t do electioneering. Still, there is no doubt what the mainstream Jewish community thinks of him:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

And by the way, is he going to give Soros’s money back?

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Where Is the International Community When You Need It?

When we had last left the story of the ongoing tragedy in Western Sahara, the chief of police of the Polisario Front (the “liberation group” that has blocked a plan for autonomy put forth by Morocco and continues to warehouse Sahrawis in dismal conditions) had denounced his own rebel movement and championed the Moroccan autonomy plan, despite fears he would be arrested. He fled to Mauritania and was planning on rejoining his family in the Tindouf camps and continuing his advocacy. But the Polisario Front would have none of it:

Polisario top security official Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud was arrested on Tuesday evening by the militia of the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front upon his arrival in the border post leading to the Tindouf camps, coming from the Mauritanian territory, international media reported.

Polisario militiamen, who were on board of two vehicles, arrested Ould Sidi Mouloud, in the region of Mhiriz, before taking him to unknown destination, according to Al Arabiya sources.

So much for freedom of travel. So much for freedom of speech. Earlier in the day, Sidi Mouloud, we are told, “urged the United Nations and all international human rights organizations to support him to preserve his right of free speech and his physical integrity.” Not quickly enough, it turns out.

And where is the “international community”? Humanitarian groups have called on the UN to take action. For example:

The Leadership Council for Human Rights this morning called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek the release of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, the 42 year old police inspector of the Polisario.

Sidi Mouloud was arrested yesterday by Algerian and Polisario authorities after speaking out in favor of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan for the Western Sahara.

“Not only is Sidi Mouloud’s arrest illegal — all he did was speak his mind; I don’t remember freedom of speech having been removed from the list of fundamental rights — it raises concerns for his overall safety,” stated Kathryn Cameron Porter, Founder and President of the Leadership Council for Human Rights. “The last senior figure to come out in support of the Autonomy Plan, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, had a sudden and unexpected heart attack immediately after his announcement.”

We should not get our hopes up that the UN will spring him. But this does raise once again a fundamental question. Morocco has presented an autonomy plan to the UN, which the Obama administration supports, but the UN has done nothing while Algeria and its pets in the Polisario Front maintain their grip on the throats of the Sahrawis and commit violations of human rights. Why doesn’t the UN agree to the plan and then use its persuasive powers (we keep hearing they have some) to implement it? Oh, is the UN Human Rights Council too busy bashing Israel?

The Obami have great faith in the efficacy of multi-lateral institutions. Perhaps it’s time to put that faith to the test and challenge the UN to end the suffering and the abuse of fundamental rights in Western Sahara.

When we had last left the story of the ongoing tragedy in Western Sahara, the chief of police of the Polisario Front (the “liberation group” that has blocked a plan for autonomy put forth by Morocco and continues to warehouse Sahrawis in dismal conditions) had denounced his own rebel movement and championed the Moroccan autonomy plan, despite fears he would be arrested. He fled to Mauritania and was planning on rejoining his family in the Tindouf camps and continuing his advocacy. But the Polisario Front would have none of it:

Polisario top security official Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud was arrested on Tuesday evening by the militia of the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front upon his arrival in the border post leading to the Tindouf camps, coming from the Mauritanian territory, international media reported.

Polisario militiamen, who were on board of two vehicles, arrested Ould Sidi Mouloud, in the region of Mhiriz, before taking him to unknown destination, according to Al Arabiya sources.

So much for freedom of travel. So much for freedom of speech. Earlier in the day, Sidi Mouloud, we are told, “urged the United Nations and all international human rights organizations to support him to preserve his right of free speech and his physical integrity.” Not quickly enough, it turns out.

And where is the “international community”? Humanitarian groups have called on the UN to take action. For example:

The Leadership Council for Human Rights this morning called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek the release of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, the 42 year old police inspector of the Polisario.

Sidi Mouloud was arrested yesterday by Algerian and Polisario authorities after speaking out in favor of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan for the Western Sahara.

“Not only is Sidi Mouloud’s arrest illegal — all he did was speak his mind; I don’t remember freedom of speech having been removed from the list of fundamental rights — it raises concerns for his overall safety,” stated Kathryn Cameron Porter, Founder and President of the Leadership Council for Human Rights. “The last senior figure to come out in support of the Autonomy Plan, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, had a sudden and unexpected heart attack immediately after his announcement.”

We should not get our hopes up that the UN will spring him. But this does raise once again a fundamental question. Morocco has presented an autonomy plan to the UN, which the Obama administration supports, but the UN has done nothing while Algeria and its pets in the Polisario Front maintain their grip on the throats of the Sahrawis and commit violations of human rights. Why doesn’t the UN agree to the plan and then use its persuasive powers (we keep hearing they have some) to implement it? Oh, is the UN Human Rights Council too busy bashing Israel?

The Obami have great faith in the efficacy of multi-lateral institutions. Perhaps it’s time to put that faith to the test and challenge the UN to end the suffering and the abuse of fundamental rights in Western Sahara.

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Inclusive Israel Gets No Credit

Earlier today, I remarked that the left is unmoved by Israel’s protection of the rights of gays and women. It’s not simply that Israel isn’t hanging gays as they do in Iran, or that it doesn’t permit six-year-old girls to be married off; no, it’s a modern, inclusive democracy — a fact that seems to escape its critics’ notice (especially those on the UN Human Rights Council, whose treatment of women and gays is atrocious). Likewise, the media, even in the face of abundant evidence, is slow to credit Israel for human-rights policies and a nondiscriminatory legal system vastly superior to those of its neighbors.

A case in point: “Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Jerusalem city government to provide more than $120,000 in funding for a prominent gay community center.” The report spins it this way, however: “Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating.” Well, other signs would be that gay Palestinians have fled there. (“According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel. Their willingness to live there — despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat — is due to Palestinian attitudes toward gay men, they claim.”) In April this year, Israel took flack from the Catholic Church for allowing a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem. And then there is this:

The right to be openly gay has been acknowledged in the Israeli military since 1993, and there is little evidence that policy has caused any problems. Even beyond the army, Israeli law is generally progressive on issues of sexual orientation. Even though marriage is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment, Israeli authorities recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad, and same-sex partners receive the same economic benefits as married couples.

“Out” magazine has named Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East in acknowledgment of its thriving gay culture.

Military expert Levy said the editor of the primary army newspaper, Bamachane, is openly gay. He estimates the percentage of gay soldiers at 10 percent in general and somewhat less in field units.

Former soldier [Eli] Kaplan said certain intelligence and naval units were known for having a large proportion of gay soldiers.

So there have been plenty of “signs” of Israel’s tolerance and acceptance of gays, despite the AP’s obtuseness. And no, the left in America and the elites of the “international community” don’t give a darn about any of that. Why? Because it’s the Jewish state and the rules are different.

Earlier today, I remarked that the left is unmoved by Israel’s protection of the rights of gays and women. It’s not simply that Israel isn’t hanging gays as they do in Iran, or that it doesn’t permit six-year-old girls to be married off; no, it’s a modern, inclusive democracy — a fact that seems to escape its critics’ notice (especially those on the UN Human Rights Council, whose treatment of women and gays is atrocious). Likewise, the media, even in the face of abundant evidence, is slow to credit Israel for human-rights policies and a nondiscriminatory legal system vastly superior to those of its neighbors.

A case in point: “Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Jerusalem city government to provide more than $120,000 in funding for a prominent gay community center.” The report spins it this way, however: “Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating.” Well, other signs would be that gay Palestinians have fled there. (“According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel. Their willingness to live there — despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat — is due to Palestinian attitudes toward gay men, they claim.”) In April this year, Israel took flack from the Catholic Church for allowing a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem. And then there is this:

The right to be openly gay has been acknowledged in the Israeli military since 1993, and there is little evidence that policy has caused any problems. Even beyond the army, Israeli law is generally progressive on issues of sexual orientation. Even though marriage is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment, Israeli authorities recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad, and same-sex partners receive the same economic benefits as married couples.

“Out” magazine has named Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East in acknowledgment of its thriving gay culture.

Military expert Levy said the editor of the primary army newspaper, Bamachane, is openly gay. He estimates the percentage of gay soldiers at 10 percent in general and somewhat less in field units.

Former soldier [Eli] Kaplan said certain intelligence and naval units were known for having a large proportion of gay soldiers.

So there have been plenty of “signs” of Israel’s tolerance and acceptance of gays, despite the AP’s obtuseness. And no, the left in America and the elites of the “international community” don’t give a darn about any of that. Why? Because it’s the Jewish state and the rules are different.

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Shilling for the UN Human Rights Council

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

Read Less




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