June 26, 2019

U.N. Cuts Mic of Speakers Calling Out Anti-Israel Bias

Screenshot from YouTube.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) cut the sound from the microphone when a couple of speakers criticized the anti-Israel bias permeating the body on March 18.

Activist Anne Bayefsky was rebutting a prior speech from United Nations Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk in which he used “Nazi and anti-Semitic tropes” against Israel; her microphone was frequently cut off throughout the speech. On two occasions UNHRC President Coly Seck told her to stop using “insulting comments.” Eventually Bayefsky’s microphone was cut altogether and she had to end her speech early.

Bayefsky told Arutz Sheva, “I attempted to draw attention to the horrible murder of Ori Ansbacher because she was a Jew, and the absence of any mention of her by the UN’s Israel investigator who claimed he was reporting on the ‘current human rights situation.’ The Council President’s response? He cut my mic! He interrupted me twice, calling my remarks naming the Council ‘expert’s’ analogies of Israelis to Nazis ‘insulting.’”

“I ‘insulted’ anti-Semites by attempting to draw attention to their anti-Semitism,” Bayefsky said. “As I would have ended my statement – if I had been allowed to speak – at this UN, anti-Semitism is not a problem. It’s a human right.”

Additionally, Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, tweeted that his microphone was cut off shortly after he started speaking after he “tried to simply read out the names of the countries that spoke today in the debate against Israel.”

United States Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted in support of Neuer:

The United States left the UNHRC in June, then-United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said the move was due to the body’s anti-Israel bias.

U.N. Calls Out Iran’s Human Rights Abuses in Resolution

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani departs after speaking at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

A majority of the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution that called out the Iranian regime for its various human rights abuses on Monday, by a vote of 84 in favor and 30 against.

The resolution denounces Iran’s “ongoing severe limitations and restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, restrictions on the establishment of places of worship, attacks against places of worship and burial and other human rights violations, including but not limited to harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of access to education and incitement to hatred that leads to violence against persons belonging to recognized and unrecognized religious minorities.”

Iran was also condemned for its “alarmingly high” rate of executions – especially over “drug-related crimes – as well as its frequent use of “arbitrary detention.”

Hillel Neuer of U.N. Watch has the breakdown of countries that voted for and against the resolution:

“The death in detention last week of Vahid Sayadi Nasiri, imprisoned for Facebook posts critical of Tehran’s rulers, only underscores the urgent need for the international community to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses,” Neuer said in a statement. “Today the world sent a strong message to the fanatical regime, and that must continue.”

Neuer added, “We call upon the international community to use the occasion of this resolution to redouble its condemnation of Iran’s escalating abuse of the human rights of all its citizens, and to demand a change.”

Germany Criticized for Not Leading Support of Israel

From left: mayor of Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani, mayor of Frankfurt Uwe Becker, Palestinian human rights activist Basem Eid and Elie Pierpz. Photo courtesy of Jordan Valley Regional Council

Although Germany has developed a reputation as one of Israel’s strongest allies in the European Union, keynote speakers at the fifth Israel Congress recently held in Frankfurt criticized the host country’s recent failings on several fronts.

More than 3,000 people from across Europe attended the Nov. 25 event in one of the continent’s strongest displays of grassroots support for Israel. 

Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Gilad Erdan, the highest-level Israeli official to address the gathering at the Frankfurt Convention Center, struck a conciliatory tone as the grandson of Auschwitz survivors, but he then rebuked Germany for funding nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) hostile to Israel and for clinging to the Iran deal.

As he expressed optimism for strong Israel-German relations, Erdan said his grandmothers “never imagined their grandson would be standing here in Frankfurt celebrating Israel and Germany’s friendship.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he added, “has been clear in rejecting attempts to delegitimize Israel, and the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), as you know, has labeled BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) coarse anti-Semitism.”

However, Erdan also called on Germany to lead the European Union in withholding funding of NGOs that indirectly support BDS efforts that seek to delegitimize Israel. 

“Germany can and should lead such a reform in the [European Union] because German taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for BDS,” he said. “German government funds are also still going, unfortunately, to [United Nations] bodies that openly promote the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.”

Keynote speaker Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, chastised Merkel’s government for joining anti-Israel regimes in voting for eight recent anti-Israel resolutions put forth by the U.N. General Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee. The resolutions condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and called on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. 

“When we speak about the challenges of human rights today at the United Nations, it’s time for us to ask our leaders — and here in Germany — to ask [German foreign affairs minister] Heiko Maas and the government: It’s time to stand up for the true principles of human rights and not those that are distorted by dictatorships and their apologists.”

Maas sought to justify Germany’s U.N. voting record on Israel, particularly in the wake of criticism from fellow German parliament members, by saying Germany’s engagement softened the language of the resolutions. 

Neuer mocked Maas’ justification. “Maybe Mr. Maas will help Israel more and support 100 resolutions against Israel. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Ladies and gentlemen, this is nonsense,” he said to applause.

Maas has also been leading efforts to salvage the Iran Deal by finding workarounds against the United States’s renewed sanctions. In his address, Erdan emphasized Iran’s financing of terrorism in both Israel and Europe as well as Iran’s repeated death threats against Israel. 

“It simply cannot be that, from the point of view of Germany, it is business as usual with Iran. Germany should join the American sanctions on Iran,” Erdan said to applause. “Rather than trying to get around them —because as I said Germany is a leader in Europe, and Germany, especially Germany, must show moral leadership on this issue.”

Unlike at the last Israel Congress two years ago, Merkel sent a video greeting, in which she praised Israel’s diversity and friendship, saying “preserving the memory of the betrayal of Germany of all civilized values that was the Shoah, and learning lessons for a good and peaceful co-existence is the enduring responsibility of Germany.”

“Germany can and should lead … reform in the European Union because German taxpayers should not be footing the bill for BDS.” — Gilad Erdan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likewise sent a video greeting, saying German-Israel relations were stronger than ever. “We remember horrors,” he said. “We will never forget them, but despite the horrors of the past, we’ve transformed our relationship into a warm and constructive relationship.”

A highlight of the conference was a speech given by the former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, who made waves when she posed with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant. Idan, who called for peace between the people of both countries, voiced her most political statements yet, despite the string of death threats she continually receives from anti-Israel Iraqis.

Idan described the relentless anti-Israel bias she experienced while growing up in Baghdad. “They injected us with lies and fueled us with fear. It’s that same fear that won’t allow us to grow, and the same lack of trust that will keep us at war,” she said. 

Idan moved to the Los Angeles area in 2009 after working as a translator for the U.S. army in Iraq. She traveled to Israel for the first time this summer.  

“First, we must acknowledge vital facts, like the purpose behind every terrorist organization like Hamas or ISIS and the fact that they don’t care about a cause or a soul, and how we can stop them. That being said, Israel has a huge task — as well as Palestine, as well as the rest of the world — and that is to fight those who promote hatred and violence,” she said. “It may be hard to convince Arabs to accept people they’ve resented for ages, to co-exist, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Idan believes change can happen in Palestinian society, especially should Israel invest in educating Palestinians against hate and helping them improve their lives. “Slowly, but eventually, we are building a less violent generation,” she said.

For the first time, the Congress showcased products from Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, which are labeled as such by the European Union. Members of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, representing a region and agricultural industry tended by Israelis and Palestinians, sponsored a booth featuring wine, dates, treats and beauty products from the region. 

Erdan raised a toast at the booth. 

“In this region, both Jews and Palestinians live and work together in harmony,” he said. “It’s important for our friends in Europe to realize that the key to peace, stability and good neighborly relations between nations begins with economic development, especially in the joint industrial zones. Furthermore, the European continent has already suffered the effects of the ill-fated boycotts against Jewish products, and therefore should be wary and resist anti-Semitic actions of the BDS movement.”

Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin. 

U.N. Watch Director Shows UNHRC Has Failed to Live Up to Its Own Standards

Screenshot from Facebook.

In light of the United States’ recent decision to pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Hillel Neuer, the executive director of U.N. Watch, has shown how the UNHRC has failed to live up to even its own standards.

When the UNHRC formed out of the ashes of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2006, the UNHRC set forth some goals for itself, including “the promotion and protection of human rights” and nixing the agenda item that singled out Israel:

Needless to say, the council has not lived up to these pledges, as Israel is still routinely targeted on a weekly basis under Agenda Item 7. And as U.N. Watch has reported, both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola were recently elected to the council, even though both countries are plagued by human rights violations.

When Haley announced the United States’ exit from the council, she cited the fact the lack of reforms and the council’s inability to live up to its name as reasons for doing so. She added that the U.S. would work with NGOs that actually do protect human rights from here on out.

State Department Spokesperson Condemns U.N. for Letting Syria Chair Disarmament Forum

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert condemned the United Nations’ (U.N.) decision to allow Syria to chair the organization’s disarmament forum in May.

In response to U.N. Watch’s question on the matter, Nauert called the U.N. decision an “outrage.”

“That would be an outrage if Syria were to take control of that,” Nauert said. “We have seen these types of things happen at the United Nations before, where suspicious countries, countries that run against everything that an individual committee should stand for, will then head up that committee.”

Nauert added that she didn’t know what United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is going to do in response to this U.N. decision.

Hillel Neuer, the president of U.N. Watch, called out European countries for not speaking out against the U.N. on this matter.

“If UK, France, Germany & others stay silent as Syria assumes presidency of UN’s Conference on Disarmament—the body which produced the treaty against chemical weapons—this will make a mockery of everything they said this week,” Neuer tweeted.

U.N. Watch first reported that Syria would chair the disarmament forum on April 9, a move that Neuer called the equivalent of “putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.”

“The Assad regime’s documented use of chemical weapons remains the most serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the treaty’s twenty-year history,” Neuer said. “We urge the UN to understand that at a time when Syria is gassing its own men, women, and children to death, to see Syria heading the world body that is supposed to protect these victims will simply shock the conscience of humanity.”

The U.N. Watch article noted that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres will likely claim that Syria chairing the forum is due to “an automatic rotation, and that the matter can only be addressed by member states.” But Neuer noted that the U.N. has spoken out against such committee decisions and that’s what they should do here; however he speculated that the U.N. will likely just allow itself to be “exploited” by Syria into allowing them to keep their position as chair of the forum.

“Syria’s use of deadly chemical weapons and its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, in breach of its disarmament obligations, run counter to the objectives and fundamental principles of the Conference on Disarmament itself,” Neuer said. “Syria’s chairmanship will only undermine the integrity of both the disarmament framework and of the United Nations, and no country should support that.”

The news about Syria chairing the disarmament just after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons against his own people in the town of Douma, resulting in at least 40 people dead and hundreds of others wounded. Assad’s chemical weapons attack is the latest of a long line of butchery committed by Assad against his own people.

UN Watch Leader Faces a World of Challenges While Defending Israel

Photo courtesy of U.N. Watch

Hillel Neuer considers it a badge of honor that he is a “feared and dreaded” figure at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), as the European newspaper Tribune de Genève once described him.

“There are people who cross the street in Geneva to avoid me,” Neuer said. As executive director of UN Watch, a nonprofit that monitors United Nations activities, Neuer is both watchdog and whistleblower, holding world powers to account when it comes to their human rights records. A lawyer, activist and humanitarian, Neuer spoke with the Journal from Geneva, where he lives and works.

Jewish Journal: As head of UN Watch, you define yourself as “the voice of conscience at the United Nations.” What’s it like to be the guy defending democratic ideals in a room full of non-democratic countries?

Hillel Neuer: It often feels surreal. You ask yourself how bizarre is it that you need to state basic truths in an arena that is often Orwellian, where the worst criminals are often the prosecutors and the judges.

JJ: The U.N. Human Rights Council notoriously singles out Israel for violations even as far worse offenders go unchallenged. Where is this discrimination most evident?

HN: During a given meeting, you’ll have resolutions — maybe one on Iran, one on Myanmar, one on North Korea and then five on Israel. And it’s not just the numbers: When there is a resolution criticizing a country, the practice at the U.N. is to recognize and acknowledge various positive things [a country has done], whether they are justified or not. But when it comes to Israel, even though Israel has done many positive things, none of this ever appears in the resolutions. This is part of an attempt to portray Israel as so evil, nothing good can be said of it.

“I’m the most hated man at the United Nations. I get looks of death from a vast array of people.”

JJ: What is the motive for a non-Arab, non-Islamic country with no history of anti-Semitism to vote against Israel?

HN: The U.N. is a political body and many resolutions and elections are decided by vote trading. ‘You vote for me, I vote for you.’ So the Islamic states number 56 and they will go to some island state and say, ‘We will give you 56 votes for your issues and all you have to do is vote for our resolutions against Israel.’ … It’s realpolitik.

JJ: It sounds like the Arab and Islamic states have outsized power at the U.N.

HN: Since the 1973 war [when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC] imposed an oil embargo, the Arab world has been clear that if you don’t do things they like, your country won’t have oil. Sovereign wealth funds from countries like Qatar have tens of billions of dollars they could invest in your country if you vote the way they want you to. There is also fear of terrorism. Some countries perceive that if they are too friendly to Israel, they will risk making themselves into a target for terrorist groups.

JJ: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has won many fans in the Jewish world for standing up for Israel at the U.N. What difference has she made?

HN: There’s been a moral clarity. She’s been forthright in calling out what she sees as plain bigotry and things that make no sense. Seeing her hand raised to veto [the recent Jerusalem resolution] was a very powerful moment. An iconic picture, I would say.

JJ: Is your credibility ever challenged because you’re Jewish?

HN: I’m the most hated man at the United Nations. I get looks of death from a vast array of people — dictatorships like China, Russia and Cuba because we bring their victims [to testify] very effectively and ambush them. But at the end of day, I don’t walk through life worrying what my handicaps are. We all have them.

JJ: As a human rights organization sworn to defend Israel, how do you address Israel’s offenses against the Palestinians?

HN: Even if I’m aware Israel has blots on its record, I’m going to speak out against human rights abuses in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Venezuela. That’s our role. We’re there to deal with the subjects not being dealt with. Israel has dozens of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] that hold the [government and] IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to account. We fill the void in Geneva.

JJ: What could Israel do to help your work combatting the prejudice against it?

HN: On the day of [Israeli] elections a few years ago, I had given a speech telling the world to look at Israeli democracy in action, explaining that more Arabs than ever had been elected to the Knesset, etc. … And then [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu made that xenophobic statement, ‘Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves,’ which was unhelpful to me. And I told his government that immediately.

UN Watch to bestow Kasparov with human rights accolade

Garry Kasparov,  a former Russian chess grandmaster who became a political activist, will receive a human rights award from UN Watch.

The group, which monitors the United Nations, named Kasparov the recipient of its Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award on Monday for his “long and nonviolent struggle for human rights in Russia.”

“Mr. Kasparov is not only one of the world's smartest men, he is also among its bravest,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.

Kasparov, a native of Azerbaijan, won the world championship in 1985 at 22, the youngest person ever to win the crown. After retiring in 2005, he became involved in human rights activism in Russia and is a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin.

He will receive the award in Geneva at a dinner on June 5.

Kasparov is the son of a Jewish father and an Armenian mother.

U.N. General Assembly adopts nine resolutions condemning Israel

The United Nations General Assembly adopted nine resolutions on the topics of Palestinian rights and the Golan Heights.

The resolutions adopted Tuesday criticized Israel for “the continuing systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people,” and focused on “the extremely difficult socioeconomic conditions being faced by the Palestine refugees” in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. One resolution condemned Israel for continuing to hold the Golan Heights, and demanded Israel to return the land to Syria.

“It’s astonishing,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said Tuesday. “At a time when the Syrian regime is massacring its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling and logically absurd.”

By the end of this week, the current 2012 UN General Assembly session is set to adopt 22 country-specific resolutions on Israel — and only four on the rest of the world combined, one each for Syria, Iran, North Korea and Burma, according to UN Watch.

“The Middle East peace process is in a deep freeze,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday at his end-of-year press conference at the United Nations Headquarters.

The General Assembly met as Israel announced that it would approve plans for more housing construction in eastern Jerusalem.

“I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” Ban said. “Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.”

Magen David Adom and the Case for Diplomacy

GENEVA — After 75 years, humanitarianism prevailed over rejectionism. Last Thursday, in the early morning hours, delegates to the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, assembled in Geneva from 192 states and 183 relief societies, voted by overwhelming majority to recognize the Magen David emblem and admit Israel’s relief society. In marking an end to one of the most notorious international restrictions against the Jewish state — reminiscent of the United Nation’s 1991 repeal of its “Zionism is Racism” indictment — the historic achievement refutes a fatalistic approach toward Israel’s isolation and underscores the potential of determined diplomacy to eliminate the demonization of Israel within key institutions of international law.

Success last week was hardly assured. The two-day conference was marred by acrimony as Muslim delegations from more than 50 countries attempted, first, to force the conference to adjourn, asserting that it was “procedurally illegal.” When that failed, the Islamic bloc, rejecting compromise, demanded last-minute amendments to the conference’s carefully negotiated resolution, seeking to wrest unrelated political concessions from Israel. When those, too, failed — thanks to the resolve and determination of Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and conference chairman Dr. Mohammed Al-Hadid (a Jordanian) — the Muslim group filibustered with one point of order after another, forcing the delegates to stay until 3 a.m. before the final vote and conclusion of the conference.

There were sharp words. The Syrian delegate accused Kellenberger of “lacking neutrality and objectivity.” The Palestinian ambassador said the conference was “an Israeli ploy,” and that Israel is the world’s “most flagrant violator of international law.” The Saudi representative said Israel’s relief society violates international humanitarian law “every day.” Iran’s delegate said the Magen David Adom (MDA) “insists on racial discrimination” and that its admission would be a “threat for the unity of the movement.”

It was precisely this sort of vehement opposition — part of a decades-long campaign to cast Israel as a pariah within the international arena — that hitherto prevented the Israeli society from joining the movement.

Few causes in recent years have galvanized supporters of international equality for Israel as much as the exclusion of the MDA. Mobilizing the principal actors — the U.S. government, the American Red Cross, the ICRC and the Swiss government — were not only Israeli démarches, but also the appeals of thousands around the world together with sustained diplomatic campaigns by several groups.

The MDA victory is two-fold. First, Israel’s humanitarian society will now be able to count on the support of the international movement as it fulfills its mission to serve those in need, and to fully cooperate with all societies, including the Palestinian Red Crescent that was admitted simultaneously.

Equally as important, there is a monumental achievement on the level of symbol. The Star of David is the emblem of Israel’s relief society, but it is much more. It is the flag of the State of Israel and the historic symbol of the Jewish people. Until last week — at a major world body that literally defines itself by symbols — the Star of David was rejected. Thanks to the activism of so many around the world, today it is accepted.

With the alarming rise of anti-Israel boycotts and selective divestment, some would surrender to the notion that Israel is fated to dwell alone, relying on the rabbinic dictum of “Esau hates Jacob” as a rule of nature. Hope is not a strategy, but neither is defeatism. The fact is that by working with allies and sympathizers the world over, determined diplomacy repealed an invidious U.N. resolution in 1991, won Israel’s admission to one of the United Nations’ five regional groups (albeit in New York only) in 2000, and, in 2006, has gained international recognition of the Magen David.

Will the U.N. General Assembly ever eliminate its annual ritual of condemning Israel in 19 one-sided resolutions? Will the world body’s human rights apparatus ever abandon special agenda items for the singling-out of Israel? We do not have to complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.

Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch and editor of its news and comment Web site,