March 25, 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.”

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.

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.

UNRWA staff sanctioned for inciting violence against Jews

Several employees of the United Nations agency handling Palestinian refugees were punished for disseminating content that promoted violence or anti-Semitism, a UN official said.

The punishments, which included suspension and loss of pay “in a number of cases so far,” were made public on Oct. 20 on the website of the office of the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The announcement followed the recent publication of two reports by the Geneva-based group UN Watch, which alleged that at least 12 officials from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, were engaged in incitement to violence online and on social networks against Jewish Israelis, and in some cases against Jews in general.

“UNRWA condemns and will not tolerate anti-Semitism or racism in any form,” read the statement, which followed a press conference in which Farhan Haq, Ban Ki-moon’s deputy spokesman, was asked about the report.

While noting that “some allegations have been found to be authentic, others not,” the statement also said that “very regrettably, in a number of cases so far, the Agency has found staff Facebook postings to be in violation of its social media rules. These postings have been removed and the staff have been subject to both remedial and disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay.”

The remaining allegations, the statement read, “are under assessment.”

UN Watch’s September report featured material from the Facebook page of a user named Ahmed Fathi Bader. Identifying himself as a deputy principal at an UNRWA school, he praised the murder of “a group of collaborators with the Jews” by Hamas last year, an incident Amnesty International harshly condemned.

Mohammed Abu Staita, who also identified himself on Facebook as working for UNRWA, posted a cartoon last year depicting a hook-nosed Orthodox Jew with long ear locks and a black hat stamped with a Star of David, cowering behind a tree as the tree alerts a gun-wielding man to the Jew’s presence.

Alleging U.N. bias, Israel again keeping distance from Gaza probe

The United Nations probe into the Gaza conflict hasn’t even begun, but Israel already is convinced that it won’t end well.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 29-1 with 17 abstentions, the U.N. Human Rights Council moved last month to establish a commission of inquiry “to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The United States cast the sole vote against.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the council for choosing to investigate Israel rather than nearby crisis zones such as Iraq or Syria, and implied he would not cooperate with U.N. investigators.

“The report of this committee has already been written,” Netanyahu said following a meeting with visiting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The committee chairman has already decided that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. Therefore, they have nothing to look for here. They should visit Damascus, Baghdad and Tripoli. They should go see ISIS, the Syrian army and Hamas. There they will find war crimes, not here.”

Israel has been down this road before. Following the end of the last Gaza conflict, in early 2009, its government refused to cooperate with a U.N. investigation led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The probe, dubbed the Goldstone Report, alleged that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, though Goldstone later personally retracted that allegation. Israel rejected the original report as inaccurate and biased.

This time, the commission will be chaired by William Schabas, a Canadian-born professor of international law at Middlesex University in London. Schabas said in an Aug. 12 interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that it would be “inappropriate” to assert that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Last year, Schabas said that Netanyahu would be his “favorite” leader to see tried at the International Criminal Court.

Schabas’ father is Jewish and he sits on the advisory board of the Israel Law Review. In the Channel 2 interview, he said he would not let his personal opinions affect his investigation.

“What someone who sits on a commission or a judge has to be able to do is to put these things behind them and start fresh, and this is of course what I intend to do,” Schabas said. “It’s in Israel’s interest to be there in that discussion and give its version of events. If it doesn’t, then that leaves an unfortunate one-sided picture of it.”

Israeli cooperation could have softened his report’s conclusions, Goldstone wrote in the 2011 Washington Post Op-Ed in which he backed down from the report’s most scathing criticism of Israel. Goldstone noted that subsequent investigations by the Israeli military indicated that it was not Israel’s intent to target civilians.

“Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes,” Goldstone wrote. “Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants.”

Among Israeli legal experts, there is broad agreement that Israel must do its part to present its version of events, even while disagreeing about how best to do that. Only Israel’s state comptroller has indicated that he will be investigating the Gaza conflict.

Amichai Cohen, an international law expert at the Israel Democracy Institute, said the comptroller’s probe is insufficient and that Israel should launch an investigation by experts.

“The comptroller himself doesn’t have knowledge in international law, in criminal law, in military law. That’s not his specialty,” Cohen told JTA. “You need something independent and transparent.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch and a vocal critic of the Human Rights Council’s treatment of Israel, said Israel should do what it did in 2009: publish accounts from the conflict that show its side of the story without directly cooperating with the investigation.

“If the U.N. decides to have a one-sided inquiry, they will write a one-sided report,” Neuer said. “I’m confident Israel will make sure that the commission will have no excuse to say they didn’t have the information.”

Shlomy Zachary, a lawyer with the Palestinian legal rights group Yesh Din, urged Israel to cooperate with the United Nations, noting that its decision to work with a 2010 U.N. investigation of the so-called flotilla incident helped mitigate criticism of Israel.

That probe, known as the Palmer Commission, was charged with investigating the storming of a Turkish boat aimed at breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The report ultimately condemned the raid, but it also criticized the conduct of protesters on board the ship and determined that the Gaza blockade was legal.

“When Israel cooperated with international bodies, the results were in favor of Israel,” Zachary told JTA. “When Israel is not willing to cooperate, it creates the suspicion it has something to hide.”

Neuer agreed that the 2010 probe was a good model for U.N. investigations, but he noted that it was supervised by the U.N. secretary-general, not the Human Rights Council. Neuer said that given the commission’s record of bias, Israel’s options are more limited.

Ultimately, the conclusions of the latest investigation will not be legally binding on Israel. But if its conclusions are harsh, it could further ratchet up international criticism. Cohen said that could put added pressure on Israel to exercise restraint should another round of conflict take place.

“The point in these commissions isn’t just to research the past, it’s to tell the future,” Cohen said. “The main problem is that a commission will say from now on, this or that should be prohibited. This is very problematic for Israel. That will make it harder next time.”

U.N. panel probing Israel to include George Clooney’s fiancee

Amal Alamuddin, a British attorney and the fiancee of actor George Clooney, will serve on a U.N. commission investigating Israel for possible war crimes in Gaza.

Alamuddin, who was the legal adviser to the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, will be part of a three-person panel of inquiry, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Monday.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the commission is charged with investigating “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” in the recent conflict in Gaza.

William Schabas, a Canadian international law professor, will chair the commission, which also includes Doudo Diene, a Senegalese attorney who advised the U.N. on the human rights situation in the Ivory Coast from 2011 to this year.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry slammed the selection of Schabas as chairman, saying in a statement that his “opinions and positions on Israel are known to all,” according to the Times of Israel.

Choosing Schabas, the ministry said, “proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from this body, and that the committee’s report is already written. What has just been determined is who will sign it.”

The leader of UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization that monitors the world body, called on Schabas to recuse himself because his “repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof.”

“You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge,” UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer said in a news release.

The group also questioned the appointment of Alamuddin.

“She has some experience,” Neuer said, “but at 36 she will be the youngest ever to serve on any UN inquiry, raising suspicions that the UN is trying to inject some Hollywood publicity into the process.”

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.

Erdogan at UN forum: Zionism is ‘crime against humanity’ [VIDEO]

Amid rampant hate speech against Jews published in newspapers in Turkey, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said at a United Nations meeting that anti-Semitism, Zionism and Islamophobia were all “crimes against humanity.”

Speaking Wednesday at the “Fifth Alliance of Civilizations Forum” in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, Erdogan said: “Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” Anatolia News Agency and other Turkish media reported.

The event was a United Nations summit for tolerance.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group, has called on Erdogan to apologize for his “shocking” statements and urged Ban Ki-moon — the secretary general of the United Nation who, according to UN Watch, was present on the stage and did not react to Erdogan’s words — to speak out and condemn the speech.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles said the prime minister's remarks were particularly disturbing against a backdrop of increased Eurpoean anti-semitism.

“Frankly… we are deeply disappointed that the UN Secretary General, the world’s leading diplomat, sat through the attack in silence,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement.  “We note that the US, UK, Canada and Australia declined to attend in the first place, but that both Germany and France were in attendance. We urge the leaders of those two countries along with all NATO members to publicly denounce this hate-mongering.”

Cooper also criticized Erdogan, saying he “is exactly the type of bigoted politician he bemoaned in his speech. It has been clear for some time that President Erdogan has chosen to walk in the hateful footsteps of Iranian President Ahmadinejad and use the denigration of Israel and the millions of proud Zionists around the world to establish his credentials with the Islamist street. His anti-Semitic bombast is degrading 500 years of relations with the Jewish people and putting Turkey’s Jewish community at risk of attack from extremists.”

“With the upsurge of anti-Semitism raging across Europe, such a slander, left unchallenged will only further embolden anti-Semites everywhere,” the Wiesenthal Center official concluded.

Erdogan’s words came on the heels of the Feb. 25 publication of a report on xenophobia in the Turkish media which said that Jews and Armenians are exposed to hate speech more than any other group in Turkey.

The report by the Hrant Dink Foundation, a human rights watchdog, is based on material that appeared in 16 national circulation newspapers and another 1,000 local publications between September 2012 and December 2012, according to an article about the report which appeared on Thursday in Hurriyet, a Turkish daily.

The researches found 39 instances of hate speech against Jews in Turkish newspapers during that period, which accounted for 25 percent of the total of hateful articles found. Hate speech levels against Armenians was slightly lower, according to a diagram from the research. The third most targeted group was Christians with 18 percent of all hateful content.

The top three Turkish dailies that featured hate speech content are Yeni Akit, Milli Gazete and Yeni Mesaj, respectively, the report said, adding that in the local media, Istanbul, Gölcük Postası, and Yozgat Hakimiyet were the top three dailies that used hate speech the most.

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.”