On September 21 and September 22, I attended in New York City a Conference called "We have a Dream", organized by a coalition of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) led by UN Watch. The purpose of the meeting? to look into Human Rights abuses all over the world.
It does sound like a duplication of functions, doesn't it? After all, that is what the UN Conference to end Racism and Discrimination (Nicknamed "Durban III") is intended to do...isn't it?.
Here are some of the contrasts between one and the other...
At the UN Conference, one of the Main speakers was Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who is responsible for the repression and killing of thousands of his own Iranian citizens for oppossing the chocking rule of the Islamic Republic, or simply for being Homosexuals, or for being women who spoke to non relatives, or for being non muslims, or a variety of other similar criminal charges.
At the UN Watch led conference, we listened to victioms of Human rights abuses in Darfur, South Sudan, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and all those other countries which had fallen under the radar screen of the so-called "Durban Process" because they were overwhelmingly preoccupied with condeming the only true Democracy in the Middle East for its occupation of the Palestinian territories. This in spite of the sheer difference in scale of the killings perpetrated by those "invisible" regimes in just the last year dwarfs the total number of Israelis and Palestinians who died in the 63 years since Israel's independence, military as well as civilians.
Among the examples of Human Rights violations we heard, we learned of the sentencing of a young woman to rape in Pakistan for showing "inmodesty in public", the ethinc cleansing of Abiyeh, a small region contested by North and South Sudan, by the Karthum (Sudanese) government to make sure the required plebiscite on the future of the area never took place.
We heard of prisioners of conscience about their mistreatment in prisons, we heard of wives expelled from their countries for asking for the freedom of their husbands. All these witnesses made it clear of their full understanding of the meaning of Democracy. I was very impressed by the clarity of their vision and understanding.
What are these dissidents demanding? They want their governments to be accountable to the people; they want their government to respect their rights to freedom of speech, to freedom of worship, to freedom of sexual identity, to freedom to dissent.
The UN Watch led conference stands as a beacon to provide a forum to those whose voice is muffled by the dictators of the world. A role that the United Nations has apparently abandoned.
In contrast to this grim picture of violations of Human dignity, I was also exposed last week to something different - I was very fortunate to attend the Four Freedoms Award Ceremony of the Roosevelt Institute, commemorating the 40th anniversary of FDR's famous speech...what a contrast! It made me proud to live in a society that celebrates Freedom and the responsibility of the State to its citizens rather that what I heard of later in the week.
Need I say more? Yes - I need to speak about the UN. When listening to both speeches, those of PM Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas, I was struck by the contrast. Did anybody count the negative and racist adjectives in Abbas' speech?
Netanyahu spoke of the Israeli dream of Peace, its willingness to make compromises, its love of the land and its fear of terrorism. He demanded that before any Palestinian State is established, Israel's security needs need to be addressed. He also castigated the UN General Assembly for a number of biased votes in the past and highlighted the plight of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped in Israeli territory and abducted to Gaza, where he is not allowed contact with anybody outside his captors - and that includes ban on visits by the International Red Cross.
In contrast, Abbas spoke of the need to redress the Nakba (Disaster) perpetrated on the Palestinians, not in 1967 but in 1948 and demanded the Right of Return to pre-1967 Israel of Palestinian refugees. All this without negotiating with Israel but as what he considers the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. He also ranted against "Israeli digging at Muslim Holy sites" to validate "the occupation". He expressed no acceptance of responsibility for Palestinian violence, blaming Israel for it. He took no clear responsibility for the future of his people beyond making sure that a "Judenrein" Palestine gains independence. He made no call for compromise. He insisted on the old maximalists Palestinian demands ignoring the fact that the PLO is still to deliver on some of the fundamental commitments made in 1993 - full 18 years ago. The Palestinian Covenant still includes the articles calling for Israel's destruction, the Palestinian Media continues to incite against "the Occupier", Palestinian Imams continue to call for the killing of Jews, and the PLO is still to openly and clearly recognize Israel as the Homeland of the Jewish people.
The Arab State of Palestine could have been established in 1947 alongside the Jewish State of Israel by implementing the UN Partition Resolution. The reality was that Arab Armies from the surrounding countries and popular Palestinian troops following the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem attacked Israel to destroy her. Over the years, Palestinians rejected compromise again and again.
Now Abbas is demanding a State in the June 4 1967 (Cease fire) lines without any concession on his part or even reassurances of curbing Palestinian terrorism. Abbas' demands were maximalists, repeating an old Palestinian litany recited with amazing ritual frequency to anybody willing to listen - but never accompanied with a sincere recognition of the right of Jews to their own State. Always in carefully crafted language negotiating a fine line to gain International support without making concessions.
Any fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict demands the recognition of the right of Arab Palestinians to Self Determination and the right of Israel for formal recognition and its citizens to live in security. PM Netanyahu made an impassionate plead to restart negotiations immediately in the very building of the UN. Abbas ignored the call.
Read both speeches (the links are in "Jewish in Dutchess") and make up your own mind.