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Saturday, May 3, 2008

The sad saga of Jean Ziegler

Jean Ziegler has earned a reputation as a persistent enemy of Israel. Coupled with his pretensions to defend human rights, his career has made a mockery of UN guardianship of human liberties.

On March 26, 2008, to cheers and acclaim, Jean Ziegler was elected by the newly formed United Nations Human Rights Council to serve as one of its expert advisers. It was hardly an unexpected development. Switzerland had announced his nomination in December 2007, beginning an unprecedented lobbying campaign by the Swiss government on behalf of its nominee, featuring, among other things, a glossy booklet sent to capitals around the world documenting his "unwavering commitment to," "excellent knowledge of," and "unstinting support for" human rights. Not for the first time, Ziegler, a former sociology professor, a member of the Swiss parliament, and currently the UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, stood at the center of a perfect storm of adoration and acclaim. It was one more triumph in a remarkable career.
Granted tenure in 1977 by the University of Geneva, Ziegler founded and directed its Social Laboratory of Third World Civilizations. He has taught at numerous European universities, including the Sorbonne, where he served in 1984 as an associate professor of sociology and economics. In March 2004, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Belgium's University of Mons-Hainaut, where he was hailed as "the modern-day Condorcet"--the great Enlightenment philosopher of human rights. Ziegler is also the author of more than twenty books for popular audiences, most of which are dedicated to asserting that hunger and other human miseries are the inevitable products of Western capitalism and globalization. His works The New Rulers of the World and The Empire of Shame, for example, have become European best-sellers, distributed by leading French publishing houses and discussed by Ziegler in such forums as TV5, the international French-language channel.1 His literary success was officially recognized by the French Republic in 1994, when the Ministry of Culture named him a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. This prestigious honorific is awarded for contributions to the "radiance" of arts and letters in both France and the world as a whole. Not surprisingly, Ziegler lists the accolade prominently in his curriculum vitae.
Ziegler has found his greatest success, however, in the European media, which considers him a highly credible and well-respected authority on human rights. Leading newspapers such as France's Le Monde, Le Figaro, Lib?ration, and La Croix as well as Geneva's Le Temps quote him regularly. Profiles of Ziegler have also appeared in premier European magazines, such as the German weekly Der Spiegel.2 In Switzerland, the Foreign Press Association granted him its "Most Popular" award.3 "You are a little miracle," declared journalist Daniel Mermet when he interviewed Ziegler in April 2007 for L-bas si j'y suis, a popular program on the public radio station France Inter. "[You have] an amazing… taste and feeling for denunciation and revolt."4 In sum, Jean Ziegler is a darling of Europe's academic, literary, and media elite.
To be sure, none of this would be problematic if Jean Ziegler were simply an innocuous idealist. But he is not. Besides being one of Europe's most successful celebrity activists, Ziegler is also one of the continent's most industrious anti-American and anti-Israel ideologues as well as a prominent apologist for a rogues' gallery of Third World dictators, including Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and Cuba's Fidel Castro. During Ziegler's tenure as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, the cause of world hunger consistently took a backseat to the promotion of his anti-Western ideology. At a time when the UN is heralding the reform of its human rights apparatus, replacing the discredited Commission on Human Rights with a new council which it has described as the "dawn of a new era," the case of Jean Ziegler casts grave doubt on the possible success of this reform and reveals the precipitous and accelerating decline of the UN human rights system and the international human rights movement as a whole.
Jean Ziegler was born Hans Ziegler in 1934 in the town of Thun, located in the German-speaking area of Switzerland. Ziegler's political conversion, like that of many young radicals, began in his teens, when he left the confines of his traditional Calvinist home for the allure of Paris. There he discovered Marxism and the political philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, changed his name to Jean, and joined a militant circle that supported the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in its war against France. Ziegler's passion for the FLN and its violent campaign for Algerian independence proved so extreme that the French Communist party eventually expelled him. He later returned to Switzerland and earned a law degree, only to switch fields and obtain a doctorate in sociology. Finally, in the early 1960s, he spent two years in the Congo as an assistant to a UN special envoy. The misery he witnessed there made him resolve "never to be on the side of the executioners."5
Eventually, Ziegler's advocacy of Algerian independence and his experiences in the war-torn Congo deepened into an all-encompassing embrace of revolutionary politics in general. He began to admire such iconic figures as the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and the guerilla leader Che Guevara. When the latter visited Geneva in 1964 as part of a Cuban trade delegation, Ziegler served as his chauffeur. He reportedly asked Guevara if he could return with him to Cuba and join the revolution. "Here is the brain of the monster," said the rebel leader. Pointing to the affluent city in the heart of Europe, Guevara continued: "Your fight is here."6 Ziegler stayed.
By 1967, Ziegler had won a seat in the Swiss parliament as a Social Democrat, a position he held--with a brief interruption of four years--until 1999. During his long tenure, he served as president of the Swiss Third World parliamentary party and as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he sat on the Executive Council of the Socialist International. In addition, he published a slew of books that leveled sensational charges against various prominent businessmen. This led to numerous successful lawsuits against him, in which he was eventually found liable for defamation. To this day, according to Ziegler, part of his earnings are used to pay for the judgments against him.7
Yet despite Ziegler's legal troubles--or perhaps because of them--his many admirers depict him as a fearless iconoclast fighting the good fight for the wretched of the earth. As a result, today Ziegler is one of Europe's most popular exponents of revolutionary "Third-Worldism," a vaguely Manichaean ideology that sees the industrial West as an imperialist power that ruthlessly exploits the Third World, keeping it mired in poverty and suffering. Accordingly, Third-Worldists passionately support revolutionary movements and leaders opposed to Western capitalism.
Of course, Ziegler's fervent stance has acquired critics as well as admirers. Indeed, even some of his most prominent defenders have acknowledged that his work is not always trustworthy. His mentor Roger Girod, head of the University of Geneva's sociology department, conceded while arguing for Ziegler's tenure that "the pamphleteer is never wholly absent" in his scholarship and that "the most penetrating analyses are marked by polemical partisanship." Moreover, Girod continued, "since he writes rapidly, Jean Ziegler does not eliminate his factual errors."8 Girod's support notwithstanding, the 1977 decision to grant Ziegler tenure provoked outrage from several scholars and public figures in Switzerland, one of whom, the historian Herbert Lithy, carried through on a threat to return his honorary doctorate in protest.9
Indeed, Ziegler himself has admitted that in the struggle to convey his overarching message, facts are not always his first concern.10 He claims that as a child in Switzerland in the 1940s he witnessed a train accident in which a crashed vehicle was revealed to be carrying Nazi weapons, demolishing his youthful illusions about his country's alleged neutrality. Ziegler presents this incident as a primal, formative experience, essential to the shaping of his adult character. Der Spiegel has reported, however, that there is no record of such a crash, and Ziegler's own sister thinks he invented the story.11 Indeed, Ziegler's strained relationship with the truth has led one Swiss reporter to conclude a lengthy profile of the UN Special Rapporteur by describing him as a "menteur et affabulateur"--a liar and a teller of tales.12
Yet by dint of Ziegler's charisma, rhetorical skills, and knack for generating publicity--an easy recipe for media success in the otherwise stolid Alpine redoubt--as well as the vital support he receives from political and media figures sympathetic to his cause, his career has maintained a steady upward trajectory. To be sure, Ziegler's polemics have occasionally done some good: In the 1990s, for example, he played a key role in exposing the complicity of Swiss banks in laundering Nazi gold. In general, however, this has been the exception that proves the rule. For the most part, Ziegler's advocacy has been undertaken on behalf of dubious and troubling causes.
Ziegler's fascination with political violence would seem to have begun at an early age. In a 1993 profile in l'Illustr?, a Swiss version of America's Life magazine, a photograph of an eleven-year-old Ziegler appears. He is dressed in a military cadet uniform, holding what appears to be a training gun. On the opposite page are pictures of him as an adult, this time posing with real weapons. In a 1976 photograph, he is shown brandishing a Kalashnikov while on a solidarity visit with the Eritrean Liberation Front. In an image from 1979, he is in Ho Chi Minh's Hanoi, standing atop a captured American tank. A 1981 picture shows him at a podium in Managua, addressing Sandinista soldiers (Ziegler has a medal from the Sandinista National Liberation Front).13 Finally, there is a photograph of him in a tent with armed militants from the Polisario Front, fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara--this time his 12-year-old son is holding the Kalashnikov.
This affinity for the radical and violent side of politics is more than aesthetic. Ziegler has actively supplied political and diplomatic aid to some of the most brutal regimes in recent memory. Ethiopian dictator colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, accused of widespread human rights violations and of bringing his country to starvation, handpicked Ziegler in 1986 to be one of five experts who prepared a constitution calling for one-party rule--Ziegler was the only one from outside the Soviet bloc.14 Ziegler has also paid visits to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Il Sung in North Korea,15 and in 2002 he fawned over Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe--then in the midst of engineering mass famine through violent land seizures--saying, "Mugabe has history and morality with him."16 Regarding Hezbollah, Zeigler has stated that "I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist group. It is a national movement of resistance."17
Ziegler has also helped to promote and protect the careers of several European intellectuals with questionable if not disturbing reputations. In April 1996, for instance, he came to the defense of Roger Garaudy, a former  French Stalinist and convert to Islam whose book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel denies the Holocaust.18 In response to the public controversy provoked by the book, Ziegler wrote a letter of support to Garaudy, which the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (codoh)--a group dedicated to the promotion of Holocaust denial--published in full on its website:
I am outraged at the legal case they are making against you.... All your work as a writer and philosopher attests to the rigor of your analysis and the unwavering honesty of your intentions. It makes you one of the leading thinkers of our time.... It is for all these reasons that I express here my solidarity and my admiring friendship.19
Ziegler has also come to the aid of Tariq Ramadan, the controversial Islamic author who has written in praise of his maternal grandfather Hasan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, and Sheikh al-Qaradawi, the contemporary theologian of the human bomb.20 Ramadan, also reared in Geneva and now a leading European intellectual, is a close friend of Ziegler and his family: He stuffed envelopes, made phone calls, and put up posters for Ziegler's parliamentary election campaigns.21 This affection apparently is reciprocated. In 1993, Ramadan wrote an open letter protesting the staging of Mahomet--a play written in 1736 by the French philosopher Voltaire--in Geneva, on the grounds that it would offend the Muslim community. Ziegler's wife, Erika Deuber Ziegler--a member of the communist-affiliated Swiss Party of Labor and then director of the cultural affairs department for the city of Geneva--promptly blocked the performance by withholding a 310,000 franc subsidy.22 Five years later, when his dissertation to the University of Geneva was rejected, Ramadan turned once again to Ziegler and his wife for assistance. Ramadan's thesis recast the Muslim Brotherhood as a progressive social and religious movement and excised its teachings of jihad and misogyny, not to mention its support for Nazi Germany--a position that struck Ramadan's two French supervisors as so untenable that they refused to award him a commendation.23 After Ziegler and his wife threatened a public scandal, however, a new jury of supervisors was formed--an exceedingly rare occurrence. With the removal of a few passages, Ramadan's work was approved, giving him the academic credentials that have allowed his career to flourish.24
Most striking, however, is Ziegler's role in co-founding, co-managing, and eventually winning the Muammar al-Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.25 In April 1989, just a few months after Pan Am flight 103 was blown up by Libyan intelligence agents, killing all 259 people on board, Ziegler announced the prize's creation. It was widely believed to be a transparent attempt to change Libya's damaged international image as a terrorist state. The British newspaper The Independent, for instance, wrote:
Until now, the main international peace prize has been funded by a company which manufactures explosives for weapons. If we can believe reports from Geneva, the next big award in this field will be sponsored by a regime which specializes in giving them away. According to Jean Ziegler, the Socialist MP who is Switzerland's answer to the late Abbie Hoffman, the $250,000 prize will bear the name of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, who has provided a $10 million fund for it.… Mr. Ziegler said the award was designed to be the "Anti-Nobel Prize of the Third World." The Swiss gadfly is the perfect person to represent such a foundation, as he has long been a professional Third Worlder.26
Switzerland's L'Hebdo magazine also dedicated a feature-length story to the prize under the heading "The Nobel of Qaddafi: Libyan authorities create a new human rights prize--Jean Ziegler gets involved." The article, which included a picture of Ziegler, reported that:
According to Jean Ziegler, "The Nobel Prize is a permanent humiliation for the Third World." The timing couldn't be better--just as Libya is trying to restore its image. With the interest from ten million dollars--placed in a Swiss bank--it plans to create an international institute for human rights (planned in Geneva) and two "counter-Nobel Prizes." In mid-April, Jean Ziegler and ten "intellectuals and progressive fighters" thus found themselves in Tripoli to set the project on track.27
Judging by these articles, Ziegler was not only a member of the prize's founding jury, but essentially its unofficial spokesman.28
The propagandist uses of the prize are frequent and diverse. First, Libya cites the very existence of the Qaddafi Prize as evidence of its commitment to human rights.29 Second, during the period when the West was attempting to contain the Qaddafi regime, the Libyan government used the prize money to fund supportive European organizations: For example, Centre Europe Tiers Monde (cetim), an anti-Western non-governmental organization that opposes economic sanctions on Libya, was awarded the Qaddafi Prize--and its hefty remuneration--in 2000. Coincidentally or not, cetim is based in Ziegler's hometown of Geneva and has published his work and praised him for heroically standing up to the United States during his tenure as a Special Rapporteur.30 Third, and most ignominiously, Libya has used the prize to galvanize and unite prominent opponents of the United States. Among others, the award has been granted to Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and "the children of Iraq and victims of hegemony and embargoes." Finally, the prize has celebrated prominent racists and antisemites. For example, Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader known for his black supremacist ideology and his frequent antisemitic statements, was awarded the Qaddafi Prize in 1996. Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Bin Muhammad--who told an October 2003 meeting of Islamic nations that Jews were responsible for all the world's ills--was granted the prize in 2005. Other winners have included "the stone-throwing children of Occupied Palestine."31
In 2002, thirteen "intellectual and literary personalities" were given the prize for their "thought and creativity." 32 One of those chosen by the prize committee was Garaudy, the French Holocaust denier.33 Another was Ziegler himself. By this time, the Qaddafi prize was worth $750,000, and the Swiss newspaper Le Temps reported that Ziegler's share of the purse would approach 100,000 Swiss francs.34
Even the media in Ziegler's native Switzerland--usually so reverential toward its most famous activist--raised its eyebrows. Under the pressure of public opinion, Ziegler announced--from Tripoli, where he claimed to be on an unspecified UN mission--that he had turned down the prize "because of [his] responsibilities at the United Nations."35 The next day, he added, "I have never accepted prizes and won't start to do so now."36
Despite these claims, Ziegler continues to be listed by the prize's own website--as well as by the Libyan state press service--as one of its 2002 laureates.37 According to a December 2005 article in the Swiss newspaper Neue Z?rcher Zeitung, Ziegler did in fact accept the award, although he did so as a representative of his research center at the University of Geneva.38 The center was founded in 1989--the same year in which Ziegler announced the Libyan leader's $10 million grant for the prize.
When Ziegler was nominated for an additional UN post in 2006, an international coalition of human rights organizations--including Cuban and Libyan victims of human rights violations--sent a letter of protest to the Swiss government.39 The appeal cited Ziegler's leadership role in founding the Qaddafi Prize as one among many examples of his support for oppressive regimes. Ziegler's response was notable: "The Qaddafi Prize?" he said, "How could I have created it? It's absurd!"40
In the year 2000, Ziegler achieved a position of global influence well beyond that of a Geneva parliamentarian. Upon the initiative of Cuba, the UN Commission on Human Rights created the position of "Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food" and appointed Jean Ziegler to the post for a three-year term. The office of Mary Robinson, then high commissioner for human rights, put his name forward, and the appointment was assured by vigorous lobbying on the part of the Swiss government and certain Arab states. For Ziegler, it was nothing less than a dream come true:
My job as Special Rapporteur was like a celestial phenomenon, an enlightenment, salvation--a gift. Finally, everything comes together. Everything I have done in my life makes sense now: My criticism of capitalism, my preoccupation with the Third World, my cries, my tears.41
In an attempt, perhaps, to rise to the occasion, Ziegler announced that he was turning over a new leaf: "My life will change dramatically," he insisted. "The period of attacks is over; now I will have to seek consensus."42 Unfortunately, this change of heart appears to have been largely rhetorical in nature. Over the last seven years--he has remained in office past his six-year term limit due to a technicality--Ziegler has only intensified his outspoken activism.
This is especially apparent in Ziegler's relationship to the United States. On numerous occasions, he has used his UN office as a bully pulpit to express his anti-American views, usually by placing issues in a false context. For example, less than two weeks after al-Qaida's September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, Ziegler announced his opposition to any potential American military response to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, saying it would have "apocalyptic" consequences and spell "the end for the Afghan nation."43 Within weeks, however, Ziegler's political opposition to the war had transformed into an objection related to food supply: He claimed, for instance, that food drops by the Allied forces violated "the key principles of humanitarian organizations and international law." In an even stranger twist, Ziegler would later oppose the drops on the grounds that they might inadvertently end up feeding the Taliban.44
A similar sleight of hand occurred with respect to the Iraq war: In February 2003, Ziegler stated that war in Iraq should be avoided at all costs and even proposed that his native Switzerland offer sanctuary to Saddam Hussein.45 Two months later, however, he was accusing coalition forces of violating the Iraqis' basic rights to food and water.46
Ziegler's treatment of Cuba is particularly prominent in this regard. In nearly every report he has made to the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly, Ziegler has criticized America and its embargo of Cuba as a "flagrant" violation of international law in general and the right to food in particular. Ironically, during Ziegler's mandate Cuba has never appeared on the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) emergency list.47 In October 2007, Ziegler undertook an official mission to the communist-ruled island, hailing the Castro regime as a government "in the vanguard of the struggle for the right to food."48
The vitriol of Ziegler's anti-Americanism is particularly striking when compared to his criticism of other countries.49 He has referred to President Bush, for example, as "the Pinochet who sits in the White House,"50 asserted that the American government is an imperialist dictatorship that uses "predators" and "mercenaries" to implement world domination,51 and claimed that the United States is committing "genocide" in Cuba.52 By contrast, Ziegler has referred to the genocide in Darfur as a mere cause for "concern", and has characterized Khartoum's role in the atrocities as "alleged."53
Ziegler's attitude toward Israel is equally intense. As far back as 1982, during the First Lebanon War, he unsuccessfully lobbied for the expulsion of Shimon Peres, then head of Israel's Labor party, from the Socialist International.54 Less than a year into his term at the UN, Ziegler delivered a report accusing Israel of policies that "created hunger and threaten starvation of the most destitute."55 In January 2003, he told Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya, an Egyptian quarterly, that the policies of "colonial repression" practiced by Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials are "criminal and classifiable as crimes against humanity." He declared that "an international force is urgently required to ensure that no further demolition of houses and destruction of livelihood of the Palestinian people take place."56 Later that year, after testifying before the UN Third Committee on Human Rights, Ziegler informed journalists that Israel was responsible for inflicting "some form of brain damage" upon Palestinian children.57
The peak of Ziegler's anti-Israel rhetoric came in 2004, however, with his presentation of a report to the Commission on Human Rights describing his visit to the West Bank and Gaza--significantly, the only foreign locale he had visited that year.58 His twenty-five-page report accused Israel of numerous violations of human rights while simultaneously exculpating Palestinian terrorist groups from any responsibility for the conflict.59 Ziegler then swiftly issued a UN press release that "urgently" condemned Israel for destroying tunnels used by Palestinians for smuggling weapons and called for an "outpouring of condemnation" against the Jewish state.60 The Israeli army was accused of torturing and killing civilians, and then-prime minister Ariel Sharon of committing "state terror."61
In May of that year, Ziegler also authored a letter to Caterpillar Inc., on official UN stationery, urging the maker of bulldozers and other heavy equipment to boycott Israel, a demand soon adopted by the Arab League's Central Boycott Office in Damascus.62 A few months later, Ziegler fired off another official UN letter, this time to the European Commission, urging it to cancel its trade agreement with Israel because of the latter's alleged violations of the Palestinians' right to food. This final missive was particularly bizarre because by the UN's own standards, the food, situation in the Palestinian territories has never come remotely close to the "catastrophe" Ziegler described, nor has it ever been ranked as one of the world's food emergencies.63 In fact, when the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition compared nutritional risk in selected refugee populations in November 2003, the West Bank and Gaza ranked lowest.
Ziegler had by this time become so identified with the Palestinian cause that when reporters in Brussels asked the Commission on Human Rights for a response to the report, they identified him as the "Special Rapporteur on Palestine"--a position Ziegler has never held.64 Perhaps chastened by a 2004 UN Watch legal brief detailing his abuse of his mandate, Ziegler did moderate his behavior for a time.65 This respite ended in the summer of 2005, however, when, at a pro-Palestinian rally in Geneva, he called Gaza "an immense concentration camp," and Israeli soldiers "concentration camp guards."66 The following year, the Second Lebanon War galvanized Ziegler's renewed involvement in the region. During the war, the Human Rights Council sent a mission to the war zone to document Israeli "war crimes." In addition, four of the council's human rights experts conducted their own fact-finding mission. Yet Ziegler decided to visit Lebanon in order to conduct his own inquiry into alleged Israeli violations of the Lebanese people's right to food. While in Lebanon, he referred to Hezbollah as a legitimate political organization.67 At the conclusion of the mission, he held a UN press conference in which he called for Israeli officers to be prosecuted for war crimes.68
Logically, an activist against world hunger would be expected to focus his resources on the world's most acute food shortages. There is little argument over what and where these crises are. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization constantly updates its list of "food emergencies." From the thirty-five countries on the May 2004 list, a UN Watch study selected a sample of seventeen countries, each of which suffered from a food emergency that the FAO attributed to some human action (e.g., war) rather than a natural disaster. Consequently, criticism of one or another party was entirely conceivable. The study found that in the first four years of his mandate, Ziegler used his UN position to publicly criticize the United States on thirty-four occasions. In contrast, he never criticized any party involved in fifteen of the seventeen food emergencies examined, nor did he speak out on behalf of the people suffering under these famines.69 Regarding food emergencies in such nations as Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, C?te d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda, Ziegler said nothing.70 Sadly, his personal politics appear to have trumped his interest in the documented suffering of starving populations around the world--populations who are thus deprived of the benefits of the UN mechanism created expressly to serve their needs.
Under international law, UN independent human rights experts are obliged to act with impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity--traits  Ziegler has rarely displayed over the course of his tenure.71 One can only conclude that in the case of Jean Ziegler, as his old mentor Roger Girod once remarked, the pamphleteer is always present.
Despite Ziegler's problematic use of his Right to Food mandate, the Commission on Human Rights has consistently renewed his tenure, making him one of the longest-serving human rights officials at the UN. In 2003, for instance, the mandate was renewed--and Ziegler's term along with it--by a vote of fifty-one in favor. All of the democratic member countries--including European Union members Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, and Britain, as well as Canada and Japan--voted for the renewal, with only the United States opposed and Australia abstaining.72 To be sure, even if the democratic nations had fought Ziegler's appointment, he would have won enough votes from non-democratic regimes and their allies to remain in office. However, such a fight would, at the very least, have been an official challenge to Ziegler's conduct. The fact that no such action has been forthcoming reflects a serious and deep-rooted problem within the UN.
There are several reasons Ziegler's official conduct remains largely unchallenged: First, there is the role that major NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, play at the UN. Few people outside the institution realize just how influential NGOs have become within the UN's Byzantine human rights system. In fact, they wield immense power: They initiate the creation of new mandates, nominate the mandate-holders, and supply much of the data then cited by the newly appointed experts, who are unsalaried and understaffed. In short, the legitimacy of every UN human rights official lies in their hands. Among the major NGOs, some have openly endorsed Ziegler, while others have been complicit through silence. Many of them have refused to protest Ziegler's support for such tyrannical regimes as those of Castro and Qaddafi even after being explicitly asked to do so by dissident groups. Instead of using their enormous influence to counteract Ziegler's questionable conduct, the leading NGOs have enabled it.
Second, there is the peculiar culture of the UN itself. Among European officials, more than a few may secretly admire Ziegler's forthright anti-Americanism and his rhetorical broadsides against Israel. Moreover, in what may be a strategic move on his part, Ziegler has largely refrained from criticizing specific European governments at the UN, thereby disarming potential opposition to his anti-American statements. Most important, however, is the fact that UN diplomats prefer a certain measure of vice over bad publicity for the world body as a whole, leading them to indulge even the most problematic conduct by their peers. To be a UN diplomat is to be a member of an exclusive club that has the potential to reward loyalty with lucrative jobs and benefits from an array of interconnected foundations and organizations. This practically requires that members "go along to get along"--or face the loss of their professional future. For all these reasons, UN officials such as High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, despite repeatedly being asked to speak out against Ziegler's politicization of his mandate, have--with one exception in 2005--chosen to remain silent. Whatever Jean Ziegler may say or do, he is still one of their own. It is this same climate of impunity that has led to such serious abuses of UN power as the Oil for Food scandal and the cycle of sexual abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers in Africa and Haiti.
It is therefore highly unlikely that the newly formed UN Human Rights Council will change the direction set by its predecessor. Libya, for example, has recently been elected to chair the council's anti-racism program, which is scheduled to culminate in a 2009 "Durban Review Conference," likely to be a repeat of the notorious anti-Western and antisemitic colloquium held in 2001. Condemnation of Israel remains the council's first and, it often seems, only priority.
So long as officials such as Ziegler are permitted to politicize their mandates with impunity, the Human Rights Council will remain incapable of being the objective and even-handed body it purports to be. Taking all of this into consideration, one can only conclude that the Swiss government's decision to nominate Jean Ziegler to the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee may well be right: Perhaps the newly elected Jean Ziegler is, ironically enough, the perfect man for the job; for Ziegler is not a bureaucratic anomaly or a tolerated annoyance--he is the product and embodiment of a distinct political culture. His career has exemplified that culture's debased values even as it has rewarded his adherence to them. In many ways, Jean Zeigler is the UN Human Rights Council. He and his career are what the UN's highest human rights body has become in microcosm. And just like Jean Ziegler, if the UN as a whole continues on its current path, not only its image and institutional legitimacy will suffer, but so will all the great good which it once set out to do.
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch in Geneva.
1. Jean Ziegler, The New Rulers of the World and Those Who Resist Them (Paris: Fayard, 2002) [French]; Ziegler, The Empire of Shame (Paris: Fayard, 2005) [French]. These two books, in hardcover alone, sold about seventy thousand copies each in France, where twenty thousand copies qualifies a book as a best seller. They were best sellers in Germany as well. See Ziegler's interview on TV5's l'Invit? show can be seen at
2. Erwin Koch, "Drummer of Outrage," Der Spiegel, January 21, 2002 [German].
3. Koch, "Drummer."
4. The audio recording is available at [French].
5. Koch, "Drummer."
6. Burton Bollag, "For One Swiss Professor, Vexing His Fellow Citizens Is a Duty and a Delight," The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 23, 1998.
7. Koch, "Drummer."
8. Bernard Ducret, Jeanne Hersch, Herbert Lithy, and Paul Trappe, "Criteria of Academic Appointment: I. Switzerland: The University of Geneva--A Controversy About M. Jean Ziegler," Minerva 14:4 (December 1976), p. 561.
9. Ducret, Hersch, Lithy, and Trappe, "Criteria of Academic Appointment" (Lithy makes his threat on p. 538 and carries it out on p. 565).
10. Jean-Marc B?guin, "Jean Ziegler, Retreat Under Fire," Le Temps, November 1, 1999 [French].
11. Koch, "Drummer."
12. B?guin,"Retreat Under Fire."
13. Koch, "Drummer."
14. "A Future Ethiopian Constitution: Jean Ziegler, Expert," 24 Heures, July 11, 1986 [French].
15. Jean-Claude Buhrer, "Jean Ziegler Before the Bar," Le Monde, July 26, 1993 [French]. The article also describes Ziegler's quiet campaign of defamation against a Social Democratic party competitor, Christianne Brunner, including his leaks to journalists about compromising photos and his persistent questioning of her morals.
16. "Mugabe Has History and Morality with Him," L'Hebdo, August 22, 2002 [French].
17. Jean Ziegler, interview with AlAkhbar, September 18, 2006, quoted in "Second Statement Before the Human Rights Council by Israeli Permanent Representative Yitzhak Levanon," October 4, 2006.
18. Roger Garaudy, The Founding Myths of Modern Israel (Newport Beach, Calif.: Institute for Historical Review, 2000). The Institute for Historical Review is the world's largest publisher of Holocaust denial materials. See also Patricia Briel, "Jewish Invitees to the Tent of Dialogue Removed from Guest List," Le Temps, July 1, 2004: "In fact, like Jean Ziegler and Father Pierre, Michel Lelong defended Roger Garaudy in 1996, when the latter had been attacked about the publication of his revisionist book" [French]. "Revisionisme" is the standard French term for Holocaust denial.
19. "Developments in the Kingdom of Frenzy," Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust website, [French].
20. Paul Berman, "Who's Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?" The New Republic, May 29, 2007.
21. Martin Beglinger, "Under Suspicion," Das Magazin, January 7, 2006, [German].
22. Beglinger, "Under Suspicion."
23. Beglinger, "Under Suspicion"; see also "Tariq Ramadan, Genesis of a Muslim Star," Le Temps, January 28, 2004 [French].
24. Beglinger, "Under Suspicion"; see also Berman, "Who's Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?"
25. See Switzerland's Nominee to the UN Human Rights Council and the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, UN Watch Report, June 20, 2006, Many of the articles cited below can be read in their entirety in the attachments to the report, available at
26. Bruce Palling, "Qaddafi Funds Peace Prize," The Independent, April 25, 1989.
27. Pierre Huguenin, "The Nobel of Qaddafi: Libyan Authorities Create a New Human Rights Prize--Jean Ziegler Gets Involved," UN Watch,
17%7d/SOURCES%20FOR%20ZIEGLER-KHADDAFI%20PRIZE%20REPORT.PDF, p. 6, originally published in L'Hebdo, April 27, 1989 [French].
28. In addition, Ziegler has played a significant role in North-South 21, the Geneva group set up by the Libyans to manage the Qaddafi Prize. Tellingly, this group has been accredited by the UN as a "non-governmental" organization. See Switzerland's Nominee, p. 6.
29. See "Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination Considers Report of Libya," UN press document, March 3, 2004, "The Libyan delegation... hoped that the committee was aware of all the activities that the Libyan Government had undertaken to uphold human rights. The Qaddafi Human Rights Award was created in 1989 and was bestowed [on] those who had exemplified the values of human rights." Additionally, in a cynical attempt at credibility, the first award was granted to a genuine human rights activist, Nelson Mandela.
30. Malik Ozden, "The Iraq War Makes the Ice Creak at the UN," Le Courrier, April 11, 2003 [French].
31. Switzerland's Nominee.
32. See "Qaddafi Human Rights Prize Awarded to President Chavez," Jamahiriya News Agency (Jana), November 24, 2004 [French]. The article lists past recipients of the prize, including Ziegler.
33. "Swiss Human Rights Campaigner Turns Down Qaddafi Award," Agence France Presse--English, October 1, 2002; "'Qaddafi Prize for Human Rights' Stipend Refused by Jean Ziegler," Schweizerische Depeschenagentur AG (SDA)--Service de base fran?ais, October 1, 2002 [French].
34. "Jean Ziegler Refuses the Qaddafi Prize for Human Rights," Le Temps, October 2, 2002 [French].
35. "Swiss Human Rights Campaigner"; "Jean Ziegler Refuses the Qaddafi Prize for Human Rights."
36. "Jean Ziegler Refuses the Qaddafi Prize." In fact, Ziegler has accepted awards, such as the 2004 "Swiss Award" for politics. See
37. See [Arabic]; "The Qaddafi Prize for Human Rights," Jamahiriya News Agency (Jana), November 30, 2005, [French]. See also, which lists Ziegler as a 2002 Qaddafi Prize recipient in November 2004.
38. "The Leader State with a New Coat of Paint," NZZ Am Sonntag, December 25, 2005 [German].
39. NGO statement opposing Jean Ziegler's nomination to new UN post, available at
b=1330815&ct=2165591. The signatories include Libya Watch for Human Rights, Libya Human Rights Solidarity, Mothers and Women Against Repression for Cuba, Plantados: Until Freedom and Democracy in Cuba, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Hope for Africa International, UN Watch, International League Against Racism and Antisemitism (licra), Concerned Women for America, and the Cuban Democratic Directorate.
40. Michel Jeanneret, "United Nations: Jean Ziegler at the Heart of a New Polemic," Le Matin, April 24, 2006 [French].
41. Koch, "Drummer."
42. "Jean Ziegler: The Return," Le Temps, September 4, 2000 [French].
43. "U.N. Swiss Envoy Warns of Apocalyptic Consequences of U.S. Strikes on Afghanistan," Swiss Radio International's Swissinfo website, September 22, 2001, cited by BBC Morning Europe, September 23, 2001.
44. "Special Rapporteurs Tell Third Committee That Events of 11 September Severely Affected Efforts to Promote, Protect Rights to Food, Religious Freedom," UN press release ga/shc/3660, November 9, 2001.
45. See "Swiss Rights Campaigner Urges Swiss Exile for Saddam," Agence France Presse English, February 5, 2003.
46. See "UN Rights Expert Demands Aid Agencies Get Access to Feed Iraqis," Agence France Presse English, April 3, 2003.
47. See FAO lists of countries facing food emergencies from September/October 2000 to June 2005 at
48. Jean-Guy Allard, "UN Special Rapporteur Describes U.S. Blockade of Cuba as 'Unilateral Arrogance,'" Granma International, Novevmber 12, 2007, For more on this visit, see also letter from Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director, to UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour, February 14, 2008,
49. For an extensive list of Ziegler's anti-American statements, see Jean Ziegler's Campaign Against America: A Study of the Anti-American Bias of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, UN Watch, October 2005, p. 9,{6DEB65DA-BE5B-4CAE-8056-8BF0BEDF4D17}/Jean_Zieglers_Campaign_Against_America.pdf.
50. "Jean Ziegler is Attacked in the U.S., at the IMM, and at the UN," Schweizerische Depeschenagentur AG (SDA)–Service de base fran?ais, January 27, 2003 [French].
51. Bernard Bridel, "Political Books: The Maelstrom of Globalization," Le Temps, October 28, 2002 [French].
52. "Blockade of Cuba is Genocide, UN Rapporteur Asserts," Prensa Latina, March 20, 2005 [Spanish].
53. "Eight Human Rights Experts Gravely Concerned About Reported Widespread Abuses in Darfur, Sudan," U.N. Press Release AFR/873, HR/CN/1065, March 29, 2004. See also Jonathan Fowler, "Nearly Twice as Many Iraqi Children Going Hungry Since Saddam's Ouster, U.N. Expert Says," Associated Press, March 30, 2005.
54. "According to the National Representative Jean Ziegler, 'Shimon Peres Should Be Excluded from the Socialist International,'" Associated Press Service Fran?ais, August 9, 1982 [French].
55. Jean Ziegler, The Right to Food: Preliminary Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Right to Food, UN Commission on Human Rights, 56th sess., July 23, 2001,
56. "United Nations Rights Experts Appeal to Israel on House Demolitions," May 28, 2004, UN press release HR/4768,
57. "UN: Policies Cause Palestinian Hunger," United Press International, November 12, 2003.
58. Jean Ziegler, The Right to Food: Report Submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, UN Commission on Human Rights, 60th sess. February 9, 2004,
59. Jean Zeigler, Mission to the Occupied Territories: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, UN Commission on Human Rights, 60th sess. October 31, 2003.
60. "United Nations Rights Experts Appeal to Israel on House Demolitions," UN Information Service, May 28, 2004,
61. "Jean Ziegler Compares Gaza Strip to Concentration Camp," (Swiss) SDA--Schweizerische Depeschenagentur AG, May 21, 2004 (citing Swiss Blick). Ziegler said, "the Gaza Strip resembles a huge concentration camp," and called on the European Union to suspend its free trade agreements with Israel to "impress Sharon."
62. "Arab Boycott Office Warns Caterpillar It Will Be Blacklisted for Selling Equipment to Israeli Military," Associated Press Worldstream, June 24, 2004.
63. At a briefing given by Ziegler in 2004 during the 60th session of the commission, I asked him to elaborate on his criteria for determining which countries merit a special mission and report. He responded that his decision was the product of lengthy consultation with civilian groups "such as the Red Cross." However, according to the Red Cross representative attending the event, Ziegler never engaged in any such consultation.
64. World Radio Geneva made the same mistake in an April 2007 broadcast. It should be noted that the Human Rights Council does have a Special Rapporteur on Palestine--Professor John Dugard--whose distaste for Israel rivals Ziegler's.
65. See Hillel Neuer, The Struggle Against Anti-Israel Bias at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Post-Holocaust and Antisemitism publication no. 40 (January 1, 2006),
66. Only after UN Watch protested did the UN leadership comment. Ziegler then became the only UN human rights expert in history to be publicly rebuked by the organization's highest officials--UN secretary general Kofi Annan and UN high commissioner Louise Arbour. See "Annan Slams UN Official," JTA, July 8, 2005; "Gaza Comments by Rights Expert Irresponsible--UN," Reuters, July 7, 2005.
67.Ziegler, interview with AlAkhbar.
68.UN press conference, October 26, 2006,
69.Jean Ziegler's Campaign, p. 8, "Table A: Comparison of Jean Ziegler's Treatment of the United States and Food Emergency Countries."
70.Jean Ziegler's Campaign, p. 8.
71.General Assembly resolution 48/141, December 20, 1993.
72.See Commission on Human Rights resolution 2003/25, April 22, 2003,


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Palestinians to police crime in Jenin - and maybe more

Palestinian security forces are entering Jenin, but it seems their goal is to clean up civil crime, not to disarm terrorists. The key to understanding this announcement is probably this:
The forces, some of whom received U.S.-funded training in Jordan, will focus on capturing criminals, primarily car thieves. As such, the government has issued orders to confiscate any weapons possessed illegally.
In other words, terrorist groups will not be disarmed, or will they? Is this a way of staying patriotic while disarming terrorist groups? Time will tell.
Last update - 11:02 03/05/2008       
Palestinian forces en route to Jenin for large-scale security op
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

Hundreds of Palestinian police are heading to the former militant stronghold of Jenin to deploy there as part of the Palestinian government's security plan.
The government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is gradually trying to reassert control in West Bank towns. Earlier this year, Palestinian forces deployed in the city of Nablus.
Some 480 Palestinian police prepared to deploy in Jenin on Saturday. Their commander Suleiman Amran says it's an important day for the town and that there's "no chance for troublemakers to return to Jenin."
A senior Palestinian official said the operation will encompass close to 50 villages, and is scheduled to last three months. The forces, some of whom received U.S.-funded training in Jordan, will focus on capturing criminals, primarily car thieves. As such, the government has issued orders to confiscate any weapons possessed illegally.
Israel has welcomed the Palestinian efforts, but continues to conduct frequent arrest raids in the West Bank. Palestinian officials have complained that such raids undermine their security plan.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't brand J Street as anything, but don't applaud the split either.

David Kimche is half right. He tells us, Don't brand 'J Street' as anti-Zionist and that is correct. The new lobby does not consist of anti-Semites, Trotskyites and Neturei Karteh, but of Jewish supporters of Israel. But as David Kimche astutely notes:
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns.
That is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.
That is quite true. And what we don't know is how the rhetoric of J street is going to be translated into actions - what candidates it will support and what issues it will support and how it will support them, and whether or not J Street will be there for Israel at particularly crucial junctures.
Example: J Street lobby wants the US to be actively and forcefully engaged in peace negotiations, which may be fine. But what if Palestinians insist on Right of Return as part of an agreement? Is J Street going to lobby the US government to
1- Make the Palestinians drop Right of Return
2- Make the Israelis accept Right of Return ?
There is one thing that is known in advance. A lobby or interest group that is split and disunited is never as influential as one that is united, especially if the different constituents don't work together. If Candidate A loses AIPAC support because they want to cut a deal with Iranian Mullahs, is J Street going to provide alternative support? If Israel asks for some super-smart defense technology such as stealth aircraft, will J Street unite with AIPAC to support the effort, or is J Street going to be a one issue lobby focused on pressuring Israel regarding the peace process?
Ami Isseroff  

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IDF video clears Israel of blame for Gaza family deaths

Here are two stories about the death of the Gaza family and the video taken by the drone. Neither quite captures the flavor of the incident. Unfortunately, the video is apparently not yet available on the Web, but it was shown on Israeli TV. Clearly, the IDF was chasing an armed group and had fired missiles at it. In each case, a small detonation was followed by a larger one, indicating that the missile hit ignited explosives. One of the group reached an area in front of the courtyard of the family in Beit Hanoun. The family was in the courtyard, which was concealed from the drone cameras by hedges. A small missile fired at the terrorist touched off a much larger explosion, killing the family.

In the film, the terrorists are clearly seen to be running as IDF pursues them, but a Swiss volunteer in Gaza claimed that the Palestinians had invented the fable that the Islamic Jihad man had come to distribute sweets to the family, celebrating killing or wounding of two Israeli soldiers. Amon the "sweets" it seems were several RPG rockets.
Moral of the story - beware of Islamic Jihad terrorists bearing sweets.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 18:34 02/05/2008

IDF releases clip clearing itself of blame for Gaza family deaths

By Haaertz Service and News Agencies

The Israel Defense Forces on Friday released a video exonerating itself of responsibility for the deaths of Palestinian woman and her four children in Beit Hanun on Monday, which the clip shows were caused by the detonation of explosives carried by a Gaza militant hit in an Israel Air Force strike.

Israel and Hamas have exchanged accusations since the incident over blame for the civilians' deaths in the northern Gaza Strip town.

According to the IDF panel investigating the deaths, the target of the IAF strike on Monday was a group of four Palestinian gunmen which had been identified.

IDF Spokesperson's Office said the panel concluded that, "one gunman was targeted and hit from the air. As a result a strong secondary explosion occurred" when ammunition and weaponry he was carrying in a back pack was detonated.

This "secondary" blast was what killed the mother and her four small children, according to the Spokesperson's Office statement, which continued: "The second gunman was targeted and hit as well, causing an even bigger explosion ... Both explosions were significantly stronger than those caused by the IDF attacks against them."

Four militants, armed with weapons, are clearly seen walking near the home in the clip.

The video formed the principal evidence for the panel, which was appointed by GOC Southern Command Major General Yoav Galant.

Army spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovitz, said the militants were going out to battle in the middle of residential neighborhood.

An Israeli human rights group had called for a criminal probe, saying the military appeared to have violated international law by firing close to the family's home.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert voiced "deep remorse" for the victims, but said Hamas militants operating in civilian areas had exposed non-combatants to danger and turned them "into an inseparable part of the war."


Israel issues drone video of disputed Gaza deaths

Fri May 2, 2008 11:11am EDT

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's military released video footage on Friday which it said showed that accidentally detonated Palestinian munitions, rather than direct Israeli fire, killed a Gazan woman and four of her children this week.

Residents of Beit Hanoun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip, insisted that the April 28 deaths were caused by an Israeli tank shell or air force missile fired at Myassar Abu Meateq's home.

An unrelated Palestinian described by hospital officials as a 17-year-old student was killed outdoors in the same incident. Another Palestinian of about the same age was wounded.

Publishing the conclusions of an internal investigation along with black-and-white footage from a surveillance drone, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) spokesman said that during fighting in Beit Hanoun the air force twice fired missiles at Palestinian gunmen "carrying backpacks loaded with ammunition" near the home.

"One gunman was targeted and hit from the air. As a result a strong secondary explosion occurred," the spokesman said in a statement.

"The second gunman was targeted and hit as well, causing an even bigger explosion ... Both explosions were significantly stronger than those caused by the IDF attacks against them."

The first clip of high-angle footage tracks two figures walking on a road. A caption describes them as gunmen, though weapons cannot clearly be seen. An explosion envelopes the two, followed by a second, slightly bigger blast moments later.

The second clip shows a figure lying outside a building that a caption marks as the Abu Meateq home. A big and sustained explosion takes place, its flames reaching into the building.

A caption says that this "larger explosion" was "most likely caused by the setting off of weaponry carried by the terrorist". Another caption says that the Israeli missile that set off the blast was aimed at the centre of the street.

"The possibility that the family was hit by other IDF fire was eliminated since this was the only incident recorded that day in which attacks were carried out in the area," the spokesman's statement said.

Hamas and Abu Meateq's neighbors denied that Palestinian gunmen were operating near the home during the Israeli attacks.

The Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad said one of its gunmen was killed by Israeli forces elsewhere in northern Gaza. Another Palestinian militant was shot dead later in the day.

The killing of Abu Meateq and the four siblings -- whose ages ranged from 1-1/2 to 5 years old -- dealt a blow to Egyptian bids to broker a Gaza truce between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas deplored the deaths as a "war crime" and fired short-range rockets across the border in retaliation. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was "deeply sorry" about the deaths but blamed Hamas fighters for operating among civilians.

Ibrahim Abu Meateq, a half-brother of the four slain children, dismissed the Israeli military's findings as a lie.

"We knew they were not going to treat us fairly. Other families have been eliminated before and they didn't take responsibility," he told Reuters, referring to the high civilian toll from past Israeli raids on Gaza.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Avida Landau in Jerusalem, Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Zipporah Porath's Letters from Jerusalem - featured in Ha'aretz

You can read many of Zipporah's letters here: Letters from Jerusalem
and you can buy the book --- send email to
Zipporah Porath,  zip(at) (Israel) or call Tel/Fax: 972-3-635-1835.

 Lipstick at the front line, letters to the home crowd

 By Daphna Berman

It was February 1948 when Zipporah Porath arrived at Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street, moments after three car bombs had exploded in an attack that killed more than 50 people and fueled already seething tensions in the city. She had just completed a medic's course and was eager to help, but when guards heard her speak English - "the language of the enemy" - they wouldn't let her pass into the scene of the attack. It took some arguing and stubbornness until she was finally allowed in and soon after, Porath took out her lipstick, drew a red Star of David on a doorway and established a makeshift first aid station putting her, as she recalled this week, "in business." That night, Porath wrote to her parents about her transformation into an Israeli. "From then on, I was one of them," she recalled this week. "Instead of saying 'them,' it became 'we.'"

Porath, who lives in Ganei Tikvah, is currently in her 80s, though she won't divulge her age now or when she first arrived at the Haifa port as a young and idealistic Zionist from Brooklyn. A student at the Hebrew University, she was inducted into the Haganah in December 1947, despite pleas from her family to return home before the war. Five other Americans were inducted at the same time, with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in another. She recalls giggling the whole way home out of excitement and nervousness. "It was clear no one would hand us the state on a silver platter, but I didn't know what that would mean," she said. "With the tension mounting, I could either pack up and go home or join in defending Jerusalem. I couldn't just sit on the sidelines."

And so as a medic, she served during the siege of Jerusalem, volunteering with various missions and traveling to the center of the city amid rubble and sniper fire to pick up rationed food. She was also on the first United Nations - accompanied convoy of wounded from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in June 1948, soothing amputees on the convoy along rocky and rugged terrain, with no morphine and little more than a smile.

During that period, she said her alarm clock - a staple many of the American students brought with them - made her particularly popular among Haganah soldiers who needed to wake up at all hours of the night for their training or patrols. Throughout the siege, she continued to write letters she had no way of sending.

'This is now my home'

The letters were later discovered at her parents' home in 1987 and have since been published in English and Hebrew, under the title Letters from Jerusalem: 1947-1948. In the last letter of the collection, she wrote to her parents: "I can't believe this year. So much has happened, but the most important thing by far is the birth of the State. I've been a part of it and it will forever be a part of me. I guess that means I am telling you that I intend to see this war through and then remain on, whatever happens. This is now my home."

Porath has since told her story hundreds of times. She knows her narrative nearly by heart and doesn't take well to questions that disturb it. And now is an especially busy period for her, when she gives interviews and talks to groups-though she tells her story throughout the year to synagogue missions or Hadassah groups as well. "This was the most important period of my life and the most meaningful as a Zionist," she said. "In the last years, it has become the focus of my life. I see it as a very important mission, especially for young people who were born into a state and know very little about how it came into being."

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Holocaust and Israel

Please note that there is a difference between saying that the foundation of Israel was born out of the Holocaust, and saying that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. This distinction escapes too many people.
Ami Isseroff
Why we are here
The foundation of Israel was born out of the Holocaust. For me, the fact that murderous antisemitism still exists more than justifies the Jewish state
Benjamin Pogrund

May 1, 2008 2:00 PM
The sirens went off throughout Israel at 10am today. They wailed for two long minutes. In cities, towns and villages, people stopped doing whatever they were doing and stood still and silent. Cars and buses stopped, on city streets and on highways.

It was the annual observance of the Day of the Holocaust, Yom Ha'Shoah, to remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

Last night, television and radio stations were shut down. Restaurants and cafes were closed. The streets were deserted.
One television channel was open. Until the early hours of this morning I watched the rescreening of the brilliant, harrowing BBC documentary Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution, produced by Laurence Rees.

As anyone who has seen the series knows, it raises more questions than it can answer: how so many people, and from the land of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Goethe and Schiller at that, were capable of inflicting such cruelty and death on Jews (and for that matter, on Gypsies and three million Russian prisoners of war who were regarded as subhuman).
I was born and grew up in South Africa. My family escaped the Holocaust. But aunts and uncles and cousins who had remained behind in Lithuania, from where my parents came in the 1920s, perished.

The sirens, and the reminder of what happened during my lifetime, confirmed my awareness of why I live in Israel. I want to contribute towards ensuring that Jews have a haven in this world, so that no Holocaust can ever again befall us. I want a state to stand up for the rights of Jews wherever they might be threatened. I want a state that can tell the antisemites in the world, whether they are nakedly so, crypto- or whatever, to go to hell. It's as rudimentary as that.

I am sorry that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 created so much loss and suffering for Palestinians. There were no angels on either side, just as there aren't now. Israel came into being through the UN. Jews accepted partition and Arabs didn't. The conflict continues to this day.

I want peace between Jews and Arabs. We cannot unscramble the omelette of 1948, but we can and must work to heal and to end Arab anger and deprivation.

Israel's accomplishments in 60 years are astonishing. It is not a perfect society: it has problems of education and problems related to minority groups and immigrants and corruption which are common to many other countries, and it has unique problems in terms of the conflict with Palestinians, unending armed vigilance and care for Holocaust survivors.
No doubt this expression of my feelings will bring into the open those readers of the Comment is free who rant at every mention of Israel. They cannot abide the existence of a Jewish state, and a proud and successful one at that, and they are not open to rational arguments. Our survival is the best answer.

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I'll bet your day would not be complete without this, right?

The sad predictability of racist drivel from Jimmy Carter's friends....

Hamas Holocaust perversion:
Jews planned Holocaust to kill handicapped Jews
By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Jewish leaders planned the Holocaust to kill "disabled and handicapped" Jews to avoid having to care for them, according to a Hamas TV educational program. As much of the world prepared to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hamas TV presented its latest sinister twist on Holocaust denial.
The Hamas TV educational program, broadcast last week, taught that the murder of Jews in the Holocaust was a Zionist plot with two goals:
1- To eliminate "disabled and handicapped" Jews by sending them to death camps, so they would not be a burden on the future state of Israel.
2- At the same time, the Holocaust served to make "the Jews seem persecuted" so they could "benefit from international sympathy."
Amin Dabur, head of the Palestinian "Center for Strategic Research" explained that "the Israeli Holocaust - the whole thing was a joke, and part of the perfect show that [Zionist leader and future Israeli prime minister] Ben Gurion put on." The "young energetic and able" were sent to Israel, while the handicapped were sent "so there would be a Holocaust."
The following is the transcript,
Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) April 18 2008
"The disabled and handicapped are a heavy burden on the state,"
said the terrorist leader, Ben Gurion. [Zionist leader - Israel's first PM]
The Satanic Jews thought up an evil plot [the Holocaust] to be rid of the burden of the disabled and handicapped, in twisted criminal ways.
[Picture: Holocaust death camp, dead bodies]
While they accuse the Nazis or others so the Jews would seem persecuted, and try to benefit from international sympathy. They were the first to invent the methods of evil and oppression."
Amin Dabur, head of the Palestinian "Center for Strategic Research":
"About the Israeli Holocaust, the whole thing was a joke and part of the perfect show that Ben Gurion put on, who focused on strong and energetic youth [for Israel], while the rest- the disabled, the handicapped, and people with special needs, they were sent to [to die]- if it can be proven historically. They were sent [to die] so there would be a holocaust, so Israel could "play" it for world sympathy."
"The alleged numbers of Jews [killed in the Holocaust] were merely for propaganda."

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Deal with Hamas - Bad for Israel

Nobody seems to understand why Israel is allowing the diplomatic charade with Hamas to continue or whether or not it is serious. It seems clear that any "deal" with Hamas has to be a deal on the order of "peace now, die later."
This is a good summary of the reasons why it makes no sense. The Israeli government owes the rest of us an explanation of why these negotiations are going on. After all, an announcement by Israel that it disowns these negotiations could put a stop to them.  Ari Shavit is not the only one talking about it, and if the Egyptians are carrying on negotiations, they know why they are doing what they are doing.
Ami Isseroff
Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 7, No. 37    30 April 2008
The Diplomatic Dance with Hamas
Efraim Karsh
Hamas established an "Islamic republic" in Gaza in early 2006, and is probably in a position to replicate this success in the West Bank - the only inhibiting factors being considerations of political expediency and Israel's effective counterinsurgency measures. 

While the hope that Hamas could somehow be lured away from its genocidal agenda seems to be gaining wider currency, not only is the destruction of Israel not a bargaining chip, it is the heart of the matter.  
Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, sees the struggle for Palestine as neither an ordinary political dispute between two contending nations (Israelis and Palestinians), nor even as a struggle for national self-determination by an indigenous population against a foreign occupier. Rather, it sees Palestine as but one battle in a worldwide holy war to prevent the fall of a part of the House of Islam to infidels.  
In the words of Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar: "Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state....In the past, there was no independent Palestinian state....[Hence], our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic." 
Hamas' extreme belief that a perpetual state of war exists between it and anyone, either Muslim or non-Muslim, who refuses to follow in the path of Allah does not permit it to respect, or compromise with, cultural, religious, and political beliefs that differ from its own. Its commitment to the use of violence as a religious duty means that it will never accept a political arrangement that doesn't fully correspond to its radical precepts.
No sooner had former U.S. President Jimmy Carter emerged from his Damascus meeting with Khaled Mashaal to declare Hamas' readiness to accept the Jewish state as a "neighbor next door" than the radical Islamist group demonstrated what its vision of peaceful coexistence meant by making the most ambitious attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers and detonating two car bombs at a border crossing used for the introduction of vital foodstuffs and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Hamas' foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, reasserted the organization's commitment to Israel's destruction through demographic subversion (i.e., the "right of return") and vowed to continue the "armed struggle" against "the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state." Attalah Abu Subh, Hamas' culture minister, amplified this assertion. "Everything we see in the Arab region and around the world - the evil of the Jews, their deceit, their cunning, their warmongering, their control of the world, and their contempt and scorn for all the peoples of the world," he argued, "is based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - the faith that every Jew harbors in his heart."
The notion that Hamas' co-option into a political process aimed at stifling its overriding goal of destroying Israel will make it more hopeful and less despairing is a contradiction in terms. Yet the hope that Hamas could somehow be lured away from its genocidal agenda seems to be gaining wider currency. A bipartisan group of former U.S. officials, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, have been calling for "a genuine dialogue" with Hamas.1 Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told National Public Radio last year that some way must be found to talk to Hamas.2
Some Israelis have also joined the chorus calling for talks with Hamas. "Before we are dragged into Gaza, we must exhaust the other possibility," wrote journalist Ari Shavit. "We should offer Hamas a deal: an Islamic republic in Gaza in exchange for full demilitarization. A full and fulfilling life for a Muslim community of brothers, in exchange for giving up violence and arms altogether."
Shavit is aware that his proposal is likely to be rejected, as Hamas "tends to prefer the deaths of Israelis over the lives of Palestinians." Yet he believes that "if there is any chance of a frank negotiation with Hamas, this is the path the talks should take. Not a Carter-style illusion, not the temporary tactic of a passing tahdiye (truce), but a tough deal with tough terms. A street deal. A deal with thugs. A deal meant to give those who live on the other side of the fence a genuine opportunity to lay down the sword, pick up the Koran and become real neighbors."
But why should Hamas pay a price, any price, for something it already has? It needs no Israeli consent to establish an "Islamic republic" in Gaza. It did precisely that in early 2006, to Israel's abhorrence, and is probably in a position to replicate this success in the West Bank, the only inhibiting factors being considerations of political expediency and Israel's effective counterinsurgency measures. It can likewise obtain peace and quiet for its Gaza subjects at any given moment if it stops the rocket attacks on Israeli towns and villages and sends no "holy warriors" to blow themselves up among Israeli civilians.
Nor is Israel in a position to reach "a street deal," given the steady erosion of its deterrent prowess since the Oslo years, and especially after the hurried flight from south Lebanon on May 24, 2000, which was instrumental in triggering the so-called "al-Aqsa Intifada" and in inaugurating Hizbullah's military buildup, and numerous provocations, along Israel's northern border, that culminated in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. This war, and the thousands of rockets raining down on Israel's southern localities during the past eight years, despite countless Israeli threats of harsh retribution, afford a foretaste of Palestinian and Arab abidance by a "peace of the thugs."
Above all, not only is the destruction of Israel not a bargaining chip, it is the heart of the matter. Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, sees the struggle for Palestine as neither an ordinary political dispute between two contending nations (Israelis and Palestinians), nor even as a struggle for national self-determination by an indigenous population against a foreign occupier. Rather, it sees Palestine as but one battle in a worldwide holy war to prevent the fall of a part of the House of Islam to infidels. In the words of Mahmoud Zahar: "Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state....In the past, there was no independent Palestinian state....[Hence], our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic."
Hamas' charter not only promises that "Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it," but presents the organization as the "spearhead and vanguard of the circle of struggle against World Zionism [and] the fight against the warmongering Jews." The document even incites anti-Semitic murder, arguing that "the Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'"
There's more. According to its charter, Hamas was established not merely to "liberate Palestine from Zionist occupation" or to wipe out Jews, but to pursue the far loftier goals of spreading Allah's holy message and defending the "oppressed" throughout the world: "The Islamic Resistance Movement will spare no effort to implement the truth and abolish evil, in speech and in fact, both here and in any other location where it can reach out and exert influence."
Hamas' extreme belief that a perpetual state of war exists between it and anyone, either Muslim or non-Muslim, who refuses to follow in the path of Allah does not permit it to respect, or compromise with, cultural, religious, and political beliefs that differ from its own. Its commitment to the use of violence as a religious duty means that it will never accept a political arrangement that doesn't fully correspond to its radical precepts. As the movement's slogan puts it: "Allah is [Hamas'] goal, the Prophet its model, the Koran its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the cause of Allah its most sublime belief."
Hamas certainly sees itself as part of the larger network of jihadi movements struggling with the West. Mahmoud Zahar has expressed the hope that Hamas' victories in Gaza will inspire the mujahideen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Khaled Mashaal declared in a Damascus mosque in early 2006: "We say this to the West, which does not act reasonably, and does not learn its lessons: by Allah, you will be defeated." He added: "Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world." He has lashed out at Western powers for helping the persecuted C hristians of East Timor and for opposing Sudan's genocidal campaign in Darfur. Thus, Hamas identifies with global Islamist causes.3
All this raises the question of how a Western diplomatic embrace of Hamas would impact on the larger war on terrorism. Legitimizing a jihadi group of this sort would undoubtedly undermine the broader struggle against Islamism, and deepen the doubts of many people in the Middle East and South Asia about the determination of the West to neutralize the current threat they all face at present.
Hamas is plainly not an organization whose ideology can be integrated into any political process without undermining democracy and poisoning the norms of civil society. Hamas is not interested in peace with Israel; indeed, Mashaal has plainly stated that any tahdiye, or state of calm, is really "a tactic in conducting the struggle."4 Unfortunately for Israelis and Palestinians alike, that is not something the wishful thinking of well-meaning pundits and even former U.S. presidents can change.
*     *     *
1. Glenn Kessler, "Mideast Players Differ on Approach to Hamas," Washington Post, March 16, 2008,
2. Ibid.
3. Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi, "Understanding the Direction of the New Hamas Government: Between Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism," Jerusalem Issue Brief, Vol. 5, No. 22, April 6, 2006,
4. "Hamas Chief Sees Truce as a 'Tactic'," Associated Press, April 27, 2008.
*     *     *
Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at King's College, University of London, and a member of the Board of International Experts of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His most recent book is Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2007).
This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
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Continued (Permanent Link)

Syrians want Golan and ties with Iran

Syria evidently wants to have its Golan and eat it too....
The idea of their campaign is to get back the Golan without making peace:
When asked why Syria elected to trumpet messages from Israel and relayed by Turkey of Jerusalem's willingness to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, Taqi replied that the intent behind the media campaign was "to solidify the right" of Syria to the strategic plateau it lost as a result of the Six-Day War.
 Last update - 11:52 30/04/2008       
Top Syrian emissary: We won't sever ties with Iran for peace with Israel
By Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
Syria will not sever ties with Iran and Hezbollah even as part of a possible peace agreement with Israel, a senior Syrian analyst who is handling the government's contacts as it relates to the peace process said on Tuesday.
"It would be naive to think Syria will neglect or abandon its strategic alliances that do not stem from the Arab-Israeli conflict," the analyst, Dr. Samir Taqi, said in an interview with Al-Manar television.
When asked why Syria elected to trumpet messages from Israel and relayed by Turkey of Jerusalem's willingness to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, Taqi replied that the intent behind the media campaign was "to solidify the right" of Syria to the strategic plateau it lost as a result of the Six-Day War.
As such, Taqi sought to emphasize that he is personally not involved in the recent developments, but is rather providing commentary on the matter.
Israeli officials told Haaretz Taqi was very close to decision-makers in Damascus and enjoyed the confidence of the Turkish government. People who know Taqi personally said yesterday they believed he was very well-connected to the Syrian intelligence services.
Taqi served for years as an adviser to the previous Syrian president, Hafez Assad. In recent years he received the official title of adviser to the prime minister, and heads the Center of Oriental Studies, a political think tank.
Prior to taking up his advisory posts, Taqi, who is a Christian, was a cardiac surgeon, who studied medicine in London. In recent years he has has frequently met with journalists and academics to discuss political issues.
Last year, the Turks welcomed Taqi's visit to northern Cyprus at the head of an unofficial Syrian delegation, when he met with with the foreign minister of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. His act aroused the ire of Greek Cypriots, who oppose recognition of the Turkish part of the island as an independent state, which only Ankara recognizes.
Haaretz has learned that Taqi was the bearer of Israel's main message to Syrian President Bashar Assad more than a week ago, following his visit to Ankara. Taqi's principal contact in Ankara is Ahmet Davutoglu, a close associate of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Taqi, in an interview broadcast on Saturday on Al Jazeera, spoke from Damascus and said Syria was interested in moving ahead in talks with Israel even during the present American administration. He said now was the time to prepare for for the pre-negotiation phase, to declare intentions and points of view, until the parties reach the point at which the Americans would be prepared to intervene.

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The strange case of the cease fire

What does Israel have to gain from a cease fire?
Last update - 14:27 30/04/2008    
By Amos Harel, Barak Ravid, and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents  
All of the Palestinian militant factions in Egypt for talks on a cease-fire with Israel agreed on Wednesday to the proposal put forth by Cairo, Egyptian sources told Al-Jazeera and MENA, the Egyptian state news agency.
According to the report, the factions agreed that the cease-fire would begin in the Gaza Strip and extend to the West Bank at some point in the future.
"All the Palestinian factions have agreed to the Egyptian proposal on a truce with Israel," MENA said, citing an unnamed high-level Egyptian official.
The official said the Egyptian proposal included a "comprehensive, reciprocal and simultaneous truce, implemented in a graduated framework starting in the Gaza Strip and then subsequently moving to the West Bank," MENA added.
"This proposal is a phase of a broader plan that aims at providing an appropriate atmosphere before lifting the blockade and ending the state of Palestinian division," it said.
The agreement was reached after lengthy discussions in Cairo over two days. The head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, mediated the talks.
Egyptian sources told Haaretz the agreement will be presented to Israel in hopes of securing its cooperation as well.
Dichter: Cease-fire talks constitute legitimization of Hamas
In a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter the fact that Israel, he says, is cooperating with Egyptian efforts to reach a cease-fire in Gaza.
"The Israeli agreement to the Egyptian process constitutes the legitimization of Hamas," Dicther said. "As long as the Egyptians aren't fulfilling their obligation to prevent weapons smuggling, there's no justification to take part in their talks."
Dichter also said that cabinet ministers are not receiving briefings on the contacts between Israel and Egypt on the matter. "It would be appropriate for the cabinet to hear from the prime minister or from the defense minister precise information on Egyptian demands, if there are any, on Israel in relation to talks with Hamas. Only afterwards will we be able to seriously discuss it," he said.
The public security minister presented to the cabinet figures showing that in the first third of 2008, 900 Qassam rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, as opposed to only 1,100 in the entirety of 2007. He also said that since the beginning of 2008, more civilians were killed as a result of terror activity than in all of 2007 - 16, as opposed to 13.
Israel objects to outline of Gaza cease-fire deal
Israel relayed a message this week to Egypt that it objected to the outlines of the cease-fire under discussion for the Gaza Strip, since it might lead to the strengthening of Hamas and the weakening of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Meanwhile, Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin warned at Tuesday's cabinet meeting that Hamas was planning a major terror attack ahead of Independence Day. Although he noted that fewer weapons were now being smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Sinai, he ascribed the reduction to the fact that during the breach in the border with Egypt at Rafah, weapons flooded into the Strip, and demand had therefore fallen.
The message Israel transmitted was given to Hossam Zaki, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit's bureau chief, who was in Jerusalem on Sunday for meetings with senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry.
Israeli security sources said Tuesday that the agreement was very fragile. They said that even the more pragmatic officials of the political wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip are now speaking mainly of a tahadiya (a short-term cessation of hostilities) and less of a hudna (a longer cease-fire). Their main consideration, beyond the lifting of economic sanctions on the Strip, is that Hamas leaders be granted immunity from assassination by Israel.
The London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported Tuesday that Zaki said he had studied the Israeli position on the cease-fire talks in a manner that would "assist in determining Egyptian actions at the next stage."
Zaki also told Al Hayat that Israel's recent attack on civilians in Gaza had "created an atmosphere that is difficult for the present efforts in the matter of calm in the region."
Zaki met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political advisor Shalom Turjeman, with Foreign Minister Director General Aharon Abramovich, and other senior Foreign Ministry officials. A government official said Zaki had been sent to Jerusalem by Aboul Gheit to present the Egyptian plan for a cease-fire.
During Zaki's meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, they agreed that Livni would meet with Aboul Gheit on Friday in London, at the conference of donor countries to the Palestinian Authority. The meeting was expected to be of a conciliatory nature - the two had not met since their highly publicized confrontation in December 2007 over weapons smuggling to Sinai.
While in Jerusalem, Zaki presented four components of the Egyptian cease-fire plan: a calming of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, lifting the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip by opening the crossings with Israel on a regular schedule, the reopening of the Rafah crossing, and lastly, Egyptian action against weapons smuggling from Sinai to the Strip.
Zaki also told the Israeli officials that Egypt was concerned about a large-scale Israeli military operation to reoccupy Gaza.
The Israeli officials told Zaki that Hamas wanted the cease-fire to play for time. "If a cease-fire is made but the strengthening of Hamas is not dealt with, it will not be a good idea," an Israeli official said. "The outcome would be that the cease-fire will strengthen Hamas and weaken Abbas."
Prime Minister Olmert said in Tuesday's cabinet meeting that "as long as the terror organizations do not stop their attacks against Israeli citizens, we will have to fight to defend ourselves."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Christians for Fair Witness Opposes Methodist Divestment Proposals in Ft. Worth, Texas



Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq.

Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East

(212) 870-2320

Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East Denounces Methodist Divestment Proposals


(Fort Worth, Texas – April 25, 2008) The United Methodist Church, the largest mainstream Protestant denomination in the U.S., is currently meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas where it will be voting on several resolutions for divestment from companies doing business in Israel.  Fair Witness is very concerned that divestment, which in other contexts has been a good and a powerful tool for social justice, is being used here as a weapon to unfairly target the Jewish state and greatly oversimplify the complex Arab/Israeli conflict.


The divestment resolutions that the Methodists are considering reflect a troubling bias on the part of certain factions within the denomination. They focus on the alleged misdeeds of Israel and on Palestinian suffering, while virtually ignoring Israeli suffering and any culpability that the Palestinians and Arab nations have for the violence and discord in the region.  They condemn the Israeli occupation, security barrier and settlements, but turn a blind eye to years of Arab aggression, Palestinian terrorism aimed at Israeli civilians and the recent non-stop Qassam rockets that have terrorized the southern Israeli town of Sderot. The resolutions also fail to acknowledge the Palestinian refusal to accept the Clinton peace parameters that would have ended the occupation in 2000/2001.


Invidious allegations of apartheid leveled by proponents of divestment at the Jewish state distract from factual realities on the ground in Israel/Palestine.  Blame for the fact that some Palestinians still live as refugees lies squarely at the feet of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East  (UNRWA), which instead of resettling the Arab refugees after 1948 (as the Jewish refugees at the time were resettled) maintains them to this day in camps on the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The blame is surely shared by the Palestinian leadership for refusing the offer of a Palestinian state at Camp David and Taba. 

Israel can be faulted for continuing a policy of settlement expansion. However, Israeli leaders more than demonstrated their willingness to abandon those settlements in 2000 and 2001 when they accepted the Clinton parameters that would have created a Palestinian state on approximately 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza. Israel demonstrated this willingness again in 2005 when it moved every one of 8,000 Israeli settlers out of Gaza. 

The troubling aspects of the Methodist divestment proposals are compounded by the denomination's publication of material that appears to be strongly anti-Israel and perhaps anti-Semitic.  In 2007 the Women's Division of the Methodist General Board of Global Ministries published "Israel-Palestine: A Mission Study" which is replete with factual errors, misrepresentations and distortions that serve to portray Israel as the sole villain in the Middle East.  The "Mission Study" is filled with inflammatory references such as "religious racism ... [as] inherent in some of the traditional writings and interpretations of Rabbinic Judaism … " and the founding of the Jewish state in terms of "original sin." These and similar references found throughout the "Mission Study" seem designed to portray Jews and Israelis in as damning a light as possible. 

The "Mission Study" goes so far as to exploit Nazi Holocaust themes in the service of efforts to indict Israel.  It employs a pseudo-psychological approach by inventing a "Holocaust consciousness" which it claims infects Israeli society with "attendant rage" and renders Israelis incapable of peacemaking. This attempt to exploit a tragic episode in Jewish collective life is not only un-Christian, it crosses the line of decency.


The Methodist "Mission Study" and the divestment proposals may be symptomatic of a strong bias to the point of antipathy. Instead of passing unbalanced resolutions, United Methodists should commit to taking a long and serious look at their attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people and try to find ways of becoming effective peace makers rather than merely condemning and attacking one side.

Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.

National Director

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115

(212) 870-2320

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reform of the Palestinian security forces can barely get off the ground

"The security reform is a victim of the Israeli army's success. Israelis have got used to a life virtually free of suicide bombers. There is no way they can expect the same effectiveness from the PA forces. But those forces cannot build up to the same level unless Israel gives them leeway to do so. As so often in the Israeli-Palestinian puzzle, it is a case of chicken and egg."
This makes it sound as if a 'life virtually free of suicide bombers' is a sort of luxury one really should not take for granted, rather than a basic human right. If the PA is unable to garantee the Israelis a life free of terror attacks, the Palestinians will have to continue living with IDF operations in their territory. Palestinian police and security services can co-operate with the Israeli army, but they run the risk of being viewed as 'collaborators' by their own people.
The real problem is, many members of PA police and security services support or at least sympathise with the 'armed resistance' against Israel, and some were actively involved in it in the past (and present?). The moment they consider the purpetrators terrorists rather than martyrs, traitors rather than heroes, undermining rather than defending the Palestinian struggle for their rights, there will be a chance to effectively fight terror against Israel and to win the trust of the Israelis.
The Palestinian territories
Chickens and eggs

Apr 24th 2008 | RAMALLAH
From The Economist print edition

Reform of the Palestinian security forces can barely get off the ground

THIS month Israel agreed to let the Palestinian Authority (PA) open 20 police stations in the West Bank. For the first time since the Palestinians' violent second intifada (uprising) began eight years ago, they will be in rural areas, where Israel, not the PA, is in charge of security. Last month Israel also gave the PA permission to deploy 620 special-forces troops in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, home to some of the most diehard Palestinian militants.

It is all part of a $5.4 billion plan meant to speed the arrival of a Palestinian state. Israel is negotiating a "framework agreement" (no longer a fully-fledged peace deal, as planned last autumn) with the PA's president, Mahmoud Abbas. But it has always insisted that Mr Abbas must first show that his security forces can take the place of the Israeli army in fighting Palestinian gunmen.

That is asking a lot. The PA has never had full control of the West Bank, many security people are ex-militants, and the armed "resistance" to Israel is popular. Besides, reform of the PA's security forces has a long and tangled history.

The dozen-odd forces, each loyal to individual commanders and politicians, were the divide-and-rule method by which the late Yasser Arafat, Mr Abbas's predecessor, held on to power. Both men have used them as patronage and to soak up unemployment, letting them swell to around 85,000-strong, far beyond the 30,000 limit envisaged in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s. Foreign donors tried in vain to make Arafat slim them down. During the intifada, Israel destroyed most of their buildings and facilities.

After Arafat's death in 2004, security reform returned to the agenda, but was dropped again after the Islamist Hamas movement defeated Mr Abbas's party, Fatah, in parliamentary elections in 2006. A Hamas-Fatah power struggle broke out. American-led attempts to undermine Hamas by equipping and training the PA forces, which remained mostly loyal to Fatah, exacerbated the conflict, until Hamas defeated Fatah in the Gaza Strip last June. After that, donors shifted their attention back to the West Bank and, in an attempt to entrench Mr Abbas's authority there, have revived the reform plans.

An American team led by Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton and an EU police mission have both expanded their training programmes, while various foreign special forces, one from as far away as Moscow, are providing anti-terrorist instruction. But the approach is beset with flaws.

A detailed plan presented last autumn by General Dayton sets sensible long-term goals: to unify, shrink and spruce up the security forces, and replace their political loyalties with obedience to whoever runs the PA. It includes establishing new chains of command, replacing equipment, rebuilding bases, creating bodies to monitor performance, and so on. But it is impossibly ambitious. Of the $5.4 billion price tag - for the first three years alone, not including salaries and pensions - just $230m was raised for security at a grand PA pledging conference in Paris in December, when donors were unexpectedly generous in their pledges overall. This will not go far; currently, one foreign official estimates, even the PA's prison space meets only around a tenth of its needs.

Moreover, there is a conflict among Mr Abbas's own cadres between technocratic reformists like his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and Fatah stalwarts. Shy of confrontation at the best of times, Mr Abbas does not want to antagonise Fatah people by weakening their influence on the security forces, and Mr Fayyad cannot push reforms through without his backing. Apart from one initial round of firings, he has not been able to trim the bloated payroll.

Finally, Israel has stymied the PA's own efforts. As in Jenin this month, earlier this year it allowed the PA to station troops in the city of Nablus. They cleaned up criminal gangs and enforced an amnesty, agreed with Israel, in which militants loyal to Fatah surrendered their weapons. They got results; Israeli officials were quietly impressed. But they hold sway only during the day; the Israeli army continues to make deadly nightly incursions against other armed groups, such as Islamic Jihad. It is conducting similar raids in Jenin, occasionally even against amnestied men.

Meanwhile, Israel's raids on fighters in Gaza, which kill a lot of civilians too, add to the tension in the West Bank. This week there have been hints that Egyptian attempts to broker a ceasefire in Gaza may at last bear fruit. But when such truces have been reached in the past, Gazan groups have soon abandoned them, citing Israel's continuing raids in the West Bank.

All this "casts a lack of credibility on the PA," says Shami Shami, a Fatah legislator from the Jenin refugee camp. Israeli officials say they cannot risk letting a potential suicide bomber get through, but some PA officials are convinced Israel is deliberately sabotaging the PA's efforts. It is certainly reluctant to surrender any responsibility to it. The green light for the new police stations and deployment in Jenin came only after a lot of American pressure on Israel to give Mr Abbas a chance to prove himself.

The security reform is a victim of the Israeli army's success. Israelis have got used to a life virtually free of suicide bombers. There is no way they can expect the same effectiveness from the PA forces. But those forces cannot build up to the same level unless Israel gives them leeway to do so. As so often in the Israeli-Palestinian puzzle, it is a case of chicken and egg.

Continued (Permanent Link)

North Koreans may have died in Israel raid in Syria

Syria's denial that the Israeli air raid of last September targeted a nuclear facility is getting ever less credible.

Reuters / April 28, 2008 
N.Koreans may have died in Israel raid in Syria: NHK

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ten North Koreans helping build a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria may have died in an Israeli air raid last September, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Monday, citing South Korean intelligence officials.

The report follows the release of photographs by the United States last week of what it said was a Syrian nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium built with North Korean help.

Israel destroyed the suspected reactor in a September 6 air strike.

NHK said the dead included officials of the North Korea's communist party unit that exports weapons and military technology and members of the North Korean military unit which made nuclear facilities in the country.

Two or three North Koreans survived the air strike but it is not clear what happened to them afterwards, NHK reported.

Syria has denied the U.S. charge as "a fantasy."

Pyongyang has been reluctant to discuss any transfer of nuclear technology to other countries, notably Syria, as well as to account for its suspected pursuit of uranium enrichment.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas disrupts fuel supplies to Gaza Strip

Unfortunately the international community buys into the Hamas propaganda about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Maybe the fact that Palestinian sources now also accuse Hamas of stealing fuel, preventing fuel supplies to hospitals and humanitarian organizations, and so staging a crisis might change something? Even UNRWA now 'admitted' that Hamas had prevented some fuel trucks from entering Gaza. Hard to admit that Hamas is not always nice and doesn't look out for the Gazans' best interests.


Hamas disrupts fuel supplies to Gaza
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

Hamas militiamen in the Gaza Strip on Sunday attacked fuel trucks headed toward the Nahal Oz border crossing, forcing them to turn back, sources in the Palestinian Petroleum Authority said.

The fuel was supposed to go to the UN Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] and hospitals in the Gaza Strip, the sources said.

"Dozens of Hamas militiamen hurled stones and opened fire at the trucks," the sources added. "The trucks were on their way to receive fuel supplied by Israel. The drivers were forced to turn back. Some of them had their windshields smashed."

The Palestinian Petroleum Authority reached an agreement with Israel over the weekend to receive 250,000 liters of fuel after UNRWA complained that it did not have enough fuel to distribute food aid to more than 500,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry also accused Hamas of blocking fuel supplies to hospitals and clinics in the Gaza Strip. The ministry said Hamas gunmen opened fire at a number of trucks that were trying to transfer fuel to the hospitals and clinics.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

"Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces," the eyewitnesses said. "Because of Hamas's actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators."

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas's measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

"As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip," the officials said. "But Hamas's measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies."

They pointed out that last week Hamas dispatched hundreds of its supporters to Nahal Oz to block the fuel supplies from Israel. Hamas claimed that the protest was organized by farmers and fishermen demanding an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The officials also noted that the shortage in fuel supplies has created a high-priced black market for individuals and institutions.

UNRWA workers admitted over the weekend that Hamas had prevented some fuel trucks from entering the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

South African writer Nadine Gordimer under pressure from Israel boycotters

Hopefully Nadine Gordimer will withstand the pressure from the Israel boycott lobby and come to Jerusalem next month.
Her friend Susan Sontag came to Jerusalem in 2001 to receive the Jerusalem Prize and she used her acceptance speech to critisize Israeli politics. That is the way to voice your critisism, not by giving in to a campaign whose goal it is to delegitimize the State of Israel.
Haaretz / Last update - 09:18 26/04/2008

By David B. Green, Haaretz Correspondent
South African writer Nadine Gordimer may pull out of her appearance next month at Jerusalem's International Writers Festival in the face of a widespread campaign pressuring her to cancel.

The 84-year-old Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature, is scheduled to make three appearances at the festival, which runs at Mishkenot Sha'ananim May 11-15.

Other writers slated to attend include Americans Nathan Englander, Jonathan Safran Foer and Russell Banks, as well as Israelis David Grossman and Amos Oz, the latter of whom is scheduled to share the stage with Gordimer on May 12.

"I am dealing with the issue now," Gordimer told Haaretz in a telephone conversation from her home in Johannesburg on Friday. She refused to comment further on the controversy, except to say she would soon make a public statement on her decision.

Gordimer has received dozens of appeals, many of them posted on-line, calling on her to join a cultural boycott of Israel.

Gordimer, who is Jewish, has long been identified with left-wing causes, including her longtime backing of the African National Congress dating back to the apartheid period, when the black liberation movement was outlawed. In 2001, she publicly urged her friend Susan Sontag not to come to Jerusalem, where the late American writer was to be honored with the Jerusalem Prize at the capital's biennial international book fair. Sontag did come in the end, and received the literary award in person.

Now it is Gordimer who is being pressed to stay away from Israel. For example an open letter earlier this month signed by British professors Hilary and Steven Rose, who have led the Jewish lobby in the U.K. campaigning for a boycott of Israeli academia, implored her not to "give the Israeli establishment, the Israeli press, the whole Israeli PR machine, the prize they want - your apparent condoning of their policies."

Yael Nahari, the director of the Jerusalem's International Writers Festival, told Haaretz that, following a request from Gordimer, she is trying to arrange for the South African writer to "meet the other side [Palestinians]," including students at al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Nahari was optimistic that Gordimer will go ahead with her planned appearance at the five-day meet. "I think she'll come," she said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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