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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Turkey's human rights record examined

Turkey commits massive violations of the rights of Kurds, but Kurds, unlike Palestinians, don't "count" - nobody cares.
Turkey points to Israel to deflect from itself
October 17, 10:51 AM Progressive Geopolitics  Examiner Andrew E. Mathis
Turkey has been enormously critical of Israel's military policy in Gaza since last year's war, and the most recent development is that Turkish television has aired a television program on the conflict in which a fictional Israeli soldier is seen shooting a Palestinian baby.
It's a charming bit of teledrama I'm sure. But what are the Turks trying to do in being so critical of Israel? Perhaps it amounts to their trying, in essence, to deflect attention away from its own dismal human rights record.
The chief area in which the Turkish government has committed the grossest human rights offenses has ben in its ongoing conflict with the Kurdish minority. Since 1978, the Turks have been in armed conflict with a secessionist group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). There's a strong analogy to be drawn between Israel's fight with Hamas and Turkey's fight with the PKK. Both the PKK and Hamas are recognized by the international community at large to be terrorist organizations. For its part, the PKK has engaged in bombings, killings of officials, etc.
The Turkish response has been, according to Human Rights Watch, to engage in torture, house raids, extrajudicial killings, and firing on crowds without discrimination for who is a combatant and who is not.
Does that ring familiarly at all? Sound like the things with which Israel has been accused in its conflict with the Palestinians?
Then there's the issue of Cyprus. Turkey invaded the island nation, which has a mixed Greek and Turkish population, in 1974, and conducted a de facto military occupation for 30 years, creating a puppet state of Northern Cyprus in the process. A two-state solution has been proposed for Cyprus since 2004, but the Greek population has rejected it, opting instead for a reunified nation.
Does any of that ring familiar?
Finally, there is the general human rights record. In 2007, fully 2,830 abuse reports were filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Turkey, resulting in 331 judgments against Turkey. Add that to a total of 1,200 judgments in the previous 12 years.
In short, Turkey is in no position to criticize Israel about anything. They should recall the adage about glass houses and, rather than try to increase their clout in the Muslim world with their rhetoric against Israel, fix their own problems at home with regard to human rights.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama cuts Iran democracy program

Obama is sending a clear signal to Iran human rights protestors, and the signal says, "Go to hell."
Last update - 18:05 17/10/2009       
Is Obama giving up on democracy in Iran?
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
It was recently revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama is cutting funding for a well established program that has been working to increase democracy in Iran.
The program, known as the "Iran Human Rights Documentation Center" distributes information on Iranian human rights violations and anti-democratic activities. The program has received funding from the U.S. State Department for years.
Program directors were shocked when they were told that their yearly request for a grant of $2.7 million in program funding had been rejected.
A former senior member of the State Department called the decision to cancel funding "shameful" in an interview with the website Newsmax. "This sends a clear message to Tehran that we are empowering the Iranian regime to be obstinate and fight us," he said.
"If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it," said Rene Redman, the group's executive director, in an interview with the Boston Globe. "I was surprised, because the world was watching human rights violations right there on television," she said.
The program has so far received $3 million in funding from the State Department. The project is under strict instructions to refrain from activity within Iran, and to avoid aiding any opposition groups in Iran.
U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, who initiated a bill proposing increasing the budget for programs working to promote democracy, criticized the Obama administration for changing its policy regarding the funding for these groups.
Lieberman told The Boston Globe that it was worrying that "the State Department would cut off funding at precisely the moment when these brave investigations are needed most."
Joshua Muravchik, a scholar focusing on democracy promotion with the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview with Newsmax that "the State Department cut in pro-democracy funding for Iran is part and parcel of a very deliberate policy by President Obama to diminish the role of human rights and democracy as goals of U.S. foreign policy."

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Israel's reaction to the decision of the UN Human Rights Council

For the record...
Israel's reaction to the decision of the UN Human Rights Council
16 Oct 2009

Israel rejects the one-sided resolution adopted today in Geneva by the UN Human Rights Council, and calls upon all responsible states to reject it as well.
Despite the significant improvement in today's vote (25 in favor, 6 against and 11 abstentions) when compared with the original vote (12Jan09) establishing the Goldstone Mission (33 in favor, 1 against and 13 abstentions), Israel rejects the one-sided resolution adopted today in Geneva by the UN Human Rights Council, and calls upon all responsible states to reject it as well.
Israel expresses its gratitude to those states which supported its position, and to those which, through their vote, expressed their opposition to this un-just Resolution which ignores the murderous attacks perpetrated by the Hamas and other terrorist organizations against Israeli civilians. The Resolution also ignores the unprecedented precautions taken by Israeli forces in order to avoid harming civilians, as well as the cynical  exploitation of civilians as human shields by the terrorist groups.
The adoption of this resolution by the UNHRC impairs both the effort to protect human rights in accordance with international law, and the effort to promote peace in the Middle East. This resolution provides encouragement for terrorist organizations worldwide and undermines global peace.
Israel will continue to exercise its right to self-defense, and take action to protect the lives of its citizens.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Video that may prove Iran is building a nuclear weapon

If Iran is NOT building a nuclear weapon, they are certainly going to a lot of trouble to convince everyone that they are building such a weapon.
Last update - 18:54 16/10/2009       
The 3-minute video that may prove Iran's nuclear intentions
By Yossi Melman
VIENNA - The last place you would expect to hear the apocalyptic soundtrack of the movie "Chariots of Fire" would be Iran. This 1981 film recounts the story of a Jewish British athlete and his teammate, a devout Christian, who refuses to compete on Sunday, his day of rest. But this soundtrack accompanies a highly secret video, produced by Iranian nuclear scientists, but never screened before the general public - a three-minute film depicting a computerized simulation of the detonation of a warhead, most likely a nuclear one. Whether it was intentional or merely coincidental, the nameless Iranian editor decided to use the soundtrack of the British blockbuster to accompany the video.
This film was, however, screened on February 26, 2008, in the fourth-floor conference room of Building C at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) overlooking the Danube. The host of the screening was Finnish nuclear physicist Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's deputy director general and head of its inspection department, officially called the Department of Safeguards. In attendance were representatives of the 35 member states that constitute the organization's board of governors. It was one of the most important meetings ever held by the IAEA.
In the seven years prior to the gathering, Heinonen visited Iran many times as part of his inspections on behalf of the agency. Iranian intelligence agents followed his every move, hoping to catch him doing something that could either embarrass him or be used for blackmail purposes. They offered him bribes, but the stern-faced Finnish nuclear scientist never took the bait.
Heinonen even laid out his own money for the clock with a Farsi inscription that now adorns one of the walls in his office. He found it in one of the warehouses of the Kalaye Electric Company, in the southern outskirts of Tehran. The Iranians were adamant that Kalaye produced only electronic watches and clocks, although the IAEA discovered that it clandestinely manufactures centrifuges for uranium enrichment. These centrifuges are being used today in Iran's nuclear program, both at the uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz and at the recently discovered plant in Qom.
A dedicated official, esteemed by agency colleagues for his integrity, Heinonen is known to oppose the conciliatory approach toward Iran that has for years been the policy of IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei, who will be leaving his post at the end of the year. Heinonen managed to recruit his boss' agreement to invite the representatives of the board of governors' member states to the briefing on that wintry Vienna day. The purpose: a briefing on the suspected "military aspects" of Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran claims is intended only for peaceful purposes.
The video depicted a room made of stone. At the center stood a Perspex mock-up - equipped with a flashing red light - of a ball-shaped bomb resting in the metallic, gold-plated cone of a missile warhead. In the most important scene in the film, the computer simulation shows the launched warhead reentering the atmosphere and exploding 600 meters above the earth's surface. According to experts, this is the ideal altitude for detonating a nuclear bomb in order to generate the maximum degree of destruction on the ground.
At the briefing, Heinonen noted that the type of warhead represented by the model could fit an Iranian Shahab missile.
Thus, with the soundtrack of "Chariots of Fire" in the background, the participants in Vienna had the impression they were viewing a PR marketing film produced to advance the sales of some corporation. Some present thought it was a training film intended to demonstrate to senior Iranian officials - either members of the country's political or religious echelons, or the top brass of its Revolutionary Guard - that Tehran had reached an advanced stage in its nuclear program.
In addition to the video, Heinonen displayed documents in Farsi, which he said dated back to July 2003-January 2004, and which included a number of sketches. Both the film and sketches showed a machine that can produce light-weight aluminum warheads.
Heinonen was very cautious, emphasizing there was no evidence proving that what they had seen was necessarily a mock-up of a nuclear warhead; it could have been a conventional one. Nonetheless, his listeners were stunned. It was clear to most of them that it was likely a nuclear device.
As one of those who was present explained to Haaretz: "If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck." That is, one can assume the Iranians have conducted research and calculations for weaponization - how to assemble a nuclear device - as part of a secret military nuclear program alongside their civilian one.
At the briefing, Heinonen told participants that he and other IAEA officials had asked the Iranians for an explanation of the video - specifically, about the warhead, its simulated reentry into the earth's atmosphere, the detonation of its nuclear payload at an altitude of 600 meters, the ball-like mechanism and so on. However, as befitting their usual tactics, the Iranians delayed their response, and then argued that the materials - the footage, photos and sketches - were a total fabrication, produced by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency or Israel's Mossad, or perhaps by both of them together. According to the Iranians, the forgery was intended to frame them, to present Iran as a country engaged in developing nuclear weapons, and thus operating in blatant violation of international conventions.
The Iranians' next move was to admit half-heartedly that the video was authentic, but that it depicted a computer simulation of a reentry vehicle of a conventional warhead - not a nuclear one.
Smuggled out
Three years prior to the Vienna gathering, reports leaked to the media and also published by Haaretz already claimed that Iran was involved in secret research for weaponization purposes. The reports were based on secret documents that had reached the IAEA. This data, according to the reports, had been concealed in a laptop smuggled out of Iran, ostensibly by a scientist who had been a part of his country's nuclear program, and who handed the computer over to the German intelligence service, the BND.
Recently, however, a new version of events has surfaced. David Albright, a physicist who serves as president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C., wrote that the data was smuggled out as "electronic media" and not via a laptop. A former IAEA inspector, Albright is considered to have very good relations with the agency as well as with American intelligence. In recent years, ISIS has beat even the media in publicizing on its Web site information about the nuclear programs of Iran and Syria. Indeed, Albright was the first to publish aerial photos of the nuclear site at Qom.
Albright explained last month that the scientist who smuggled out the secret data was indeed an agent for German intelligence, who suspected Iran's security services had discovered his espionage activities. For that reason, he gave his wife the "electronic media," including the video, and instructed her to go to Turkey and hand it over to American diplomats there. A short while afterward, reported Albright, the scientist-agent vanished without a trace: Apparently, he was arrested by Iranian intelligence and executed for treason.
When it reached the United States, the data was sent to the Sandia National Laboratories to verify whether it was authentic and whether the simulation of the detonation of a nuclear device had, in fact, been carried out. Subsequently, probably in 2005, the information was transmitted in censored format to the IAEA. However, after examination, the organization's experts could not determine definitively whether it was genuine.
Nonetheless, the data convinced the IAEA's board of governors that Iran had indeed reneged on its obligations, and the agency decided to submit a report on the matter to the UN Security Council. In 2006, that body imposed sanctions on Iran for breaching its safeguards agreements and called upon it to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities. However, because of the internal dispute within the IAEA, the Vienna briefing was held only two years later.
Heinonen and his team compiled a 67-page report and asked ElBaradei to include it as an appendix to one of the IAEA's seasonal reports on Iran. However, on this issue, ElBaradei gained the upper hand: Convinced that there was no evidence of an Iranian military program, he refused to append the internal report and even asked that the fact of its very existence be concealed.
A few weeks ago, Haaretz revealed the very existence of the appendix. However, the bitter truth is that such information cannot change the reality on the ground. Iran continues to enrich uranium while claiming that it has no military nuclear program. Russia and China insist on opposing harsh sanctions on Iran. Israeli spokespersons have hinted at, or even threatened, a military operation against Iran, but they prefer it be carried out by the United States. The United States and the European Union oppose the use of force and find themselves isolated in their attempts to deal with Tehran's nuclear challenge. This week, the IAEA said it had no comment when asked by Haaretz about the information presented at the Vienna briefing.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Daily News UN Goldstone decision

Saturday, October 17th 2009, 4:00 AM
Dare defend yourself from terrorist attacks and risk international war crimes prosecution.
That is the lesson of yesterday's indefensible action by the malignant UN Human Rights Council - which voted 25 to 6, with 11 cowardly abstentions, to endorse the Goldstone Report, a document that brands Israelis as war criminals for trying to stop deadly rocket-fire from Gaza 10 months ago.
Ever since Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza, innocent Israelis were battered by thousands of mortars and missiles launched by Hamas in its war to destroy the Jewish state and kill its people.
And, straight from the devious terrorist textbook, Hamas was assembling and launching its rockets from civilian neighborhoods, near mosques, near schools, near hospitals.
Late last year, Israel finally launched a military offensive to stop the terror. Wherever and whenever civilians might be harmed, her military dropped leaflets to urge civilians to clear out. An innovative new technique of "knocking" on roofs with nonexploding noisemakers was employed as well, to give ordinary Palestinians every opportunity to save themselves.
Because it was Israel's objective to punish and disarm the terrorists, nothing more.
For this, the Human Rights Council - already infamous for its anti-Israel bias - ginned up an investigation, producing a report calling the terrorists and the Israeli defense forces equally culpable. Equally guilty of crimes against humanity.
The Council has now formally ratified this libel and urged Israeli and Palestinian authorities to demonstrate that they are investigating the alleged crimes. Or else the charges will be referred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
In fact, Palestinian Authority officials yesterday visited that court to argue for its jurisdiction over these matters.
Which means Israeli commanders who set out to defend innocent people from indiscriminate attacks, with painstaking plans to protect civilians in the process, could wind up alongside the butchers of Darfur. Alongside - this is sickening - the likes of those tried at Nuremberg.
Only five nations stood with the U.S. in opposition: Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and Ukraine. Good for them. We have to ask, again, what's the use of Americans sitting on the Council, spitting into its hurricane-force winds.
And 25 nations are party to the crime. Among them are, this is rich, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. Shame on them.
France and Britain were among the abstainers. Unlike the dictatorships, the democracies should have known better, so double shame on them.
As Elie Wiesel once said, "Silence in the face of evil is always on the side of the aggressor."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian unity postponed: So what else is new?

The Palestinian unity deal, on again and off again, was postponed due to "inappropriate conditions." The appropriate conditions are that the Atlantic Ocean will turn into pink lemonade, and the lion shall lie down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them.
Of course, if the deal ever happens it will make peace impossible because Hamas is never going to agree to recognizing Israel. Meanwhile, Egypt does not tire of trying to square the circle. Their hope is that that the Palestinian Authority will force Hamas to become "respectable." But the current seems to go the other way. It is the Hamas that keeps pushing the Palestinian leadership to extremist positions.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 11:01 17/10/2009       
Egypt: Fatah-Hamas deal deferred due to 'inappropriate conditions'
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
Egypt announced on Saturday the latest postponement of a reconciliation agreement between rival Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah was due to "inappropriate conditions."
The announcement came after Fatah unilaterally signed the pact in Cairo on Thursday without reservations. Hamas, however, said it needed another few days to consider the document, and that the Islamist group had reservations about it.
Egypt, which has been attempting to broker the deal, had initially planned for the sides to sign the accord on Thursday. The country has yet to set a new date for a signing ceremony.
Hamas' deputy political leader, Abu Marzouk, said: "Today the Hamas leadership will relay to Egypt a document containing the necessary reservations and amendments for the Egyptian document."
According to the Damascus-based official, one of the reservations is about the U.S. demand that the unity deal follow the conditions of the Quartet, which include recognition of the State of Israel, acknowledging earlier agreements and renouncing terrorism.
Another was that Hamas wanted guarantees that if it should win in any upcoming elections, the international community would recognize the government it formed. Abu Marzouk further demanded clarifications as to the opening of the Gaza-Egypt border crossing at Rafah, which Egypt has kept shut as part of an Israeli-led blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The groups have been bitter rivals ever since Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 coup.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ramifications of the Goldstone report and silver lining

Look carefully at the list of countries that abstained from voting against adoption of the Goldstone report, as well as Goldstone's reaction. Goldstone wrote a report that accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, though he had no evidence at all for this conclusion. His committee was assembled for the purpose of pillorying Israel and if he is smart enough to remember to breath he must know that, yet Goldstone was "disappointed" that the council resolution condemnsed only Israel.
The most interesting aspect of the affair is that the Palestinian Authority  is willing to investigate Hamas war crimes. It implies that the terror attacks of the Fateh and other PLO groups are equally open to investigation. If this line of reasoning is accepted, the UN will have created an instrument for prosecuting terrorists. It is also interesting that France went to bat for Israel.  
Russia (!) voted in favor of the report. Would they like an investigation of Russian behavior in Chechnya? Of course, that is an "internal matter" and beyond investigation.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:04 17/10/2009       
PA 'won't oppose war crimes trials for Hamas militants'
By Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
The Palestinian Authority would not oppose the prosecution of Hamas militants on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court, Israel Radio on Saturday quoted the PA's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva as saying.
Ibrahim Khraishi reportedly made the comments after the UN Human Rights Council's voted in favor of his motion to endorse a report accusing both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the December-January hostilities in Gaza.
Speaking in an interview with Israel Radio, Khraishi said he had no problem in saying that legal proceedings against Israel over alleged human rights abuses should also be instigated against Palestinians. But he was quoted as adding that occupiers must not be confused with the occupied.
The envoy's remarks came in the wake of scathing Hamas criticism of the PA for initially withdrawing Palestinian support for a vote in the council to have the report sent to the UN General Assembly for possible action.
Fatah, the Palestinian movement that runs the PA, has been a bitter rival of Hamas ever since the Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 coup.
Khraishi further said that Israeli soldiers who killed children or prevented Palestinians from receiving medical treatment should be tried at the court, in The Hague, Israel Radio reported./DIV>
Goldstone slams UN council for ignoring Hamas war crimes
South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who headed the United Nations investigation over the Gaza offensive, criticized on Friday the Human Rights Council's decision to endorse the report his commission had compiled.
Goldstone told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps before the vote that the wording of the resolution was unfortunate because it included only censure of Israel. He voiced hope that the Human Rights Council would alter the wording of the draft.

In a special session Friday, 25 of the Human Rights Council's members voted in favor of the resolution that chastised Israel for failing to cooperate with the UN mission led by Goldstone. Another six voted against and 11 abstained.
The resolution agreed to in Geneva calls for the UN General Assembly to consider the Goldstone report and for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the Human Rights Council on Israel's adherence to it.
The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in the Hague if the Israelis or Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses perpetrated.
The countries that voted against the report included the U.S., Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine.
China, Russia, Egypt, India, Jordan, Pakistan, South Africa, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Djibouti, Liberia, Qatar, Senegal, Brazil, Mauritius, Nicaragua and Nigeria voted in favor of the report.
The abstaining countries included Bosnia, Burkina-Faso, Cameron, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, South Korea, Slovenia and Uruguay.
Madagascar and Kyrgyzstan were not present during the vote.
"This resolution goes far beyond even the initial scope of the Goldstone report into a discussion of elements that should be resolved in the context of permanent status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis," U.S. envoy to the UN Douglas Griffiths said, when explaining why his country was voting against the document.
The U.S. has said the report was unfair toward Israel, something Goldstone repeatedly denied, noting he investigated all sides of the conflict.
France called on Friday to delay the UN Human Rights Council vote in Geneva regarding the adoption of the Goldstone Gaza report by half an hour in a last-minute attempt to lobby allies to reject the report's findings.
The French delegates joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent diplomatic attempts to lobby European counterparts, including Holland, Spain and Denmark, to back Israel's rejection of the report's findings.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Abbas pursues Israel for "war crimes" while supposedly talking peace

Last update - 21:06 11/10/2009       
Abbas retracts deferral of action on Gaza war report
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he has instructed his envoy to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to resubmit a proposal for a vote on the Goldstone Commission's report on Gaza war crimes.
The president's address comes nearly two weeks after his decision to defer a vote on the report garnered unprecedented criticism from Palestinians across the various factions.
The council must reach a decision "to judge anyone who committed crimes against the Palestinian nation," said Abbas.
In the first acknowledgement of its kind, a member of Abbas' inner circle said last Wednesday that the Palestinian leadership had made a mistake by suspending action on the UN report.
The 575-page United Nations report alleged both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel's three-week offensive against the Islamic militants in Gaza last winter.
Abbas withdrew Palestinian support for a vote at the UNHRC to have the report sent to the UN General Assembly for possible action. Such a vote would have been a first of many steps toward possible war crimes tribunals.
With the Palestinians out of the picture, the council set the report aside for six months.
Abbas made the decision under heavy U.S. pressure, Palestinian and Israeli officials have said. U.S. officials told Palestinian leaders that a war crimes debate would complicate efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to participants in such meetings.
Abbas' aides have defended the step, saying the Palestinians needed more time to win international support for the UN report. They said deferring action did not mean burying the report.
But Abbas apparently underestimated the angry response at home. With every day, there were more protests, marches and statements of condemnations, not only from his Hamas rivals, but also from human rights groups and intellectuals.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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