Archive for the ‘Sudan’ Category

The Jews Down Under~News of the Jews of Australia and New Zealand

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

By Garry Fabian

New Zealand Jewish Community goes to court

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, 10 August– The following announcement was released by the  New Zealand Jewish Community:

As we informed the community last week, we filed  legal proceedings against the Minister of
Agriculture, seeking a restoration of the right  to practise shechitain New Zealand.  We are  pleased to report that an interim agreement has
now been reached with the Minister, which will  enable the continued practice of shechita in the  period up to trial (which is likely to take place during 2011).

Court orders were made by consent in the  Wellington High Court this morning, giving legal effect to that agreement. Every effort is being
made to get chicken and local lamb”back on the table”as soon as possible.

The community would like to acknowledge the  tremendous contribution the legal team at Russell McVeagh have made in putting together our
case to achieve this positive outcome in such a short period.

The memorandum was signed by Jewish community leaders Garth Cohen, Michael Stiassny and Geoff Levy.

Church resolution reveals failure of interfaith

MELBOURNE, 13 August -The National Council of  Churches of Australia’s resolution encouraging a  boycott of Israel is absolutely indefensible, and  makes a mockery of both mutual tolerance and  “interfaith” dialogue. It is abundantly clear in  the case of Israel, as in countless instances in Jewish history, an exception has been made of Jews.

If the churches were fair  about their  human rights concerns they would have boycotted  Sudan, Saudi Arabia and so many other Islamic
countries for their real human rights abuses and  treatment and discrimination of non-Muslim minorities.

No mainstream church group has ever openly sided  with Jews, publicly criticising Iran’s President  Amadinajad over his promotion of Holocaust denial and anti Semitic rhetoric or criticising Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism. There are so many other examples of the church’s hypocrisy in singling out the Jewish state as their ‘pet’ cause. Even some Christians who have seen the NCAA statement find it incomprehensible that it
does not mention Palestinian/Hamas discrimination of Christians in Gaza.

Jewish interfaith advocates should start  insisting on some reciprocity and public support for the Jewish narrative in the Israel/
Palestinian, Arab Muslim conflict otherwise they are wasting their time


Contemporary Antisemitism: What We Can Do

Contemporary antisemitism turns Israel into a collective Jew among the nations, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Irwin Cotler
defines its expression in the genocidal antisemitism of Ahmadinejad’s Iran; the political antisemitism  that denies Jews the right to national selfdetermination; the racialised antisemitism that defines Zionism as racism; the legalized antisemitism that makes a mockery of the UN Human  Rights procedures, and the “new protocols of the elders of Zion”, which blames Israel for  everything from 9/11 to swine flu.

But, Cotler argues, we can act. We have  opportunities through Holocaust memory and education, through pressuring for the implementation of the  legal procedures of the Genocide Convention,
through reforming the UN, through government  initiatives and through working to reframe the narrative that blames Israel and Jews for all
Middle East conflict and ignores human rights abuses in other parts of the world..

The Hon. Professor Irwin Cotler MP is an eminent  human rights lawyer and Canadian statesman. A former Canadian Attorney-General and sitting  member of the Canadian Parliament, he has been outspoken on issues of human rights in the  former Soviet Union, South Africa and Rwanda.

The ADC was honoured to host him recently as our ADC Gandel Orator. This special report is an edited transcript of his Oration.

Australian Foreign Minister charts positive Israel course

CANBERRA,  13 August – The diplomatic relationship  between Australia and Israel has resumed on its normal course, less than three months after Stephen Smith expelled an Israeli diplomat from Canberra.

And despite a frosty few months, the two  countries – which both share a desire to see Iran’s nuclear weapons program halted immediately
– never ceased to share intelligence on the rogue state.

In a wide-ranging interview during a campaign  stop in Melbourne, Smith spoke about the resumption of that relationship. He made no
pledges about the foreign policy direction a  future Gillard government would take, but spoke in depth about some of the decisions made over the past almost three years.

“I am now very confident that things are now back to business as usual,” he said of the diplomatic ties between Australia and Israel.

“Often when you have a difficult issue that you’ve got to manage, your capacity to manage that and then to move reasonably quickly off it,
reflects the strength of the relationship.

“Yes it was a difficult time and I obviously  thought very carefully about all of the issues and came to the decision that, as I said
publicly, we could not turn a blind eye to what had occurred.

“I’m very confident now that in terms of agency-to-agency relationship,
government-to-government, nation-to-nation, it is business as usual.”

He added that at no time during the diplomatic impasse, did the two countries stop cooperating to quash the rogue Iranian regime.

“One area [of the Australia-Israel relationship] we did not want to see disturbed was the ongoing cooperation and exchange of information on Iran,” he said.

Asked whether he thought the forthcoming direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians means that the time for peace is right, Smith showed some trademark diplomacy.

“I think your attitude has got to be that it is always right,” he said. “You always have to try and take the opportunity and often when things
appear to be at their worst is often a time when you can move forward.”

“We’re very supportive of President [Barack] Obama’s efforts, we’re very supportive of  Ambassador [George] Mitchell’s efforts and we
make the point to all of the players in the Middle East that it is absolutely essential that we get long-term enduring peace.

“The issues are complex, complicated and there are strong views respectively on both sides, but we can’t give up because solving these Middle East issues is very important to peace and security, peace and stability throughout the entire world,” he said.

Jewish Music Festival hits Sydney

SYDNEY, 16 August – SHIR Madness, Sydney’s first  large-scale Jewish music festival, brought Bondi Beach to life with more than 40 performers from Australia and around the world, eclectic food stalls, kids activities and an art exhibition centred around Bondi Pavilion on Sunday, August 15.

The festival is the brainchild of Gary Holzman, who has dreamed of staging a music festival for many years.

“I’ve always felt there would be somebody better  equipped to put it on than myself, but as it never eventuated, I finally decided to do
something about it,” says Holzman, who is the festival director.

The festival will feature four stages, with musical styles covering klezmer, choral, Latino, Chassidic, Israeli, jazz, cabaret, folk, blues, pop, rock, funk, reggae and rap.

Among the local performers are Deborah Conway, Monsieur Camem­bert, The Mark Ginsburg Band,  Alana Bruce, Joanna Weinberg, the Emanuel choirs and the Sydney Jewish Choral Society.

Leading the line-up of international performers are Israeli singer Ido Lederman, Alex Jacobowitz from New York and the Jew Brothers Band from New Zealand.

Lederman began his music career as lead singer of Israeli rock band Amstaf, and was bass player for the reggae group Hatikvah 6. He will also perform in Melbourne on August 21.

Holzman says: “It’s just going to be an amazing atmosphere and an absolute smorgasbord – what I would call a ‘mixed salad’ of musical delight.

“People should come to appreciate the amazing variety of musical talent within the Jewish community, both from Sydney and from other places as well.

“With the incredible variety of music on offer, a food court full of tempting delights, market stalls, kids entertainment and an exhibition of
Jewish art, this is going to be a fantastic festival for the whole family to come and enjoy.”

Holzman hopes the festival will be an annual event.

“We certainly want to make sure that it’s not going to be a one-off, but will become a highlight of the Sydney cultural calendar.”

One of the international performers from upstate New York is  Jacobowitz, a master of the marimba who has plied his trade across the world, most notably in Germany. An Orthodox Jew, he focuses
on the traditional klezmer music of his ancestors.

“My music is spiritual, natural, totally  unexpected and riveting,” he says. “It brings European music, African sound and Jewish geist together.”

Jacobowitz says his Jewish identity is an integral part of his music.

“Judaism is my spirit, and my spirit energises and breathes life into my music. Whether I’m playing Bach, flamenco or klezmer, my music is 100 per cent kosher.”

Jacobowitz is thrilled to be in Australia and taking part in Shir Madness.

“To be part of the first Jewish music festival in Sydney makes me proud and humble at the same time, and I hope that the music finds a special echo there.”

For AJN Ghetto Blasterz competition winner Shannon Gaitz, Shir Madness is the highlight of her fledgling music career so far.

“I’m extremely excited, especially to be able to get my name and my songs out there,” says Gaitz, 17, from Bondi, who describes her music as country pop.

“It’s very honest – it’s all based on personal experience and very emotional.”
Gaitz is grabbing the opportunity to perform at Shir Madness with both hands.

“It’s just a huge opportunity of being able to get performance experience, especially with my original songs, and I’m going to be playing with
Philip Foxman, he’s my mentor and that’s also a really big honour.”

Gaitz will also spend a day recording tracks at  the Green Sound Music studios in Sydney’s Castle Cove as part of her prize.Sydney band The Naked Parade has been causing quite a stir with its  infectious brand of alternative pop-rock.

Singer Talya Rabinovitz explains with a laugh: “We’ve been told that we are the love child of Jeff Buckley and No Doubt if they went travelling
though Eastern Europe and South America.”

“We definitely have a Middle Eastern vibe to our music, with the violin, melodies and the drumbeats.”

Rabinovitz is excited to be performing at Shir Madness.

“It just looks like an amazing music festival,” she says. “This will be a different age group for us as well –

I know that a lot of my family like my aunts and uncles are coming and they don’t usually come to our gigs. I’m excited to see their reaction and put on a show.”

Local singer Natan Kuchar has spent the past four years plying his trade in the United States.

Kuchar has performed solo at Carnegie Hall, but the humble performer speaks more enthusiastically about his recent album release at a small Surry Hills venue in Sydney.

“It made me feel like people really dig what I have and were really interested in me,” he says. “It was a really great confidence booster and it
helped propel me to apply for Shir Madness.”

Kuchar describes his music as “a really raw sound, merging pop music and soul music.”

“I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people like Stevie Wonder and Regina Spektor for their  melodies and for their storytelling within their music,” he says.

“I really love to subtly add melodies from synagogue services or from High Holy Days or just lyrics that are found in certain religious texts
that help to support some other kind of contemporary story that I’m trying to tell in my songs.”

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Commentary: Israelis divided on fate of children of foreign workers

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — The New York Times headlines  its article about a recent Israeli government decision dealing with the children of illegal immigrants, “Israelis Divided on Deporting Children.” Its first paragraph claims that

“Deep divisions emerged here on Monday over the fate of about 400 children of foreign workers who have no legal status in the  country and are slated for deportation. The issue has touched on sensitive nerves in Israel, which sees itself as a nation of Jewish refugees and defines itself as a Jewish and democratic  state.”

The issue does stir emotions. However, the results of one media query seem short of “deep divisions.” The country’s most popular news web site asked about the government decision that would allow approximately 800 children of foreign workers to stay in Israel, and deport about 400.” The criteria employed by the government would take into consideration length of residence, fluency in Hebrew, and enrollment in public school.

Of more than 1500 respondents,  17 percent thought the decision an appropriate compromise, 54 percent chose the option “Disgrace; there is a need to deport them all,” and 29 percent chose “Shameful; the government should allow all to stay.”

The issue of illegal immigration touches the same buttons here that it does in the United States and Western Europe. Israel is the only well-to-do western country having a land border with Africa, and the route from Egypt over the Sinai with Bedouin guides has resulted in substantial illegal foreign worker communities in Eilat and the poorer neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Official estimates of close to 150,000 illegal residents include these migrants, as well as individuals who came as part of official agreements with several Asian countries (especially the Philippines, Thailand, China), and overstayed their visas. European prostitutes also come over the Sinai, typically  organized by Israeli criminals whose own origins are in the women’s homelands of the former  Soviet Union.

As elsewhere, businesses and families have trouble attracting menial workers who are legal, and provide jobs despite threats of inspections and fines. Egyptian police and soldiers make occasional sweeps against Bedouin traffickers, but their practice of shooting and killing the migrants does not go down well with Israelis.

Israel’s media has cooperated with activists who portray many of the African migrants as refugees seeking asylum from Darfur, although there may be few if any who have documented such origins. The vast majority are economic migrants, with large numbers coming from Eritrea and Nigeria. Efforts to arrange orderly programs of work permits with those governments along with procedures for returning illegals have not succeeded. While Israel’s government was pondering the issue of deporting children and their families over the course of several weeks, the media provided coverage for children who spoke, in Hebrew, about their love of Israel, their aspirations to become Israelis and eventually to serve in the army, and their lack of any connections with any other place. Media personalities press individuals speaking for the government, or Knesset Members in favor of deportation, with questions like, “How can you deport such children?”

Israelis do have sensitive nerves, but it is not clear how they differ from other populations. Perhaps 100,000 have expressed concern for Gilad Shalit, the soldier held prisoner in Gaza more than four years, but there are no overt signs of a movement to undercut the government’s refusal to free all the prisoners demanded as his price by Hamas. 

More likely to be emotional than other events is the death of military personnel. When an IDF helicopter crashed with the loss of six lives during a training mission in Romania, the media devoted extensive coverage of the incident over the course of several days: from the first report of a missing helicopter missing to the funerals of the men on board. There were numerous interviews with experts speculating about the cause of the crash, and reports about the technicians, officers, and military rabbis sent to Romania in order to collect material for inspection and to identify the remains. As has occurred in the case of other military loses, there were stories about each of the individuals, interviews with friends and family members. Thousands of people attend these funerals, many of whom have no direct connection with those killed. 

While there are Israelis who feel strongly about pleasant looking Africans and other children of illegal immigrants, there is no indication that they are able to shape public policy. It is hard to argue with the statement, expressed by several in the government’s majority, who said that an excess of leniency would only add to the problems of a small country, wanting to remain Jewish, and having a border with the poorest region of the world.

Among those quarreling with this sentiment was a prominent television personality who held forth on the value of ethnic variety, and the greater willingness of these immigrants than the ultra-Orthodox to work and to serve in the army.

The government has taken initial steps to build some kind of barrier through the long wasteland that is the border between the  Sinai and Israel, but the Bedouin will be crafty at poking holes in whatever Israel builds. And it is cumbersome at best to deport individuals who have no  documents, may not report truthfully about their origins,  and are not likely to be accepted by whatever homeland Israel would decide is theirs. 
Israel has approached European countries with a request to accept some of these people. So far there are no reports of success. 
Anyone think that the United States would cooperate?

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish news

June 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Student Ambassadors

JERUSALEM, 23 June – More than 250 Australian  students were trained in the art of Israel  advocacy during a three-day conference held in Jerusalem this week.

The seminar, run by StandWithUs International  (SWU) ­ a not-for-profit education organisation  aiming to ensure Israel’s side of the story is  told around the globe ­ in partnership with the  Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), featured  lectures from senior Israeli officials. These  included spokesperson for the Prime Minister Mark Regev, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor,  Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs  Yuli Edelstein and chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky.

Participants also visited the security barrier,  heard from two IDF soldiers, and met Sudanese  refugees who have sought asylum in Israel.

The aim of the conference, the first of its kind for students on one-year programs in Israel, was  to prepare the participants for the challenges  they may face when they return to Australia,  turning them into ambassadors equipped to articulate the Jewish State’s case on campus.

To assist in that process, director of SWU Israel  Michael Dickson said they also took part in
workshops  covering the “three Ds” of anti-Israel  rhetoric ­ demonisation, double standards and delegitimisation.

“They can confront the biggest accusations, the  biggest allegations that are thrown at Israel on  campus right now. They deconstruct them and have  a ready response,” Dickson said.

“These guys can say that I’ve been there and know  the issues, and therefore they’ll have more credibility.”

Executive director of the ZFA Robbie Franco, who  was one of the instigators of the program, said:  “We hope that this will serve as a model for  other communities and that in the future, every  one of the 8000 overseas participants on one-year  programs will be afforded the opportunity  of  becoming a young ­ambassador for Israel.

“We believe this to be one of the most exciting  new projects that we are undertaking ­ one that  can dramatically assist in improving Israel’s standing around the world.”

Reflecting on the experience, participant Ashley Osie from Sydney said: “The past three days have been really intense. We have heard from an incredibly diverse range of speakers, who have each presented us with a plethora of facts, opinions and information, and have taught us invaluable skills and techniques for advocating for and actively supporting Israel.”

Dean Leveton from Sydney concurred. “The seminar ensured I can confidently embrace university  life, both as a Zionist and a Jew. To all university colleagues, challenge me. I dare you,” he said.

All charges dropped against rabbi and wife

ADELAIDE, 24 June –  All charges against an Adelaide rabbi and his wife relating to alleged
fraud over a Jewish school for which $50,000 in  South Australian Government grants were sought, have been dropped.

Rabbi Yossi Engel and his wife Chana had each been charged on 39 counts of dishonestly dealing with documents, but the charges were dismissed in  the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Tuesday this  week, after police tended no evidence, citing no  reasonable prospect of conviction.

After the ruling, Rabbi Engel told media outside  the court: “My name is now clear. I’m extremely  grateful to God”, and announced plans he would remain in Adelaide “to serve the people of South Australia and the Jewish community here”.

Rabbi Engel is the director of Chabad in South Australia and the spiritual leader of the Jewish Learning Centre of Adelaide.

The Engels’ lawyer Ron Bellman issued a statement saying: “When called upon by the court, the South Australian police, who prosecuted the cases, did  not lead any evidence against either the rabbi or  his wife.  At all times, Rabbi and Mrs Engel had  vigorously maintained their innocence and  remained committed to defending the charges.”

The Engels were charged in June last year after a  three-year investigation headed by Detective  Senior Constable Stan Tsoulos of the Adelaide Criminal Investigation Branch, which has interviewed more than 50 people.

Police told The AJN at that time that the  allegations “relate to the filling out of forms
and applications submitted to the Ethnic Schools  Board in order to receive funding” for the Spirit of David School.

Rabbi Engel first came to Australia from the  United States as a Chabad shaliach in the 1980s and worked in Sydney’s Chabad community before returning home.

He returned to Australia to take up a position at  The Adelaide Hebrew Congregations as rabbi in 1998.

Local Jewish newspaper launches campaign

MELBOURNE & SYDNEY, 24 June – As Gilad Shalit begins his fifth year in captivity on Friday, the  Australian Jewish Newspaper (Australian Jewish News – AJN) has launched a new campaign on behalf  of Australian Jewry to show the world the young  soldier has not been forgotten and to help bring him home.

Seized by Palestinian terrorists on June 25,  2006, the 23-year-old has been held hostage in
Gaza ever since. In the four years since he was  kidnapped, Gilad has been denied contact with his family and, in violation of international law,  the Hamas regime has refused the International Red Cross access to him.

This week, in an initiative that has received  backing from Gilad’s family and garnered support  from senior communal leaders, The AJN has published a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, urging him to step up his efforts to secure Gilad’s release.

The letter, printed on page 13 for readers to cut  out, sign and send back to us – and also
downloadable from our website – details the despair felt at the soldier’s continued
captivity. It concludes: “I implore you to use all your influence as Secretary-General of the
United Nations to bring this young man home.

The United Nations must demand his immediate  release and, pending that outcome, it must exert  all necessary pressure to ensure that Hamas affords him his basic human rights in accordance  with international law. For the sake of Gilad  Shalit, for the sake of his family, and for the  advancement of a just peace in the Middle East, it is incumbent on you and the institution you head to take a public stand on this issue and proactively pursue all paths that will lead to his freedom.”

To give each one of us the chance to add our voice to the chorus calling for his freedom, we
will be forwarding all the signed letters we receive to Ban Ki-Moon. Informed of the campaign, Gilad’s father Noam said: “We support it. All people, Jewish and  non-Jewish, whoever cares about human rights, should demand that Gilad be freed.”

Community leaders also threw their support behind  the letter. “I commend The AJN for this  initiative, said president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Robert Goot. “It is well past time for respected middle powers, like  Australia, to focus international attention on  the dire plight of Gilad Shalit and his family,  who have been deprived of all contact with one another for four years. ”

The sentiment was echoed by president of the  Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) John Searle, who said: “The JCCV fully supports The AJN’s call to Ban Ki-Moon to call for Gilad’s immediate release. Often, in situations like  this, we feel powerless to make a difference.

“By signing this letter .  we are making a  statement; we are exerting pressure and hopefully
we will be making a difference.”

President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies  Robin Margo concurred, adding:”It is horrifying to think what that young person and his family are enduring.

“The silence of most of Israel’s critics about his fate in Gaza is a telling mark of their lack
of genuine humanitarian concern.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester met with Noam Shalit in Israel this week. “The Shalits are aware of our campaign in Australia and they asked that we do not waiver in our support for their cause,” he said.

“On the fourth anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s cruel incarceration, it is absolutely critical
that the world exerts such pressure as is necessary on Hamas and its sponsors to return him to his family.”

Australia’s new PM – a proven friend of Israel
Posted by Isi Leibler

The ousting of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by his deputy Julia Gillard was a dramatic  event.  A year ago Rudd was still highly popular  but his abrupt policy reversal on global climate  and the environment began a decline, which  climaxed when he stunned the business world by  abruptly imposing a tax on mining companies engaged in mineral and energy sales to China and  India. The Australian Labor Party, which holds the reins of government, was undoubtedly strongly  motivated by Rudd’s plummeting standing in the
polls which if sustained would probably result in  a resounding defeat at the elections scheduled for next year.

The 120,000-strong Jewish community, which other than Israel has the highest proportion of Shoa survivors in the world, is recognized as one of the most Zionist communities in the Diaspora.

Jewish leaders have established a long tradition of strong public advocacy on behalf of Israel, and they can take much of the credit for the fact that successive governments have maintained a strong bi partisan support for Israel, with only one exception.

Rudd’s predecessor, John Howard, who was Prime Minister for over 10 years, was regarded as one of Israel’s greatest friends on the global scene and highly appreciated by the Jewish community.

The Rudd government initially maintained its support for Israel, but over recent months there were growing concerns that it was tilting the scales against Israel.  The votes at the UN tended to increasingly identify with the Europeans, prompting the former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to suggest that Rudd was distancing Australia from Israel in order to solicit Arab votes at the UN to support Australia’s candidacy for the Security Council.

More recently, the expulsion of an Israeli  diplomat in the wake of the passport imbroglio,
distressed the Jewish community. On the other  hand, if Israel was involved in this issue, many found it difficult to comprehend why they used Australian passports and ignored understandings previously made, thus embarrassing one of their best friends.

Only a few weeks ago Rudd met with the Australian Jewish leadership, who left reasonably satisfied that the relationship seemed to be back on track.

The Jewish community will certainly welcome the fact that that Julia Gillard will now be leading the country.

She is a long standing proven friend of Israel, having visited the country in 2005 and again last year in May. She headed a high level, 40 strong delegation of Australians who participated in an Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange mission, which took place at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

During the Gaza war in January 2009, when she was Acting Prime Minister, she strongly supported Israel’s position, frequently making reference to Sderot which she had visited and stressed Israel’s right to defend its civilian population from missile attacks.

The Jewish community will certainly welcome the fact that that she will now be leading the
country, and will also be reassured that the long standing bi-partisan policy to Israel will be *maintained.
  Isi Leibler, now resident in Jerusalem, is a veteran Diaspora Jewish leader and prolific
commentator on Jewish and Israeli affairs.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Warm temperatures in North Atlantic leads to rain in Africa, climate study finds

June 16, 2010 1 comment

HAIFA, Israel (Press Release)–Cyclical changes in atmospheric pressure and sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic Ocean affect drought in the Sahel region on the southern Sahara rim. This has been revealed in an international study carried out by researchers from the University of Haifa, the French National Meteorological Service, Columbia University and the University of San Diego. The study was published recently in the scientific journal Atmospheric Science Letters (Royal Meteorological Society).

That climate variability in one region can have an effect on more distant areas is known in the climate research literature – the challenge being to locate these far-connections and understand their projections. The current study, co-authored by Dr. Shlomit Paz of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa, analyzed a number of climate parameters in the North Atlantic over the 20th century, including atmospheric pressure at sea level and sea surface temperature. They revealed two “natural climate signals”: a multi-decadal signal of a period exceeding 40 years, and a quasi-decadal signal with periodicity ranging from 8 to 14 years. These two signals may cancel or enhance one another. 

In order to establish these findings, the scientists compared them with climactic fluctuations as observed in coral and tree-ring studies, by which the temperature values of the past few hundred years can be reconstructed. The signals were identified in this case too.

Next the researchers identified a correlation between the cyclical waves and droughts in the Sahel region: When the Atlantic Ocean cools, there are droughts in the region, and when the Ocean temperature rises, rain returns to the Sahel region. They also found that during drought periods in the Sahel, the force of hurricanes in the Atlantic drops; and vice versa.

This is not merely a theoretical study, Dr. Paz explains. The Sahel region suffered drought over more than 20 years, from the 1970s to the mi-1990s, which caused deep environmental and social crises, such as hunger, civilian desertion, ethnic conflicts, and more. In 2007 the UN published a report stating that the situation in Darfur was intensified by the ongoing drought in the Sahel region and its surroundings.

This study contributes to information availability for climatic models, thereby improving their prediction capability. The researchers are currently investigating whether current human activity has an impact on these phenomena and are examining the effects of the signals on today’s climate in Europe. They note that the thermal imbalance caused by urban development makes the research more challenging. “Today we are able to gain a better understanding of how the oceans play an important role in the earth’s ‘climate memory’. Once we become familiar with the natural signals, we will be able to better understand how the human factor correlates with climate,” Dr. Paz states.

Preceding provided by the University of Haifa

Reason behind world’s Gaza flotilla uproar: plain, simple, old-fashioned anti-Semitism

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By Morton A. Klein and Dr. Daniel Mandel

NEW YORK–Disturbing, shocking and eye-opening. Israel attempts to legally prevent Iranian missiles and rockets from being delivered to Gaza, controlled by the internationally recognized terrorist group, Hamas; yet the world and media condemns the Jewish state of Israel and mourns the nine Hamas supporters who were killed by Israel in self-defense. And remember – Israel stops weapons, but daily allows delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza. So why this upside-down world? There is no reasonable explanation but one – anti-Semitism against the Jewish state.

By striking contrast, North Korea’s unprovoked torpedoing and sinking a South Korean ship, killing 45 on board, evokes little response. Russia bulldozing and carpet-bombing of Chechnya, killing thousands of civilians, again evokes little response. The Sudanese regime’s endless massacre of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese Christians and animists is greeted with a deafening silence. Yet, it is Israeli officials who do not travel to certain Western countries for fear of arrest on war crimes charges. North Korean leaders, Russian officers, Sudanese officials and Hamas terrorists travel freely without fear of arrest and prosecution.

Colonel Richard Kemp, former British commander in Afghanistan said, “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF in Gaza.” Yet we live in a world in which people increasingly ignore real war crimes while obsessing on fabricated Israeli ones.

The Gaza flotilla consisted of six ships, five of which peacefully complied with the Israeli blockade, were searched and proceeded without bloodshed. Only the sixth ship, the Mavi Mamara, refused to comply. Naturally, the Israelis boarded the ship. Expecting only some noisy pro-Palestinian activists, the Israelis carried merely paintball guns, often used in riot control, and side arms, which were not even drawn.

This was hardly an overreaction. However, the jihadists and their sympathizers on board, who were armed with weapons, night vision goggles and bullet-proof vests, assaulted, seized and overpowered the Israelis with metal rods, bats, knives and even shot and wounded some of the Israelis with the Israelis’ own side arms.

The evidence of the unprovoked assault on the Israelis was clear and quickly available: video footage showing the Israelis being assaulted upon setting foot on board; video clips of the Hamas supporters on board the ship singing songs celebrating the murder of Jews and happily anticipating violence and their own ‘martyrdom.’ Weapons and contraband were subsequently found on the ship. The Turkish IHH, who are known to be Al-Qaeda supporters and aligned with Iran, were the violent Hamas supporters’ enablers. The Turkish government, which permitted the flotilla to sail, claimed falsely that no weapons were on board. But there is no outrage at the violent pro-Hamas activists, the IHH or the Turkish government, who caused or made possible the bloodshed – only the Israelis who defended their lives.

In short, this is not merely a case of biased reporting, confusion or lack of relevant data – it is a case of anti-Semitic agitation. What is occurring is not just the attempted delegitimizing of Israel: this is also the re-legitimizing of anti-Semitism, the idea that Jews are a uniquely sinister force for evil in the world. Anti-Semitism produces the distorted vision which sees Jews as inflicting evil, regardless of the facts.

This resurgent disease is also evident in the generalized criticism of Israel grounded in the false notion that Israel is to blame for the absence of peace. Israeli concessions of territory, money, arms and assets to the Palestinians over 17 years since the 1993 Oslo accords are simply airbrushed from history. Palestinian terrorism is ignored or rationalized, as is the incitement to hatred and murder within the Palestinian Authority and Gaza which feeds it.

By these means Israel is held out as the aggressor, the inflexible power unwilling to make the concessions to the Palestinians that would bring peace. Israel obtains little support for taking justifiable action anyone else wouldn’t hesitate to take – like boarding a ship defying a blockade.

Anti-Semitism demands that Jews do nothing: not fight wars, not kill terrorists, not even block funds and arms reaching their would-be genocidal enemies. Anti-Semitism regards anything short of Jews being defenseless as a violation of the natural order. That is why the Jewish state of Israel is being widely condemned when it is simply trying to protect its own citizens.

Spanish leftist politician Pilar Rahola has asked of much of today’s European left, “Why, of all the world’s conflicts, only this one interests them? Why a tiny country which struggles to survive is criminalized? … why when it is the only country in the world which is threatened with destruction, it is the only one that nobody considers a victim?” The tragic answer, as Rahola rightly concludes, is that this is how “anti-Semites” behave.


Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America. Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and a Fellow in History at Melbourne University.

OPINION – Leon de Winter: Anti-Semitism is Salonfähig Again

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment


(WJC)–The following article by the Dutch novelist Leon de Winter appeared in the ‘Wall Street Journal Europe’ on 14 June 2010.

 It’s a fascinating phenomenon: Why do people and organizations that present themselves as progressive team up with reactionary Muslims? The Free Gaza group is just such a Leftist-Islamist alliance. Well, Gaza is already free. Israel withdrew from the narrow strip five years ago. And there is also no need for any humanitarian aid. Well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months, equaling nearly a ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza.

But Gaza’s population voted in democratic elections to be ruled by a party whose hatred of Jews is the cornerstone of its existence. Anyone who doubts this should read the Hamas manifesto on the Internet. The fact that Gaza is completely “judenrein” isn’t enough for Hamas. It wants Israel to be “judenrein” too. The Israeli blockade for “strategic goods” is therefore not designed to punish ordinary Palestinians but to prevent Hamas from obtaining heavy weapons and building bunkers. It’s as simple as that. 

Contrary to Gaza, Chechnya, for example, isn’t free. The Russians have crushed the struggle for independence of the Chechens by carpet-bombing their capital. And what about a Kurdish state? The Turks and Iraqis have inflicted unspeakable horrors on the Kurds. And yet, there are no Free Kurdistan flotillas sailing toward Turkey, and Russian officials don’t have to fear to be arrested in European capitals for war crimes.

Here are some more facts — lousy, stubborn facts. Let’s look at the infant mortality rate in Gaza. It is a key number that says a lot about the state of hygiene, nutrition, and health care. In Israel the infant mortality rate is 4.17 per 1,000 births, which is about the same as in Western countries. In Sudan the rate is 78.1, that is, one in 13 infants die at birth. In Gaza, infant mortality per 1,000 births is 17.71. Yes, that’s higher than in Israel, but much lower than in Sudan. And Turkey’s infant mortality rate? Well, that’s 24.84. Yes, more infants die at birth in Turkey than in Gaza.

Here is another fact. Life expectancy at birth is 73.68 years in Gaza. And in Turkey, Gaza’s new protector, life expectancy is only 72.23 years. If the Israelis really wanted to make the lives of Palestinians short and nasty, then they are obviously doing something wrong.

The progressives don’t care for any other group of poor or suppressed Muslims. They only cry for the “victims” of the Jews. Why is that so?

One reason is Yasser Arafat, whose genius was to redefine the Palestinian cause in neo-Marxist and anti-imperialist rhetorics. He created a new context for his people: The struggle against colonialism and racism. He was a classic corrupt warlord with an amazing talent to play the Western media and politicians. The progressives adopted the Palestinians as their favorite, quintessential victims of imperialism and colonialism as epitomized by the Zionist state.

But there is another reason why Western progressives hate Israel but are indifferent toward human rights abuses in Turkey, Iran, or Russia. It’s because of the Holocaust.

Europeans, who represent much of what goes for world opinion, have grown tired of carrying the guilt for the destruction of the Continent’s Jews. They have started to long for some form of historical release. That comes in the form of Israel’s military response to Islamist attacks and terror. The Europeans couldn’t suppress the chance to defame the Jews and redefine Israel’s defense measures as either “disproportionate” or outright aggression — war crimes in other words.

In progressive European eyes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became a conflict without comparison, a unique phenomenon of European victims creating Palestinian victims, which seemed to diminish the weight of the ordinary European mass-slaughter of the Jews.

Watching Israel’s demonization, the attack on its right to defend itself as Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, it becomes clear that there is a deep need among Europeans to call the Jews murderers. This is why the Palestinians, as “victims” of the Jews, are more important than the numerous Muslim victims of Muslim extremists; this is why millions of other Muslims living under worse conditions than the Palestinians hardly get any mention in the media; this is why Gaza is compared to the Warsaw Ghetto or Auschwitz. By calling the Israeli Nazis, the original Nazis have been legitimized. It feels as if the Europeans, led by the progressives, want the Arabs to finish the job. Enough with the Jews. It is what it is — we see Europe’s liberation from the legacy of the Holocaust.

For decades, our progressive, peace-loving Western activists have been fooled and manipulated by Arab tyrants and now by Turkish and Iranian Islamists. They have allowed themselves to assist in efforts to destroy one of the greatest adventures in modern times: the creation of the State of Israel.

What we have witnessed with the Gaza flotilla is the perfect execution of a masterful piece of Islamist theater. The media’s wild indignation, an orgasm of hypocrisy, marks the next chapter in the long story of European hatred toward the Jews. It is salonfahig again to be an anti-Semite.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

UN Human Rights Council condemns Israel’s “outrageous attack” and demands probe

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–In Geneva, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has adopted a resolution proposed by Pakistan, Sudan and the Palestinian delegation which calls for an independent fact-finding mission into Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla, in which nine activists were killed. The council also approved a resolution that condemns Israel for its “outrageous attack” on the ships.

The resolution also calls on Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza. The text is similar to one passed by the council following the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09 that led to the establishment of the controversial Goldstone commission. The resolution authorizes the president of the council to appoint members of the mission.

On Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador Leshno Yaar told the Human Rights Council that the Israeli soldiers had acted in self-defense, resorting to live fire after they were attacked by protesters on the Turkish ship Marmara. “The attack on the Israeli soldiers was beyond all doubt premeditated,” he said. Israel was justified under international law in acting against the flotilla, Yaar declared, adding that the blockade in international waters was necessary and legal.

The United States opposed the resolution. US Ambassador Eileen Donahoe said the text “rushes to judgment on a set of facts” that were only starting to emerge. “It creates an international mechanism before giving the responsible government an opportunity to investigate this incident itself and thereby risks further politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation,” she added.

The Netherlands also voted against the text with its envoy saying that the rights council’s investigation, parallel to one called for by the UN Security Council, “would not be conducive to re-launching the Middle East peace process.”

Britain and France abstained, saying they regretted that the resolution failed to reflect the language used by the Security Council which called “for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Israel divestment campaign moves to UCSD campus

April 27, 2010 1 comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — UCSD has become a campus battlegrounds in the movement by pro-Palestinians to have Associated Student oganizations  divest their funds from companies doing business with Israel.

A resolution that will go before the student Senate on Wednesday, April 28, specifically targets United Technologies, which it says makes Apache helicopters, and General Electric , which makes parts for those helicopters and also provides engineering support and testing service contracts.

The resolution essentially is the same as one that was vetoed by the student president at UC Berkeley, a veto that the  student Senate on that campus thus far has been unable to override.

As justification for divestment, the resolution cites documents from such organizations as the  United Nations and International Red Cross  critical of Israel in the recent Gaza War, for the construction of the fence near the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinian civilians.

The resolution does not criticize nor mention any actions by Palestinian terrorists, yet describes itself as a resolution for peace and neutrality.

Opposition on campus is being led by Titans for Israel, which is circulating a petition online, and by various off-campus pro-Israel groups such as StandWithUS and T.E.A.M.

StandWithUs provided a model email message that members can send to the President of the Associated Students, the Chancellor of the campus, and the President of the University of California system.  It read:

“I urge you to veto the anti-Israel Divestment Bill. The bill violates the rights of thousands of UCSD students, who have no choice but to pay their student fees and are legally entitled to be assured that these mandatory fees are not used to empower the political aims of an extremist and hostile group that seeks to promote one-sided propaganda against Israel.
“Student fees must be invested in a non-discriminatory way without regard to the political whims of a block of students. This could become a legal battle over the rights of ALL students.”

Following is the text of the resolution:
    1. WHEREAS, the Associated Students of the University of California, San Diego
    (ASUCSD) is an institution dedicated to promoting peace in all aspects of student
    experiences; and
    2. WHEREAS, the Principles of Community of the University of California, San Diego
    (UCSD) state that UCSD “is dedicated to learning, teaching, and serving society
    through education, research, and public service;” and
    3. WHEREAS, the University of California (UC) has already made significant efforts
    towards ethical and peaceful investments by divesting from tobacco companies,
    companies contributing to the Darfur conflict in Sudan, and companies contributing
    to the apartheid system in South Africa; and
    4. WHEREAS, on 13 January 2010 the ASUCSD passed a “Resolution in Support of the
    Victims of the 12 January 2010 Earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti” stating that the
    ASUCSD “as global citizens are obliged to play a role in concurrent world events”;
    5. WHEREAS, on 6 May 2009 the ASUCSD passed a “Resolution in Support of UC-Wide
    Corporate Social Responsibility Practices” urging the UC to “significantly limit asset
    allocations to non-socially responsible corporations”; and
    6. WHEREAS, UCSD student fees contribute financially to United States corporations
    (see clause 11, 12, 13) that support military occupation; and
    7. WHEREAS, the ASUCSD notes the complexity of international relations in all cases,
    including the Middle East, and recognizes the inability of a body such as the ASUCSD
    Council to adjudicate matters of international law and human rights law, or to take
    sides on final status issues on wars and occupations throughout the world; the
    ASUCSD does, however, note its own ability to abstain from investing in corporations
    that are furthering international conflicts and violations of human rights; and
    8. WHEREAS, the following findings from the United Nations and other leading human
    rights organizations regarding the conflict in the Palestinian Territories (West Bank,
    East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) provide the context for an ASUCSD divestment
    effort; and
    9. WHEREAS, prior and subsequent to the 2008-2009 Gaza bombing, the occupying
    force has engaged in collective punishment of the Palestinian population, in the view
    of the human rights community,1 exemplified by the ongoing 32 month blockade on
    Gaza, of which the regional branch of Physicians for Human Rights has written, “the
    prolonged siege imposed… on Gaza, the closing of its borders, the tightening of
    policies regarding permission to exit Gaza for medical purposes, and the severe
    shortage of medications and other medical supplies, all severely damage the
    Palestinian health system and endanger the lives and health of thousands of
    Palestinian patients,”2 and of which the Red Cross has said, “the whole strip is being
    strangled, economically speaking”, making life in Gaza “a nightmare” for the civilian
    population, with essential supplies, including electricity, water, and fuel, being denied
    to the 1.5 million inhabitants, 90% of whom depend on aid to survive;3 and
    10.WHEREAS, within the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the occupying
    force continues a policy of settlement expansion that, according to the United
    Nations Security Council, Human Rights Watch, and the International Committee of
    the Red Cross, constitutes a direct violation of Article 49, paragraph six of the Fourth
    Geneva Convention which declares that “an occupying power shall not deport or
    transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”4 and
    according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 446 “determines that the
    policy and practices of [the occupying power] in establishing settlements in the
    Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and
    constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace
    in the Middle East”5; and
    11.WHEREAS, according to the most recent UC investment report6, within the UC
    Retirement Program fund and the General Endowment Program fund, there exist
    direct investments in United States companies that materially support the occupation
    of the Palestinian territories, specifically the U.S. corporations General Electric and
    United Technologies; and
    12.WHEREAS, General Electric holds engineering support and testing service contracts
    with the occupying military and supplies the propulsion system for the Apache
    Assault Helicopter fleets which, as documented by Amnesty International and Human
    Rights Watch, have been used in attacks on Palestinian civilians, including the four
    January 2009 killings of Palestinian medical aid workers7; and
    13.WHEREAS, according to Amnesty International, United Technologies supplies the
    occupying force with Blackhawk helicopters, F-15, and F-16 aircraft engines, which
    have been used in the bombing of the American School in Gaza, the killing of
    Palestinian civilians, and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian homes;8
    1. THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will ensure that its assets, and will
    advocate that the UC assets, do not include holdings in General Electric and United
    Technologies because of their non-neutral financial stance in the occupation of
    Palestinian territories, nor does this delegitmize any country and their right of any
    peoples to be living in the region; be it further
    2. RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will further examine its assets and UC assets for funds
    being invested in companies that a) provide military support for/or weaponry to
    support the occupation of the Palestinian territories or b) facilitate the building or
    maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes[], or c)
    facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal settlements
    on occupied Palestinian territories; be it further
    3. RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will not invest, and will advocate that the UC divests,
    all stocks, securities, or other obligations from such sources with the goal of
    maintaining the divestment, in the case of said companies, until they cease such
    practices. Moreover, the ASUCSD will not make further investments, and will
    advocate that the UC not make further investments, in any United States companies
    materially supporting or profiting from occupation and human rights violations in the
    above mentioned ways; be it further
    4. RESOLVED, that this ASUCSD resolution takes a neutral stance in the conflict, and
    also stands as a principled expression of ethical and peaceful investment practices
    supporting universal human rights and equality;
    5. BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will recommend additional divestment
    policies to keep UC investments out of companies profiting from human rights
    violations throughout the world in other places as determined by the resolutions of
    the United Nations and other leading international human rights organizations.

Harrison is editor of  San Diego Jewish World

Seven Nobel laureates urge Berkeley student Senate to oppose Israel divestment

April 17, 2010 1 comment

LOS ANGELES (Press Release)– As the debate on whether or not to divest from Israel discussed by the student senate at University of California, Berkeley moved toward conclusion, six Nobel Laureates connected to Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and a seventh Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, independently wrote to the senate arguing in opposition to divestment support advocated by Desmond Tutu.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East represent more than 55,000 academics and scholars on more than 3500 campuses world-wide.  SPME opposes boycotts and attempts to divest from Israel as they are forms of the ongoing attempt to demonize Israel.  This student legislation rather than fostering dialogue and trust that might lead the Israelis and the Palestinians toward peaceful negotiations only has created an atmosphere of division and distrust. Moreover the one sided nature of the legislation is clearly a cause for concern as pointed out by Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Stanford University.

Peter Haas, SPME’s President commented:  “The situation at UC Berkeley did not have to reach this level.  Had the university administration taken a more principled solid stance against one-sided anti-Israel activity earlier, they could have saved themselves and everyone else a lot of trouble.  We hope the lesson has been learned.”

Edward S. Beck, SPME’s Immediate Past President who coordinated the effort for SPME, added, “It was important that students hear from these Nobel Laureates on this important issue who know and believe that the situation in the Middle East is not comparable to the situation in South Africa and are aware of the real issues and history of the region.”

Sam Edelman, SPME’s Executive Director worked with UC Faculty during this effort and observed: “The one sided nature of this resolution; the ignoring of massive human rights violations on the part of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas make it imperative that the AS President’s veto be up held.”

The full texts of the Nobel Laureates letters are as follows:

Dear Members of the University of California- Berkeley Student Senate:

May I respectfully urge that you not adopt the one-sided and unjust resolution which condemns the state of Israel and urges divestment.  The resolution ignores that Israel is a democratic state, respecting the political and civil rights of its Arab minority. Above all, it exists in an environment in which its very existence has been threatened ever since its inception.  Proposals and negotiations which would have led to Palestinian independence have always been rejected by the Palestinians from the 1968 “three nos of Khartoum” to Yasser Arafat’s refusal to accept President Clinton’s very favorable proposals, a refusal followed by a campaign of pure terrorism, directed against vulnerable civilians, called, “the second intifada.”  A withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza, enforced by the authority of the state of Israel, was followed, not by renewed efforts at negotiation or even by quiescence, but by a steady barrage of rockets against unquestionably Israeli towns.

The world is full of states with abominable records on human rights, including most of Israel’s neighbors. A failure to mention Saudi Arabia, for example, must be regarded as approval for discriminatory treatment of women (they cannot even drive!) and, of course, of homosexuals.  Hamas, in Gaza, has not only consistently inflicted whatever harm it can against Israel but has bloodily suppressed Arab political opposition within its boundaries. Israel’s independent judiciary has no counterpart in the area.  

I trust you will reconsider your original vote and uphold the veto.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

Kenneth J. Arrow

Stanford University

Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, 1972.

Dear Members of the University of California- Berkeley Student Senate:

We, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, urge the members of the UC Berkeley student senate not to adopt an immoral resolution singling out the state of Israel, a liberal and democratic state seeking peace with the Palestinian people and neighboring Arab states, for condemnation and divestment.

We commend your idealism and desire to provide leadership to the university; but true moral leadership requires taking responsibility, accessing knowledge and making correct, not ideological and radicalized, choices. The resolution before you is wrong in many points of fact and it is unjust by intention: Israel is an imperfect democracy defending itself in a threat environment by Western standards of warfare and checking itself constantly by way of a fiercely independent judiciary committed to international standards of human rights.

A decision by the Berkeley Senate to single out Israel for condemnation, rather than any of the myriad real human rights offenders in the world – including the majority of contentious states surrounding Israel such as Iran, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon is frankly a decision of the highest moral obtuseness, which we trust you will not pursue.

It is our hope that the UC Berkeley Student Senate who represent future leadership in the world will find a more constructive and effective way – but primarily a moral and just way – to address the difficult and complex issues of Middle East peace rather than siding against one side in the conflict. In no way can your resolution advance peace, as it is an expression of the very radicalism and historical blindness that drives the conflict and blocks reconciliation.

We have faith in your ability to rise to the occasion and shed light instead of hatred on this most difficult issue. Please defeat this wrong resolution.

Roald Hoffmann

Nobel Prize-Chemistry, 1981

Cornell University

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji

Nobel Prize-Physics, 1997

College de France Paris

Dudley Herschbach

Nobel Prize-Chemistry, 1986

Harvard University

Dr. Andrew V. Schally

Miami, Florida

Nobel Prize in Medicine 1977

Steven Weinberg

University of Texas

Nobel Prize-Physics, 1979

Preceding was provided by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

UN Human Rights Council, not only useless, but harmful

March 14, 2010 3 comments

By Meital Nir

FAIR LAWN, New Jersey–According to the well-known adage, we need to choose whether to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Visiting the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, I observed that the organization has apparently chosen to be both. Founded in 2006 with a mission of “strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe,” the UNHRC is today composed of only 49 percent “free” member states, as classified by the democracy watchdog Freedom House. The remaining small majority includes such states as China, with the highest execution rate on earth, and Saudi Arabia, which still employs flogging and amputation as means of punishment. In the latest absurdity, the council will vote in May on Iran’s request to take its place among the organization’s 47 member states, and some predict it has a reasonable chance of attaining one of the four seats allotted to countries in the Asian region.

Representatives of the council’s democracies are caught between two contradictory approaches in confronting the problem of Iran. On the one hand, they feel a responsibility to employ any diplomatic tactics available to shine a spotlight on it and other dark corners of the world, in the hope of contributing to an improvement in conditions there. But somewhere in the back of their minds lies the realization that the world may one day conclude that the HRC – established as a replacement for an earlier, failed human rights commission – is not only useless, but actually harmful. Understanding that things may have to get worse before they can get better, these realists believe that the council should be permitted to appear in its true bleak colors, even if this means allowing Iran to take a seat.

In June 2007, the HRC implemented the Universal Periodic Review, by which each of the UN’s member states is evaluated once every four years in terms of its compliance with international human rights standards. On February 15, it was Iran’s turn for review and, theoretically, for providing explanations about the evidence of its appalling human rights violations. Not surprisingly, Iran’s UPR has aroused unprecedented attention from both supporters and strong opponents of the Islamic regime, not least because of its simultaneous bid for a seat in the council.

At the same time Dr. Mohammad Larijani, head of the Iranian delegation in Geneva, was being asked to address the regime’s crimes, other HRC members were going out of their way to help him feel very much at home in Geneva. Bahrain commended Iran’s commitment to human rights, China applauded its efforts to promote cultural diversity, and Sudan praised Tehran’s efforts to enshrine Islamic values in human rights conventions to which it is a signatory.

If all that wasn’t enough, following Iran’s UPR – and for the first time since the review was instituted three years ago – the diverse crowd of diplomats, NGOs and journalists seated around the U-shaped tables in the high-ceilinged room burst into applause of enthusiastic support for the Islamic republic. While a long line of Iranian dissidents marched back and forth outside, in Geneva’s UN Square, with life-sized posters of children hanging dead from cranes, the ovation heard inside, like a perfect satirical show, generated a feeling that if this weren’t so tragic, it could have been quite amusing.

At the same time, the council’s democratic members also made a strong showing in expressing their opposition to the dismal human rights situation in Iran. In an unprecedented manner, diplomats lined up the night before to ensure they would have the opportunity to speak at the UPR hearing. In this way, Western countries like the United States, Canada, Israel and others set a distinct tone of discontent with Iran’s human rights violations.

NGOs alarmed by the possible outcome of the May vote have also begun lobbying against Iran’s candidacy, using the UPR as a platform to encourage a more general discussion of the situation in the Islamic Republic. Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch said he hopes that even Iran’s allies will understand that a seat for a state synonymous with the broadcasted death last June of protester Neda Soltan, would “kill” the council, rendering it a useless political tool.

To you and me, the idea of Iran joining the Human Rights Council may sound about as reasonable as letting the fox guard the henhouse. But to some who actually care deeply about the subject, it does not seem so catastrophic. An ambassador of one Western country that harshly condemned Iran during the UPR, for example, told me that giving the Islamic republic a seat at the HRC may finally prove to the world that the last thing this body cares about is precisely the ideal on which it was founded: human rights.

The cynicism is understandable. But while it may be tempting to wait for the final straw to break the council’s back, I do not believe that we have the luxury of waiting to see just how far it may bend, if only out of the sense of responsibility to those who have been raped, murdered and tortured by the world’s darkest regimes. Though the process can be infuriating and at times discouraging, democracies must continue to play by the unfortunate rules of this politicized, cumbersome and indifferent body, and make every effort to steer the Human Rights Council toward its original goals.


Meital Nir is a member of the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps, which attended the HRC session as part of a broad coalition of human rights organizations fighting the abuse of human right in Iran. The preceding was provided by World Jewish Congress and was first published in the Haaretz on 12 March 2010.