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October 18, 2009: No Surprise

November 23, 2009

An outrage, an act devoid of justice and morality, but not unexpected: 
On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, endorsed the endorsed the Goldstone Commission’s findings.
Specifically, it condemned (“the occupying power”) Israel for not cooperating with the investigation; welcomed the report of the “International Fact Finding Mission;” endorsed its findings; and recommended that the General Assembly consider it during its (current) 64th session.
How bad was this resolution? Bad enough so that Goldstone himself criticized it. While his commission’s findings were severely imbalanced and did not genuinely examine Hamas’s war crimes or Israel’s right to self-defense, they contained some reference to Hamas.
Before the vote was taken, Goldstone, who was in Bern for a conference, told a Swiss paper, “This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel. There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report.”
The vote:
25 nations in favor: Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia.
11 nations abstained: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and Uruguay.
Five nations opposed:  Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the US.
Five nations did not vote:  Britain, France, Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan and Angola.
Several comments here.  Primary among them is my grievous disappointment with Britain and France for declining to vote.  Netanyahu had made the point very clearly to Britain that it was in danger of being charged in similar fashion because of its military operations in Afghanistan.  It fell on deaf ears. 
There was a good deal of justification offered by the two nations for their position, but I’m not buying. 
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that Britain and France chose not to vote because it would upset negotiations to restart peace talks.  And France’s envoy Francois Zimeray, told the Post that his country opted not to participate “to express our strong disagreement” with the fact that the vote was taken so precipitously: “As you know we wanted to improve the text, to enter into true and serious negotiations.”
The Post reports that the enjoys in Geneva of both nations said they took seriously the report’s allegations against Israel of war crimes.  This is the bottom line and what kept them from vetoing the resolution.
What British Premier Gordon Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy did after making the decision not to vote is send a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying they recognized Israel’s right to defend herself, and knew that this was a “sensitive issue,” but remained convinced that “peace would guarantee Israel’s security best.”
Then they put the onus squarely on us, urging “an independent and transparent investigation of the events in Gaza,” the facilitation of “increased access to Gaza,” a “halt to settlement activity in occupied territories,” and “the resumption of negotiations on the basis of parameters recalled by President Obama in his speech to the UN.”  
The fancy diplomatic footwork and the positive spin aside, these nations are not with us. 
With this comes relief that the US stood opposed.  If this comes before the Security Council, we will be depending on a US veto (see more on this below).
It’s instructive to note the positions of various other nations.  I’ve long felt that our future is with alliances in eastern Europe, western Europe to a large extent having been lost. Eastern European nations largely “get it” in a way the west has failed to do, and as our foreign ministry courts them this is to the good.  See that Hungary, Slovakia, and the Ukraine were opposed, while Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Uruguay abstained.
Also important given the shifting climate of international diplomatic relations (and the critical need for us to find alliances beyond our connection with a weakened US) is our courting of African nations.  This Lieberman has also been doing.  And see that Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Gabon abstained.
Lastly, I am surprised that India, with which I thought we had a reasonably warm relationship of shared concerns, voted for.
I share here a link to a video of Col. Richard Kemp — former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and a military man with tremendous credentials — who addressed the Human Rights Council on Friday.  You will also see the text of his remarks, but I urge you to see the short — three minute — video. 
The Goldstone Commission declined to hear Col. Kemp.  UN Watch, an NGO that monitors UN activity, arranged for him to address the Council.
The good colonel’s message: “the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
That their own military man so defended Israel makes even more unconscionable Britain’s failure to vote against.
Please, share this link very broadly, including with your Senators and Congresspeople, who should all see it.


Netanyahu has put together a special forum to contend with the vote of the HRC.  “We are now setting out to delegitimize those who try to delegitimize us. We will not tolerate it and we will respond on a case by case basis,” he declared. 
Among those to be involved are: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog and Minister Benny Begin.  Senior officials from the prime minister’s office Uzi Arad and Ron Dermer and Foreign Ministry Director General Yossi Gal will also be participating. (No Ya’alon?)

A long, hard and very necessary fight.
What will happen now remains a bit vague. 
According to the Post, Palestinian envoy to the UN in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, says they are seeking ways to send the report directly to the International Criminal Court, which would charge individual Israeli leaders with war crimes.
More likely is that it will get to the General Assembly, which might send it to the International Court of Justice — possibly for an advisory ruling.  Then it may well go to the Security Council. But it’s a good bet that the US would veto any proposed SC action, because American interests lie in a different direction.  The Americans know full well that even debate on the subject will interferes the “peace process,” and Obama is eager to get on with those negotiations.  In fact, Britain and France think along the same lines.
The fact that the Human Rights Council accepted the findings of the Goldstone Commission has already had a chilling effect on that “process.”  Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders warned about this:  We are going to be considerably less willing to “take chances” for “peace” if we may be blocked in our right to defend ourselves.  What has happened, additionally, is that terrorist organizations — reasonably assured that there will be no serious international repercussions to their actions — have been given a green light.
Jonathan Schanzer of the Jewish Policy Center says that the vote in the Human Rights Council marks a “distinct” failure for Obama policy in the Middle East.  He had reportedly indicated to Jerusalem, when the Goldstone Report was first released, that it would die a quiet death in the Council, which enabled him to secure a greater measure of cooperation from Israel with regard to willingness to enter negotiations.
But, in the turn of events that has been thoroughly examined here, he was unable to keep Abbas in line on this.

“Apart from his inability to hold Abbas to his word, Obama failed to appeal to the sensibilities of U.S. allies on the council such as Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, who voted in favor of the report. This confirms that the Arab world is still more interested in vilifying Israel than negotiating with it – despite Obama’s attempts to engender good will in the Arab world by exacting concessions from Israel.

“More importantly, Obama has conveyed to the Israelis that he lacks sway with the Palestinians. This bodes poorly for future negotiations. “


Word is that FL Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Boca Raton area) is about to resign from Congress and become director of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, in Washington DC.

No loss to the Congressional world, although I suppose he will have to be monitored with regard to his new position.  Wexler was an early, and enthusiastic supporter of Obama. When he was here this past summer he referred to a freeze on settlement activity by Israel as no more than a “tiny tiny gesture.”


Wexler has also been a major supporter of J Street, which, as it happens, is planning its first major conference next week in Washington DC. 

J Street, headed by Jeremy Ben-Ami, defines itself as “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.”  But those terms, used so blithely, themselves must be examined.  Pro-peace?  Pro-Israel? By whose lights?

Ben-Ami represents his “progressive” group as being the alternative to AIPAC, and the organization that most genuinely speaks for American Jews today.  He has stated that “We’re trying to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel.”


A couple of months ago, Lawrence W. White wrote a critique of J Street that is biting and incisive — and worthy of serious note:

“Court Jews were so named because they were Jews who did favors for noblemen in exchange for prestige, social influence, and various privileges not available to other Jews. They were often more concerned with preserving their status and fortunes than in promoting the welfare of their less fortunate co-religionists…

“In the widening divide between American and Israeli Jews over concern for the future of Israel, there are many American Jews who have taken positions harmful to the security of the Jewish state. Some Jews for a variety of reasons wish to establish themselves as ‘progressives’, with a universalist rather than particularist world view…

“Barack Obama has also needed court Jews. The President, clearly committed to liberal-left solutions to our national problems, campaigned as a strong advocate for Israel…His eloquence and apparent sincerity in speaking of his concern for Israel played a major role in his winning a stunning 78% of the Jewish vote.

“Once he was elected Barak Obama found governing to be more difficult than campaigning. The choices that he has made have led to erosion of support, especially among centrists who had supported him. To be successful Obama needed to retain his base…

“Obama’s view of the conflict in the Middle East has been shaped by those with an imperfect understanding of Middle East history and culture…Those around him, including many Jews, encourage this ahistoric and simplistic thinking.

“But the President needs to be sure that in the process of leaning on Israel, he does not lose the American Jewish community. They were needed last year to ensure an electoral majority and will continue to be needed in the future. Having campaigned on a strong pro-Israel platform, and having assured many prominent and well-connected Jews that he was committed to the security and welfare of Israel, he needed a credible way to validate that impression in order to prevent any erosion in support. This is where Jeremy Ben-Ami, the director of the new organization J Street, comes in. Ben-Ami has become the very model of the ‘court Jew’.

“…Along with others, including George Soros, Ben-Ami founded J Street last year as an organization that was ‘both pro-peace and pro-Israel’.  A key feature of J Street’s strategy was to establish themselves as a centrist force.  To achieve this they needed to do two things. First, market themselves as moderate and as authentic representatives of the American Jewish community, and secondly break the influence of AIPAC and other Jewish organizations by re-labeling them as right wing, and not sufficiently committed to the peace process. 

“During its short history, J Street has built up an extensive list of positions detrimental to Israel.  With respect to Iran, they have defended Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and lobbied Congress not to place new sanctions on Iran…They have urged ending sanctions against Syria also, and have favored pressuring Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syrian control.

“They have lobbied Congress to oppose an initiative calling on Obama to pressure Arab governments to normalize relations with Israel, They favor negotiating with Hamas…And when the President awarded the Medal of Freedom to the Durban anti-Semitic ringmaster Mary Robinson, it was J Street that was tasked with defending the indefensible.

“But their most controversial action relates to Operation Cast Lead. Last December, after several months of deadly rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, Israel finally took military action against Hamas to defend its citizens. J Street opposed this action, calling for an immediate cease fire on the first day, claiming that Israel’s actions were contrary to the interests of peace…
“J Street’s strategy is deceptively simple. No matter how damaging to Israel a particular position might be, they follow with the mantra “and we are pro-Israel”. That J Street  takes positions inimical to Israel’s welfare should be obvious, but it disguises its anti-Israel bias behind repeated declarations of support for the State of Israel…
“The claim by J Street that they are pro-Israel is one of the largest con jobs ever perpetrated on the American Jewish community…

“…J Street permits [Obama] to create the illusion that he has the support of the American Jewish community, that he is maintaining his promise to be a friend to Israel, and by doing exactly what a pro-Israel Jewish organization is recommending, he is acting in Israel’s best interests…
“…As soon as the [organized Jewish] community sees through J Street’s claim of being pro-Israel, the game will end. At present however, J Street is an unofficial adjunct of the Obama administration. Its allegiance is to Barack Obama, not to the American Jewish community and certainly not to Israel.” 

Earlier this month, commentator Lenny Ben David took a close look at some major J Street supporters:

“In August, the Jerusalem Post revealed that J Street’s political action committee received contributions from Arab-Iranian-, and Muslim Americans. State Department officials, a Palestinian billionaire, and board members of the discredited Human Rights Watch and the Iranian lobby were also listed in the files of the Federal Election Commission. Faced with the evidence, J Street’s director Jeremy Ben-Ami responded, ‘I think it is a terrific thing for Israel for us to be able to expand the tent of people who are willing to be considered pro-Israel and willing to support Israel through J Street, he said.

“Give me a break. That tent may have come directly from the Saudi king’s compound in Riyadh or Jedda. Research into J Street’s backers indicates a Washington cadre of paid Saudi agents, sycophants, and
factotums. There are not many in that bunch who would be ‘willing to be considered pro-Israel.'”





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