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February 14, 2008

Perfidy along the East River’s West Bank

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/perfidy_along_the_east_rivers_west_bank_20080215

That the United Nations is hostile to Israel hardly comes as a surprise. The perfidy that permeates the house over which Kurt Waldheim once presided can be cut with a knife; Israel bashing has become an integral part of the culture of that body. Such duplicity does not appear from thin air -- it must be nurtured and stoked by individuals who, by dint of impressive titles, can command international attention and influence public opinion and thus cause much mischief.

That is particularly apparent today in Louise Arbour, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. Previously a member of the Supreme Court of Canada and a war crimes prosecutor at the Hague, Arbour's longstanding and unabashed hostility toward the Jewish state -- sometimes couched in disingenuous legal analysis -- makes her the reigning Queen of Hypocrisy and Double Standards. She is a prime example of why Israel can't get a fair shake along the East River.

I first heard of Arbour years ago when, while on the Ontario Supreme Court, she made headlines and drew strong criticism from the Jewish community by being instrumental in tossing out charges brought against Imre Finta, a Hungarian gendarme against whom there was overwhelming evidence of his role in the mass deportation of Jews. That ruling effectively gutted Canada's effort to bring criminal cases against alleged war criminals and left a bitter taste in many mouths.

In her current incarnation, Arbour has been nothing short of a cheerleader for Israel bashers. Her most recent display of animus toward the Jewish state takes the form of gushing praise for the Arab Charter on Human Rights. While this oxymoronic document pays lip service to a laundry list of human and political rights (most of which are honored in their breach in the Arab world), it leaves no doubt in its Preamble where the 22 members of the League of Arab States stand on Israel and Jews, by "rejecting racism and Zionism, which constitute a violation of human rights and pose a threat to world peace...." So sinister is Zionism, that Article I admonishes the Arab states to "endeavor to eliminate" it.

One would have expected a high commissioner to reject any "charter" that unabashedly clings to such rubbish; to praise any document that includes it is unthinkable. How, then, does one explain that 17 years after the United Nations finally discarded the infamous "Zionism is racism" resolution, that its chief human rights officer endorses a document that resurrects that blasphemy? Not a word, not even a mild rebuke on the Charter's call to "eliminate" Zionism, the meaning of which leaves little to the imagination.

Apparently, Arbour not only finds nothing wrong with this clarion call to complete the Nazis' final solution, but she applauds the document as an "important step forward."

When challenged, Arbour offered the typically disingenuous explanation one would expect from a U.N. official: "to the extent that the [Arab] Charter equates Zionism with racism" it does not conform with U.N. policy and she does not endorse the inconsistency. Who does she think she's kidding? This doesn't pass the red face test; that it comes from someone who sat on the highest court in Canada is utterly mind-boggling. Arbour can't be bothered with silly insults and threats to Jews and Israel. After all, the Arabs have seen the light and endorsed a package of human rights. What a magnificent achievement for the high commissioner. Even though she must know what anyone who reads the newspapers knows full well: That the Arabs never have, nor is there reason to believe they ever will, practice what the Charter preaches. Except, of course, for the part on eradicating the Zionists.

Arbour has also chimed in on the Gaza situation, blasting Israel for causing a humanitarian crisis by meting out "collective punishment" by reducing electricity and imports into Gaza, while making only passing reference to the suffering of Israeli citizens in Sderot and Ashquelon. Given her previous positions, Arbour certainly must know that the prohibition of collective punishment applies to the imposition of criminal acts against civilians. Surely, even the condemn-Israel-first-and-worry-about-the-facts-later Arbour cannot seriously believe that the Israeli actions -- taken in response to the indiscriminate shelling into Israel from Gaza -- are criminal.

Do the sanctions impose hardships on Gaza residents who, let's not forget, chose a terrorist group as its governing body? Of course they do, but far from the extent portrayed by the Hamas government and a subservient media, just as any nation's lawful economic pressures burden those living under targeted oppressive regimes. Economic sanctions -- such as those imposed against Iran, Libya, North Korea, apartheid South Africa (not to mention the JFK-imposed embargo during the Cuban missile crisis) -- have long been recognized as legitimate means, short of all-out war, to pressure governments to change odious behavior. All but the blind and dedicated Israel haters can see that it is Hamas, by its indiscriminate shelling of civilians in southern Israel, that has engaged in crimes against humanity and is directly responsible for the suffering of its constituents in Gaza.

Arbour deserves credit on at least one front: she is nothing if not consistent. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, while minimizing Israeli suffering from the shelling into the north by Hezbollah (more than 40 civilians killed, more than 1,200 injured and hundreds of thousands forced to relocate), she actually threatened war crimes prosecutions of Israeli political and military leaders for actions which, as any objective observer understood, were taken to protect civilians from missiles intentionally aimed at them from sites purposely embedded in Lebanese civilian areas (by so endangering the population, Hezbollah leaders, not those of Israel, were guilty of war crimes). Hezbollah's campaign of indiscriminate missile attacks -- like those of the Nazi V rocket assaults which wreaked havoc on London and Brussels -- have no military value whatsoever. They had one purpose and one purpose only: to terrorize the innocent. Israel had every right under international law to defend its citizens and knock out the missile sites. Somehow, the former judge and war crimes prosecutor managed to miss these inconvenient truths.

The nauseatingly predictable knee-jerk reactions from Arbour and the "human rights" community make clear that when it comes to Israel hypocrisy rules the day at the United Nations. Anyone who wonders why the United Nations is held in such low repute in the United States can start in Arbour's office.

Anti-Semitism has been aptly described as holding Jews to standards to which others are not held. As to Louise Arbour and her ilk, all I can say is "if the shoe fits ..."

Neal M. Sher, a New York attorney, has served as executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department. He can be reached at nealsher@gmail.com

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