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Ambassador Samantha Power condemns BDS

by Rob Eshman

February 25, 2014 | 9:47 am

Photo credit: Eric Bridiers

Photo credit: Eric Bridiers

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israel hurts the chances of a just and lasting peace in the region, Ambassador Samantha Power, the permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations, declared Sunday evening, Feb. 23, at UCLA.

Delivering the 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, Power outlined her critique of the international effort to isolate Israel. 

"I'd say a couple of things," Power said in response to an audience member's question.  "First, we oppose boycotts and divestments and do not feel as if they are appropriate in this context at all, but also feel that they are disruptive to the most lasting way to bring about dignity and peace to both parties involved, which is this peace process that we have underway.”

The Middle East peace negotiations initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, Power said, “really does stand a meaningful chance of achieving, again, security, peace, dignity and ultimately prosperity as well for the Palestinian people as well as for the State of Israel." 

Power went on to condemn all efforts to delegitimize Israel, especially within the United Nations itself.   

She said that for years Israel was excluded from membership in the UN caucus on human rights, despite having a voting record on human rights that surpassed that of the United States.

"Israel has been trying to become a member of that group for as long as that group has existed, and Israel's record of voting coincidence with those of us who are a part of that group is higher than the United States's rate of voting coincidence with these other so called like minded; I mean we were close but Israel is completely like-minded with the countries in the group," the ambassador said.

Two weeks ago, after months of "relentlessly lobbying" and making Israel's case, Power was finally able to persuade caucus members to admit Israel. 

Before assuming her ambassadorship in August 2013, Power established herself as a leading defender of human rights and an expert on genocide in the modern era. Power served as a senior advisor to Barack Obama in 2008 during his presidential campaign.   In late November 2008, she was named Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council and chaired the Atrocities Prevention Board. While serving as ambassador, she has focused  on UN reform, women's and LGBT rights, human trafficking, refugees and the promotion of human rights and democracy.  She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, a study of the U.S. foreign policy response to genocide.  

"It is completely anachronistic that all these years after the country's founding it's literally like the kid in the corner who can't even find its way into a group when at the same time, it's sending, you know, medical doctors to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, it's laying down resolutions in the General Assembly to try to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and through new technologies in agriculture, which Israel of course has a lot of experience on," Power concluded. 

Israel, Power said, "has a lot to offer the rest of the world so we are believers that integration is the best route actually to bring about peace and security and ultimately justice." 


The full text of Power's reply is here:

"I'd say a couple of things," Power said in response to an audience member's question.  "First, we oppose boycotts and divestments and do not feel as if they are appropriate in this context at all, but also feel that they are disruptive to the most lasting way to bring about dignity and peace to both parties involved, which is this peace process that we have underway.  It really does stand a meaningful chance of achieving, again, security, peace, dignity and ultimately prosperity as well for the Palestinian people as well as for the State of Israel."

"I think efforts of delegitimation are counterproductive and something we deal with at the United Nations a lot, and I'll just give you a couple examples of, you know, things we have done in the short time that I have been there."

"Every country in the United Nations belongs to a kind of regional group in which they do their work.  We do our negotiating within a sort of caucus, it's like caucuses within the Senate, and at the United Nations in New York, we have a little caucus that works on human rights issues; human rights issues, you know let's say South Sudan or LGBT issues and so forth.  Israel has been trying to become a member of that group for as long as that group has existed, and Israel's record of voting coincidence with those of us who are a part of that group is higher than the United States's rate of voting coincidence with these other so called like minded; I mean we were close but Israel is completely like-minded with the countries in the group."

" Despite years of trying to get Israel into the group it was excluded, and finally two weeks ago just again through relentless lobbying and through making a functional case for why it was in our interest to bring Israel into this conversation and into this grouping, Israel was admitted. This has been a priority of mine... since I [ ] work...slowly in Geneva, Israel had been... there is a regional group known as the Western European and other group and, yeah you never want to be the other until you have no place else to go.  And again, you know, it is in all of our interest to bring Israel into the community of nations."

" It is completely anachronistic that all these years after the country's founding it's literally like the kid in the corner who can't even find its way into a group when at the same time, it's sending, you know, medical doctors to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, it's laying down resolutions in the General Assembly to try to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and through new technologies in agriculture which Israel of course has a lot of experience on and has a lot to offer the rest of the world so we are believers that integration is the best route actually to bring about peace and security and ultimately justice."

 

Hear Samantha Power's comments in the video above.

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