Saturday, September 8, 2007

Giving Human Rights a Bad Name

First it was Durban, the "World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerence" with its anti-Semitic agenda promoting precisely what it should have been fighting. Durban was organized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which let the conference get hijacked by the world's worst human rights abusers.

This travesty was one of the factors leading to the demise of the Commission on Human Rights and its replacement by the Human Rights Council.

Now the Human Rights Council, whose membership includes some of the world's worst abusers of human rights, including China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, is organizing Durban II. Reports on the preparatory meetings indicates Durban II will be as much a travesty as Durban I.

As an observer of the Arab-Israeli conflict, I've noticed that many groups with either peace or justice in their names are interested in neither; similarly, both the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council have been giving human rights a bad name.

Massachusetts is generally one of the most liberal and tolerant places in the United States, but this disease has recently spread there.

It began when Watertown, Massachusetts pulled out of the Anti-Defamation League's valuable "No Place for Hate" program on the grounds that the ADL did not officially recognize the Armenian genocide. It's not that the ADL denied the genocide; indeed, it always referred to the actions of the Ottoman Empire as atrocities. It was just that ADL had not used the word genocide in connection with the event. Relying on that semantic distinction, Watertown unfairly criticized one of our nation's most important civil rights organizations and deprived its students of a needed program.

Make no bones about it: ADL should have used the word genocide and presently does. One wonders, however, how many of the organizations Watertown has a relationship with have referred to those atrocities as genocide? I suspect very few. I also know of no other cases where Watertown has severed relations with an organization because it did not use that word. One wonders what led Watertown to single out the ADL in this manner?

To ask the question is to answer it. The Watertown officials have demonstrated that Watertown is a "Place for Hate;" they themselves are desperately in need of participating the the "No Place for Hate" program.

The fact that ADL is now using the word "genocide" has not led Watertown to change its mind, nor has it prevented Arlington from following its poor example.

Now the Belmont Human Rights Commission has joined the lynch mob. It has voted to recommend Belmont also pull out of "No Place for Hate," allegedly until the ADL "recognizes the Armenian genocide as historic fact and supports federal legislation to have the US government officially acknowledge the atrocity."

Like Watertown and Arlington, the Belmont Human Rights Commission is not interested in the fact that ADL has always recognized the Armenian genocide as an atrocity and is now using word genocide.

Like Watertown and Arlington, the Belmont Human Rights Commission is not interested in the fact that the branch of ADL running its "No Place for Hate" program have been outspoken in using the word genocide, or in the fact that the New England Regional Director courageously put his career in jeopardy by publicly pressuring his own national organization to use the word genocide.

To the best of my knowledge, the Belmont Human Rights Commission has also made no effort to disassociate itself from an organization far larger and more powerful than ADL which has never officially recognized the Armenian genocide, the US government.

Clearly, Watertown, Arlington and the Belmont Human Rights Commission are applying a hateful double standard.

It is possible that some of those involved are merely dupes, but the same cannot be said about whoever is orchestrating this hate campaign. They have an agenda which has nothing to do with human rights; their agenda is targeting the Anti-Defamation League.

According to the ADL Charter: "The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."

Like any other organization, ADL is not perfect; admittedly, it was not as vigorous as it should have been in shedding light on the Armenian genocide. It shied away from using the term genocide in fear of damage it might cause vulnerable Jews living in Turkey and trouble it might cause for Israel, for which Turkey is one of the few Muslim nations not trying to destroy it.

ADL's fears were well-founded.

The Jewish community in Turkey is in a somewhat precarious position. I found that out personally when I went to a synagogue in Istanbul and they wouldn't let me in since I hadn't made an advance appointment, needed so that they could ensure I wasn't a terrorist. They have good reason to be cautious; synagogues in Istanbul have already been bombed.

ADL's use of the word genocide regarding Armenia has already set off a diplomatic furor, with the Turkish government demanding the Israeli government pressure ADL to change its mind. Here in America, the fact that Turkey would pressure Israel to pressure an independent American organization seems almost insane, but sanity has never been much of a factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The bottom line remains that ADL made a mistake, but it was a mistake borne of a desire to avoid rather than cause damage.

The same can not be said of those orchestrating the campaign whose main goal appears to be the demonization of an honorable organization by people who don't care that they are simultaneously depriving students of a valuable program.

Some may wonder what the motivation is, why anyone would want to demonize an organization dedicated to combatting hate and discrimination.

Basically, it's part of the new anti-Semitism, the singling out of the national liberation movement of the Jewish people as the one such movement to oppose and attempt to delegitimize.

In line with its mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment for all, ADL is naturally a strong supporter of the right of Israel to, as called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, "to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

People who are not yet reconciled to the existence of Israel, who still wish the six invading Arab armies had succeeded in destroying Israel at the moment of its re-establishment ins 1948, are not happy about that.

Those people are especially unhappy because the libels and slanders used against Israel advocates such as AIPAC are harder to use against an organization like ADL, with its well-deserved reputation akin to motherhood and apple pie. For those desperate Israel-haters, it is critical that they find some way to defame ADL and damage its reputation.

The way they have jumped on a question of semantics regarding an event ADL has always described as an atrocity demonstrates their desperation and the hatred they are infused with.

Just as the travesty the United Nations Commission on Human Rights was and its succession Human Rights Council has become have both given human rights a bad name, so has the way haters of Israel have misused the Belmont Human Rights Commission.

Such organizations should not be places for hate. How sadly reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984 it is that they are, at least at the United Nations and in Belmont.

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