This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal November 20, 2009.
As part of our public-service reports on the workings of your favorite world body, allow us to introduce you to Anne Bayefsky. The Toronto native is an expert on human-rights law and an accredited United Nations observer. She is also a friend of Israel, which makes her persona non grata as far as the folks at Turtle Bay are concerned.
Ms. Bayefsky's sin was a two-minute talk she delivered at the U.N. earlier this month after the General Assembly had issued a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, which levels war crimes charges at Israel for defending itself in the face of Hamas's rockets. "The resolution doesn't mention the word Hamas," she said. "This is a resolution that purports to be even-handed; it is anything but."
Ms. Bayefsky's comments were the only note of criticism on a day otherwise marked by much U.N. jubilation. Whereupon she was summarily stripped of her U.N. badge and evicted from the premises. "The Palestinian ambassador is very upset by your statement," Ms. Bayefsky says the U.N. security chief told her. Journalist Matthew Russell Lee tells us that he heard the ambassador asking whether U.N. security had "captured" Ms. Bayefsky.
For the record, the U.N. claims that Ms. Bayefsky violated procedures by bringing a colleague who lacked a proper badge, and that she was not entitled to speak where she did, though representatives of nongovernment organizations have used it in the past. And when we called the Palestinian Mission to get their side of the story, they told us the fracas was the last of their worries. Maybe so.
Yet the U.N. continues to bar Ms. Bayefsky from the premises, despite calls on her behalf by the U.S. mission and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. Best-case scenario, one U.N. insider tells us, is that "they'll put her on probation." We hear the U.N.'s NGO accreditation committee, chaired by Sudan, will likely make the final decision.
Meanwhile, a committee of the General Assembly recently passed a resolution on the so-called defamation of religion. "Everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference, and has the right to freedom of expression, the exercise of which carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations," it says.
"Without interference" yet "subject to limitations." Orwell should be living now.
Leading U.N. Critic Sees Political Agenda Behind U.N.'s Decision to Bar Her
This article appeared in CNS News November 20, 2009, Patrick Goodenough
After being denied access to United Nations headquarters for two weeks, one of U.N.'s most forthright critics will find out Friday if her confiscated entry pass will be returned to her – and under what conditions.
Human rights law expert Anne Bayefsky said she was told on Thursday to report to a security official on Friday to "sign something" in order to get her pass back temporarily.
It's not clear what Bayefsky would be expected to sign. Meanwhile, a final decision on her longer-term access will be in the hands of a 19-member NGO-accreditation committee whose members include Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia and China – countries whose conduct at the U.N. Bayefsky frequently criticizes.
U.N. security guards removed Bayefsky's pass and escorted her from the building on November 5 after she used a media stakeout microphone to condemn a General Assembly resolution endorsing the controversial "Goldstone report," which accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza.
Bayefsky, director of the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust at Touro College, a Jewish-sponsored independent institution in New York, and editor of the Hudson Institute's Eye on the U.N. project, called the resolution "a travesty."
Moments later, she recounted by phone from New York Thursday, she was "surrounded by four or five guards," asked to identify herself – which she did – and told that she was not supposed to use the microphone.
She and an assistant were then accompanied to the security office, where the head security guard told her that Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour, who had spoken at the stakeout shortly before her, was "very upset" about her remarks.
Bayefsky said she also was challenged about the fact that her assistant did not have an entry pass – he was visiting from out of town and she swiped him in using her own pass – but she called that a "secondary issue," saying the comments she made at the microphone were obviously the main problem.
Bayefsky said she conceded to the guards that she should have gotten her assistant a pass and told them that when he returns to New York, she would do so.
"That would have been the end of it if it wasn't for the fact that the Palestinian ambassador had conveyed to security that he had been upset by my remarks."
The two were then escorted from the building.
In subsequent attempts to get her entry pass back, Bayefsky said she was told to come in and write a statement, after which it would be returned to her. But when she insisted on including in the statement the comment relayed to her about the Palestinian ambassador, officials refused to accept it and the pass was not returned.
At the same time, U.N. spokespersons stoked confusion by denying that that Bayefsky's accreditation had been revoked. At a press briefing Wednesday, spokesman Farhan Haq said that as far as he was aware, she was free to pick up her pass.
Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour speaks to reporters outside the General Assembly after the resolution endorsing the Goldstone report was passed on November 5, 2009. He is speaking at the same microphone Anne Bayefsky used minutes later. (UN Photo by Paulo Filgueiras)
But at Thursday's briefing Haq's colleague, Michele Montas, issued a statement of "clarification," saying that Bayefsky was under a security investigation for having used her building pass "in an unauthorized manner" to bring in her assistant.
The result of the inquiry would be passed to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for a final determination, she said.
Montas said the "breaches of security protocol" – not the use of the microphone – was the basis for the suspension of the pass.
Regarding Bayefsky's use of the microphone, she added that it was U.N. policy that speakers at stakeouts must be introduced by or accompanied by representatives of the U.N. or a member state. Unless so accompanied, she said, "an NGO [representative] cannot step up to the microphone and just make a statement."
Bayefsky said by phone later in the day that she and other NGO members have used stakeout microphones in the past without any difficulties being raised. Responding to Montas' statement about the need to be accompanied she said, "that's just not true – or at least it's not enforced, with respect to anybody but me."
'On the radar screen'
Bayefsky said she had no doubt her pass had been withheld because of her criticism of the U.N.
"This was political from the get-go," she said. "I was obviously on their radar screen."
Bayefsky's U.N. Watch monitors the world body's activities in New York and at its Human Rights Council in Geneva, with a particular focus on its treatment of Israel.
Presenting statements during NGO segments of meetings, she has been responsible for some of the most hard-hitting criticism heard in U.N. forums.
When the Human Rights Council considered the Goldstone report in late September, Bayefsky was scolded by the council president for a direct and personal challenge to Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who led the U.N.-mandated fact finding mission behind the report.
"How does it feel to have used your Jewishness to jeopardize the safety and security of the people of Israel, and to find yourself in the company of human rights abusers everywhere?" she asked him.
In an earlier visit to Geneva, Bayefsky caused a stir during the "Durban II" racism conference, a week-long event attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and boycotted by the U.S., Israel and a handful of other Western countries.
Ahmadinejad sparked a walkout during a speech in which he called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime," described the Holocaust as a "pretext" for Israel's establishment in 1948, and said the 2003 invasion of Iraq was "planned by the Zionists and their allies in the then U.S. administration."
During an NGO segment later, Bayefsky berated the U.N. for giving the Iranian "a global megaphone" and said it had also " translated his hate speech into six languages and broadcast it around the world."
Interrupted several times by a protesting Iranian delegate, she accused the U.N. of enabling anti-Semitism, criticized "all those states without the courage to reject a forum for bigotry when it masquerades as human rights," and concluded that the Durban II conference deserved to end up in "the dustbin of history."
By comparison, her impromptu Nov. 5 comments at the stakeout microphone were relatively mild.
She noted that the resolution passed by the General Assembly that day endorsing the Goldstone report made not mention of Hamas – the Palestinian group whose thousands of rocket attacks from Gaza were Israel's stated reason for its military offensive last winter.
"This is a resolution that purports to be evenhanded," she said. "It calls for accountability and in fact what we see instead is impunity for the Palestinian side."
'West gets outvoted'
The body that will decide whether Bayefsky will be able to retain access to U.N. meetings is an ECOSOC committee overseeing accreditation of non-governmental organizations, more than 3,000 of which have "consultative status" at the U.N.
This year the committee has been chaired by Sudan, and two of its four vice-chairmen are Cuba and Pakistan.
The committee has been accused in the past of political decision-making. In a vote last summer it rejected the accreditation application of a Christian NGO because it refused to produce names and addresses of its members in China, citing religious freedom concerns.
China led the move to shut out the Christian organization and the U.S. was one of just four committee members to vote in support of the group (the others were Britain, Romania and Israel.) The U.S. delegate said that by taking the decision to exclude the NGO, "we are embarrassing ourselves and embarrassing the United Nations."
The committee's members are Angola, Britain, Burundi, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Guinea, India, Israel, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Sudan, Turkey and the United States.
"The United States and other Western governments never prevail at that committee," Bayefsky commented Thursday. "They get outvoted ... that's why some Western democratic NGOs never get NGO accreditation."