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Resources updated between Monday, September 20, 2010 and Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on National Review Online.

The U.N. performances of President Obama and Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who spoke a few hours apart at this year's opening of the General Assembly, were not just two ships passing in the night. They made it startlingly clear that the U.S. president does not understand the threat facing America and the world from Iran.

When Obama took center stage at the U.N., it got off to a bad start and only got worse. The president arrived late and, as leader of the host nation, delivered his speech one slot after its originally scheduled time. He then spent just a few short sentences on the most lethal threat to peace and security today: the acquisition of the world's most dangerous weapon by the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran. In those few minutes, Obama chose not to speak the plain truth - that Iran seeks nuclear weapons - or to commit his government to stopping them, period. He said instead that Iran had not yet demonstrated peaceful intent and asked Ahmadinejad to "confirm" this intent. Obama's primary message was that "the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it."

Ahmadinejad has heard this plea from the Obama administration so many times before that he has clearly stopped counting. Ahmadinejad understands perfectly well that confronting Iran is out of sync with the "new era of engagement" that is the trademark of Obama's foreign policy. "Engagement" looks like this: The president of the United States keeps talking about "extended hands" and "open doors," and the president of Iran keeps building nuclear weapons. As recently as September 19, even Secretary Hillary Clinton told Christiane Amanpour, "We've said to the Iranians all along...we still remain open to diplomacy. But it's been very clear that the Iranians don't want to engage with us."

Ahmadinejad, therefore, took the opportunity provided by the U.N. to slam the door once more in President Obama's face. While he lectured about the "lust for capital and domination" and "the egotist and the greedy," the American U.N. delegation sat stoically in their seats. They had instructions to tough it out until Ahmadinejad really got offensive - though what would count as sufficiently offensive was never publicly announced.

The tripwire turned out to be Ahamdinejad's suggestion that 9/11 was an inside job. "The U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grip on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime." With that, the Obama representatives finally hauled themselves out of their seats and put engagement temporarily on hold.

But Ahmadinejad was only warming up. After all, this was the United Nations, a place where Iranians are comfortable throwing their weight around. Once more Ahmadinejad declared his opposition to the existence of the state of Israel, repeating his call for a "vote of the people of Palestine" that would democratically outnumber and therefore rid the region of Zionists. He repeated his grotesque anti-Semitism: "All values, even the freedom of expression, in Europe and in the United States are being sacrificed on the altar of Zionism."

Of course, there is no freedom of expression in Iran, courtesy of Ahmadinejad's regime. Jewish conspiracy theories are a violation of the U.N.'s fundamental principles. A call for the destruction of a U.N .member state violates the U.N.'s Charter. Ahmadinejad's words were predictable; they have been repeated in every speech he has given to the General Assembly. Yet he was permitted to say them again. Nor did Obama's representatives simply refuse to attend in the first place. They waited, hoping for a new and improved Ahmadinejad that somehow never came.

In fact, President Obama played to his U.N. audience just as the president of Iran did. Obama made the centerpiece of his speech an overt squeeze on the state of Israel. Before a U.N. audience infamously hostile to Israel, he demanded that Prime Minister Netanyahu renew the moratorium on building "settlements." He made no such specific demands of the Palestinian side. Instead, he painted a picture of moral equivalence between the terrorists that seek Israel's annihilation and Israel's reasonable skepticism of a negotiating partner that still refuses to accept a Jewish state, referring to "rejectionists on both sides" that "will try to disrupt the process with bitter words and with bombs."

Ahmadinejad got the message. Israel is vulnerable with President Obama in office, and Iran has no serious reason to believe that hate and terror will be on the losing end any time soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on Fox News.

Today, the United Nations opens its annual debate at the General Assembly with President Obama making every effort to appear statesmanlike as he faces increasing criticism in his own backyard. Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who will mount the same platform later in the day, has exactly the same idea. At $20 billion dollars a year, the U.N. has become the world's most expensive hot air balloon, with American taxpayers funding a quarter of the bill.

A White House press release on Monday spelled out the formula for the president's sought -after makeover. The White House described the "dramatically" different Obama foreign policy as one which includes a warm embrace of the United Nations. It also claimed that "the new era of engagement" has been a major success, pointing to U.N. sanctions on Iran, momentum against nuclear proliferation, and U.S. participation in reforming the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The facts suggest otherwise. Nobody at the U.N. believes that the Iran sanctions will prevent an Iranian bomb. The weak Security Council sanctions adopted after 18 months of engagement garnered fewer votes than the sanctions adopted during the Bush years. The president himself has knotted together the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, thereby making non-proliferation efforts much more difficult.

In May, the president agreed to co-sponsor an international conference intended to redirect the heat from Iran to Israel in the name of disarmament. And a year after the U.S. joined the U.N. Human Rights Council, Libya has become a member, anti-Israel hysteria has reached new heights, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference has informed the administration that reform is dead in the water.

None of that, however, is likely to mean the president will confront real world evils during his moments today at center stage. At a Monday press briefing with America's U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes indicated that Obama will repeat his tired-out mantra on Iran. It's still about an "open door" policy that remains open, despite Iran having made it crystal clear it has no intention of walking through. The president is evidently oblivious to the image of weakness he has projected, and will continue to project, in the General Assembly.

President Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, will take the opposite tack. On Tuesday, he issued another not-so veiled threat, telling the U.N. high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that the "order of capitalism and the hegemonic approaches are facing defeat and getting close to their end."

At the same MDG summit, President Obama unveiled to Americans another aspect of his "dramatically" different foreign policy. He chided "donor nations" yesterday for failing to "move beyond the old, narrow debate over how much money we're spending."

The enthusiasm for engagement has left the Obama team with at least one immediate conundrum, which will be played out as Ahmadinejad's speech unfolds this afternoon. How anti-semitic is anti-semitic? U.S. representatives have been instructed to sit in their seat during his harangue until the anti-semitism or other possible affront reaches such a level that they must get up and walk out. It would be useful to have the administration's instruction sheet on the subject of what is or is not sufficiently offensive, but it has not been made available to the public.

After all, the Obama administration's representative stayed put in June when the Syrian representative told the U.N. Human Rights Council: "Israel...is a state that is built on hatred...Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote 'With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood."

Given that Ahmadinejad again questioned the Holocaust while talking to reporters in New York on Tuesday, it is disturbing that the president has still not decided to stay away from the Iranian President's speech. The Israeli representative, needless to say, has already figured it out and will not be there. In fact, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu who last year felt that he had to come and show the members of the General Assembly the construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp will not be coming to the Assembly this year at all.

So we will just have to wait and see what it takes to move the Obama team.

Of course, Ahmadinejad doesn't care a whit if Obama's folks come or go. By the time Ahmadinejad ends his New York trip, the U.N. will have translated his words into six languages and webcast them around the world.

He will have been fawned over by many in the American media and scores of academics who have made careers of refusing to nail down what counts as right and wrong. As MIT research associate Jim Walsh told Fox News yesterday, while preparing to dine with Ahmadinejad that evening (for the sixth time), "every Iranian meal I've had has been delicious."

A fairly accurate reflection of the moral compass of today's engagement enthusiasts.

September 22, 2010

September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on National Review Online.

George Soros's enormous gift of $100 million to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch is a serious shot across the bow for Republicans and conservatives. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson once said he would become "the Right's answer to George Soros," but he has not. Although "human rights" is the most powerful political currency of our time, no one on the right has stepped up to the plate, and Soros has the playing field to himself.

The significance of his gift can be understood only by appreciating the web of connections associated with this human-rights organization and its resulting influence.

Thirty years ago, the undisputed leader among international human-rights NGOs was Amnesty International. Founded in order to shine a spotlight on individual prisoners of conscience and victims of torture, Amnesty had a focused purpose and succeeded in pressuring governments and liberating real people.

But corrupt governments in developing countries, Communist regimes, and the despotic rulers of Arab and Islamic states pushed back. Under the guise of protecting their sovereignty and natural resources from the ravages of Western imperialism, they commandeered the United Nations, disputed its foundational human-rights framework, and rolled out new and improved "human rights," such as the right to development, the right of peoples to "international solidarity," and the right to be free of "the adverse effects of toxic wastes." No matter that the beneficiaries of such rights were essentially governments and not individuals, or that the rights of women and minorities were then trampled for the sake of maintaining a united front against the West.

Amnesty International jumped on the bandwagon. It expanded its original mandate to include rights violations which it says result from globalization, "business," and a wide gambit of social issues. Amnesty's leaders, who bear the title of secretary general, harbored an anti-Western bias and a penchant for conceiving of developing countries as sympathetic underdogs whose inability to institute the rule of law was permanently someone else's fault. In 2005, Secretary General Irene Khan, from Bangladesh, likened Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet Gulag. In 2010, after the head of Amnesty's gender unit criticized Amnesty for its links to a major supporter of the Taliban, Amnesty reacted by suspending and then severing its relationship with the employee, not by severing its links to the Taliban devotee.

Arab and Muslim states were masters at this form of political gamesmanship. Anxious to rid themselves of the presence of a Jewish and democratic state uncomfortably close to them, and worried about the threat that universal human-rights norms posed to their legitimacy, they recast their extremism in terms of human rights. Though one-fifth of Israel's people are Arabs, and they have more democratic rights than they would in any Arab state, these states accused Israel of apartheid. Arab and Muslim states, meanwhile, rendered themselves Judenrein, outlawed public displays of Christianity, and turned non-Muslims into second-class citizens in the name of protecting cultural rights, religious identity, and "national particularities." To complete the metamorphosis, the Organization of the Islamic Conference seized effective power at the U.N.'s lead human-rights body, the Human Rights Council.

As human rights were being rewritten, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch wrongly believed it had only two options. It could find itself defending the governments of the United States, Israel, and other allegedly colonialist-imperialist regimes - a tack that seemed to be at odds with the mandate of a human-rights NGO, for which governments are supposedly the adversaries by definition. Or it could join the party, trash Israel and America, and prove its bona fides on the world stage.

As Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch and its active chairman for 20 years until 1998, complained in the New York Times last October, Human Rights Watch chose the latter. Bernstein lamented the fact that the organization had jettisoned the crucial distinction between open democratic societies and closed societies, between societies that are willing to acknowledge and correct abuses and ones that deny and ignore them. Distancing itself from its American roots and embracing the timeworn strategy of scapegoating Jews, the organization began to rival the made-over Amnesty.

Human Rights Watch defended the U.N.'s "anti-racism" Durban Declaration despite its blatant discrimination against Israel and cast its lot with those who have painted the defenders of Jewish self-determination as racists. HRW supported the U.N.'s Goldstone report, a modern-day blood libel that claims Israel "deliberately" aimed to murder Palestinian civilians under the guise of defending its own people against Hamas terror. HRW championed the U.N. Human Rights Council and strongly advocated U.S. membership, in the full knowledge that the council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all the other 191 U.N. member states combined.

Last year, representatives of Human Rights Watch unashamedly traveled to one of the world's worst human-rights abusers, Saudi Arabia, to raise money by casting the organization as an antidote to what they labeled "pro-Israel pressure groups." Since HRW had, as Bernstein put it, itself produced "far more condemnations of Israel . . . than of any other country in the region," he rightly concluded that it had turned its back on its founding mission and significantly diminished its moral force.

Why, then, did George Soros deem it worthy of the largest gift he has ever made?

Because Soros has recognized what Republicans ignore at their peril - namely, the power of human-rights claims, legitimate or not.

Soros, logged as one of President Obama's frequent White House guests, appreciates that a human-rights mantra, particularly when amplified with the U.N.'s global megaphone, is a formidable tool for manipulating public policy. A tool, mind you, and not a principle.

President Obama has styled himself a champion of the victims of human-rights violations. But he is the president who went to Egypt and spoke in support of Muslim women who want to cover their bodies while saying nothing in defense of those who want the freedom to do otherwise. He is the president who has let Iranian dissidents die in vain. The president who keeps mumbling about reset buttons while Russian human-rights defenders are systematically eliminated.

The U.N.'s Human Rights Council - which, in its earlier incarnation, was once presided over by Eleanor Roosevelt - opened its current session this week in Geneva with Libya taking a seat as a full-fledged voting member. Next week the General Assembly, which once adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will again permit a call for the destruction of Israel to be made from its podium, as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers his annual diatribe about Jewish global domination.

And outside the General Assembly Hall, the only NGO allowed to speak at microphones reserved for states is Human Rights Watch - which has specialized in delivering congratulatory messages to the U.N.

So Soros's acquisition of Human Rights Watch, coupled with his legendary support of the Democratic party and the United Nations, creates the perfect storm. He has brought together the unelected, unaccountable NGO claiming to represent "civil society," the Democratic party and its sitting president, and the world's chief global organization, each supportive of the others in a plethora of financial and personal interrelationships, and all sharing common goals: diminishing American power and mothballing the idea of unadulterated universal values.

Soros makes no attempt to hide his agenda. As he wrote in The Bubble of American Supremacy: "People have different views and . . . nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth . . . [P]eople are supposed to decide for themselves what they mean by freedom and democracy. . . . What goes on within individual states can be of vital interest to the rest of the world, but the principle of sovereignty militates against interfering in their internal affairs." The same speech has been made by China and Cuba and thugs the world over.

Soros's view is the antithesis of human-rights protection. It directly contradicts the vision of common, inviolable rights and freedoms, which the visionaries who founded America, the United Nations, and Human Rights Watch understood. It is high time to launch an equally well-endowed human-rights organization not beholden to the rapacious relativism and anti-Americanism of George Soros.