Friday, May 02, 2008

Jewish refugee's UN address was the highlight

At the 7th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March, ami took notes as she listened her way through the usual diatribes against Israeli 'apartheid' and Islamophobia. The veteran UN campaigner David Littman spoke about Islamic judeophobia. But for ami, the highlight of the session - and what made it all worthwhile - was Libyan-born Gina Waldman's poignant intervention oLinkn behalf of the million Jews made refugees from Arab countries (via Harry's Place):

"Now, on 26th March, there is the opportunity to redress the balance. Several NGOs express their anxiety that the upcoming Durban II conference on Racism should not be hijacked by the antisemitic hatefest which wrecked Durban I. The Special Rapporteur (SR) has given his assurance he will not allow this to happen.(..)

"The showpiece intervention comes from David Littman, on behalf of an obscure org called the Association of World Education. Littman is a veteran campaigner at the UN, (who happens to be married to my heroine Bat Ye’or) with something of the Dennis Skinner about his delivery style. The previous day, his mike was cut after 23 seconds, on his first mention of Tibet. Today, his allotted 3 minutes is stretched to 12, thanks to the constant points of order from Egypt, Palestine and Iran, but today he is allowed to carry on until he is finished.

"Littman reiterates his call for the UN to condemn all calls to kill in the name of God or any religion. He lists among those who have justified such calls, Al-Ahzar Grand Sheik Muhammed Sayyed Tantawi and others such as Bin Laden. This prompts an apoplectic objection by Egypt who declares he will not stand for having this revered Sheikh mentioned in the same sentence as Bin Laden. Costea in the chair simply thanks Egypt, and deadpan, hands the floor back to Littman.

"He enumerates the Judeophobia in the educational material of schools in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Syria and Iran, none of which has ever been covered in reports of the SR nor any UN body or UNESCO. He refers to texts available on MEMRI, PMW and CMIP.

"The real star of this number is Chair Doru Costea. He remains steadfast in the face of calls to him by the interjectors to silence the speaker. Egypt objects to his being allowed to speak as he has in last year’s session “insulted” the Council. Costea declares that as long as the speaker is accredited, he will not silence him, and in measured but forceful tones reminds the delegates that we are here to listen to views we may disagree with, and the appropriate remedy for anyone who takes issue with views he disagrees with, is via the right to reply.(...)

The most powerful, poignant and eloquent intervention of the conference: This Jewish refugee from Libya for the first time got to tell her story and that of the one million Jews driven out, like herself, of the Middle East.

The final 36 resolutions were the usual array of notes, encourages, urges etc, with four condemning Israel (still, only two more than Myanmar). A really wishy-washy one on Darfur, and some good ones on abuse of rights against women and children.

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