Monday, November 9, 2009

Diplomat Asks "Did We Capture Them?" After Learning Israel Supporters Spoke to Media at UN

After the recent UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote which accepted and called for the implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Report a lone voice tried to address the media in support of the countries that opposed the resolution (here and here).

Anne Bayefsky, a law professor at York University in Toronto stepped to the microphone after a media scrum and made the point that the resolution does not condemn Hamas, that barely more than half of the UNGA voted for the resolution and that it's hard to imagine that any real democracy expects Hamas to investigate itself and that such an expectation discredits the UN. The actual statement is here.

After making her statement, however, Professor Bayefsky who was speaking on behalf of an NGO the "Touro College Institute for Human Rights" was surrounded by security guards, taken to the UN security department where she was stripped of her ID and then escorted off UN property. Professor Bayefsky is adamant that she would not have been escorted away had she been speaking in support of the UN resolution. When a journalist mentioned to the Palestinian Representative that a "pro-Israel non-governmental organization" had spoken, the diplomat asked the journalist "did we capture them?"

The Lybian delegate who had also spoken to the media commented that Professor Bayefsky had no right to be speaking at all and so she should have been removed from the microphone where she had no right to be. This is because NGOs are not allowed to speak at UN media scrums like the one in question. The same journalist who mentioned the incident to the Palestinian diplomat did some digging and found several cases where NGOs had spoken to media at UN scrums. He also claims that despite requests, he has not been shown any policy explaining who may or may not speak to the media at the UN.

The whole incident, especially the "did we capture them" line is telling of something other than a desire for justice amongst those who support Goldstone's report. It seems that it's more about an opportunity to find Israel guilty and to pass judgement without considering that there may be two sides to the coin. It is a case of a political tarring and feathering rather than a legitimate juridical process which is nonetheless wrapped in the cloak of a juridical process.

Take for example the UN press release which states that the report "...found that Israeli forces and Palestinian militants had committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law..." Meanwhile, Goldstone himself states that "Ours wasn’t an investigation, it was a fact-finding mission...We made that clear...We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” In other words, the nuance of what Goldstone himself was trying to say and the point he was trying to make, that his report proves nothing but that an investigation is warranted, is lost on the UN itself which treats Goldstone's "findings" as conclusive, though he himself says they are not.


Anonymous said...

A very sad commentary on the state of the UN today.
Its really hard to take that body seriously anymore.


Charlie H. Ettinson said...

To be fair, the comment made was by a diplomat representing his country at the UN, not by a UN official. Still, it's interesting how swiftly UN officials acted.

It may or may not be clear from this blog, but I am a strong supporter of the UN, or at least what the UN was meant to represent and can accomplish if it chooses to. I would have to agree, however, that the UN is ill and a cure is needed.

It is becoming increasingly absurd that countries like Cuba and Zimbabway sit on the Human Rights committee, that resolutions can so easily be vetoed on the Security Council and that the General Assembly can pass a resolution based on the principle that a vote from a, poor, undemocratic Cuba, carries the same weight as a vote from China, the most populus nation in the world, the US, one of the worlds formost democracies and only superpowers or India, the worlds largest democracy and economic and military heavyweight.

cba said...

The UN was a good idea in theory, but as it's currently constituted it's nothing but a corrupt thugocracy--and a very expensive one, at that.

The best I can say about it is that it's very inefficient. Thank God.