* America and Israel aren’t even on the “worst places” list
* Occupation... refugees... settlers... Welcome to Western Sahara
* Both Hamas and Fatah blamed for “Arafat commemoration massacre”
* Following last week’s appointments, “the U.N. General Assembly is now led by servants of dictatorships”
1. Don’t mess with the French!
2. Occupation... refugees... settlers... Welcome to Western Sahara
3. Swedish neo-Nazis learn the truth on a visit to Auschwitz
4. Both Hamas and Fatah blamed for “Arafat commemoration massacre”
5. Another sick joke from the U.N., as Burma appointed vice-president
6. No limits to hatred of Israelis, as mother refuses help from “enemy”
7. “The list: The worst places to be a terrorist” (Foreign Policy magazine, May 2008)
8. “Western Sahara’s conflict traps refugees in limbo” (NY Times, June 4, 2008)
9. “Former Swedish neo-Nazis become Holocaust commemorators” (AP, June 3, 2008)
10. “Both Hamas, Fatah blamed for Arafat commemoration massacre” (Maan, June 2, 2008)
11. “Your U.N. at Work” (WSJ, June 7, 2008)
12. “Hatred of Israel cuts deep to heart” (Washington Times, May 29, 2008)
[Note by Tom Gross]
Attached below are six articles of interest from the many which I have read in recent days. I have written notes on them first for those who don’t have time to read them in full. (For space reasons, new articles concerning Iran will be sent in a separate email tomorrow or Wednesday.)
DON’T MESS WITH THE FRENCH!
In the first article below, the staff of Foreign Policy magazine discover which countries in the world are the most ruthless in dealing with terrorists.
Their top five: France, Jordan, Egypt, Singapore, and Russia.
According to their research, these five states are the least likely to protect civil rights in dealing with terrorist threats.
OCCUPATION... REFUGEES... SETTLERS... WELCOME TO WESTERN SAHARA
On virtually a daily basis, the entire world media continues to write about the “Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza” – even though there has been no Israeli occupation of Gaza, or Israelis living there for almost three years. At the same time the world media entirely ignores the occupation of the Western Sahara, and the settlements there.
I have pointed this out before several times. For example, in my 2004 article “Living in a Bubble: The BBC’s very own Mideast foreign policy,” I wrote:
“... This culture makes it all but impossible for anyone who thinks differently to gain or hold a job at BBC news. Who at the BBC can name the leader of the Polisario Front, fighting for independence against a 25-year Arab occupation of the Western Sahara (a territory bigger than Britain)? Who at the BBC has done a report about all the Arab settlers that the Moroccan government has been bussing into the area to take the land of the indigenous Saharawi people, since Morocco annexed it 25 years ago?”
Amazingly, last week, amidst story after story in The New York Times about how Israel had supposedly refused seven Palestinian students entry into Israel from Gaza in order to go to the U.S. to study (in fact Israel had given them permission), The New York Times finally ran a piece on the plight of the Sahrawis of the Western Sahara:
“The refugees’ eyes burned as they recounted terrible tales, culled, they said, from decades of hard living in camps in an unforgiving desert, half a world away.
“One man told of a holding center for unwed mothers, cordoned off from relatives and friends. A woman said that a camp’s leaders smuggled away foreign aid, even as residents of the camp starved. Another man described escaping with his pregnant wife under the cover of night, fleeing toward the Moroccan border as the camp’s police chased them through a thicket of land mines.”
The full New York Times piece is attached as the second article below.
In a May 2008 report, Freedom House, an American human rights group whose senior staff subscribe to this email list, described Morocco’s treatment of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara as highly repressive and “only slightly better than the worst of the worst.”
SWEDISH NEO-NAZIS LEARN THE TRUTH ON A VISIT TO AUSCHWITZ
In the third article below, the Associated Press reports on former Swedish neo-Nazis who have become Holocaust commemorators.
“I can no longer deny it happened, or salute what happened,” says one former neo-Nazi teenage activist, who visited to Auschwitz as part of Swedish initiative to confront growing anti-Semitism in Scandinavia.
After studying the cases of 16 Jewish Holocaust victims from their Swedish hometown of Karlstad, some former Swedish neo-Nazi teenagers even decided to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel last week to underline their new attitudes, and meet with Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem.
Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari (who is a longtime subscriber to this email list) said as far as she knew it marked the first time Yad Vashem had ever dealt directly with neo-Nazis.
About 100 teenagers have so far taken part in the Swedish program. Several of the most “hard-core neo-Nazis,” including those sporting Nazi tattoos, did not make the trip to Israel, either for fear of offending survivors or to remain anonymous for their own safety, they claimed.
BOTH HAMAS AND FATAH BLAMED FOR “ARAFAT COMMEMORATION MASSACRE”
In the fourth article, the independent Palestinian Maan News agency declares that “both the Hamas-affiliated police force and Fatah are to blame for Yasser Arafat commemoration massacre in Gaza City last November, the Gaza-based de facto Palestinian government announced on Monday.”
Seven people were killed and dozens injured as Palestinians fought each other during a rally by Fatah members to commemorate the third anniversary of Arafat’s death.
The BBC and some other prominent western media later included these deaths in the figures given for Palestinians killed in the intifada, giving viewers the impression that Israel had killed these seven as well as many hundreds of others killed in intra-Palestinian clashes during recent years.
Maan continues: “The Palestinian committee also found that Fatah members removed corpses from the morgues before post mortems could be completed. The report said this indicated they were trying to thwart any investigations.”
I haven’t seen this reported anywhere in the western media.
ANOTHER SICK JOKE FROM THE U.N., AS BURMA APPOINTED VICE-PRESIDENT
In the fifth article below, The Wall Street Journal points out that the U.N. General Assembly voted last week to elect the Nicaraguan winner of the 1985 Lenin Prize as its new president. And it also voted to name the government of Burma – which otherwise has been busy preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching hundreds of thousands of its own needy victims of last month’s devastating cyclone – as one of the Assembly’s vice presidents. Only at the U.N. is this not considered an embarrassment.
NO LIMITS TO HATRED OF ISRAELIS, AS MOM REFUSES HELP FROM THE “ENEMY”
In the sixth and final article, The Washington Times reports that “a hole in the heart of Diyar Raouf’s 6-year-old son threatens his life. But in Mrs. Raouf’s heart lies a hatred of Israel that is so great that at the last minute, the Iraqi woman declined to let Israeli surgeons touch her son.
“... The Israeli charity Save A Child’s Heart arranged for them to travel to Amman, where her son Ahmad was undergoing tests before the surgery in Israel to correct a pulmonary valve stenosis – a disease that restricts the flow of blood to the lungs.”
But then his mother refused to let her son go to Tel Aviv to save his life.
Since 2003, over 80 sick Iraqi children have been treated in Israeli hospitals, but after an Arabic TV station publicized the Israeli charitable work, threats were made against any Arab who accepted it.
-- Tom Gross
THE WORST PLACES TO BE A TERRORIST
The list: The worst places to be a terrorist
By the staff
Foreign Policy magazine
Fighting transnational terrorism often involves making unsavory choices between protecting civil rights and providing security. The following regimes have opted for the latter and are definitely not the kind of places you want to get caught if you’re plotting some terrorist mayhem.
Key tactics: Though many Americans view them as softies when it comes to the war on terror, the French actually have some of the world’s toughest and arguably most effective antiterrorism laws. In France, terrorist investigations are overseen by a special unit of magistrates with unprecedented powers to monitor suspects, enlist the help of other branches of law enforcement, and detain suspects for days without charges. Additionally, prosecutors have a mandate to pursue terrorists abroad if the suspect or victim is French. France is also not shy about deporting Muslim clerics it views as threatening. It shouldn’t be surprising that French law enforcement is well set up for counterterrorism: France was the first European country to fall victim to Middle Eastern terrorism during the Algerian war in the 1950s.
In action: France has not had a terrorist attack on its soil since 9/11, but it claims to have foiled several, including a chemical attack planned by Chechen operatives against Russian targets in Paris, a planned bombing of one of Paris’s airports, and a 9/11-like airline plot against the Eiffel Tower.
Concerns: French civil libertarians have raised concerns about detentions that, in some cases, can last for years without trials. Allegations of police brutality are also common in France’s predominantly Muslim suburbs.
Key tactics: Since the November 2005 hotel bombings carried out by al Qaeda in Amman, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has made it a priority to stop the infiltration of terrorists from neighboring Iraq and Syria. Jordan’s intelligence service, the General Intelligence Department, has exploited close ties with Sunni tribes in Iraq’s Anbar province to provide its U.S. and Israeli counterparts with valuable intelligence about the structure and financing on terrorist organizations. Jordan also takes pride in the prowess of its Special Forces units and has opened a special operations training center to teach counterterrorism tactics to elite military units from around the world.
In action: It’s widely suspected that Jordanian spies tipped off the U.S. military to the location of al Qaeda in Iraq’s Jordanian-born leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leading to the U.S.-Iraqi military raid that killed him.
Concerns: Jordan has been criticized by human rights groups for its alleged participation in the “rendition” of U.S. terrorist suspects for torture.
Key tactics: No less an authority than al Qaeda’s No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri recently said of Egypt’s State Security, “They know more about the Islamic movements than many of those movements’ members know about them.” Zawahiri’s followers have good reason to worry. After a wave of terrorist attacks and political victories for the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1990s, Hosni Mubarak’s government opted for a strategy of ruthless repression in combating the threat from terrorism and political Islam. The state’s strategy is to inhibit the Brotherhood from participating in the political process while carrying out wide-ranging arrests of militants and routinely using torture on prisoners.
In action: During the 1990s, the Egyptian regime essentially eliminated the domestic threat of groups such as the Islamic Group and Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad, largely by attacking their bases of operations and blocking their ability to transform into legitimate political movements. Overreaches by the groups themselves contributed greatly to their downfall.
Concerns: Human Rights Watch has complained that the Egyptian regime’s liberal use of torture simply leads prisoners to “confess to crimes real or imagined.” Analysts also question the strategy of repressing the Brotherhood, which they say only strengthens the group’s appeal.
Key tactics: Singapore, which is 15 percent Muslim, has had enormous success in combating regional terrorist groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah through a combination of tough Special Forces tactics and savvy rehabilitation programs. After 9/11, the island country strengthened its crackdown on terrorist funding, and it recently passed legislation giving the Army wide-ranging powers to pursue terrorists domestically. But Singapore’s approach goes beyond enforcement. Since 2003, a landmark government program has aimed to rehabilitate arrested militants. The state employs volunteer clerics who counsel detainees and rebut extremist arguments. The United States has studied the approach as a possible alternative to indefinite detention.
In action: A major operation in 2001 resulted in the arrest of 15 Jemaah Islamiyah operatives who were planning terrorist attacks within Singapore. Around 70 people have been detained since then, and about one third have been released after rehabilitation. Police continue monitoring those who are released.
Concerns: Democracy activists argue that the Singaporean government plays up the terrorist threat to justify its authoritarianism. The police also suffered a major embarrassment in February when a Jemaah Islamiyah militant escaped through the bathroom window of a detention center.
Key tactics: In 1999, Boris Yeltsin elevated an obscure midlevel politician named Vladimir Putin to the rank of prime minister and entrusted him with putting down a raging insurgency in the breakaway region of Chechnya. Ever since, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism have been the hallmarks of Putin’s tenure, and he has largely built his popularity around his success in these areas. Russia has carried out a ruthless campaign of military suppression in Chechnya, and when it hasn’t been attacking militants, it has joined with them by elevating former rebel Ramzan Kadyrov to the presidency of the now largely peaceful region. Russian security forces were also willing to put down terrorist sieges by force even at the expense of high civilian casualties.
In action: After Chechen rebels took a Moscow theater hostage in 2002, Russian Special Forces pumped an unknown gas into the theater’s ventilation system and then stormed the building, killing nearly all the hostage-takers along with hundreds of hostages.
Concerns: Though Russia has largely succeeded in pacifying Chechnya; the neighboring regions of Dagestan and North Ossetia remain havens for militant groups. The government was widely criticized for the secrecy surrounding the Nord-Ost and Beslan school operations and the high number of hostages killed during the rescues.
ANOTHER OF THE MIDEAST’S FORGOTTEN CONFLICTS
Western Sahara’s conflict traps refugees in limbo
By Cara Buckley
The New York Times
June 4, 2008
The refugees’ eyes burned as they recounted terrible tales, culled, they said, from decades of hard living in camps in an unforgiving desert, half a world away.
One man told of a holding center for unwed mothers, cordoned off from relatives and friends. A woman said that a camp’s leaders smuggled away foreign aid, even as residents of the camp starved. Another man described escaping with his pregnant wife under the cover of night, fleeing toward the Moroccan border as the camp’s police chased them through a thicket of land mines.
But were the refugees’ depictions of life in the camps overstated, as some human rights workers wonder? And were they brought to the United States to advance a foreign country’s claim on their homeland?
The refugees are Sahrawis from Western Sahara, products of a tangled, nearly forgotten conflict between Morocco and a Sahrawi rebel group, the Polisario Front, that has dragged on for more than 30 years.
Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony wedged among Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco and the Atlantic Ocean, and it has been in political limbo since Spain withdrew in 1976.
After Spain’s departure, Morocco annexed most of the land, an action that no other country recognized, and the Polisario Front waged a bitter battle for independence that led to a cease-fire in 1991. There has been a political impasse over its status ever since.
In the course of the conflict, many of the Sahrawi people fled to western Algeria to live in camps administered by the Polisario Front and paid for by international and humanitarian aid. An estimated 90,000 to 160,000 Sahrawis currently live in these camps.
A delegation of six Sahrawi refugees – four women wrapped in brilliantly hued abayas and two men with somber stares – recently visited New York and Washington to talk about their suffering under the Polisario Front. In doing so, they also reflected the highly politicized tug of war over the sovereignty of Western Sahara.
They all once lived in refugee camps run by the Polisario Front in Algeria, but are now based in Western Sahara, subsisting in part on Moroccan aid. Their trip was sponsored by a lobbying group for Morocco, and they met with officials and reporters, to whom they described the camps, through an interpreter, as corruption-riddled prisons that they were not allowed to leave.
“The Polisario people to us just look like the Mafia people,” said Said Abderahman, 28, who said he left a camp with his pregnant wife, Salma Essalek, 25, last fall in what both described as a treacherous escape. “The international agencies are giving plenty of food, and the local population is not getting it.”
Another Sahrawi refugee, Brahim al-Selem, 34, said he was a policeman in the camps but had to pay a smuggler last August to flee after being imprisoned for speaking out against the Polisario Front.
But representatives of Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said they did not know of any refugees who had been prevented from leaving the camps.
Mouloud Said, who represents the Polisario Front in Washington, went further, denouncing the refugees’ statements as hyperbole and contending that they were being used for political purposes by Morocco.
“These people are brought by the Moroccan public relations companies here, so they have to mislead,” he said.
There have been various efforts over the years to resolve the Western Sahara question. After the cease-fire was brokered in 1991, a United Nations mission was set up to organize a referendum in the territory to determine Western Sahara’s future, but Morocco and the Polisario Front could not agree on who was eligible to vote.
Eric Goldstein, a research director for the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said Morocco had encouraged non-Sahrawis to settle in Western Sahara, because of what Morocco views as their historic ties to the land. Sahrawis now form a minority there.
Two years ago, Morocco proposed allowing the region a measure of autonomy, under the purview of Morocco, a proposal that France and the United States backed. But the Polisario Front rejected it.
Morocco also began accusing the Polisario Front of human rights abuses in its camps in Algeria. Some critics say this was largely to distract attention from violations that Morocco itself was accused of inflicting on Sahrawis.
In a May 2008 report, Freedom House, a human rights group based in the United States, described Morocco’s treatment of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara as highly repressive and only slightly better than “the worst of the worst.”
All of which, some say, casts doubt on some aspects of the accounts provided by the delegation of Sahrawi refugees, who have since returned to Morocco-controlled Western Sahara. Mr. Goldstein and Sergio Calle-Norena, who works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Morocco, said that while leaving the camps was logistically difficult, freedom of movement was allowed.
“I’m not doubting their individual stories, but it has to be seen in context,” Mr. Goldstein said. “The reason Morocco is funding their trip is to try to discredit the Polisario at a moment when they hope that its own proposal for autonomy will prevail.”
Interviewed in a stately conference room in Morocco’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York, the refugees were passionate in telling their stories. But most, when asked, refused to say what should become of their homeland.
“We came here for humanitarian reasons, not to discuss politics,” said Naba Deddah el-Meki, 42, who now lives with her eldest daughter in Western Sahara. She described widespread theft in the camps of aid supplied to the Polisario Front.
The former Polisario police officer, Mr. Selem, was more direct: “We would like the Western Sahara to remain part of Morocco, of course.”
Robert M. Holley, the executive director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy, the lobbying group that organized the trip, said he selected the delegation from hundreds of refugees who flooded into Morocco from Algeria. Nearly all of them, he said, spoke of repression and corruption in the camps, and of imprisonment for those who tried to leave.
Mr. Holley insisted that his group’s decision to bring the delegation to the United States was separate from Morocco’s effort to realize its plan for autonomy in Western Sahara. The goal, he said, was simply to expose what he described as severe restrictions and harsh conditions in the camps.
“People can argue about politics, but we want people to understand the human costs,” Mr. Holley said. “The lives of these people, daily, are being destroyed.”
“These people aren’t telling lies,” he said, “they’re telling their lives.”
“THE FIRST TIME I TOOK A NEO-NAZI TO AUSCHWITZ, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT”
Former Swedish neo-Nazis become Holocaust commemorators
The Associated Press
June 3, 2008
They used to paint swastika graffiti, get into street fights with immigrants, and distribute anti-Semitic propaganda. But after studying the cases of a few of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, some former Swedish neo-Nazi teenagers came to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to underline their new attitudes.
The kids, some of whom were active members of neo-Nazi groups, came to the memorial on Monday to present the findings of their research into the stories of 16 Holocaust victims from their hometown of Karlstad, and add pages of testimony for the previously unknown dead.
The project, named Combatting Social Unrest, is the initiative of Swedish Holocaust educator Christer Mattsson. The concept is to take troubled youths off the street, confront their prejudices and ignorance and slowly convert them into Holocaust educators themselves.
“The first time I took a neo-Nazi to Auschwitz, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But after seeing it, after seeing where Jews used to live, he said: “I can no longer deny it happened, or salute what happened.”
The journey has been an arduous one. Of the 100 teenagers in his program, Mattsson said about five to eight are “hard-core neo-Nazis” – some completely reformed, others not. Those, some sporting Nazi tattoos, did not make the trip to Israel, either for fear of offending survivors or to remain anonymous for their own safety.
The only former active member who arrived, 17-year-old Joar, refused to be photographed and would be identified only by his first name for fear of retribution from his former friends.
The shy, blond Joar hid behind a baseball cap and a large pair of sunglasses. He would only say that he used to have “different opinions.”
“I didn’t know so much. I’ve learned a lot about the Holocaust,” he said, through a translator. “I have a different perspective on life now.”
“IN OUR OWN BACKYARD”
Sweden remained neutral during World War II. It had a very small Jewish population and closed its gates to refugees. That policy began to change as the horrors of the Holocaust became apparent and Sweden began to lean toward the allies.
In 1944, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg began handing out papers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazi death camps. After the war, some 27,000 survivors arrived in Sweden.
In Karlstad, 16 Jewish women died shortly afterward, most from illness, and were buried in a Jewish cemetery. Mattsson took his students there to ask them if they still believed the Holocaust to be a myth. They, in turn, decided to investigate the women’s stories. The result is a 100-page book that details their stories.
On Monday, they presented their findings to Israel’s official Holocaust museum and memorial.
Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari said it probably marked the first time it had ever dealt directly with neo-Nazis.
The teenagers toured the museum and met with Mirjam Akavia, a Holocaust survivor who fled to Sweden after the war.
She vividly described her childhood and how she was yanked out of school and sent to the camps, where only she and sister emerged while the rest of her family perished.
“When I was 12, it was the end of my beautiful childhood. It was the end of everything,” she said.
The Swedish teenagers were not much older when they encountered their own local brand of anti-Semitism.
“The headmaster of my former school, who is here today, was beaten up by people I knew three years ago,” said 17-year-old Jennifer Lindstrom, who said she joined Mattsson’s group so she could have the tools to battle her classmates’ rhetoric and actions.
“Maybe because I have been studying about the Holocaust and Nazism, maybe because I have been to Auschwitz and the empty shtetels (Jewish villages) in Poland or maybe because I got sick and fed up with racism and neo-Nazis – I could not remain silent.”
Lindstrom’s principal was assaulted because he tried to keep the neo-Nazi students out of his school. The two other teenagers in the group were Johanna Karlsson and Deken Izat, a Kurdish immigrant to Sweden who used to belong to a rival gang that battled with Joar’s.
Lindstrom said that finding out what happened in her own backyard proved to be the best way for her and her new friends to counter racism.
“It is slightly unreal to be here today and handing over material that we have worked with for so long, knowing that it will be here at Yad Vashem for always,” Lindstrom said.
A JOINT MASSACRE BY HAMAS AND FATAH
De facto government: Both police and Fatah to blame for Yasser Arafat commemoration massacre
Palestinian Maan News agency
June 2, 2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-affiliated police force and Fatah members were both responsible for the massacre that took place at a rally on the third anniversary of the death Yasser Arafat in Gaza City last November, the Gaza-based de facto Palestinian government announced on Monday.
Seven people were killed in clashes with Hamas-affiliated police during a rally by Fatah members to commemorate Arafat’s death.
At a press conference in Gaza City, the spokesperson of the de facto government, Tahir An-Nunu, read a report from the committee set up to investigate the incident. According to the report, the blame lies with both Hamas’ police officers and Fatah members, specifically the leaders who delivered speeches during the commemoration rally.
The report blames police for allowing the rally to take place in an area close to universities, ministries and security headquarters at a time when Hamas-Fatah relations were very fragile. Errors in the orders issued by the central and the subsidiary monitoring rooms also confused police officers, the report said. The orders were misunderstood by the police and some field officers ignored previous directives. This resulted in skirmishes between police and the crowds.
Some police officers were not sufficiently qualified to keep order and deal with riots. They failed to use the riot equipment they had been issued and chose to discharge gunfire into the air instead, the committee revealed.
The committee also found that the organizers of the rally “did not follow the necessary procedures when they arranged for the commemoration. They did not coordinate with the security services to secure safety of the area and the routes to it.”
Furthermore, the speeches delivered during the rally by some Fatah leaders played a role in inciting the crowds who began to hurl fireworks and homemade bombs as well as shouting anti-Hamas slogans, the report said.
“Some eyewitnesses and some of the injured said in their testimonies that the de facto government’s police came under fire from the direction of Al-Azhar University,” the report read.
The investigation committee added that based on police reports, there were large numbers of Fatah-affiliated gunmen on the tops of buildings close to the rally. There were also large numbers of booby-trapped pens as well as other kinds of explosives.
The committee also found that Fatah members removed corpses from the morgues before post mortems could be completed. The report said this indicated they were trying to thwart any investigations. Furthermore, Fatah leaders did not cooperate with the investigation committee which further aroused suspicion that they were deliberately trying to conceal evidence.
An-Nunu affirmed that as a result of the committee’s recommendations, nine top police officers and 20 security members were punished. The punishments included being demoted, deprivation of salary increase and dismissal.
The report and the committee’s recommendations were submitted to de facto Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh on 20 December 2007.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS NOW LED BY SERVANTS OF DICTATORSHIPS
Your U.N. at Work
The General Assembly is now led by servants of dictatorships
The Wall Street Journal (Editorial)
June 7, 2008
The General Assembly of the United Nations voted this week to elect Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann as its new president. Readers with a long memory will recall Father D’Escoto (he’s a Catholic priest) as Nicaragua’s foreign minister during the Sandinista regime of the 1980s. He’s also the winner of the 1985 Lenin Prize. Only at the U.N. does that count as a recommendation.
The U.N. also voted to name the government of Burma – which otherwise has been busy preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching hundreds of thousands of its own needy victims of last month’s devastating cyclone – as one of the Assembly’s vice presidents. Only at the U.N. is this not considered an embarrassment.
If that weren’t enough, a U.S. official was present for the vote – which was by acclamation – when the U.S. could have at least protested the choice with an empty seat. Nor did the State Department make any effort to offer an alternative to Father d’Escoto, who ran unopposed. Somehow, we don’t think this would have happened had John Bolton still been ambassador.
Speaking after his election, Father d’Escoto called for greater “democracy” at the U.N. – an odd remark coming from a former servant of a communist dictatorship. He also called for the U.N. to take a stand against “acts of aggression, such as those occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan.” That would be American aggression, not the Taliban’s, the Mahdi Army’s or al Qaeda’s.
A former Lenin Prize winner as General Assembly president and cruel Burma as vice president – another sick joke from the U.N.
HATRED OF ISRAEL CUTS DEEP TO HEART
Hatred of Israel cuts deep to heart: Mom refuses help from “enemy”
By Ben Lando
The Washington Times
May 29, 2008
AMMAN, Jordan - A hole in the heart of Diyar Raouf’s 6-year-old son threatens his life.
But in Mrs. Raouf’s heart lies a hatred of Israel that is so great that at the last minute, the Iraqi woman declined to let Israeli surgeons touch her son.
“These feelings were born with us. They are inbred,” said Mrs. Raouf, who jumped at an offer from Algeria to perform the same operation.
The Israeli charity Save A Child’s Heart arranged for them to travel to Amman, where her son Ahmad was undergoing tests before the surgery in Israel to correct a pulmonary valve stenosis - a disease that restricts the flow of blood to the lungs.
Instead of departing for Tel Aviv as planned, the two arrived Friday in Algiers, after an Iraqi doctor in Amman intervened and the Algerian government pledged the cost of transport, housing and a medical team to perform surgeries on 14 children so they would not have to go to Israel.
“We hear about this, the way they kill our children in Palestine. All of this we see,” Mrs. Raouf said. “We are not afraid of going to any other country.”
Hours earlier, she and two other Iraqi mothers who made up the first group to go to Algeria for the surgeries were visited by George Bakoos, an envoy sent by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to investigate what has become a burgeoning controversy in Iraqi and Arab media.
An Iraqi television station called it a matter of “sending Iraqi children with their guardians for treatment in the enemy country No. 1 for Iraq and Arabic nations.”
The Jerusalem Post, quoting Al Jazeera, reported that the Iraqi Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee is calling for an investigation. The Health Ministry claims it didn’t know of the work happening inside the country.
Shatha Fakhri faced a similar situation with her daughter Sara and took the child to the National Iraqi Assistance Center located in the Green Zone.
Mrs. Fakhri was approached by the group Brothers Together, or Shevat Achim in its Hebrew moniker. The group, which was founded in 1994 with the purpose of helping non-Israeli children receive lifesaving medical care in Israel, offered their assistance.
In Baghdad, Mrs. Fakhri was told 2 1/2-year-old Sara may be taken to either Israel or somewhere in Europe for dual surgeries to fix the corrected transposition with valve malfunction in her heart.
“It’s the only way I see it at the time. I can’t refuse it,” she said. “Maybe it’s the only chance to save my child. If I refuse it, maybe I don’t have a second chance. So I say yes at this time.”
According to a letter to Jordanian immigration officers and obtained by The Washington Times, Mrs. Fakhri on March 3 flew to Amman. Doctors at the Jordan Red Crescent office told her the next day that the operation would take place in a Tel Aviv hospital.
Over the next two months, Sara would need regular medical attention. An Iraqi doctor suggested that she see Dr. Omar al Kubaisy, an Iraqi cardiologist at the private al Israa Hospital, who had assembled other Iraqi doctors in a two-room office in a special practice for Iraqi refugees in Amman.
Dr. Kubaisy was senior cardiac consultant and former director of the Ibn al Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad before it was burned and looted in 2003. When he was told of the Israel plan, he and other Iraqis living in Amman looked for options. Algeria responded right away.
“We moved them immediately,” said one of the Iraqis, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in the quiet three-room apartment where the mothers lived after leaving an apartment provided by Brothers Together.
They’re now working on more long-term arrangements for children bound for Israel.
The intervention was unsettling to Jonathan Miles, a former journalist and international coordinator for Brothers Together.
“I’m a little bit troubled about what happened,” Mr. Miles said. “We’re going to be watching closely to see these kids aren’t injured. It’s something for advanced medical centers to take on.”
Mr. Miles said that since 2003 his group has transported 80 or more children to Israeli hospitals.
“Our work is motivated by faith and obedience to Jesus,” he said, invoking the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan. “Our position is the love of God is freely offered unconditionally to all people and these outstanding world-class medical facilities in Israel should be open to all the people in the region. A Muslim child dying from a heart condition should have same rights to medical care as Jewish or Christian children.”
Mr. Miles said the group doesn’t work with the Iraqi or U.S. governments and interacted with the Ministry of Health only “a couple times in the early years right after the war.”
“We’ve been very open about what we’ve been doing. There wasn’t much response or cooperation from them,” he said.
Brothers Together is funded by donors, though “much of the financial burden” is carried by the Israeli charity Save A Child’s Heart as well as what’s solicited from its Web site. He said most of the contributions come from Christians.
Mr. Miles said Brothers Together arranges the visa to Amman where Iraqi doctors come to conduct tests. The organization provides accommodations, either furnished apartments or at a local church.
The group is not registered with the Iraqi government to work as a nongovernmental organization in Iraq, nor the World Health Organization, Mr. Miles said. It is registered in Israel, the United States and Britain as a charity organization. Children in need of heart surgeries are referred to them, including by the NIAC.
However, the NIAC in a statement yesterday disassociated itself from the group.
“As of April 1, 2008; the NIAC no longer sends children to Israel for treatment, nor do they associate with organizations whom send children there,” a spokeswoman said.
The mothers interviewed said the location of the surgery didn’t matter as much as their children’s lives. “I don’t blame or reproach the mothers that go [to Israel],” Mrs. Raouf said, “because if there were any other route any other mothers, they would go there.”
But they also say resentment toward Israel won’t be removed by free surgery, and they expressed relief that they would not have to take their children there. “I still can’t believe that this nightmare of Israel has been removed from my heart and my shoulders,” Mrs. Fakhri said.