UNHRC calling?

From the Jerusalem Post article about the address by Eviatar Manor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, speaking to the Human Rights Council on day two of its 32nd session:

In a short, but highly charged speech he accused the UNHRC of overly focusing on Israel’s actions against the Palestinians at the expense of other more serious human rights situations in the Middle East.

“Politicized debates, biased resolutions, preposterous reports, discriminatory conduct and unfounded accusations characterize the attitude of this Council and of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights towards Israel,” Manor said.

The Israeli Ambassador took particular issue with a UNHRC mandate that alleged Israeli human rights violations must be addressed at every session under Agenda Item 7. Israel is the only country that is singled out in this way. All other human rights issues around the world are addressed under Agenda Item 4.

“This Council’s priorities are wide off the mark,” said Manor.

How is it, that it has “an agenda item specifically dedicated to my country when the tragedies of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, to name but a few, are unfolding and producing a tsunami of refugees about to engulf Europe?” Manor said.

“And you expect us to take you seriously?,” he asked.

On target!

Note the cracking sting in the tail:

He ended with a few lines of attack against the council charging that it “has never cared for the human rights of Israelis.”

Manor further charged that the UNHRC “needs a moral compass” and that it “does not and will not contribute to peace in our region.”

He urged the UNHRC members to weigh his words.

“Think about it, and call me if you change your minds. You can find me at +972 -77-430-4703,” Manor said.

UNHRC calling? I doubt it.

Read it all here.


Free speech of the week


On a whim, I bought this week’s print edition of the Economist. As usual, it is full of well written, well edited, informative and interesting material from across the world. In general, its opinion pieces are solid and well argued. Although its Israeli coverage has become too much of a Guardian imitator, it remains the best quality print journalism I have read.

This week’s edition leads on free speech and censorship. The opinion piece Under attack includes this gem:

One strongman who has enjoyed tweaking the West for hypocrisy is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey. At home, he will tolerate no insults to his person, faith or policies. Abroad, he demands the same courtesy – and in Germany he has found it. In March a German comedian recited a satirical poem about him “shagging goats and oppressing minorities” (only the more serious charge is true). Mr Erdogan invoked an old, neglected German law against insulting foreign heads of state. Amazingly, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has let the prosecution proceed. Even more amazingly, nine other European countries still have similar laws, and 13 bar insults against their own head of state.

Think about the highlighted text. It’s a clever swipe at Erdogan; one that will have his political opponents smirking, and the man himself fuming. And, at the same time, it adds to the points being made about freedom of speech. Well done to the Economist.


Jerusalem, Jerusalem

There are many (many) reasons to admire the work of the Elder of Ziyon. One reason is his talent at asking pointed and relevant questions about anti-Israel propaganda; questions that should make a neutral, objective observer (if there is such a beast) stop, think, and admit: he’s right. One of his recent posts – Jerusalem, quod erat demonstrandum and Daniel Seidemann  – is a perfect example.

It starts with a tweet by Seidemann, contrasting Bibi’s declaration of support for a two state solution with his other declaration about never giving up Jerusalem. Seidemann tweeted that the appropriate conclusion is that Bibi does not support a two state solution.

So, the Elder tweeted a simple question: why do the Palestinians need Jerusalem for a state? They may want it, they may like it, but why do they need it?

Answer came there none.

The Elder (whose whole post is here) concludes his analysis as follows:

“Arabs aren’t afraid of Jews like Seidemann who say they want to give up Jerusalem for peace. They are afraid of Jews – even secular Jews like Netanyahu – who would rather die than lose the Old City.

Beggars can’t be choosers, yet Palestinians who are supposedly living in stateless misery are making preconditions for a state that have nothing to do with statehood.

Because their goal isn’t the creation of a state but the destruction of one.

And the proof is because they insist, without a shred of proof, that there can be no Palestinian state without Jerusalem.


So, quod erat demonstrandum. Or, quintessential Elder demolition.


Hypocrisy Watch – USA Edition

The USA is not happy about Lieberman’s appointment. Put to one side whether it’s any business of theirs, or Lieberman is a nice guy or not. Just contrast and compare with the USA’s attitude to the appointment of an Iranian leader (Ahmad Jannati – of the Death to Israel! Death to the USA! type) and what do you get? Silence. Here’s the excellent David Horovitz on the position:

“Raising questions about Israel’s direction, after Liberman, promising a commitment to peacemaking, joins the coalition. But staying silent about Iran’s direction, after Jannati, a man who declaredly seeks the destruction of the United States, is elected to head the Assembly of Experts.

Have at it, guys.”

Read the whole thing here, and cringe at the cheek, the arrogance, and the hypocrisy. Whatever has happened to the USA?


A Haaretz Antidote

The media inside Israel is, generally, left wing. Haaretz is the worst (by far) from my perspective, but the collective vision they have is so negative, that they all share the blame for the way Israel is viewed by the foreign press. Fortunately there are exceptions. And while Israel HaYom is far too close to Bibi for my liking, it is often on target with its critique of the other media. This, for example, is absolutely right:

“In the reality in which we live, a senior officer (major general) who compares processes taking place here to the Germans in the 1930s is a man of values, but an officer who invites his soldiers to pray before an action in Gaza? That’s darker, even reminiscent of Iran. It’s a shame that Albert Einstein isn’t here to test the theory of moral relativism in our country. Perhaps we should recall Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s command prior to the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, when he called on all Allied soldiers to “beseech the blessing of Almighty God” before the operation?”

Of course, the current Lieberman and Herzog adventures in the cabinet, or out of the cabinet, have inspired some shrieking commentary. The Israel Hayom piece is a good antidote to the poison put out by Haaretz and others, and skewers their howls of angry commentary fairly easily.

Do read the whole thing, here.


Big Brother, or Big Bother?

This Mashable piece about the use of face recognition software at a music festival was new to me:

Big Festival Brother? What summer music festivals are doing with your personal data

It’s May and the sun is finally out after a long British winter. For many that means one thing: festival season.

It’s a good occasion to disconnect from technology, go off the grid and enjoy a few days of carefree excitement. Or not.

Along with booze, music and mud — a lot of mud — British festivals may have another feature: mass surveillance.

Last year, Leicestershire police scanned the faces of 90,000 festival-goers at Download Festival, checking them against a list of wanted criminals across the country. It was the first time anywhere in the UK that facial recognition technology — NeoFace — was used at a public outdoor event.

Privacy campaigners — and Muse frontman Matt Bellamy — expressed their fury at authorities after they casually mentioned the use of the surveillance project on Police Oracle, a police news and information website. Police didn’t use any other method to warn festival-goers about the controversial initiative.

The article then goes on a wayward route – I’m not sure where to – as it skates over the topics of surveillance, privacy, and the use of personal data. However, it is this “controversial initiative” that is the cornerstone, and I think it’s badly directed.

Let’s examine what appears to have happened. The police used software that would help them find wanted criminals. What is wrong with that? Would there have been less protest if there had been police stationed at every entrance doing a personal check of the incoming faces? There was no intrusion into privacy. It was, after all, for the benefit of society. How many would complain if, for example, a rapist or a murderer committed more crimes because the police failed to arrest him when he turned up to see his favorite rock band? And as for giving a warning… “Calling all criminals. Please note that if you go to this festival, you might be recognized and arrested.” Ahem.

Sure, there are issues about the use of personal data. For example, if the police used these records to create profiles about innocent civilians, and kept these records for no good reason, that would be an abuse of power. But what if they were profiling potential terrorists? Why wouldn’t we want the police to be able to do that?

The irony is that private companies (not least Google) take a whole lot more intrusive steps into our private lives. To be fair, the article does mention the affect of apps, and the potential abuses. But were I a privacy campaigner, I think I would want to avoid creating a problem for the police in protecting society in the circumstances as described. As far as I am concerned, they can use face recognition on me anytime. I have nothing to hide.


Social experiment surprise

Or not, as the case may be.

From AntiSemitismWatch:

How is this for a social experiment? Last week, some students at University of Chicago proposed a resolution to the College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet.

Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Can you see what’s coming?

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. They were determined to push this through at all costs, and despite requests, they didn’t even offer the other side an opportunity to present.

The details are worth reading (see here) for they clearly illustrate the inbuilt bias being expressed towards Israel and Jews. Maybe it’s shocking. Maybe it’s expected. But for sure, it is at the core of BDS.


A goodly state of war?

At the Yom HaAtzmaut barbecue last week, one of the other guests – a native Israeli – introduced himself, and after a bit of chat asked Susan and me what we thought of Israel. Before we could reply, he said something like:

“You should know, as far as I am concerned, Israel is paradise.”

There then followed a light hearted conversation about Israel as paradise, and the minor blots we might protest about.

Over Shabbat, I was discussing this amusing encounter with somebody who agreed with the description of Israel as paradise. But there was a kicker: according to this person,  Israel is in such a good state, at least partly because of the wars, because of us being constantly in a state of war (or constantly in a state that is not peace), and because of the army.

Without the wars, so the reasoning goes, people wouldn’t support the need for the army to exist, and to be so well funded.

Without a well funded army, we wouldn’t have those amazing breeding grounds for cyber warriors, and security expertise.

Without the army, we wouldn’t get all that entrepreneurial spirit, and “can do” attitude.

And so on.

It’s an interesting perspective.

If it’s right, does it mean there would be no such thing as a peace dividend?


The bittersweet taste of Yom HaAtzmaut


Over the last few weeks, as always around this time of year, more and more Israeli flags start to appear. You see them flying from car windows, car mirrors, apartment blocks, houses, office buildings, factories, restaurants, shops, garages, traffic lights, street lights, motorway bridges, and roundabouts. Everything seems focused on Yom HaAtzmaut, and the celebration of the foundation of the state.

However, before we get there, we have to pass through the preceding 24 hours of Yom HaZikaron, the day when Israel remembers those who have fallen in the wars.

It’s not as if Yom HaZikaron is a surprise – everyone knows it’s coming – but it’s not signaled in advance. It’s almost as if we can only bear the one day of sadness and mourning. That is understandable. But every year, as we make the switch from the end of Yom HaZikaron, to the immediately following start of Yom HaAtzmaut, as we make the switch from somber memorial to sweet celebration, there’s an underlying bittersweet sensation drifting around.

We may not like to stop mourning, as perhaps we fear it means we are forgetting the fallen, even if only for a short while.  Indeed, some may be unable to stop mourning, and who can blame them?

In previous years, when I have been at a Yom HaZikaron ceremony, I have found the whole atmosphere to be an emotional experience. I never fail to be touched by the stories of the fallen and their sacrifice, of tales told by still grieving family, now years, if not decades, after their loss. There’s a sense of shame, of guilt that I am alive, free to enjoy life in Israel because of that sacrifice. I feel responsible for each family’s grief, even though I know that’s ridiculous. It’s my guilty conscience in overdrive. And I only gradually shake off that mix of feelings during the course of Yom HaAtzmaut. That’s part of what makes it bittersweet to me. That sensation underlines how important it is to appreciate what we have – in the face of ongoing hostility and hatred – and to be thankful.

Yom HaZikaron starts tonight.



Is it any wonder Bibi doesn’t trust Obama?

From the Times of Israel:

“A senior official in the Obama administration acknowledged that the background to nuclear talks with Iran was misrepresented in order to sell the impression of a more moderate Iranian regime and thus gain greater American public support for an agreement.”

Obama’s ‘misrepresentation’ went further than that.

It appears that the administration were concerned Israel might launch a military attack. So, Israel was told that the US would take such action rather than have Iran acquire nuclear weapons. With that assurance, Israel filed its attack plans. And now? There is no way the US will take military action against Iran, unless the Ayatollahs are stupid or reckless enough to attack the US directly.

It appears that Obama’s world view remains childishly optimistic, naive, and is infused with a hippy like belief that war is to be avoided at all costs. Israel has extensive experience that proves sometimes there is no option but to fight. And Obama’s weakness in the face of the Iranian regime may well bear poison fruit for years to come.

Is it any wonder Bibi doesn’t trust Obama? Maybe Obama’s dislike of Bibi is because the Israeli leader won’t keep quiet about the US leader’s ‘misrepresentations.’

Read the whole piece, here.