Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 07/08/2012: Biases of the International Court

From DG:

1) No order for the court

There a front page story in the New York Times, Arab Uprisings Point Up Flaws in Global Court, that makes some legitimate points. However, the closer one looks the bias of the article becomes clearer. After noting that the former President of Yemen, Saleh evaded prosecution of the court the article continues:
Now, as the world confronts increasing evidence of atrocities on a much vaster scale in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad's government battles a growing rebellion, there are signs that Mr. Assad is likely to evade prosecution, much as Mr. Saleh has.
The men have not been prosecuted because they have powerful allies, underlining what critics say are crucial flaws in the court's setup. That now threatens to undermine the still-fragile international consensus that formed the basis for the court's creation in 2002: that leaders should be held accountable for crimes against their own people.
Already, the failure to act against some leaders challenged by the Arab Spring is emboldening critics who see the court as just another manifestation of a deeply undemocratic international order. So-called justice, they say, is reserved for outcast leaders, including an assortment of African officials from weak states with few powerful patrons.
Later the article observes:
The International Criminal Court began working a decade ago with very low expectations and little support from the major world powers. Three of the five veto-holding members of the Security Council — the United States, Russia and China — refused to subject themselves to its jurisdiction. Despite this, it has turned into a touchstone for justice-seekers so powerful that The Hague has become their desired destination for autocrats everywhere. The Security Council allowed the court to investigate Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ended up being indicted on charges of war crimes in Darfur, though the court has been unable to apprehend him.
But the court has not taken action in any other Arab uprising, in no small part because of the ties between the countries involved and veto-holding members of the Security Council. Bahrain and Yemen are allies of the United States, which is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court. Russia and China, neither of which is a signatory, are close to Syria's government, and are likely to block any attempt to refer a case to the court.
Note the blame assigned to the United States, Russia and China. However, why hasn't the indictment of Bashir led to any further action. At the time the warrant for the arrest of Bashir was announced, he was hosted at an Arab League summit. The Washington Post observed at the time:

So it was interesting to see what else was in the latest statement issued by the kings, princes and authoritarian presidents of the Middle East and North Africa. First there was a call on "the international community to prosecute those responsible" for alleged "war crimes" committed by Israel in its recent offensive in Gaza. Then came an ardent defense of Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir -- who was welcomed to the Doha summit despite an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on multiple war crimes charges.
"We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the decision" of the ICC, said the communique, which Mr. Bashir welcomed in a bombastic address to the summit plenary. Leader after leader declared fealty. "We must also take a decisive stance of solidarity alongside fraternal Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir," said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abbas is hoping that the Obama administration will pressure Israel to stop building "illegal" settlements in the West Bank; the next time he utters the phrase "double standard" in the presence of a U.S. diplomat, we suggest a query about Mr. Bashir.
There's no word in the New York Times article about the Arab League (or OIC) rejection of the ICC's authority in this case.
But other situations have escaped the court's reach. At the bloody end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009, 200,000 civilians were trapped on a beach between government forces and the Tamil Tigers. Tens of thousands are believed to have been killed, but the International Criminal Court has never investigated the case. Sri Lanka is a close ally of China. Charges of crimes in Gaza will never be investigated, international justice experts say, because of the ties between the United States and Israel.
Aside from the offensive comparison of Israel to Sri Lanka in this paragraph, there's no acknowledgment that the charges against Israel were inflated if not inaccurate, even though the charges came from the same groups that still protect Bashir!

According to this article the only countries who help international criminals escape justice are those who have vetoes at the UN. No responsibility is assigned to the Arab League. The article also doesn't mention that the court has no mechanism for preventing unjust prosecutions if enough tyrannies band to together to insist on an investigation.

2) Of the Presbyterian General Assembly and wheel chair tours

Dexter Van Zile reported on the repeated efforts of BDS proponents to push a divestment resolution through the Presbyterian Church General Assembly last week. In the end, fortunately:
The scheduled deliberations regarding Middle East-related overtures have come to an end at the PC (USA)'s General Assembly in Pittsburgh. The assembly approved a overture calling for an end to violence in Syria by a wide margin. Among other things, the overture called on the United States to "refrain from military intervention in Syria." It is highly unlikely the General Assembly will revisit any of the issues related to the Middle East between now and the final gavel, which will fall tomorrow morning. Divestment is dead, for now, in the PC (USA).
On a more positive note, an author, Bonnie Guzelf put together a tour group of Israel who required assistance. (h/t O. J. Brigance, who works in the Balitmore Ravens front office) Guzelf wrote in a newsletter dedicated to sufferers of ALS:
Accessibility also varied among the tourist sites we visited, but generally was pretty good. The Israeli government is trying very hard to make things accessible for people with disabilities without destroying the ancient sites they came to see.
Our first stop was Caesarea National Park, where you can see the port built by King Herod and the place where Paul set sail to preach to communities around the Mediterranean. This was very accessible. Then north to the town of Nazareth, a large, thriving tourist city, we had to go up a steep hill to get to the Church of the Annunciation, which is built over the place where Mary is said to have been visited and told she would bear a child. Unfortunately, there were no cut-out ramps, the road was a bit bumpy, and we had to take our chairs up the narrow street with cars coming down the other way.
While a politicized Christian group sat in judgment of Israel, others found Israel to be supportive of their needs.

3) Pleased to meet you,  hope you guess my name 

There may be an alternative motive for Al Jazeera's program absurdly charging Israel with poisoning Yasser Arafat: for some reason Al Jazeera is making an effort to rehabilitate Arafat's image. It's true that many in the media don't consider Arafat to be a villain, but, at worst, an ambiguous figure. (See TimesWatch for some examples.)

Al Jazeera featured a couple of companion pieces to the main "Arafat poisoned" article. One was an interview with former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami:
Again, in my interpretation of things, Sheikh Yassin was the leader of a movement that was at the time producing havoc among Israelis, whether a thousand Israelis killed -- no, a thousand, was it? Or throughout the Second Intifada, and therefore, you were getting rid of a leader that was sending directly or indirectly, or inspiring people, or giving legitimacy to this mass campaign of suicide terrorism. That was the way that one could understand it.
But Arafat was somebody that was negotiating with you. He was negotiating. He was the one that if you give a sober interpretation of his role throughout the last 20 years, you would see that he was the man with whom you need to have a kind of peace deal; otherwise, there is not going to be any kind of deal. So I draw a line between the way Israel fought leaders of Hamas during the Second Intifada and the person of Arafat.
Yes, but all this does not necessarily lead to a physical assassination. They were trying to diminish his political clout, his political influence. And I saw it also as a way -- frankly, again, to me, it remains to be proved that Israel got rid physically of Arafat. I saw this campaign to appoint the prime minister, et cetera as part of the reforms that Israel and others were seeing as a prerequisite for a viable peace process. And frankly, I always saw that this was one shortcoming of the Palestinian National Movement. This is where Zionism had the upper hand.
What was Ben Ami thinking? True, he rejects the charge that Israel killed Arafat physically. But he seemingly is accepting the notion that Israel (unjustly) killed Arafat politically. No doubt Al Jazeera's viewers appreciate the subtlety of Ben Ami's distinction. Still we have a former high ranking Israeli government official saying that Arafat was sincere and unfairly demonized.

Another companion report was an interview with Mohammed Rashid.
Last time when I saw Sharon, it was -- there was an attack in Netanya. It was a big attack. It caused some 31 Israeli victims. I was on the way to the meeting, and I thought it is just wise to call it off and go back. I spoke to Omri Sharon, and he told me, "No. The prime minister waiting for you. Keep going." And almost five hours meeting with him, uh, he was avoiding touching on the, on the event. In the last half an hour, I told him, "Mr. Prime Minister, we have to find a solution to stop attacks like these, more attacks like this in the future, and more reactions from the Israeli side on the Palestinians." Then he told me, "I wasn't willing to discuss this issue with you, but let me tell you. Tell your boss, next time it will be really tough. And I'm not sure there will be, after the next time, there will be any more time. So I'm fed up with this. This should stop. I hold him personally responsible, and I want, I want him -- let him do what he likes to do, but I want a responsible prime minister to work with me; otherwise, there is nothing, nothing will move."
So for, for me, this was more than political threat, and especially the tanks were getting closer to Arafat's bedroom. I, I don't think there was more than five meters' distance between the tanks and his bedroom. So it was obvious another attack could lead to catastrophe, even a direct physical catastrophe. But it was obvious, time is ticking and Arafat's days becoming really short and short. I would say the decision had been made in 2002 to get rid of him, politically and physically.
Rashid, just a few weeks ago, was convicted in absentia of embezzling millions from the Palestinian Authority.  Now Al Jazeera is rehabilitating him, apparently at the expense of Mahmoud Abbas, allowing Rashid to appear as a defender of Arafat's legacy. What is Al Jazeera's agenda here? And why are so many lending uncritical support to Al Jazeera?

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