Monday, November 12, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 11/12/2012: Obama, New York Times and Israel

From DG:

1) The second term agenda

The editors of the New York Times, put forward The Foreign Policy Agenda for President Obama's second term. There are two items I'd like to focus on.
As for the Arab Spring countries, Mr. Obama has been wise to recognize that Washington cannot dictate their democratic evolutions. But he should be more engaged, offering more assistance to Islamic leaders who need to build their economies quickly while reminding them that American support will be calibrated based on their commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
President Obama didn't even try to influence the outcomes of these revolutions, having cut funding to programs designed to aid the democratic opposition. Instead he chose to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization; in agreeement with the premises of the reporters and editors of the New York Times. This is a huge mistake. But given the views of the Times, it's not surprising that the editors praised the President's ignorance.
Many are pessimistic that anything can be done about an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal as long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in office and Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas. It would be a mistake for Mr. Obama to cross this challenge off his list. He needs to keep seeking openings to promote the two-state solution.
Note what's missing from here. There's no mention of Mahmoud Abbas (or Salam Fayyad). Also there's no mention of the latest terrorist escalations of Hamas from Gaza.

Regarding the absence of any mention of Abbas, reporter, Isabel Kershner observed last week:
In an opinion article on The New York Times’s Op-Ed page last year, the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, wrote: “Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.” 
This time the Palestinians have been more circumspect, stating more vaguely in a recent official document that enhanced status will “enable Palestine to better use the U.N. and other international forums to advance its just cause for freedom and independence” and help the Palestinians “to reinforce the international position that does not recognize Israel’s occupation and practices of colonization and annexation as legitimate.”
Whether or not the Palestinians are more circumspect now, the Abbas op-ed was a declaration that he had no intention of  negotiating in good faith, yet the editors of the New York Times couldn't bring themselves to criticize him for carrying out a threat he made in the paper's own opinion pages.

Furthermore the Times laments the lack of unity between Fatah and Hamas rather than decrying Hamas's ongoing escalation of its war against Israel. If the editors really want peace why not at least some words, however insincere, demanding a halt to Hamas's rockets? It is not possible to view the New York Times charitably. It is demonstrably anti-Israel.

2) Those who judge Israel
The Obama administration decided Tuesday to seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing a decision by the Bush administration to shun the United Nations' premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive states. 
"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. "With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system. . . . We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies." 
The United States announced it would participate in elections in May for one of three seats on the 47-member council, joining a slate that includes Belgium and Norway.  
U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy - The Washington Post - March 29, 2009

How have those noble sentiments been realized?

Last week the genocidal regime of Sudan was accepted to the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council. This was a consolation prize after activists managed to derail Sudan's acceptance onto the U.N.'s Human Rights Council. In U.N. Watch's press release, its director Hillel Neuer explained the travesty:
"This is an outrage," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. "On the same day we hear that Sudan is killing babies and burning homes in Darfur -- precisely the kind of dire situation ECOSOC should be urgently addressing -- the U.N. has now made vital human rights protection less likely than ever." 
"It's inexplicable that 176 of 193 U.N. member states voted to support the blood-soaked regime of Omar Al-Bashir, failing to recognize that electing genocidal Sudan to a global human rights body is like choosing Jack the Ripper to guard a women’s shelter," said Neuer.
Still, Venezuela is up for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The editors of the Washington Post object:
In choosing members, according to the founding resolution for the council, the General Assembly is supposed to “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments” to do so. Moreover, the “members elected to the council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” 
Venezuela under Mr. Chávez has no place at this table. According to Human Rights Watch, the judiciary has largely ceased to function as an independent branch of government. A human rights travesty has been evident in the case of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni. In 2009, she angered Mr. Chávez with a ruling that gave conditional release to a businessman who was a prominent critic of the president. The businessman had been awaiting trial for almost three years. Soon after her ruling, the judge was arrested, and Mr. Chávez denounced her as a “bandit” on national television. She was held for more than a year in a two-by-four-meter cell in a Caracas prison that included 20 women she had sentenced as a judge. They confronted her with death threats. After she underwent surgery for cancer in 2011, she was released to house arrest but under onerous terms, including that she not be allowed to step outside for exposure to the sun. 
Mr. Chávez has an equally poor record on freedom of expression. He has bullied and punished the news media for critical reporting on the government’s handling of such things as water pollution, violent crime, a prison riot and an earthquake.
At the end of the editorial, the Post observes, "In 2009 the Obama administration announced plans to join the Human Rights Council and engage from the inside rather than criticize from without." Quite clearly that hasn't worked.

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