One of the problems is the attitude of Egypt, with OIC backing. Following the scandalous “Sharia Affair” late on June 16 at the 8th Session of the Human Rights Council, this is a follow-up by David G. Littman, NGO Representative of Association for World Education (AWE) and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). The attitude of Egypt is once again indicative of the rotten atmosphere that reigns at the UNHRC.
On June 16 (just before item 8), David G. Littman was given the floor by President Doru Romulus Costea to deliver a joint statement for the AWE and WUPJ under item 7. While quoting from the Report of Special Rapporteur John Dugard and on the subject of Hamas, he was stopped on a point of order within the first minute by the Egyptian delegate. The next morning, Littman took the floor on behalf of the WUPJ to read a statement by Rabbi FranÃ§ois GaraÃ¯, who was unable to be present. Again, within a minute, the delegate of Egypt intervened on another irrelevant point of order. The verbatim transcript in both cases has been left exactly as spoken; it speaks volumes and can be seen and heard on the UN live webcast under item 7 and 9 — scroll down here.
Item 7: Human rights violations “¦ particularly in the Gaza Strip (HAMAS)
Mr. President , this is a joint statement for the AWE and the WUPJ.
Sir, in the final Report of Special Rapporteur John Dugard, we note his opinion that the UN should withdraw from the Quartet. He also rejects the Quartet’s Road Map. [In his words: “the road map is an inappropriate and unhelpful framework for negotiations.”(A/HRC/7/17 of 21 January 2008, Â§56)].
Instead of finding a way forward in an environment of negotiation and international commitments to end terror — as in the Road Map — he refers to “the seizure of power in Gaza by Hamas in June 2007, followed by the seizure of power in the West Bank by Fatah” — and to “the internecine conflict resulting in the deaths of several hundred Palestinians, mostly belonging to Fatah.” He then stated: “there is no immediate prospect of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.” [Â§49]
Currently, there are several efforts to find a framework for negotiations among Palestinian groups, between Israel and Syria, and with Hamas via Egyptian efforts, which it is hoped will lead to more direct discussions between the parties, thus avoiding a regional catastrophe.
However, reconciliation depends on an end to the demonization of the other. Instead, in the midst of this conflict among Palestinians and between Palestinians and Israelis, we find stereotypes, falsehoods and demonization of “the Other” in school text-books and TV programmes for children and youth. The indoctrination of youth insures that tensions carry over into the future. There is a special danger of the maintenance of such stereotypes when they are incorporated in documents that serve as a foundational presentation of the Hamas movement such as its 1988 Charter which, inter alia, has a preamble, quoting the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna as saying: “Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
Egypt [Amr Roshdy Hassan — interruption on a “˜point of order”]:
Mr. President, I don’t claim that I know by heart the statements made by the speaker, but at least twice I hear the same statement. Another occasion: I don’t think mention to the Muslim Brotherhood or anything has anything to do with the item. The item is the situation of the occupied Palestinian territories. We are not hear to give lectures about what Egypt is doing and what Egypt is not doing. We don’t want any praise from anybody. This is nobody”s business but the parties concerned. I claim the speaker should stick [sic] themselves and not just repeat their old statements. He should stick themselves to the item. If he [has] nothing new to say then let’s save the time and look at it for NGOs, but this statement was made at least twice before. Thank you.
NGO Speaker: Article 13 is unconditionally opposed to any “˜peace negotiations”. And its article 28 is global: “Israel, Judaism and”¦” No, in order not to appear provocative, we shall avoid reading out this genocidal passage[ “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people: “˜May the cowards never sleep.”], but we are making available a joint written statement: The 1988 Covenant of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas [E/CN.4/2006/NGO/239: AW E, Association of World Citizens, WUPJ, IHEU, Simon Wiesenthal Center, International Council of Jewish Women.]
We welcome the statement in the final Report of the High Commissioner [A/HRC/8/17, of 6 June] that Hamas has confirmed its commitment to respect “international law and international humanitarian law insofar as they conform with our character, customs and original traditions.”
We must hope that the “character, customs and original traditions” [to which then Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya referred on 17 March 2007 before the Palestinian Legislative Council] do, in fact, support universally recognised international and humanitarian law. Such law must be clearly set out and then serve as a basis for action in this specific context.
Thus, we sincerely hope that this Council will take more attention to condemn all forms of violence — including against the remnant Christian community — and will call for an end to the overall culture of hate and death which has marked the recent past. Sir, none of us should “˜sleep” or behave as “˜cowards” when addressing this [the gavel went down here, cutting off the micro] tragedy in Gaza
Thank you, Mr. President.
Item 9: Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia & Related Forms of Intolerance: follow-up to & implementation of the Durban Declaration & Programme of Action: Combating defamation of religions
Sir, I am reading this statement for Rabbi FranÃ§ois GaraÃ¯, our main representative.
Mr. President, in his final Report [A/HRC/7/19], the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mr. Doudou DiÃ¨ne, does not address the problem of indiscriminate killing in the name of God, which should be recognised by all religious and secular authorities — of all religions — as a grave “˜defamation of religions”.
On 17 March 2003, the greatly mourned High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira De Mello, made his opening address to the Commission’s 59th session, expressing his strong revulsion against the growing global terrorist plague whereby: anyone could be killed at any time, in any place, by anyone — these were his words. Only five months later, he and over 20 of his UN colleagues were assassinated in Baghdad when indiscriminate terrorism struck, leaving many widows and orphans. The carnage committed in God’s name continues.
Egypt [Interruption on a “˜point of order” — verbatim transcript]:
Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President. This is very reminiscent of the very unfortunate discussions and interruptions, repeated interruptions, we had yesterday. This is a general debate on item 9 — racism. So far we”ve heard: “killings”; we”ve heard: “indiscriminate killings”; we”ve heard: “indiscriminate “terrorists”; we”ve heard of the former High Commissioner — unfortunate and untimely attacks in Iraq; we”ve heard “killings in the name of God”. I believe that his entire speech, the statement of this gentleman whose speaking , word by word , it was completely outside the scope of the item under discussion — and I wish, Mr. President, not to be compelled to interrupt the speaker again. We”ve heard roughly ten NGOs so far, all of whom — whether we agree with or disagree with — have made very pertinent points in this agenda item under discussion.. I don’t have to interrupt the speech again.
Vice-President: I would ask the speaker to please take into account what was just said by the delegation of Egypt. I do not wish to interrupt you, but I would ask you to please finish your remarks and be very careful with the term that you are using. You have [the floor].
Speaker: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. “Combating defamation of religion” is clearly on item 9:
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A week later, on 25 March 2003, I had the honour to speak here and quote from the Promulgation of the Geneva Spiritual Appeal of 1999 and its 2003 Confirmation at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Geneva.
I would like to repeat the words that I used on that occasion and in our available written statement, which is available: [E/CN.4/2004/NGO/88: Human Rights and Terrorism: The most essential and basic human right is the right to life]
“We see currently that religions and the One whom we name God, are taken hostage in the political discourse and defamed. Those engaged in this action cannot hold prisoner the One whom we consider as our Creator and the source of all Revelation, who cannot be confined in a simple word, in writing, even less in a slogan.”
I also referred to an Appeal made three days earlier — on 22 March 2003– when Christians, Jews and Muslims declared in Geneva’s St Peter’s Cathedral:
Together, we denounce all reference to God to justify and foster hatred.
Together, we appeal to resist all use of this conflict to bring communities into confrontation.
Together, we wish to consolidate community and religious peace.
Together, we bear witness to our hope and our faith in God.
I added my own personal feelings on the misuse of the name of God: “We await the day when religion will no longer be subverted, nor God taken hostage by political, civil or religious leaders.”
As there has been no sign of progress on this theme, the WUPJ wishes once again to call upon the 8th session of the Human Rights Council — and in particular the sponsors of any renewed resolution on Combating defamation of religions — to insert two significant paragraphs in that resolution:
(a) Strongly deplores all references to God in order to justify any form of violence, hatred, and the use of any religious motive to kill civilians: men, women and children;
(b) Condemns all who blaspheme and defame religion by claiming to kill in the name of God.
[Chairman gavelled here, just before 3 minute limit ended: last sentence could not read]
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The troubled and complex days in which we live require a clear refusal by all spiritual leaders — and by the international community — of any call in the name of God to commit murderous acts for religious or political ends. May this call by the World Union for Progressive Judaism be heard.
Thank you, Mr. President.