Comments by David G. Littman (representative to the UN of the Association of World Education and the World Union of Progressive Judaism):
Once again, Egyptian Counsellor Amr Roshdy Hassan cowed into conformism all the Members of the Human Rights Council by using slapstick jihad ad hominem attacks on NGOs in order to combat truth. This performance was the latest in a series of attempts to silence speakers, as we described in earlier reports:
It is worth recording these histrionics by Egypt’s delegate — speaking for his country, and sometimes for the Arab League, the African Union or the OIC, as it would be quite impossible to imagine any such a performance being allowed at the United Nations.
We are reproducing our statement in full, and an exact transcript of what was said on 23 September by the Egyptian delegate, whose intimidation prompted the president to rule our statement “˜out of order” later, thus setting a dangerous precedent at the HRC.
In the context, our written statement to the final, 62nd session of the Commission is pertinent: General Comments on the Human Rights Commission and a future Council
— “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”: E/CN.4/2006/NGO/1, here.
In it, we referred to ad hominem attacks, under the heading: Freedom of speech: end personal attacks on Special Rapporteurs and NGO representatives, quoting Argentine Ambassador Leandro Despouys, chairman of the 57th session of the CHR who, in his statement to the plenum on 12 April 2001, referred to the “˜Main Rules and Practices” (articles 11 and 16 of the paper: E/CN.4/2001/CRP.1), covering ad hominem attacks on Special Rapporteurs, and also NGO representatives. His appeal was understood and noted by all on that occasion. We also quoted, in that text, a remarkably pertinent recommendation by the Libyan chairperson of the 57th session, Ambassador Najat A-Hajjaji, when she addressed Special Rapporteurs, Representatives and Independent Experts, and others, at the 10th session (23-27 June 2003). This was after the close of the Commission when she had warned all at the 1st meeting that she would not tolerate personal attacks on speakers; this followed an appeal we had made to her publicly (at a prior meeting with NGOs) to condemn all ad hominem attacks on NGOs. She did.
Speak freely as you have done in the past. Continue to do so in the interest of truth, of justice, irrespective of the pressure that is brought to bear upon you by Governments. Even if what you say is contrary to the interests of the Government, there are thousands, millions of victims, who look upon the Commission, the special procedures, as the conscience of humanity”¦ Stand firm, let nothing stand in the way of truth.
The UN webcast links to our 23 September statement and the interruptions (7Â½ mins)
1) David G. Littman reading AWE”s statement during 2Â½ minutes before the President stopped him on a “˜point of order” by the delegate of Egypt (Member State of the CHR):
2) Egyptian Counsellor Amr Roshdy Hassan’s 2 minute slapstick jihad performance — followed by the Nigerian President’s appeal to follow the “golden rule” (2Â½ minutes), which we mistakenly understood to be a diplomatic defence of “freedom of speech”.
3) DGL given the floor again, but then ruled “out of order” by the President (30 sec.).
4) See also the full report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). http://www.iheu.org/node/3290.
* * * * *
Act 2 will follow, with a similar performance concerning two more Egyptian points of order — first to halt the statement of Roy Brown for the IHEU on a charge of hatred,
immediately followed by another rant against the statement by Rabbi FranÃ§ois GaraÃ¯ (World Union for Progressive Judaism), read by DGL just after him, as next speaker.
* * * * *
The two other texts, delivered by DGL for AWE, to which Mr. Hassan referred — on Gaza/Hamas and “violence against women” — are reproduced in full below, at the end.
United Nations Human Rights Council. 9th Session (8 to 24 September 2008).
Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia (defamation of religions) Tuesday (about 12:15 a.m.) 23 September 2008
Statement by the Association for World Education. Speaker: David G. Littman
[The words in square brackets — not pronounced during the 3 minute statement]
This text contains the original statement indicating what was actually pronounced by the speaker; what was originally in smaller type and in square brackets as further documentation; the “˜point of order” by Egypt; and the two interventions by the Nigerian President of the Council.
Everything in italics is a verbatim transcript of what was said by the representative of Egypt and by the president. [Comments by the speaker follow in square brackets.]
Thank you Mr. President.
On the subject of Racism, many may remember the words of contrition by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the genocide in Rwanda, delivered here on 7 April 2004 to the 59th Commission:
[“We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda 10 years ago”¦we must all acknowledge our responsibility for not having done more to prevent or stop genocide.”]
Rwanda was a flagrant case of genocide, but also of racism and ethnic cleansing.
As an example, a similar horror is now taking place in a region of Africa known to all [Darfur not “˜pronounced” — to avoid a “˜point of order”] and this may well become a Council litmus test: Two months ago, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed a request for an indictment against the president of that State: for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To those charges we would add the term “˜racism”.
Sir, we regret that the number of omissions on different forms of racism covered in the last Report of the Special Rapporteur [A/HRC/9/12] cries out. “Islamophobia” — covering three pages — is again the main theme. “Christianophobia” only merits one page and grave cases of xenophobia in the Arab-Muslim world are simply linked to “evangelical groups”, despite rampant discrimination and a mass Christian exodus from Middle Eastern countries, especially from Iraq [that is well-documented by UN bodies and many competent NGOs who are deeply concerned by this tragic religious cleansing of historic dimensions]. [See: “Egypt”, U.S. Department of State: Inernational Religious Freedom Report (19/9/2008): www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108481.htm]
In his final report, Mr. Doudou DiÃ¨ne only touches on Antisemitism / “Judeophobia” in Europe and South America, referring vaguely to”¦. “Africa”. Yet, despite a mass of documentation he makes no mention whatsoever of this endemic indigenous phenomenon in the Arab-Muslim world that is being nourished by a general “˜culture of hate”, steadily growing in Europe and beyond. It is confirmed by all reliable sources — very recently by the PEW group [Research Centre].
[A recognised expert on racism, Director of Research at the CNRS in Paris, Pierre-AndrÃ© Taguieff, has described this in great detail in three books in French: La Nouvelle JudÃ©ophobia (Paris, 2002) ; PrÃªcheurs de haine: TraversÃ©e de la judÃ©ophobie planÃ©taire (Paris, 2004); L’Imaginaire du complot mondial. Aspects d’un mythe moderne (Paris, 2007)]
As an example, sir, we have here a 12,000 word article — an English translation from Arabic — of a major work by Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi. It speaks volumes on The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna. Clearly, many of the States [the 57 OIC countries] that, since 1999, have co-sponsored the resolution “Combating defamation of “¦(*)
[Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna / Banu Isra”il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna (Cairo: Zahraa” lil-l”laam al-“˜Arabi, 1986-87), pp. 107-26, 129-46), in Andrew G. Bostom (ed.) The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, New York: Prometheus Books, 2008, pp. 33; pp. 391-401].
* First interruption by the President
The President (Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi: A point of order from Egypt:
Egypt (Counsellor Amr Roshdy Hassan, speaking in English):
Mr. President, it is never my intention to dignify this statement with a comment. I just thought to share with the Council what the speaker has repeatedly said to our delegation that he is grateful for us”¦for drawing attention to his statements. That’s why his statements are being delivered — to get attention. And we all know what attention means “¦ and what for the attention”¦.
[This is an ad hominem attack with an allusion to some kind of benefit. In fact, DGL had jokingly “˜thanked” Egypt’s ambassador for the “˜media attention” provided on 16 June by his Counsellor.]
Mr. President, here in the Council, we”re here to promote religious freedom. We can discuss religious freedom, but we cannot discuss religion. We cannot discuss the basic tenets of religion. I argue that except for the distinguished representative of the Holy See, nobody in this Council is qualified to discuss theology. So if we go in analysing the statements made by Sheikh Al-Azhar [i.e. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi] — I don’t think the speaker or even me can make this analysis, and I don’t think this is a part of the item we are discussing today. And we have here said repeatedly, and the next statement
[the Egyptian delegate pointed toward the list of NGOs on the screen, indicating the World Union for Progressive Judaism for which DGL was listed to speak — reading a statement by Rabbi FranÃ§ois GaraÃ¯] “¦ we have the same statement read before. We have heard the same speaker three days ago calling this Council a Commission”¦
[He is alleging that DGL said “˜Commission”, instead of “˜Council”] so we are just recycling our old statements or redelivering the statements we delivered repeatedly.
[On 18 September (16th plenary, p.m.), the speaker had read a text under item 7 (on Gaza and Hamas) for AWE”s main representative, RenÃ© Wadlow; and on 19 September (17th a.m.), he delivered a statement under item 8 for AWE on “violence against women” (on FGM, “honour killings”, death by stoning, disfiguration of women by acid, marriage of female children). Neither statement had anything to do with the “racism” / “defamation of religions” subjects under item 9.]
Really, we should find something more interesting to do in life, like find a hobby or grow a moustache or something. [Mr. Amr Roshdy Hassan is easily recognizable by his girth and a thick black moustache].This will be beneficial, but we cannot tolerate this abuse of the time allocated to NGOs. We welcome NGO participation in the work of this Council, but we do not welcome anybody trying to waste our time. I am sorry, Mr. President, but I will have to insist that the statement just read is “˜out of order”.
The President (speaking in English):
I thank the distinguished representative of Egypt for his statement, and I would agree with you that we are not Imam, Bishop, Archbishop, except you wear the title. And I always, as a person, and I”ve made this very clear from day one, that I think we must learn to be humble and modest and professional in the way that we conduct our business. We cannot speak on a high moral pedestal and look and think that we are more human than the other person, and think that you hold a monopoly of knowledge and of truth over matters that are entirely not within your own purview. So please, I would once again like to make it clear that we should try to treat each other with some respect, and we can afford to be decent, we can afford to be respectful of the beliefs and values of every single person in this hall. This is a human rights Council. It’s a Council dedicated to the protection and defence of the right of every single individual in this hall. And as the distinguished [Archbishop] Desmond Tutu said the other day”¦we are not just”¦ we are God-carriers — please, we carry God in our person , we carry dignity in our person; whether you are black, whether you are white, whether you are a man, whether you are a woman, whether you are abled or disabled, is totally irrelevant .
[The President is referring to the15th plenary meeting on 18 September (a.m.) when Archbishop Desmond Tutu had referred to man and woman being made in the image of God — a reference to the passage in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” This was during his oral statement, without notes, that can be seen on the UN webcast, whereas the extranet source only has his formal text on Gaza.]
So, please, may I implore you once again, there is need for decency, there is need for decorum, there is need for respect and there’s need to treat me as you would like to treat yourself. I think this is the bottom line. This is not a new philosophy, this is not a new dogma; every culture on earth has this. It’s not the preserve of any one group or person or individual. And I hope, please, that we will regard this as a very humble contribution and a view and a position which I take very seriously and very passionately. I thank you. I give the floor back to the distinguished David Littman.
Speaker: Thank you, Mr. President, for your words of wisdom.
Clearly, many of the States [the 57 OIC countries] that, since 1999, have co-sponsored the resolution “˜Combating defamation of religions” [– adopted on 18 Dec. 2007 by the UN General Assembly –] overlook repeated cases where Islamic clerics defame other religions. A recent case is very typical and there was no apology after an Al-
Second interruption just before the speaker reached the word,”Al-Jazeera”
President: I”m afraid that I shall have to rule that “out of order”.
Speaker: [astonishment shown on his face] Sir? [DGL gathers his papers and expresses surprise, declaring aloud: “this will go down in the history of the Council” — not filmed.]
President: And I give the floor next to the representative of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
[The reference to the Al-Jazeera interview contained not only a blatant defamation of both Judaism and Christianity, but also the following “˜opinion” on what the president had just said, in referring to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s reference to all of humanity being created in the “˜image of God” (Genesis 1:27) — not accepted by Islamic thought].
Zaghloul Al-Naggar: “The things the Old Testament says about the creation of Man are completely wrong.”
Interviewer: “For example?”
Al-Naggar: “It says there that Allah said: ‘Let us create Man in our image.’ This has corrupted people’s concept of God. No creature can be in the image of its Creator.”]
[This final passages below could not be said and were excised from the extranet text.]
* * * * *
Al-Jazeera TV interview with a prominent Egyptian geologist and cleric, Dr. Zaghloul Ragheb. His crude defamation of Judaism and Christianity on 9 Aug. was blatant. On 28 August, an indignant presenter on Al-Hayat TV (Cyprus) criticized such double standards strongly: His words are in our text.
[“If a Christian said similar things [about Islam], the next day he would be led to the slaughterhouse.” MEMRI Video and Special Dispatch Series – No. 2055, 18 September 2008]
And there is no mention of the greatest of all defamations of religion — when chapter and verse of holy texts are cited by Jihadists to justify their calls to kill in the name of Allah and of Islam. Is it not high time for the OIC to insert into its next co-sponsored resolution: “˜Combating Defamation of Religions” a single phrase: — “to condemn all calls to kill in the name of God or religion — any religion”? Not to do so, would send a serious negative image throughout the world.
[See joint written statement: Appeal to Condemn all calls to kill in the name of God (A/HRC/6/NGO/5)]
* * * * *
Item 7: Human Rights Situation in Palestine & other occupied territories (Gaza)
Thursday (a.m.) 18 September 2008
Statement by the Association for World Education. Speaker David G. Littman
Thank you, Mr President, I am reading this statement for RenÃ© Wadlow, our main representative.
The UN General Assembly has proclaimed [by Resolution A/61/L22] the Year 2009 as the International Year of Reconciliation “recognizing that reconciliation processes are particularly necessary and urgent in countries and regions of the world which have suffered or are suffering situations of conflict that have affected and divided societies in their various internal, national and international facets” . It stressed that “dialogue among opponents from positions of respect and tolerance is an essential element of peace and reconciliation.”
Gaza, under the administration of Hamas, is a classic example of a divided society — the division between Gaza and the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, Gaza and Egypt, and Gaza and the wider world.
For there to be a respectful “˜dialogue among opponents”, certain barriers must be removed as a sign of willingness to enter into negotiations. Some barriers are physical, some psychological, others ideological — together they prevent even the start of what, in the best of cases, will be long and difficult negotiations on the future of Gaza. The future of Gaza is unclear. It may be united to the West Bank as is now envisaged.
It could become an independent state with only economic ties to the West Bank, Israel and Egypt. This idea might become a real solution. Gaza’s future status is a key issue of future negotiations.
An important symbol of a willingness to enter into a reconciliation process and serious negotiations would be the renunciation of the Hamas Charter of August 1988 which refuses all negotiations and peace agreements and calls for the destruction of the State of Israel — and a further genocidal call for the destruction of all Jews. The Hamas Charter justifies its positions through the use of conspiracy theories which undermines the spirit of fraternity and justice necessary for reconciliation.
There are at least 4 elements in the Hamas Charter which make a meaningful discussion impossible:
1) An unwillingness to enter into a Middle East peace process. “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.” — Article 13 [and the preface, with the notorious quotation from Hassan al-Banna]
2) An unwillingness to accept the continued existence of the State of Israel in contravention of Article 2 (4) of the 1945 United Nations Charter.
3) Article 28 of the Hamas Charter widens the circle of hate to include all Jews. “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. “˜Let the cowards never sleep.–
4) The Hamas Charter justifies its positions through the use of conspiracy theories, most notably the century-old forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Articles 22 and 32)
Full details are available in our various written statements. [A/HRC/S-1/NGO/4]
The months remaining before 2009 will still be a short time to set in motion reconciliation between those estranged by conflicts. Therefore, let us start now at this Council.
* * * * *
Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action: Integrating the human rights of women throughout the UN system / “human rights violation experienced by women.”
Friday (a.m.) 19 September 2008
Statement by the Association for World Education. Speaker David G. Littman
Thank you, Mr. President, we wish to “address human rights violations experienced by women”(*), raising five issues that require concerted action at the international, national and local levels:
1. Female Genital Mutilation;
2. So-called “honour killings”;
3. Death by stoning;
4. Disfiguration of women by acid;
5. Marriage of female children.
FGM is a barbaric, ongoing crime which is creeping into Europe. Even in Switzerland the number of such mutilated young girls from immigrant families is now over 7,000. As we have indicated in previous sessions, the latest UNICEF figures indicate that about 3 million young girls are thus mutilated each year in 32 countries, 29 of which are Member States of the OIC. We wish to highlight the useful work of WADI, an NGO working in Iraqi Kurdistan. Our detailed written statement: For background, see our “Traditional or Customary Practices” /Female Genital Mutilation. [E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/NGO/27; and also Sara Corbett, “A Cutting Tradition”, New York Times, Sunday Magazine, 20 January 2008]
Our 2nd example is “honour killings”, which are on the increase worldwide and should be condemned and criminalized and not accepted as a social, tribal or religious anomaly. This “custom” is also increasing in Europe, even among second generation immigrants. All States should strive to eliminate it from their societies.
[As an example, 10 years ago there were a reported 300 cases of honour killings in one province of Pakistan alone (see Mufti Ziauddin “Status of Court Cases for Murdered Women; and BBC film, Home programme, 8 April 2000.) On 28 April 2000, President Musharraf declared that “The Government of Pakistan vigorously condemns the practice of so-called “˜Honour Killings” and that such actions do not find any place in our religion or law.” Yet this murderous practice seems to be on the increase in Pakistan (and elsewhere — even in Europe in certain communities). It must be criminalized and the law strictly applied.]
Thirdly, the stoning of women for alleged sexual misconduct still occurs regularly in certain States that need not be named again. How can this be “justified”?
Fourthly, another practice where tribal concepts of “honour” is concerned is the equally barbaric crime — practiced in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, parts of India, and elsewhere — of throwing acid in the face of young women. This “custom” is also “justified” when some men believe that their “pride” or “honour” has been wounded by the rejection of a marriage arrangement, a courtship, or a dowry considered insufficient. The information available here comes from Dr. Guiseppe Losasso, an Italian plastic surgeon, who has dedicated himself to operating on such cases (47 women so far) and founded a courageous Association, “Smile Again” [Ridare Un Volto: Dignita Speranza]. Last Sunday he spoke movingly in Florence on this woeful subject.
The last example is the medieval-like marriage of girl children as young as 9 years old — sometimes even at 8, as was described in a recent NYT report. Three months ago the Iranian Noble Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, speaking in Geneva, strongly denounced the fact that in Iran a girl is considered an adult and liable to punishment, even execution at 9 and a boy at 15. She rejects cultural relativism [Le Temps, 10/6/08]
We warmly welcome the recent decision of the President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Turki K. Al-Sudairy, who recently described child marriage as a violation of human rights. He stated: “We call on all government agencies to take necessary steps to end the practice of child marriage by adopting a clear and unambiguous position on child and forced marriages.”
[“Human Rights”, Bulletin, Human Rights Commission, Saudi Arabia. Aug. 2008, Vol. 1, Issue 2, p. 8]
Mr. President we call on this Council to address these grave issues in a comprehensive resolution.
* At the 8th session of the HRC (16 June 2008), in a joint statement for AWE and IHEU, we were interrupted 16 times. Instead of three minutes, 1Â½ hours were taken up — half for a recess — before our oral statement on violence against women could be completed with the President’s approval.