Comments by David G. Littman, NGO Representative of the Association for World Education (AWE) and World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) to the UN:
Two weeks ago, I concluded my comments on Iran’s Stealth Jihad at a UN Meeting with a prediction:
What more need be said? One thing, perhaps: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address Durban II at the Palais des Nations. It may help him to get elected, but it certainly won’t provide the Durban Review Conference with the aura of respectability that it is desperately hoping to achieve. Sadly, once again, I am reminded of Frankenstein on his trek across Lake Geneva up to the North Pole.
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Never could I have imagined that he would out-Herod Herod, even out-Boris Boris Karloff in his classic movie role of Frankenstein. No need to recount more of what happened, ad nauseam — but two last snippets from the miscellaneous media coverage worldwide gives an interesting UN insight. Firstly, the conclusion of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay”s final press conference on April 24, from the official verbatim transcript press release, titled: “UN human rights chief slams disinformation”. It gives her frank personal viewpoint:
With regard to the Assembly Hall on Monday [a reference to the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], and of course I was taken aback by the scenes, but I still felt that we could pull it off, settle it down quickly — because, in effect they had already agreed the text. We had really good cooperation from many states and international organizations as well. I would like to thank them all for that. I would also thank other key states on the 20-country bureau of the Preparatory Committee for the role they played.
The regional and political groups all made concessions. It’s very important to note that. It was difficult for them. If you take the Arab countries for instance: they accepted that neither Palestine, nor the Middle East is mentioned in the text. Of course they are mentioned in the DDPA and the word “reaffirm” carries those paragraphs into this document, but no specific mention of these paragraphs in this text because of the concessions made by them. [N.B.] That is extremely difficult for them to do politically. The OIC was also very cooperative as we moved towards consensus. The Africans, the Europeans and all the other groups also made concessions to a greater or lesser degree. That’s why we say that no individual state is completely happy with this document but collectively they are all happy with it. So there we are. That is part of the story of the Durban Review Conference. I’ll leave the rest to you.
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The second is from a Roundup release (use of the information media, not an official record).
The Conference also held a high-level segment, during which it was addressed by a wide range of dignitaries, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, who, in his statement, said it was regrettable that a number of Western Governments and the United States had committed themselves to defend the racist perpetrators of genocide, while the awakened conscience and free-minded people of the world condemned the Zionist crimes of aggression, carnage and other brutalities of bombardments of civilians in Gaza. Subsequent to his statement, a number of delegations walked out of the Conference.
Curiously — if one can call it that — the “Roundup” gives a choice description of the hateful speech by President Ahmadinejad, widely applauded by scores of mechanical clapper, but there is no mention of what the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store declared immediately after him. Norway, not being a member of the EU, decided to stay and replied strongly:
This is the rostrum of the United Nations. By definition it is a rostrum for the freedom of speech — crucial among human rights. The President of Iran has just exercised that human right. He did so — I believe — in a way that threatens the very focus of this conference. (“¦) By his intervention the President of Iran chose to place his country outside the margins of this declaration [DRC document]. Freedom of speech — yes. But the document that we have agreed is also clear on the need to protect against the incitement of hatred. I heard the messages in the President’s speech — and they amount to just that: Incitement of hatred, spreading politics of fear and promoting an indiscriminate message of intolerance. The Iranian President’s allegations run counter to the very spirit and dignity of this conference. I will not respond to all the allegations. Through his message the president has made Iran the odd man out.
As was to be expected, the Iranian ambassador, a vice-president of the Conference, later defended his president’s speech, which lasted over 30 minutes, instead of the 7 granted all speakers in the “high-level segment” — some took 7, 8, 10 or 12, none 34.
At the closing session, Pakistan’s Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking also on behalf of the OIC stressed — on any UN criticism of Iranian president’s tirade — “that all UN officials must abide by the well established norms and practices of impartiality and from passing judgment on views expressed by a sovereign state.” Then — the crux:
The flexibility that the OIC has demonstrated does not mean that we have abandoned our principled positions and we shall continue to pursue these objectives in all relevant international fora. The OIC continues to remain concerned over the efforts by some quarters to stereotype, stigmatize and vilify Muslims. The defamation of Islam and its followers under the garb of freedom of expression is a new and contemporary form of discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia. As civilized societies we are bound to exercise our freedoms judiciously and within the parameters of internationally accepted norms. Muslim lands continue to be occupied where Muslims are being subjected to repression and racial and religious discrimination. For the one and a half billion Muslims in the world this situation is intolerable and unacceptable. In these circumstances, the civilized and pragmatic course to pursue is one of dialogue and engagement between different religions and cultures. Our faith commits all Muslims to respect the beliefs of others. We have a right to ask for the same in return.
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All is clear! I have no further comments to add other than to reproduce the oral statement that I made as first speaker on the morning of April 24 on behalf of the Association for World Education and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
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Thank you, Mr. President.
As a preamble, we wish to cite that memorable quatrain from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, as a poetical seal — and a Parthian shot — to that truly historic Act of Inauguration last Monday. [I did not name the Iranian president; it was clear]
The Moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a word of it.
[Edward Fitzgerald’s 1859 translation]:
Sir, article 60 of the consensus Durban Review Conference text mentions “neo-Nazi, neo-Fascist and other violent national ideologies” but not “˜violent religious ideologies” — eight years after 9/11.
Then there is article 62 on “slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade.” Previously, it was spelled in the plural: “˜slave trades”. Why cut the “˜s”? The word: “˜slave” comes from “˜Slav” and the mass commerce of the Slav people enslaved millions in medieval times; this was later continued by the Ottomans in the Balkans with their devshirme system. The white slavery of the Barbary Corsairs also affected a million and more Christians — and Jews too. Why forget the mass slavery for centuries of non-Muslims in the Middle East, documented extensively in Arab, Syriac, Greek, Armenian, Turkish and Indian texts, and the equally infamous Arab Slave Trade in Black Africans for over a millennium that continues today in some countries? Yet the current exhibition on slavery at the UN here only features the transatlantic slave trade, repeating last year’s religiously correct decision.
Article 68 relates to “incitement to hatred” — targeting racial and religious communities; and articles 106 to 109 attempts to combat this xenophobia with Human Rights Education. Finally, article 142 refers to the key role of UNESCO in carrying out an integrated educational strategy.
In this context of hatred, the Secretary General of the OIC, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, referred to the “defamation of Islam”. Ten minutes before he spoke, I handed to him our written statement on “defamation of Judaism and Jews” –A/HRC/10/NGO/29 : Defamation of Judaism and Jews by ISESCO (OIC): 60th UDHR Anniversary at the UN.
It provides documentation from two ISESCO books published in 2004 and 2007, displayed during the OIC”s full-day 19 December 2008 event commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have both copies here, sir. A one line quote is enough: Enemies of the Almighty: “Jews are the enemies of Allah, the enemies of faith and of the worship of Allah”¦” More of such hate is quoted in our official UN written statement, in which we also refer to Al Azhar Grand Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi’s thesis on, The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna.
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) was established by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in January 1981. It comprises 44 Muslim Member States. “The mission of ISESCO is to promote cooperation among Member States, consolidate understanding among the Muslim peoples and contribute to the achievement of world peace and security through the fields of education, science, culture and communication”¦.” It has close links to UNESCO since 1984, and an important bilateral accord was signed between them in 2006, barely a year before this publication, which is but one example of the well-documented, rampant global Judeophobia in publications, the media and on TV– analysed in three books by Paris CNRS Director Pierre-AndrÃ© Taguieff, by MEMRI and PMW, by many others, and by us at the UN since 1986. Three months ago a “˜Public Complaint” was made on this OIC–ISESCO matter by us. A formal reply was received from UNESCO. We await firm action by UNESCO — and by all UN bodies — denouncing all such UN-related publications that can increase xenophobia, racial and religious hatred and tensions. Here is the time to begin. If not now when? Thank you.
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Forceful and arbitrary exclusion of David G. Littman from Assembly Hall
After reading their statements, NGOs are authorised to leave them on special tables available — on this occasion, outside the Assembly Hall. I did just that, with the related UN written statement and “˜Public Complaint” about these ISESCO books attached, as agreed with the NGO liaison. Later, I went up to the UK, French and Norwegian delegates — to the latter I expressed my warm congratulations on their foreign minister’s speech — to raise a point or two on the matters referred to in our statements, which I left with them. On walking to the back of the room, I noticed the OIC-indicated seat and said to the African delegate in his fine light blue robe: “I”m afraid I criticized the OIC in our statement earlier”, to which he replied: “You always do.” I then asked him: “Would you like a copy?” to which he replied positively, “yes, please.” As I was handing it to him, I was suddenly surrounded by two security guards, one of whom actually had the audacity to grab my arm as if I had committed a grave offense; this surprised the delegates nearby, even the OIC delegate (later I met him outside and gave him the same UN statements at his own request that I was forbidden to give him inside the Assembly Hall). Other than making a scene, I had no other choice — in view of my clear physical back handicap –than to allow myself to be frogmarched out of the Hall (the corporal claimed to have “˜instructions” from the Secretariat on the grounds of my “˜breaking the rules”). He also alleged he had “˜instructions” to take away my special 2nd pass to the Durban Review Conference in the Assembly Hall, and he even tried to take my annual UN accreditation badge hanging from my neck once we were outside the Hall. Yes, this amazingly violent discrimination against a veteran NGO at the UN Durban Review Conference on Racism, resulted in me being deprived of my rights of access as an NGO who had spoken the same morning for AWE and WUPJ. And all this on the arbitrary grounds that I was “˜breaking the rules”, which merely state in the “˜Information brief for NGOs” that: “NGOs are not permitted to distribute documents, pamphlets or any other material in the Assembly Hall.” Many NGO speakers are asked for their oral statements and none have even been forcibly whisked out of the room in such a humiliating way. The Conference motto is “Dignity and Justice for all.”
Statements by Member states are distributed by the Secretariat to everyone in the room, but not those of NGOs. To have handed our oral and related written statement to three European delegations and offered it to the OIC delegate on his request was considered by the powers that be in the UN Secretariat as “˜distributing documents”. On such grounds, even handing a visiting card on request could have been called “˜breaking the rules”, in the same way as all my UN papers were examined page by page by a guard “on instructions” at the previous meeting of the Council — until I called that bluff by asking for an official, nonexistent written proof!
Before the special meeting next week when I shall be judged by who knows whom in the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I shall send a point by point appeal to her for “˜justice”, enshrined in article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — often quoted at the United Nations, especially regarding “˜respect” for all persons:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
It will be a symbolic moment if on such flimsy and arbitrary grounds — and for other reasons that I shall not enlarge upon here, but which might well be the true reason — a “˜decision” will be made to cancel my UN badge after 23 years as a defender of human rights, speaking hundreds of times, especially on subject that are still taboo. It would seem impossible to justify this, but after the “Sharia Affair” (16 June 2008) and other incidents — and now the “˜Frankenstein Affair” — nothing would be a surprise at the Geneva Palais des Nations.