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The United Nations and Israel

A Friend Like Canada...

March 23, 2002

It is a wonder anyone pays heed to the pronouncements of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, but unfortunately, the UN's imprimatur lends it credibility it does not deserve. Some of the world's most repressive regimes are among its pious sermonizers. Less than half its 53 member states are freedom-embracing democracies. Its head, Mary Robinson -- who, thankfully, is shortly to leave her post -- would lecture at length about the smallest alleged human rights infractions by Western nations, while generally ignoring real abuses by Third World tyrants. Last year, member nations such as Cuba, Iran and China conspired with European delegations to kick the United States off the Commission in a secret vote.

The Commission is currently holding its 58th Annual session in Geneva. As usual, this meeting has featured a non-stop attack on Israel. Just as she did at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, last fall, Ms. Robinson has permitted Islamic and Arab nations to control the agenda and launch hyperbolic, anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish state.

On Thursday, Algeria's ambassador to the Commission equated every night in the Palestinian Authority to Hitler's attacks on Jews and synagogues. He also recited a Nazi death-decree -- in German, nice touch -- then falsely claimed that Israel has similarly decreed the deaths of Palestinians. Algeria, it is worth noting, last month celebrated the 10th anniversary of a government-enforced state of emergency. During this decade, Amnesty International says, "human rights violations have become institutionalized," and more than 100,000 people have died in attacks, including 22, mostly women and infants, who were hacked to death with axes three months ago.

Cuba, which will vote for the inevitable anti-Israel motions put forward, celebrated the Commission's own "International Human Rights Day" last December by arresting the 200 organizers of a pro-democracy march. In Syria, another commission member, demonstrations by Islamists in 1982 resulted in the government slaughtering about 20,000 people -- several times more than were killed in both intifadas combined.

Nothing will stop the Commission from passing bigoted anti-Israel resolutions; they are a rite of spring. But in the past, the United States has at least forced recorded votes so as to avoid the appearance that the Commission has endorsed the motions unanimously. With the U.S. off the Commission, Israel has asked Canada to assume this role. Yet despite the recent claim of Jean Chrétien, our Prime Minister, that Canada stands "shoulder-to-shoulder" with Israel, Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, remains non-committal. An official in his department said Thursday it was a tough call; Canada would be "damned if it did and damned if it didn't."

But how is this a tough call to pick sides between murderous dictatorships and the Middle East's only democracy? Israel is asking the smallest of favours. It is absurd to suggest its indulgence presents a moral conflict.

©2002 National Post

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