BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Durban II – A Dismal Failure, pt. 2

As delegates rightfully walked-out on the ranting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is worthwhile to review what the source of this hateful bigotry has accomplished in the name of Iran’s devotion to peace, love, rainbows and puppydogs.

On March 27th of this year, two members of the Baha’i community were arrested after being summoned to appear on 18 March at the Ministry of Intelligence’s offices in the city of Shiraz, in south western Iran. And in case you were wondering, yes, they have offices everywhere in Iran.

Based on the information available, Amnesty International believes they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely because of their religious beliefs or their peaceful activities on behalf of the Baha’i community. The Bahai faith has three core principles: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humankind. They are pacifists.

This is problematic for the Iranian government, which has played a large role in fomenting and supporting civil wars in Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq, and genocide in Sudan.

Union leaders, human rights activists and journalists face arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Prisoners are routinely tortured and executed. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. Women have only the most basic of rights and cannot appear in public without an Islamic head covering of some sort and may be beaten by “Modesty Patrols” if they are seen wearing make-up or “consorting” with men, i.e., dating.

As Amnesty International reported (with some irony on the same date that Israel was holding democratic elections), “Ayatollah Khomeini promised that all Iranians would be free. However, the past 30 years have been characterized by persistent human rights violations . . . torture and other ill-treatment, as well as the use of the death penalty remain prevalent. Some sectors of society – including ethnic minorities – continue to face widespread discrimination, while the situation for other groups – notably some religious minorities – has significantly worsened under the current President.”

Now, let’s compare that with the object of his wrath: Israel. Israel has had 17 elections in its modern 61-year history. That’s an election every 3.5 years. Recently, elections have been held with even greater frequency. This is much to the chagrin of the average Israeli voter, not because of his or her distaste for democracy, but rather because the issues never seem to get solved no matter who wins!

In the last election, held in February 2009, thirty-nine different political parties vied for the 120 seats in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament. Twelve of those parties won seats. Five parties placed a Druse candidate on their parliamentary lists: this is twice as many candidates as they could reasonably hope to elect if a “Druse First” party was fielded. Three of those parties represent the interests of Israel’s Arab minority.

Bahais, Circassians, Christians, Druze, Jews and Muslims voters went to the polls. Religious and secular voters went to the polls. The poor went to the polls. The rich also went, most definitely by SUV. Young and old went, men and women. Turnout was a healthy and respectable 77%.

Yes, Israel has its problems. There is a widening gap between rich and poor. Social and cultural development in the country’s urban centers outpaces that in rural areas. It struggles with an increasing illegal immigrant population. Families worry whether schools are giving their children an adequate education. The environmental is constantly under assault with green spaces shrinking. Sounds like America. Or France, or Canada, or Germany or Australia. Doesn’t it?

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

Durban II – A Dismal Failure, pt. 1

Delegates attending the UN’s the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva, unofficially called “Durban II,” walked-out as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered yet another of his infamous hate-filled speeches. At a conference that was supposed to demonstrate, in the word’s of BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes the “shining example of what the UN is supposed to do best – uniting to combat injustice in the world,” the leader of one of the world’s most repressive regimes lashed out in his usual delusional manner.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, the only major leader to attend the conference, said Jewish migrants from Europe and the United States had been sent to the Middle East after World War II “in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine”. He continued, through an interpreter: “And in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had warned that French delegates would walk out if the forum was used as a platform to attack Israel. Speaking after the walkout, he said: “The defense of human rights and the fight against all types of racism are too important for the United Nations not to unite against all forms of hate speech, against all perversion of this message. Faced with attitudes like that which the Iranian president has just adopted, no compromise is possible.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed dismay at the boycotts, and the speech, saying Mr Ahmadinejad had used his speech “to accuse, divide and even incite”. Mr. Ban’s shock is surely feigned. If he bothered to read the front page of the New York Times – or any of a dozen other newspapers – he would surely have seen this farce developing. By allowing it to play out, he is culpable in its perpetration.

The Secretary General has so far delivered an insipid and uninspiring performance in his role as the world’s premier diplomat. He has allowed dictators and fanatics to maintain their grip on UN institutions, much as his predecessor Kofi Annan did. By allowing this sad performance to take place, he allows the institution to slide deeper into irrelevance and infamy.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment