on human rights

the united nations human rights council has some new members including the united states, china, and saudi arabia. my first thoughts upon reading this report below was horror that these countries, which consistently violate human rights around the world and within their own borders, would be on such a council. but then again what countries do not? here is the story from al jazeera:

The United States has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, after the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, ended a policy of boycotting it.

China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia, who have all been accused of serious rights violations, were also among the nations elected on Tuesday following a secret ballot.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said that Washington still believed the body to be flawed.

“We are looking forward to working from within with a broad cross-section of member states to strengthen and reform the Human Rights Council.”

The administration of George Bush, the previous US president, had boycotted the council over its criticism of Israel and its failure to cite rights abuses in Sudan and elsewhere.

In March, the Obama administration said it would seek to join the council as part of a “new era of engagement” with the body.

The US was elected alongside Belgium and Norway to join the Western States bloc of nations sitting on the council.

Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Hungary, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uruguay will also join the 47-nation council for a three-year period.

The council was set up three years ago to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, which was widely criticised for failing to overcome political alliances and take a strong stand on issues including China’s rights record.

But the new council has also been criticised by the US for focusing on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians and not taking a strong enough stand against violence in Tibet and Darfur.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the trading of votes for seats on the Human Rights Council as unacceptable.

last night on al jazeera’s “inside story” with lauren taylor there was a discussion about the council, but it is unfortunate that the entire panel was american because it seriously limited the perspective, especially with regard to american human rights violations around the world. they had steve crawsahw of human rights watch (which has its own biases that limit its work to actually fight for human rights), brett schaefer of the heritage foundation, and phyllis bennis of the institute for policy studies. here is the episode:

the premise of their discussion is flawed, for the most part, because they seem to think that there is potential in obama’s administration in being on board. but i would beg to differ. a reminder: the united states boycotted the recent durban 2 world conference against racism. to me this is one clear sign of american behavior on the world stage with respect to human rights. here is haidar eid’s assessment of the americans and others who boycotted and walked out of the durban 2 conference because they are unable to deal with the fact that zionism = racism:

We, Palestinians, are absolutely fed up with the so-called ‘International Community’. Has Durban II been a failure? Well, if we still believe in the role of western governments, especially those with a long colonial legacy, in playing a positive role vis-a-vis the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, we are, then, fooling ourselves. It is the power of people that we must bank on, just as it was in the case of apartheid South Africa, where a sustained global ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign forced the same governments to boycott the Pretoria racist regime. Durban II was a reminder that whether it is Bush, or Obama, the Empire is the same. Patrice Lumumba once said: “I know that history will have its say some day, but it will not be history as written in Brussels, Paris or Washington, it will be our own.”

exactly. bush or obama it is the same. especially for foreign policy issues. another article by haidar from the socialist worker, which examines obama’s complicity with zionist terrorist war crimes in palestine, and obama’s silence over those war crimes gives yet another reason why the united states cannot be a credible member of a human rights council:

On April 17, there was an incident in Bil’in, in which a Palestinian youngster was shot dead. On the same day, another Palestinian was shot dead in Hebron. That was at the same time Mitchell was visiting Tel Aviv.

But unfortunately, the complicit silence from Obama’s White House continues. This has accompanied the cutoff of medicine, food and fuel to a starving Gaza. Patients in need of dialysis and other urgent medical treatment are dying every single day. A majority of us here in Gaza are badly undernourished. But not a single word of condemnation from the Obama administration.

on the home front–in the land of american settler colonialism–obama still has refused to come out in favor of a united nations resolution that would recognize the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. haidar rizvi reported on this for common dreams a couple of weeks ago:

The United States is considering whether to endorse a major U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the recognition of the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples over their lands and resources.

“The position on [this issue] is under review,” Patrick Ventrell, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N., told IPS about the Barack Obama administration’s stance on the non-binding U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Approved by a vast majority of the U.N. member states in September 2007, the General Assembly resolution on the declaration was rejected by the George W. Bush administration over indigenous leaders’ argument that no economic or political power has the right to exploit their resources without seeking their “informed consent.”

Three other “settler nations” of European descent, namely Canada, New Zealand and Australia, also voted against the declaration, which states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their cultures and remain on their land.

However, last month, the new left-leaning government in Canberra reversed its position, announcing support for the declaration.

“We show our respect for indigenous peoples,” said Jenny Macklin, a member of the Australian parliament. “We show our faith in a new era of relations between states and indigenous peoples in good faith.”

The new government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also offered an apology to the indigenous communities who suffered at the hands of European settlers for decades.

Indigenous rights activists in the United States say they want the new liberal democratic government in Washington to make a similar move to address the grievances of native communities who have long been subjected to abuse and discrimination.

“The U.S. [should] become a resolute supporter of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” argued James Polk, who writes for Foreign Policy in Focus, a progressive periodical published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

“It’s a comprehensive document that affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, and that, in the exercise of their rights, they should be free from their discrimination,” he added.

The declaration reflects growing concerns of aboriginal communities about the continued exploitation of their resources and suppression of their cultural vales and practices by commercial concerns and governments that are alien to their cultures.

in new orelans, obama is also continuing the bush-era policy of denying rights of residents who are victims of the manmade disaster otherwise known as hurricane katrina as glen ford points out in the black agenda report this week:

The line between Bush and Obama has not simply blurred in New Orleans: it has disappeared.” President Obama has adopted, in whole, the Bush approach to rebuilding the city – minus the Black Diaspora that was scattered to the winds in 2005. Notices of eviction have been served on the mostly elderly and Black inhabitants of 3,000 FEMA trailers. The Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development is putting the finishing touches on public housing demolition in the city. Not a single “Katrina Cottage” has been made ready for occupancy. Obama no more favors the “right to return” to – or remain in – New Orleans, than Bush did.

and in america’s client regimes in its imperial role is another reason why the united states does not deserve a seat on a council for human rights. margaret kimberley’s article in today’s black agenda report addresses the violations of afghanistan and pakistan on obama’s watch:

Obama always knows how to make the terrible sound benevolent. In this case he says that we “must defeat al-Qaeda.” Most Americans had never heard of the word al-Qaeda until September 11, 2001 and will forever connect it with the death of 3,000 people. It is useful for Obama to phrase his assault in terms that will win him popular approval.

The Obama administration has openly undermined Ali Asif Zardari, the elected Pakistani president. Zardari’s main claim to legitimacy comes via his in-laws, the Bhutto family. If he were not Benazir Bhutto’s widower, this convicted embezzler, known as Mr. 10%, would not be president. Nevertheless, he is the president of a country that is allegedly an ally, and he should be treated with the respect he is due.

Yet the New York Times reports that Zardari has been told that his opposition will be courted and if necessary put into power with him if he balks at slaughtering his people on Washington’s command. In his 100 days press conference, Obama made himself crystal clear. “We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”
Not only are we supposed to be whipped into a frenzy at the very mention of words like al-Qaeda and Taliban, but we are now supposed to believe that Pakistan is on the verge of a mysterious “collapse” and that its nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists who will carry them around in briefcases, as in the plots of Hollywood thrillers. Zardari gets the thumb screw treatment, and we get outright lies.

“Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, is equally hapless and helpless in keeping his people safe from the demands of the United States. He has long complained about civilian deaths caused by attacks on the Taliban and he repeated himself in vain on Meet the Press. “Our villages are not where the terrorists are. And that’s what we kept telling the U.S. administration, that the war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, not in the Afghan homes. Respect that. Civilian casualties are undermining support in the Afghan people for the war on terrorism and for the, the, the relations with America. How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?” Obviously, such a people will not remain friendly but that has never been America’s concern. National Security Adviser James Jones said as much. “We can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

Once again the United States repeats its long history of killing people and claiming it is for their own good. Afghanistan and Pakistan are just the latest on that awful list. While that dynamic doesn’t change, neither will the reaction of people around the world. They do hate us, and they have good reason to do so.

and under obama it seems the united states is continuing its policy of deporting haitians, including those seeking refuge from the recent devastating hurricanes as maria sacchetti reports in common dreams:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representatives Barney Frank and Stephen Lynch are urging the Department of Homeland Security to grant Haitians temporary protected status, and Lynch cosponsored a bill that would force Secretary Janet Napolitano to take the step if she does not act on her own. The status would allow Haitian immigrants, legal and illegal, to remain here and work for a fixed amount of time.

State Representative Marie St. Fleur, who was born in Haiti, visited that country this spring and then met with White House aides on the issue last month. In January, Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph took it even further, by stalling deportations to Haiti. He refused to provide deportees’ travel documents until the Obama administration reviews its policy on Haiti.

“Anyone who requests a paper from us is not getting it,” he said Friday.

Last month Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti and said the US government was reviewing its policy on granting Haitian immigrants temporary protected status.

But Napolitano, who has the granting authority, has stayed silent. Deportations halted last year after the hurricanes, but have resumed, including a plane filled with 48 convicted criminals who were deported to Haiti last month, said her spokesman Sean Smith.

Frank said Friday that the US policy is discriminatory. The government now provides temporary protection to five countries – El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Sudan – but it has never offered it to Haiti.

and most recent, though by no means final, reason for the united states to be banned from any human rights council check out this latest news about obama blocking the publication of photographs of american torture as the bbc reports:

US President Barack Obama has changed his mind and will now attempt to block the publication of photographs showing the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers.

The US government had previously said it would not fight a court ruling ordering the release of the pictures.

Mr Obama now believes the release of the photos would make the job of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan more difficult, White House officials said.

The pictures were due to be released by 28 May, according to the court ruling.

The court order was issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in September 2008, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

i could go on and on, but this entire blog is documentation for american human rights violations at home and abroad. enough said.

on prisoners and martyrs

view of the jaber family's home on malwiya street
view of the jaber family's home on malwiya street

yesterday was palestinian prisoners day, but it did not feel like it. or did it? under normal circumstances i would have gone to one of the demonstrations. instead, i spent the afternoon with the jaber and karaki families in their house in the sa’adiyya neighborhood of the old city. there were many people in the room from the neighborhood and from the family who had recently been released from prison, though. 7 of them had been in prison for protecting the home from the israeli terrorists who have now successfully occupied one room in the house along with their m16s. and so the house itself feels like a prison. i can imagine if i were in this family feeling like i couldn’t leave–even to go to the market–so as to make sure more colonists don’t invade and steal more rooms of the house. one of the men who had been in jail had his hand broken by israeli terrorists. while in jail they beat his hand some more.

malwiyeh street with israeli terrorist colonists occupying a palestinian home
malwiyeh street with israeli terrorist colonists occupying a palestinian home

the settler colonists who have stolen a room in the jaber family house is an racist organization called ataret cohanim that has been stealing land in al quds since 1978 and now illegally occupies over 70 palestinian homes in the muslim quarter of the old city. this group is famous for forging papers alleging that they bought property from palestinian families as a pretext to steal houses. some of the houses have also been stolen because of pressure put on palestinians to collaborate with israeli terrorists, though oftentimes these dealings are also illegal because they are done under false pretenses.

jaber family in front of room in their house occupied by israeli terrorists
jaber family in front of room in their house occupied by israeli terrorists

ben white wrote an article for electronic intifada a couple of years ago entitled “bureaucratic dispossession” in which he explains the illegal practices of ataret cohanim:

On 20 August 2007, a story appeared in the Israeli daily Haaretz about the disputed ownership of a piece of land in East Jerusalem. The “land in question,” the report said, is “an olive grove called Kerem Hamufti” and part of the “Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.” According to Haaretz, the “Israel Lands Administration (ILA) is working together with the Ateret Cohanim association to wrest from Palestinian landowners control of 30 dunams (7.5 acres) of land in East Jerusalem and to transfer it to the association without a tender.” Petitioning the High Court, the land’s owners, the Palestinian Arab Hotels Company, described the purpose of this expropriation as “extraneous, illegitimate, racist and discriminatory.”

But who are these groups responsible for the attempted robbery, the ILA and Ateret Cohanim? The latter, is a religious, ultra-nationalist organization, whose main objective is “Judaizing” Jerusalem. Coincidentally, they had in fact already hit the headlines earlier in the month, when one of their private security guards shot dead a Palestinian who, it was claimed, attacked two guards in the Old City before being overpowered and killed. The juxtaposition of these two stories is striking. Unintentionally or otherwise, the alleged shooter, Ahmad Khatib, struck out at a para-state organization whose symbiotic relationship with the powerful colonizing state embodies the agent of his people’s Catastrophe.

Ateret Cohanim are represented in the US by the Jerusalem Reclamation Project (JRP), who sponsored a dinner in May celebrating the 40th anniversary of “the reunification of Jerusalem.” The work of the JRP includes “purchasing and renovating buildings for young yeshiva families, renovating destroyed synagogues, and by supporting nurseries, playgrounds, and children’s recreational facilities.” All of which would be great, if it wasn’t for the fact that East Jerusalem is both illegally annexed, and, more pertinently, already populated with Palestinians — a classic example of how Zionism attempts to render invisible the indigenous population of Palestine.

Allegations of illegal construction work and forgery against Ateret Cohanim had been previously documented by Haaretz, and in their editorial on the Sheikh Jarrah affair, the paper likewise sharply criticized the “underhand manner” in which a government body like the ILA had sought to take over Arab property in cooperation with a “national-religious” NGO. As well as noting that “governmental bodies such as the National Housing Company of Israel (Amidar), the Custodian of Absentee Property, the ILA, certain ministries and the Jewish National Fund have issued funds” to ultra-nationalist groups, the editorial bemoaned how “the practice of placing the settlers above the law … has reached East Jerusalem.”

thus this is one of the many ways israeli terrorist colonists create facts on the ground and try to legitimate their theft of land. like all criminals, they used various devious and illegal methods for securing what does not belong to them. this is how two other homes on the jaber family’s street were confiscated by israeli colonists as well and why the battle over the jaber family house is so crucial. they also pray on the system of palestinian collaborators as part of the system of colonial divide and rule here. as my dear friend said to me the other day, “it is easy to rebuild a home. we need to rebuild the people who are deeply damaged. this task is far more difficult than rebuilding a home.”

clayton swisher did a story on al jazeera yesterday that shows the same group–though he doesn’t name them–occupying a palestinian home in nearby sheikh jarrah and forcing a new family out of their home:

but the occupation of these homes in the old city is also what makes it feel like a prison. this coupled with the fact that everywhere you go you see israeli terrorists in uniform as in the photograph below.

israeli terrorists occupying the old city of al quds
israeli terrorists occupying the old city of al quds

of course these israeli terrorists in uniform are those who make sure that their prisons are heavily populated with palestinian prisoners to help with their colonial project. while palestinians are in prison they cannot have babies so it is a mechanism of controlling demography. and while palestinians are in prison their homes can more easily be demolished and land confiscated. ma’an news reported on prisoner’s day events:

“This year’s Prisoners Day comes at a tense time,” organizing official Amin Shoman said. “Following the Israeli war on Gaza the Israeli prison service has cracked down on prisoners in Israel; cutting off television access, the number of books prisoners are allowed to have and the duration of family visits,” he explained. “Prisoners are no longer allowed to receive fresh clothing from their families, and are prohibited from shaking hands with their fathers.”

Secretary General of the committee Hilmi Al-Araj sent a message to prisoners Thursday morning, saying, ”we promise our detainees that their cases will be solved when the Shalit issue is solved; we will make all efforts to free the 11,000 imprisoned at Israeli jails and we call the international community to seriously deal with this case.”

Minister of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs in the Palestinian Legislative Council Ashraf Al-A`jrami said the day would be one to express solidarity with Palestinians in jail.

“Recognizing the detainees’ rights is part and parcel of recognizing the Palestinian people`s rights,” Al-A’jrami said in the lead-up to Prisoners Day events. He urged international institutions to recognize the illegal Israeli practices and put a halt to them.

of course i think it is necessary to support palestinian political prisoners–all 11,000+ of them including the 400 children–but i feel like this year the day was marred by a number of murders. i first learned about one of the murders while i was in my service at the qalandia checkpoint heading home friday night. the checkpoint was shut down and it was getting late and i knew that if there were any services left heading to nablus there would only be one more. eventually, the checkpoint opened, but it was shut because israeli terrorists had murdered a palestinian:

Palestinian teenager was killed and another was injured by Israeli fire near the Al-Jalazon Refugee Camp north of Ramallah Friday night after allegedly attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at settler homes.

A youth identified as 16-year-old Muhammad Nuwwara received a fatal gunshot in the chest, and was evacuated to the governmental hospital in Ramallah. A second boy, 19-year-old Muhammad Balasha, was hit in his thigh and transferred to Sheikh Zayid Hospital in Ramallah. Both boys are from Al-Jalazon, a refugee camp just south of the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El.

another palestinian was murdered in khalil by israeli terrorists:

An armed Palestinian was shot dead after entering an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank Friday morning, according to Israeli news reports.

Residents of the Hebron-area settlement of Haggay reported that they were patrolling the area when they saw a Palestinian walking around the Israeli-military secured area. Two settlers approached the man and reportedly struggled with him, at which point he pulled out a knife, according to one account.

Both men then tried to shoot the Palestinian, who was identified as 17-year-old Rabah Hejazi Seder, they reportedly said.

However, local sources told Ma’an they doubted that the teenager had attempted to access the settlement, due to its high level of protection and number of guards. They suggested that the Israelis killed the man outside the settlement and then took him inside.

but the murder of basem abu rahme from bil’in is one that received quite a bit more coverage. he was protesting the theft of his land when israeli terrorists fired at him as nour odeh reported on al jazeera in the context of george mitchell’s arrival in the west bank:

the video from the international solidarity movement (ism) shows far better coverage of basem’s murder, however, because it gives you some context and shows you bassam protesting prior to his death:

and here is clayton swisher reporting on basem’s funeral today:

and while palestinians mourn the loss of these new martyrs, lauren taylor on al jazeera’s “focus on gaza” this week highlighted the murder of mohammed al durra who was martyred when he was 11 years old in the year 2000 at the beginning of the second intifada. his family, who live in the gaza strip, managed to survive the recent savagery on gaza, but just barely:

all of this left me feeling overwhelmed the fast couple of days. it is so difficult to take all these stories in every day. and it is particularly difficult to feel like there is nothing you can do to stop it–to stop the imprisonment, murder, land and house theft. and the united states and its israeli terrorist ally want to keep it that way.