‘I Will Not Express Thanks’

Every once in a while there comes a diplomatic moment to remember, and New Yorkers who want to share one can go up on youtube.com and watch the representative in Geneva of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, in a March 23 speech before the 4th session of the Human Rights Council. In the adjacent columns, we print the full text of his remarks, lamenting the loss of the dream of Eleanor Roosevelt and other architects of the human rights movement within the United Nations system. Mr. Neuer offers the substance. But it’s worth watching the full clip (it’s only a few minutes long) to catch the scandalous behavior of the president of the council, as he — for what may be the only time in its history — refuses to thank a speaker for his intervention and declares he will ban Mr. Neuer, or any other critic of the commission, if he says anything similar again.

To provide the full context, UN Watch has put together a compendium of clippings (at youtube.com/watch?v=BMEw0lZ3k_Y) called “Admissible and Inadmissible at the U.N. Human Rights Council.” It shows actual film clips of the president of the Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, thanking various diplomats for their testimony. He thanks a speaker for Zimbabwe talking about the ignorance of a delegate who has criticized human rights under President Mugabe. He thanks the delegate from Cuba for insulting a human rights expert who exposed abuses of the communist regime. When the permanent observer of Palestine asserts that the one that has a “monopoly on human rights violations” is Israel, which, he adds, is the darling of not only the ambassadors of America and Canada but also of the human rights commissioner, Louise Arbour, the observer is thanked by Mr. de Alba. On the clip one can see Mr. de Alba thanking the delegation of Sudan for a statement saying that reports of violence against women in Darfur have been “exaggerated.”

Then one can watch and hear an envoy from Nigeria assert that “stoning under Sharia law for unnatural sexual acts … should not be equated with extrajudicial killings …” Or watch an envoy of Iran defend the Holocaust denial conference. Or watch a defense of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Or speaker after speaker liken Israel to the Nazis, only to get thanked by Mr. de Alba or whoever is presiding. Then one can watch Mr. de Alba lean back demonstrably in his chair and fold his arms across his chest and adopt a disapproving visage as Mr. Neuer of UN Watch begins his recent testimony. He notes that 60 years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt, René Cassin, and others gathered on the banks of Lake Geneva to reaffirm the principle of human dignity and created the Commission on Human Rights. He asks what has become of “this noble dream” and offers a devastating answer with a reprise of all the human rights abuses on which the council has been silent.

“Why has this council chosen silence?” Mr. Neuer asks. “Because Israel could not be blamed.” He ticks off the actions against Israel, the only ones the council takes. When Mr. Neuer is done, Mr. de Alba says, “for the first time in this session, I will not express thanks for that statement. … I will not tolerate any similar statements in the council.” And he threatens to strike any similar statements from UN Watch from the record of the proceedings. We had to tip our hat to Mr. Neuer, who has, on occasion, written for these pages. Newspapermen have to have strong stomachs, but it’s nothing compared to what he needs to sit through these sessions. He presents with memorable force and dignity. The compendium of clips runs only seven minutes or so and is winging its way around the World Wide Web. It’s worth watching, a reminder of the wisdom of the decision of America’s former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, and his colleagues in the Bush administration to stand down from participating in this charade.

 

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