The Guardian takes note of a Middle Eastern country not involved in “rendition”

A guest post by AKUS

Controversy over the practice of “rendition” has been intense. In a recent article in the Washington Post, the Post described it as a CIA program “to detain and interrogate foreign suspects without bringing them to the United States or charging them with any crimes”

The Washington Post illustrated how widely the practice was implemented with a map in an article headlined: A staggering map of the 54 countries that reportedly participated in the CIA’s rendition program, drawn from a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative  that lists each country by name and describes that country’s participation in the program.

1

In case you cannot make out one little country that did not participate in the program, here’s an extract from that map of a certain area of the world:

1

See it now?

On the other hand, it does not take much effort to see other countries, frequent critics of Israel, with well-organized, well-funded groups constantly threatening it with boycotts, decrying its policies and so forth, and even supporting its enemies with weapons and money.

There was a February 5th, 2013 column in the Guardian about this, too: CIA rendition: more than a quarter of countries ‘offered covert support’ . To my surprise, the Guardian managed to take note of Israel’s absence from the list of 54 countries:

Other countries are conspicuous by their absence from the rendition list: Sweden and Finland are present, but there is no evidence of Norwegian involvement. Similarly, while many Middle Eastern countries did become involved in the rendition programme, Israel did not, according to the OSJI research.

I, on the other hand, took note of South Africa’s name on the list. After all, one of the calumnies thrown at Israel, and found on a daily basis in the Guardian CiF section in the threads to the endless articles decrying Israel for this or that,  is that it resembles an apartheid state.  South Africa’s government, influenced in some measure by its Muslim Indian constituency, is one of the few outside the Middle East that has made it government policy to support boycotts of Israeli product, academics, and cultural groups.  South Africa is often held up as an example of what the imaginary “one state” would look like after the Jewish state vanishes and “Palestine” exists “between the sea and the river”.

But never fear that Guardianistas could possibly leave Israel out of the issue.  After one post that noted that Israel did not participate in the program, there was this comment:

 1.jpg

The thread quickly filled up with comment after comment claiming that even though the report did not name Israel, and the Guardian specifically took note of that, Israel was just as bad or even worse.

Even when a report does not mention Israel, the appetite for condemnation of Israel among Guardian readers is so developed that rather than discussing, for example, South Africa’s involvement, even the absence of Israel quickly becomes the topic de jour. Or, as the following poster noted in response to a comment no longer visible:

one

The Washington Post:

The 54 governments identified in this report span the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, and include: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

 

What the Guardian won’t report: Israel wins at the UN. Israeli culture wins in the Middle East

On Dec. 21, 2012, a UN resolution on “Entrepreneurship for Development” was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors.

The resolution encourages private and public sector entrepreneurship, “developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers as the best way to deal with the challenges of poverty and job creation.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said the following:

“The Israeli spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity prevailed at the UN today.  As a state that was founded in difficult circumstances, we have been able to create opportunities for talented people and have become an enterprising superpower. Creating a culture of entrepreneurship can work miracles and drive economies forward. Investing in human resources is a real message that Israel conveys to the developing world.”

The UN adopted it by a vote of 141 in favor to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

The Guardian – which continually informs their readers when the UN censures the Jewish state – hasn’t reported the Israeli sponsored resolution.

Why does it matter?

If you recall, there was a huge row over comments during the US Presidential campaign suggesting that Israeli culture is a major factor in the state’s economic and social prowess in the region.  

Many commentators on the far left (including ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Rachel Shabi) scolded those who would suggest a connection between culture and success – imputing racism to such arguments.

Shabi characterized the broader narrative that Israeli culture may be more conducive to success than Palestinian culture as “standard-issue superiority complex racism”.

To those so easily manipulated by au courant post-colonial causation, the stubborn reality of Israeli success (as with Western success more broadly) must be explained by Western hegemony or other global injustices.

To the far-left crowd which occupies the Guardian, the word “racism” – typically understood as a belief in the inherent, immutable, biological or genetic inferiority of a group, race, or ethnicity – has been defined so expansively as to even impute such bigotry to those observing intuitively that some cultural habits are necessarily inimical to economic achievement and social development.

Now, take a look at the countries who voted against the Israeli resolution advocating “entrepreneurship for development”.

Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

Do you see a pattern?

A strong majority of these states are plagued by poverty, under-development and despotism – and would greatly benefit from the ‘development through entrepreneurship’ growth strategy recommended by Israel.

Unfortunately, the majority of these states are opposed to Israel’s very existence, and some have a shameful history of having ethnically cleansed their Jewish citizens in the twenty years following 1948.

The resolution, based on the most intuitive reasoning, was opposed because it was the Jewish state which proposed it.

By obsessing over Israel, refusing to concentrate on the real problems plaguing their societies, and failing to instill the liberal cultural habits necessary to alleviate poverty and throw off the yoke of tyranny – as well as ignoring the lessons on how a small, innovative, Jewish country accomplished so much in just six and a half decades - they ensure that little progress will likely be achieved.

Those in the West who continue  to indulge such nations in the fantasy that their anti-Zionist delusions are justified, even righteous, are complicit in condemning millions to poverty, tyranny and hopelessness.

Lessons not learned: The continuing funding of UK universities by despotic Arab regimes

An unelected, unaccountable ruler who has turned a state into a family business. Repeated reports of human rights abuses and a code of law which defies international conventions. Generous donations to British universities and suspicions concerning a possibly dodgy degree.

You may at this point be thinking of Libya and the Ghaddafi clan’s former connections to the London School of Economics, but you’d only be partially right.  

On October 31st the Guardian’s education editor Jeevan Vasagar reported that the LSE academic, former advisor to Saif al Islam Ghaddafi and board member of the latter’s charity, David Held, is to move to Durham University in the new year.  Vasagar appears to suspect (and Held denies) that the move is related to the impending release of the report on an investigation into the university’s relations with Libya, although the Observer’s Nick Cohen seems unconvinced that the Woolf Report will present any particularly controversial findings.

Whatever the real motives behind Held’s upcoming move, the fact is that the recent demise of the Ghaddafi family’s fortunes has left some British universities in the market for alternative funding. There is, however, no lack of other equally dubious sources as Held’s new employers have known for some time.

As reported by Robin Simcox in 2009, the University of Durham has accepted donations from its former student Sultan bin Mohammed al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates from as far back as 1999.

“In 1999 Durham University received a donation of £2.25 million from Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah. His donation was used by Durham, where the now ruler of Sharjah completed his first degree, to construct a new building for the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (IMEIS), which opened in 2003.”

“In 2008, the Durham Islamic Finance Programme, which is run under the auspices of the IMEIS, announced the appointment of a ‘Sharjah Chair’, saying that the post holder was ‘expected to focus on the implications of Shariah for commercial and financial contracts’. The money for this chair was endowed by al-Qasimi. Al-Qasimi has also endowed chairs in Australia and Canada.”

In addition, Al Qasimi has made several generous donations to Exeter University, where he also studied.

“In 1985, al-Qasimi completed a history doctorate at Exeter University. The Sydney Morning Herald described his PhD thesis – ‘The Myth of Piracy in the Gulf’ – as ‘an attempt to refute claims that his nineteenth century forebears were pirates’. Two years later, in 1987, al-Qasimi was briefly deposed as emir of Sharjah for four days by his brother, who accused him of neglecting and mismanaging the emirate’s financial affairs. Al-Qasimi reportedly responded by saying that this was because he was too busy conducting research into 19th-century piracy, saying that ‘my studies…do not leave me with enough chance to follow up the daily responsibilities of ruling the emirate’. For 10 years, the question of the al-Qasimi role in piracy was neglected by Exeter University. But then, in 1997, Exeter University Press published a book entitled The Blood-Red Arab Flag: An investigation into al-Qasimi piracy 1797–1820 by Charles E. Davies. Davies is an honorary research fellow in the Centre for Arab Gulf Studies, and his biography describes The Blood-Red Arab Flag as ‘the fruit of an appointment in 1988 as full-time Research Fellow at Exeter’s Centre for Arab Gulf Studies’. In April 2000, the Middle Eastern Studies journal reviewed the book, writing that ‘Davies almost exonerates the Sharjah branch of the Qawasim [i.e. the al-Qasimi family] of piratical activities’ and adds that ‘as to answering the main question which instigated his research, whether or not the al-Qasimis were pirates, the answer was a straightforward no’. Perhaps it is just coincidence that Exeter University, which has received so much money from the pirate-obsessed al-Qasimi, should have published a book which ‘almost exonerates’ al-Qasimi’s ancestors from accusations of piracy.”  

In a 2002 article in the Jerusalem Post the head of Israeli Studies at UCL Neill Lochery highlighted some of the many dangers of the influence of foreign funding on academic impartiality and the integrity of universities as a whole.  The recent Ghaddafi affair would appear to indicate that little has changed since Lochery wrote these words almost a decade ago.

“Both Exeter and Durham have received some $6 million to $7m. each to set up Middle East Studies centers in the past two years. The source of funding in both cases was ex-Gulf students who undertook PhDs at these colleges. Though today it is clear that universities do not sell PhDs, some academics are so keen on having rich PhDs that they even help the students translate their work into English (a requirement for a PhD in the UK). In other instances the supervisors rewrite the thesis to a degree that makes it difficult to argue it is the sole work of the original author.”

But – dodgy degrees aside – the real issue must surely be the willingness of so many British academics to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses which are part and parcel of so many of these fantastically rich despotic regimes and the legitimization of such dictatorships by the acceptance of their donations.  

Sharjah is considered the more conservative of the emirates making up the UAE.  A legally enforced dress code defines ”short clothing above the knee” as “indecent” and forbidden for women, along with “tight and transparent clothing that describes the body” and “clothing that exposes the stomach and back”. Men are not immune to the dress code either and in particular migrant worker wearers of the South Asian traditional lungi. Unmarried members of the two sexes are not allowed by law “to be alone in public places or in suspicious times or circumstances”.

According to Human Rights Watch, the situation in the UAE actually worsened in 2010, particularly for migrant workers.

“Other pressing human rights issues include torture, restrictions on freedoms of expression and association, and violations of women’s rights.  Authorities continue to prevent peaceful demonstrations and to harass local human rights defenders. ” 

“Two prominent cases in 2010 highlighted ongoing concerns about the justice system:  in January a court cleared a member of the royal family on torture charges despite video evidence against him; in March, 17 migrant workers in Sharjah were convicted of murder despite evidence their confessions were unreliable and the product of police torture. The latter decision remains on appeal at this writing.” 

Domestic violence in the form of the ‘right’ of men to beat their wives and children is protected by law. Women who are raped often find themselves in prison, accused of having “illegal” sex. There are, of course no elections and no universal franchise:

“Only 6,600 UAE citizens, chosen by the rulers of the emirates out of a population of roughly 900,000 citizens (and 4.7 million foreigners), can vote or stand for the 20 elected seats in the 40-seat Federal National Council, an advisory body to the president.”

Yet despite this miserable record, there are still British academics who apparently have no qualms about accepting financial donations from al Qasimi and similar despots. One might have thought that after the embarrassing Ghaddafi debacle lessons would have been learned throughout British academia, but seemingly that has yet to be the case.

A truly liberal fourth estate willing to take up the gauntlet on this subject is therefore all the more sadly lacking. Unfortunately, it seems as though some journalists may be suffering from a similar malaise as quite a few university professors and chancellors.

UNHRC used by dictators to undermine human rights

This essay was written by Hadar Sela, and published in The Propagandist

The recent incidents on the streets of countries as far apart asLibya and Bahrain, Tunisia and Iran have riveted the Western world to its television sets and Twitter accounts. The sight of authoritarian regimes gunning down their own people as though they were swatting flies has us outraged. Western politicians and human rights activists issue sober statements. Western journalists devote indignant column inches to the question of ‘how could they?’  But one thing is conspicuous by its absence; any honest and thorough appraisal of how the West has been complicit for years in ensuring that such human rights abuses could come about.

To our disgrace, we in the West have largely stood by silently whilst the world’s premier human rights institution, the UN Human Rights Council, has been monopolised by nations which belong to the cadre of those today firing on their own civilians in the streets of Benghazi and Tehran.

The Human Rights Council currently includes members such as Libya, Bahrain, China, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that its resolution of establishment demands that “members elected to the council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.  Iran sits on the UN’s ‘’Commission on the Status of Women along with Zimbabwe.  Thus, it is hardly surprising that the UNHRC has been busier attempting to push resolutions on the subject of the ‘’Defamation of Religion than it has in upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in some of its member countries.

The dysfunctional nature of the UNHRC is all too apparent when one considers that human rights in Darfur, Tibet, North Korea or Zimbabwe have never been discussed in that forum or that the best it could come up with regarding Sudan was an expression of “deep concern”. In fact, the only country to have ever been specifically condemned by the UNHRC is a multicultural democracy with equal rights for women, homosexuals, religious and ethnic minorities which has a free press and an independent judiciary system – Israel.

That country alone was the subject of no less than 15 condemnations during the period since the UNHRC’s establishment on March 15th 2006 and January 24th 2008 – nine of those within its first year of functioning.  Three months after its establishment, the UNHRC voted to make a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel a permanent feature of every Council session. No other country on earth was deemed deserving of such intense scrutiny.

And so women continued to be stoned to death and homosexuals hung in Iran. Young girls continued to suffer female genital mutilation in Egypt and forced marriages in Pakistan. Women’s suffrage is still denied in Saudi Arabia and conditioned in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Freedom of expression and the press continues to be severely limited in China, Iran, Syria, Libya and Yemen, to name but a few.

Meanwhile, the liberal Western world has stood by and watched these and many other human rights abuses continue and even exacerbate.  In the wake of the killing and execution of hundreds of Iranians who demonstrated against the stolen elections in their country in June 2009, it was not the UNHRC which issued a (non-binding) condemnation of those human rights violations, but the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.

Only months later, the UNHRC completed its ‘universal periodic review’ of human rights in Iran. Its conclusions were as follows:

“The Human Rights Council…Adopts…the report of the Working Group on the Islamic Republic of Iran, together with the views of the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning the recommendations and/or conclusions, as well as its voluntary commitments and its replies presented before the adoption of the outcome by the plenary to questions or issues that were not sufficiently addressed during the interactive dialogue in the Working Group.”

During the process of this review, the UNHCR heard from Iranian representatives, one of whom informed the council that:

“A salient feature of our constitution is its explicit and extensive reference to…the main pillars of human rights… Iran [has a] firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights …Iran is one of the prominent democratic states in the region.”

Female Iranian representatives at the review claimed that:

“The significant advancement of Iranian women’s status in the society during the period of 30 years after the victory of the Islamic revolution under the auspices of the strategic national policy and programs is undeniable.”

And even a token Christian was brought along in order to inform the UNHRC that:

“Under the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, race, ethnicity, and religion do not distinguish among people, bestowing superiority to one group over another.”

Read the rest of the essay, here.