Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Herod to head UNICEF?

Israel Wins Chairmanship of U.N. Legal Committee, Will Seek Security Council Seat

By Ian Williams

ian williams
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits an UNRWA school in Gaza, June 28, 2016. (U.N. PHOTO/ESKINDER DEBEBE)

EVEN THOUGH, ON one level, Israeli contempt for the U.N. and international law knows no bounds, we have written before about their desperate deep psychological need for the organization’s approval and to abuse the body’s prestige.
At the end of May, the Israeli Mission chose the U.N. General Assembly Hall as the venue for a daylong “Building Bridges Not Boycotts conference,” which was essentially a rally of pro-Israel organizations on how to stop the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is somewhat odd that the U.N. would host a rally against efforts to enforce its decisions on the illegality of occupation and settlements, but one has to appreciate the inexorable pressure on officials from the U.S. and other allies.
For example, several years ago, when Israel secured temporary admission to the “West European and Other Group” (WEOG), many of the Europeans were very upset, and only acquiesced because of American pressure. Partly it was principle—not wanting to be associated with Israeli crimes—but it was also professional jealousy, so they insisted that Israel would not actually get nominated for important positions. Hard work and the adoption of pro-Israel positions by conservatives all over Europe bore fruit this year, when Israel secured WEOG’s nomination for chair of the U.N.’s Sixth Committee, the Legal Committee. It then went on to win the position in a secret ballot.
It was well managed. WEOG usually has contested positions, and so it put up stalking horse candidates to make it look like a contest. Clearly the fix was in, however, and so Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon became chairman of the U.N.’s Legal Committee. His opposition to the U.N.’s mandated two-state solution and his support for Israel’s continued occupation of most of the West Bank, not to mention illegal settlements, might make that anomalous anywhere else, but in this political atmosphere King Herod could become director general of UNICEF with the right backing.
To pile it on, forthcoming will be Israel’s bid for a seat in the Security Council. The election will take place in 2018, and contending already for two WEOG seats are Germany and Belgium. Needless to say, Tel Aviv’s message to Germany has been, “Thanks for all the submarines and the cash. But how dare you stand against Israel with your record!” The Germans are not, so far, going quietly into that good night. After all, they (and many other countries) think they deserve a permanent seat there, and residual guilt will not hold up against realpolitik in the country that invented it. In fact, WEOG often breaks out of the cozy rotation system for U.N. offices and has contested elections, and Israel’s behavior is not such as to inspire European sentimentality on the issue! 
But once again, the odd scofflaw complementarity works. Security Council members often have included countries like Indonesia, occupying East Timor, and Morocco, occupying Western Sahara. In one sense, it is only fair to let Israel share in the breathtaking hypocrisy. 
Perhaps that ability was rarely so well shown as with the Middle East Quartet. While the Quartet has been much improved since former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was squeezed out from the special representative sinecure that his grateful chums in Washington had secured for him, on the other hand it still has all the marks of its origins—which were an attempt to defang Russia, the EU and the U.N. on the Palestinian question by binding them into a consensus with the U.S., which is of course bound in that strange masochistic relationship with Israel.
However, considering how toothless Russia, the U.N. and the EU had become on the question, one did wonder why all the effort and showmanship was necessary. A critical part of the equation is the Israeli and American need to buffer and neutralize the clear statements of international and binding resolutions of the United Nations that are explicitly accepted and supported by all but one and a half nations in the world. And even the U.S. and Israel nominally accept them—they just do not accept their enforcement.
The U.S., as a founder of the United Nations, knows that the resolutions are binding but finds it politically inexpedient, for domestic reasons, to try to enforce them on the U.S. So the effort is to browbeat the Palestinians into voluntarily abandoning their rights in bilateral negotiations with Israel in an unbalanced settlement that would then be ratified by the U.N.
So far, there is enough of a residual sense of legality and anti-colonial solidarity in the U.N. to ensure that it would not ratify a settlement without the assent of the Palestinians. In a sense, the Palestinians are lucky they don’t have a fully recognized and functioning state, because if they did someone would have arranged a coup and a complaisant regime to put its seal on the surrender. 
Nevertheless, the basic pattern remains. The Quartet allegedly monitors progress on the famous Road Map that got lost in the glove compartment almost immediately, while the Israelis do their own thing and continually complain about the Palestinians’ inability to respond positively, indeed rhapsodically, to land grabs, demolitions, killings and imprisonment. 
History has many examples of heavily armed bullies vilifying those they persecute, but Israel and its supporters are surely unique in complaining about the ingratitude of the Palestinians for their treatment. Long overdue, a certain tone of exasperation is appearing in the statements of the various Quartet components.


Ban Ki-moon’s exasperation was evident in his statement on the Quartet’s report in July, but he at least upheld the U.N.’s legitimacy and cited the Quartet’s pledge “to actively support an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).” He also reiterated that “a negotiated two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and creates a sovereign Palestinian state, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues is the only way to achieve an enduring peace.”
And we can see how chastened Israel was after the Quartet had wagged three and half fingers at it. Ban immediately had to criticize Israel’s announcement of 560 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, as well as moves to build 240 housing units in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. “This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank,” which of course have included demands by the current Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon.
A frustrated Ban in his statement reiterated “that settlements are illegal under international law and urges the Government of Israel to halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace and a just final status agreement.” He was “deeply disappointed that this announcement comes only four days after the Middle East Quartet called on Israel to cease its policy of settlement construction and expansion.”
But at least Ban is not out on a limb: even Russia was upset by Israel’s indecorous finger to the Quartet, saying, "Moscow is seriously worried over new settlement projects in occupied Palestinian territories." The Foreign Ministry added that "Such settlements are illegal under the international law and are not recognized by the international community." 
The plans "run counter to the report of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators that was made public on July 1," the Russian statement complained, "Along with inadmissibility of violence and incitement to violence, the report strongly recommends to stop construction and expansion of settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.”
So what will be done about it? As we go to press, the current U.S. president is haggling about how big the next arms aid deal for Israel will be, and the two contenders for his position will be seeing by how much they can inflate it. Rule of Law, anyone?  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rudyard Kipling never mentioned the possibility that others would follow the Danes to demand ransom.
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
First the US bullied the UN into dropping Israel from a well-merited pillorying, then the French did the same for Morocco - and now the Saudis do it in their own right
- specifically invoking Israel's "Get off the list free" card. And the P5 are so complicit that they leave the UN Secretary General swinging in the wind, bringing the UN, and themselves into disrepute.
I would be very happy if the UK invoked the ethical dimensions of foreign policy, but somehow, bearing in mind British contractors profitable part in the war crimes, I doubt it. The ethical dimension will disappear across the event horizon of a Black Hole in the basement of Cameron's No 10 Downing St.

Written By: Ian Williams
Published: July 11, 2016 Last modified: July 11, 2016
In a press briefing at the UN many years ago Douglas Hurd pointed out that British foreign policy was “the same as it has been since the days of Pitt the Younger,” to ensure that “no combination of powers in Europe would be in a position to threaten us.” This was in the now forgotten context of Margaret Thatcher fighting the Germans. That was of course before successive British governments chose to adopt German-style anally retentive austerity policies.

It puts the “Special Relationship” in a different light, since American commentary has concentrated on how Brexit threatens Britain’s role as Washington’s standing fifth column in the EU. It is a role we should happily forfeit. Poodles are cosseted creatures, but as Tony Blair discovered over Iraq, it’s not always wise to jump yapping after everystick the master throws.

Ironically, Israeli commentators also lament the potential loss of a post-Brexit Britain’s role in shielding settlements from EU sanctions, which shows how things have changed. In the robust days before Blair sacked Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary, British policy did indeed have an ethical dimension that included condemning Israeli breaches of international law even when it upset the Americans.

So, if what’s left of the UK after Brexit is freed from its obligations to carry out the garbage for the US and Israel, how does it affect Britain’s role at the UN? Interestingly, when Boris Yeltsin did to the Soviet Union what Boris Johnson now seems to have done to the EU, there was no formal decision that Russia would take over USSR’s permanent seat. Sir David Hannay, Britain’s permanent representative quipped that the Russian Ambassador slipped into the Council Chamber at midnight and changed the name plate while everyone else was celebrating the New Year.

It was clear that Russia, which inherited the Soviet nukes, was the successor state and its stature ensured its permanent membership status so there were supercilious sniggers, but no challenges. But could a dis-United Kingdom take that for granted? Until now, not only has the UK benefitted from occasional US gratitude and indulgence on the Council, it has, like France, also usually been able to speak for the European Union, which gives its word considerably more clout than Britain alone, let alone Britain as ventriloquist dummy for Washington.

In fact, that is unfair, since the British Foreign Office has often been far more articulate and astute than the US delegation, whose State Department professionals are often over-ridden by politicians owing their knowledge of foreign affairs to whatever was written on the back of the lobbyists’ cheques. Many of the crucial Iraq resolutions were only made possible with British diplomatic expertise and draftsmanship until, of course, Tony Blair wanted a war whether his foreign office did or not, with or without a UN resolution.

In those earlier days, British representatives paid heed to international law and the effect of its decisions but their standards seem to be slipping. British silence as Ban Ki Moon was recently undermined by French support for Morocco flouting of UN decisions on Western Sahara or Saudi attempts to edit human rights reports, suggests that London is now prepared to see the UN fail rather than express inexpedient principle.

On balance, there is unlikely to be a direct challenge to Britain’s permanent council seat. It has been suggested that Britain and France’s permanent seats be replaced by an EU seat – but that is even more questionable now than before. In any case an EU seat would be useless. Consensus of all its members is almost impossible and instead of a veto, an EU seat on the Council would have a perpetual abstention.

So probably even a truncated UK could stay on the Council. However, it is gradually shrinking towards Taiwan’s position where its nominal veto power is not supported by the real world. Indeed, if Brexit happens, the rump UK influence will be overshadowed by a France that represents the EU and does not have the shadow of an American puppet master looming over it.

So what role could the UK have? Briefly under Robin Cook, as I remember, Britain’s UN mission remembered that Commonwealth thing, and invited their representatives to a Commonwealth reception. But in fact it was the New Zealanders, Canadians and Australians, before they went Blairite and Thatcherite, who seemed to take the relationship more seriously. In fact, if it were not for the complacency that a permanent seat engenders, it would make good sense to cultivate the Commonwealth missions, many of whom are small, understaffed and underappreciated and British advice could be well received if tendered in the proper spirits. And then Robin Cook had that thing about an ethical dimension for foreign policy. It’s time to redouble our support for international law, untrammeled by inconvenient alliances.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Primary Colour is green - for money

Letter from America – Ian Williams

Tribune: Ian Williams
Published: June 10, 2016 Last modified: June 7, 2016

Those who advocated primary-style elections in the British Labour Party should learn their lessons from the shambles of the presidential process in the United States, if they had not already done so from the Labour leadership ­election. One of those lessons should be to realise the differences between US and European political systems.
American political parties are not parties in the European sense. They do not have members and little or no structure through which ordinary voters can influence the process.
That is why Donald Trump, until ­recently a Democrat donor, can become the Republican candidate, or why Bernie Sanders, a life-long socialist, is one car crash away from the Democrat nomination. (In case that looks as bad as it should, Hillary Clinton invoked Robert Kennedy’s assassination for staying in the race against Barack Obama when all electoral hope was lost!) American parties are essentially coalitions of candidates trying to seize the spoils of success.
As we approach the end of the grueling primary elections in the US, Hillary Clinton has been declaring victory for months because of the so-called super delegates, who are essentially self-appointed party functionaries who have not put themselves through any significant electoral process but who do know whence the cheques will be coming.
To be fair, much of Bernie Sanders’ success, like that of Jeremy Corbyn, comes from voters who had abandoned the Democratic Party and over the years of Vietnam, followed by the Bill Clinton years.
Like me, they had changed their registration to “Democratic Party” solely in order to vote for him or voted in states that allowed open primaries, where independents could vote in the Democratic primaries.
That highlights a major difference from the British system – in the US, the primary elections for party candidates are run by the government, just as if they were normal elections. Meant to rescue elections from smoke-filled rooms in Tammany Hall, the advent of television advertising in effect restricted primaries to people who either had money, or could raise it.
The Clinton family business was famous for courting Wall Street – for the same reason that bank robber Will Sutton explained his choice of target. “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” Bill Clinton’s avowed purpose of eroding the influence of what he called “special interest” groups – such as the unions, minorities, pensioners who might oppose austerity measures, deregulation and free trade pacts. Blair like what he saw his chum doing and emulated him.
Money is the root of all evil in politics – and as soon as we had one person, one vote in the British Labour Party, Lord Levy’s money swung the balance for Tony Blair, while John Prescott had to pay off his own campaigning bills later. New Labour designed a procedure to elect the party leader so that influxes of cash from Sainsbury, Zabludowicz, Levy, ­Ecclestone and the like could combine with a rabid media to shoo-in the ­candidate that they wanted.
For both Corbyn and Sanders, new social media has been a gamechanger, upending previous assumptions. Initially, the Democratic Party establishment ­clearly regarded Hillary Clinton as the anointed and decided that saying anything negative about Sanders would just draw unwanted attention to his candidacy. The establishment tactic was to schedule the debates infrequently and at unpopular times which in retrospect proved quite effective.
The more voters saw of Sanders the more they liked him – and seemingly the more they saw of Clinton, the less they liked her but her early victories gave her crucial delegates. If Sanders had had more exposure earlier on, it is likely that he would have a lot more delegates at the Democratic Convention by now.
Polls show that many of his supporters are not instinctively going to vote for Clinton. They support Sanders precisely because of his distance from New ­Democrats and the Clinton family ­business. This is dangerous ground as show by polls indicating that in a race between Trump and Clinton, she is far less assured of success than Sanders. To be fair, Trump’s thuggishly authoritarian attitudes make him a frightening prospect, so we can only hope that Sanders’ ­supporters will hold their noses and vote for Hillary if necessary.
As a less sanguinary wish, many Bernie supporters, even if they discount the chances of assassination that she ­herself has raised, are watching with keen interest the FBI investigation of the former Secretary of State over her ­definitely careless and possibly criminal use of emails. An indictment before the Convention could, of course, mean that all bets are off.
And as a legacy, the Platform Committee that decides the policies Democrats will fight on have a significant and vociferous Sanders contingent, while he is lending support to like-minded candidates for Congress. Win or lose, we have not seen the end of the Sanders’ database.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Arabs and UNSC

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2016, pp. 44-45

United Nations Report

There’s More Than One Way to Skin the Security Council Cat

By Ian Williams

ian williams
Two months after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Arab League Ambassador Clovis Maksoud (r) confers with Security Council president Ambassador Noel Dorr of Ireland (l) and Soviet Ambassador Richard S. Ovinnikov, Aug. 6, 1982. The U.S. vetoed a Soviet draft resolution calling for a ban on the supply of arms to Israel until it fully withdrew its troops from Lebanon. (U.N. PHOTO/YUTAKA NAGATA)

THE GOLDEN DAYS HAVE never glistened quite as brightly as we think, but if there were a Golden Age of Arab Unity it was perhaps half a century ago, when an American-born Lebanese Christian, Clovis Maksoud, was an ambassador for the Arab League, first in India, then later in the U.S. and at the U.N. In those days, Arab Unity meant more than a vow ofomerta between governments to cover each thuggish dictator’s rear—certainly to Maksoud, who was a true, but pragmatic believer.
He died in May, in Washington, where he had long headed American University’s Center for the Global South, and where he could call upon his long experience, powerful intellect, and deep reservoirs of respect across the world.
His pragmatism showed in several ways at the U.N. One was when he deployed the rhetorical skills he had honed in the Oxford Union and “Maksoudized,” as it was known—fondly, one might add. Superb and soaring, polysyllabic and poetical, his speeches mesmerized audiences—but left them scratching their heads as they wondered what he had actually said. When I asked him about it while he was at the U.N., he smiled and explained, “I represent the Arab League—it is almost impossible to say anything concrete that will not upset at least one of the members.”
As Arab League ambassador to the U.N., Clovis Maksoud has also left a lasting legacy that is equally mixed in its effects. He crafted the deal that synchronized the Asian and African groups’ cycles to ensure that there would always be an Arab representative on the Security Council.
It is not in the Charter, but by longstanding agreement, temporary seats are apportioned on the basis of geographical regions: Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the West European and Other Group. Eastern Europe was essentially the Warsaw Pact countries, which have now almost all joined the European Union and NATO, or are trying to, but they maintain the fiction—claiming, for example, that it is their group’s “turn” to have a secretary-general. West European and Other was sufficiently elastic to include Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and thus allowed itself to be bullied into accepting Israel as a member.
In the U.N.’s version of geography, the Arab world is split between Asia and Africa, each of which has five temporary seats rotated on a two-year cycle. More often than not—as with so many U.N. positions—the fix is in. The diplomats at the U.N. courteously sort out a rota to avoid unseemly contests and surprises. One can tell decades ahead which member state will be “elected.” It is the same system that eviscerates the Human Rights Council by putting some of the most egregious offenders on it. At least the Human Rights Council made a pretense for a while of fielding more candidates than seats—even if they all knew which were the real candidates and which were for show.
The deal Ambassador Maksoud made was that every two years, Asia would reserve a seat for an Arab League member and in the alternate biennium one of the North African Arab states would rotate around. This was the cozy arrangement that returned dubiously Arab countries like Djibouti to the Council and regularly seats Security Council members who are in flagrant violation of the Council’s own resolutions. That is not an exclusively Arab problem, of course, but it lends neither prestige nor potency to the U.N. as an institution and the Security Council as its highest embodiment of the international community in matters of war and peace. 
When Ambassador Maksoud crafted the deal, his concern was that there be an Arab voice on issues like Palestine that united them, and that there was at least vestigial respect for the notion of Arab Unity. But, of course, that fell apart after the original Egypt-Israel deal and never recovered. It has now become a diplomatic career opportunity for salespeople of unelected oligarchs.
The point of being on the Security Council was more than adequately demonstrated earlier this year, when Western Sahara appeared yet again on the agenda. The imbroglio has dire potential beyond the Polisario (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro) and Morocco.
Quietly but effectively, the issue has eroded the always parlous authority of both the secretary-general and the Security Council that have, with all their failings, done a lot to keep the peace since 1945. In March Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the camps in Tindouf and, clearly upset by what he saw, called for the referendum on self-determination and referred to the Moroccan presence across much of Western Sahara as an “occupation.”
He had a similar epiphany when he visited Gaza early in his mandate and saw for himself the reality behind the clinically cleansed language of U.N. resolutions. When Ban made his statements Morocco went into unprecedented paroxysms of undiplomatic denunciation, claiming—totally falsely—that the U.N. and the international community accepted its annexation.
In a breathtaking abuse of language, Morocco accused the U.N. secretary-general of “semantic slippage” for using the term “occupation” and, along with even more incoherent indignation, noted with “utter dismay the verbal slippages, faits accomplis and unjustified complacency” of the secretary-general. It ordered the U.N. staff out of the territory it controlled. The kingdom staged mass “spontaneous” demonstrations against the secretary-general in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
There were clear U.N. resolutions and decisions, not just about the territory’s status but about the U.N. staff. It was an unprecedented challenge to the Security Council’s authority. Remember, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was put on trial for such temerity.
The International Court of Justice had ruled that the Sahrawis are entitled to exercise their right to self-determination, and dismissed Moroccan claims to the land and the fealty of its people. The General Assembly had called for the “occupation” to be ended, and the Security Council had from the beginning asked the Moroccans to withdraw. Security Council Resolution 690, passed in 1991, established MINURSO, the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, to implement settlement proposals that Morocco had accepted in 1988.
Rabat had paid lip service to the referendum while it tried to pack the electoral rolls with its settlers, but when it became clear that the eligible voters wanted Morocco out, the kingdom insisted that the referendum must exclude any question of independence. Almost as revealingly, Morocco and France have fought successfully to ensure that MINURSO remains the only peacekeeping operation without a human rights monitoring component.
When Morocco ordered U.N. staff to leave, Ban sought the support of the Security Council—but did not get it, due to opposition from France, Egypt and Japan. After days of backroom wrangling, the most the Council could deliver was an anodyne appeal for the mission to continue.
Persuaded by his staff that the U.N. term was a “non-self-governing” territory rather than an “occupied” one, Ban, even though upset by the Moroccan tirades, explained that his use of the term was his personal emotional reaction to the plight of the refugees. He did not back down from the clear decisions of the U.N. over the years, but modified his entirely accurate statement for the exigencies of diplomacy.
He and his advisers were appalled by the lack of active support from major Security Council members which, in effect, handed Morocco a proxy veto via France and its African allies. If only to uphold the authority of the institution, the Council should have had much stronger resolution about Morocco’s behavior.
Morocco and its friends have thoroughly compromised the U.N. system on the Saharan issue. U.N. officials have been bribed and browbeaten not to challenge the Moroccan version with anything as upsetting as the truth. Interestingly. the MINURSO website begins its list of U.N. resolutions in 1991, when it was set up, not in 1975, when the Security Council asked Morocco to get out!
Rabat has consistently refused to hold the referendum that the Mission was sent to prepare for. The king, like his father before, knows he would lose it. And, once again shamelessly backed by France, Morocco’s successful opposition to permit a human rights component in MINURSO is a telling indication of how he intends to keep it.
In May, the Security Council sent a delegation to talk to Arab League countries in Cairo, where many of them grandstanded, demanding (rightly) that the Council should enforce its resolutions on Middle East peace and settlements. They seem to be missing the point that France’s attempts to jump start the peace process at the eastern end of the Maghreb are compromised by its own behavior on the western end. Perhaps summing it up, it was reported that, at a recent gathering, a former French ambassador to the U.N. reprimanded his British former colleague for being a puppet of the U.S.—for which he got the deserved riposte, “Better than being the King of Morocco’s puppet!” 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Smoke and the only fire from the foot of the witchfinder's stake

Letter from America – Ian Williams

Written By: Ian Williams
Published: May 14, 2016  Tribune

A decade later, who remembers the alleged United Nations’ Oil For Food Scandal? Once the smoke had blown away, and the media had put down their mirrors, “the biggest financial scandal in history” had gone with the wind.
It was clearly about governments and their companies and had little or nothing to do with the UN. In fact, the media totally ignored the real scandal, which was that the programme’s surplus, some $10 billion, was handed over to the US occupation authorities who, in the end, could not say how they spent it. It was certainly nothing to do with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whom they pilloried and witch-hunted.
The American neoconservatives succeeded with this beyond their wildest dreams: to weaken and punish the United Nations and Kofi Annan, to destroy their moral authority which was an obstacle to American hegemony, as expressed in the Project for a New American Century. One of the purposes of that hegemony was backing up Israel – and in particular the like-minded Likudnik regime there.
Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq War largely derived from his genuine distaste for the regime of Saddam Hussein. It followed his intervention in Sierra Leone, and in Kosovo against the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Slobodan Milosevic. The American instigators of the Iraq War generally had not shown any concern for Saddam’s murderous behaviour with Kurds and others in the 1980s while he was invading Iran. In fact, the Iraqi ambassador was the toast of Washington, which rushed to cover for Saddam over poison gas usage. They were more concerned about removing a threat to Israel.
Kofi Annan went out of his way to accommodate Israel at the UN, but once the BBC badgered him into admitting that the Iraq War was illegal, the pack was on his tail. The neocons and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) were already calumniating the UN for its condemnations of occupation. The media followed with pitchforks and the torches and amplified each other’s ill-founded allegations and exaggerations. All it took was a coterie of well-connected ideologically committed pundits, like-minded journalists and publishers to whip up a perfect smoke storm. Of course, they did not mention their real motives, since the reality of its aftermath had already made support for the Iraq War very questionable.
Who in the media would risk a career to defend the United Nations – which in the US (and Murdoch media) was axiomatically corrupt, anti-American and anti-Israel? They weakened Annan and the institution as he tried to steer through changes that would make the UN more effective – although, ironically, the “Two Years Hate” in the American and British media possibly made Annan’s reforms more palatable to the developing world bloc since it suggested he was not in fact the superpower’s chosen one.
And so now to Britain and the Labour Party. The anti-anti-Semitism campaign is truly an anti-Jeremy Corbyn campaign. Did any of the fervent accusers of Ken Livingstone’s, maybe crass but on the whole verifiable statements, oppose the Iraq War? One suspects not. Many of them are connected to lobbyists for Israel. Have any of them condemned the settlements, or the verifiably illegal behaviour of Benjamin Netanyahu? No.
The spectacle of the Daily Mail, original sponsors of Oswald Mosley and apologists for Adolf Hitler right up to war’s outbreak, helping to lead the charge against leftists in the Labour Party under the banner of combatting anti-Semitism gives a choice of gagging or laughing.
Pillorying Ken Livingstone for defending Naz Shah, the Labour MP who had lifted a website image from the site Norman Finkelstein, an American son of Holocaust survivors, certainly suggests a witch-hunt. But who wants to stand up to defend anyone against such charges if you end up tied to the stake yourself?
For the record, the Labour Party supports the United Nations, which has ruled repeatedly that Israel is illegally occupying the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and is besieging Gaza. The International Court of Justice has ruled that those are occupied territories, that the Separation Wall is illegal, as are the settlements. Numerous international jurists have condemned the Israeli forces for their behaviour in the territories. The UK Government has supported those positions over the years. After Sabra and Shatila, so did the Labour Party. It is now apparently thoughtcrime.
Surely, Gerald Kaufman follows in the deeper, more historical humanitarian tradition of British Jewry in the Labour Party. But I forget. The former member of the British Board of Deputies was one of the first to find the pitchforks and torches massed outside his door.
Let us stick with UN principles. The Iraq War was illegal, as is the Israeli occupation. Let those who are delating Labour colleagues establish their credentials and say where they stand on those issues – and maybe admit that their real target is Jeremy Corbyn, and that they are prepared to destroy the Labour Party “in order to save it”.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A line in the Sand for International Law

Letter from America – Ian Williams

Written By: Ian Williams
Published: March 19, 2016 Last modified: March 18, 2016
The paths of two much mis-underestimated, highly ethical individuals crossed recently. A year before he became leader of the Labour Party, I saw Jeremy Corbyn at the House of Commons report back from a visit to Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. It was an impressive performance. Invoking Western Sahara is no way for a politician to win votes, nor even for a writer to win commissions! Second, the audience was loaded with Moroccans whipped in by their ­government to support its claims to the territory.
He dealt with them impressively, listening respectfully while calmly stating facts and restating principles in a way that averted provocation and conflict. I did not know it then, but he was foreshadowing his remarkable self control in the face of fanatical New Labour types who cannot believe they lost with all the certainty of Moroccans who cannot believe that anyone could question their right to rule the Sahara.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon went to Western Sahara earlier this month and stated a few home truths about the continuing occupation there and compounded his sins by visiting the headquarters of Polisario, the Saharwi independence front. Morocco went into paroxysms of counterfactual denunciation and claims that the UN and the international community accept its annexation. In a breath-taking abuse of language it accused the UN Secretary General of “semantic slippage”, for using the term “occupation” and expressed, among even more incoherent indignation noted with “utter dismay the verbal slippages, faits accomplis and unjustified complacency” of Ban.
In reality, away from whatever they smoke in offices of Morocco’s highly paid Public relations company, the International Court of Justice has ruled that the people of Western Sahara are entitled to self-determination. The UN Security Council has ruled that Morocco should withdraw from the territory and allow an act of self-determination. For more than 20 years, there has been a UN mission there to conduct a referendum – and Morocco has officially accepted those terms – even though in international law they do not really have any option. The world’s maps all show the territory separate from Morocco.
The Security Council resolution in 1975 called for Morocco to withdraw from the territory, and it has been defying it ever since. However, underlying their indignation, which highlights Ban’s courage, is that Morocco and its friends have thoroughly compromised the UN system. Successive UN officials have been bribed, suborned and browbeaten not to challenge the Moroccan version with anything as upsetting as the truth. ­Interestingly, MINURSO’s own website begins its list of UN resolutions in 1991, when it was set up, not in 1975, when the Security Council asked Morocco to get out.
Morocco has had outright support from France, and it benefits from good relations with Israel. In the words of then US ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan about Sahara and East Timor in 1975: “The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.” Since then, it has tried to tidy things up but not enough to annoy the Moroccans, and one supposes that the issue was clinched by the $5 million-plus paid to the Clinton Foundation by the Moroccan-owned phosphate company that is looting Western Sahara’s phosphates.
Hillary Clinton, as US Secretary of State, tried to push Barack Obama’s administration to accept the dubious “autonomy” plan promoted by King Mohammed that excluded the option of independence for Western Sahara from the terms of the referendum. One should add that Polisario is about as compromised as any other “liberation movement” of the seventies in terms of its adherence to human rights. But the most convincing element of the Sahrawi claim is the Moroccan refusal to allow a referendum. The King knows he would lose it.
History should provide a pre-emptively answer to anyone who asks why we should worry about “a quarrel, in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”. Britain is a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN, pledged to uphold the UN Charter, and with a few notable exceptions has been fairly good at it. The UK delegation has been reluctantly supportive of what Robin Cook would have called the ethical dimension of foreign policy over the Sahara, but is palpably discomforted by all the sordid reasons it should go along with others who would happily sell the Sahrawis down the sand dunes.
Both Ban and Corbyn see that an injustice perpetuated like this attacks the basic principles of the United Nations. In the face of the frantic Moroccan assault on Ban Ki-moon, Britain, and indeed ­Jeremy Corbyn, should be signalling ­support for the Secretary General’s brave initiative, aimed as it is at rescuing­hundreds of thousands of people from life in exile of under occupation.
About Ian Williams
Ian Williams is Tribune's UN correspondent