Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A comparative study of countries with rights abuses

Quotes of the Day:

"...the same universal human values that recognise the Holocaust as thegreatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policiesof successive Israeli governments - not on the absurd grounds that they areNazi or equivalent to the Holocaust, but because ethnic cleansing,discrimination and terror are immoral."

- Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London

This FBC Posting contains:

1). A comparative study of countries with rights abuses: An Urgent Need
2). This is about Israel, not anti-Semitism, by Ken Livingstone, The Guardian

A comparative study of countries with rights abuses: An Urgent Need

Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

Any serious student of 'power' knows that naming and labeling is not aninnocent act. Far from it. It is an exercise of power with serious ramifications. For instance, labeling issues frames how certain issues are seen, discussed, and, if at all, debated openly.

Well-publicized, well-timed labels such as "rogue nations" "human rightsviolators" "axis of evils" "outposts of tyranny" and so on provoke international reactions.

But this power to name sovereign nations, even if the concept of sovereignty(and its embodiment, that is, political state) is not indivisible, as purely evil, tyrannical, or irredeemably bad also exposes the 'labeler' in all itscontradictions.

To be sure, Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council isn't made up ofcharming princeses. Nor has their track record been admirable in terms of howit relates to the country's 54-million people.

But regardless of which party is in power, for the world's mightiestnation to indulge in lumping a bunch of nations under these contentious labels- be they Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Libya or Myanmar (Burma) - is to risk exposing the fundamentally hypocrital nature of its exercise of power.

In this posting, I am sharing with you factually and historically correct depiction of the state of Israel, perhaps the most important ally of the United States. To stress the obvious, the US is unlikely to include its strategicasset and ally in any existing or future list of outposts of tyranny, despotism, dictatorships and so on.

The State of Israel is guilty of many things which the Burmese junta is. Burmahas 1,300 political prisoners according to Amnesty International. Israel holds 7,000 prisoners, all Palestinian, behind bars. Israel is guilty,according to the article by Ken Livingstone, of ethnic cleansing. The current head of state Ariel Sharon is considered, even by local Israeli groups, responsible for massacres and slaughters of Palestinian civilians. Worst yet, Israel is an occupier, that denies the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, if only a shared one (with its antagonists).

Why has Israel escaped the label outpost of tyranny and the state of Israelnever been considered ' a rogue nation' by Washington?

Consider Uzabekistan, another important ally of the United States in CentralAsia. According to the United States State Department itself, it holds at least 5,000 political prisoners. What about Pakistan ruled by General Musharef, theDemocrat? Or Saudi Arabia?

There is a pressing need for a comparative study of human rights, tyranny and despotism - preferably under the auspicies of the United Nations or the Nobel Institute or Amnesty International - of sovereign states, not excluding the USand Israel.

To spread human rights - however defined - around the world is a good thing inand of itself. But spreading democracy and human rights necessitates the establishment of an objective framework within the existing internationalsystem.

To try to spread freedom and democracy using selective and highly biasedcriteria smacks hypocrisy. Worse still, as such, doing so demeans the verysame words 'freedom' 'democracy' and, in the final analysis, strips these intrinsically worthy ideals off political significance.

And for the Burmese 'human rights defenders,'to borrow that 'chic' vocabulary of our times, to jump onto the convenient band wagon of slamming one's own country for the short-term media sexiness, is utterly myopic and mindless.

It is tantamount to the sinister betrayal of those who actually gave up their lives for the promotion of these values for the benefits of humanity at large.

From: Citizens International To: 'UMA'

Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 11:38 AM

Subject: In Support of Livingstone

Ken Livingstone, London’s popular Mayor, has come under attack from certainJewish groups who accuse him of anti-Semitism because he likened a reporter whohad been harassing him to a “concentration camp guard”. The reporter, who was Jewish, worked for the racist Evening Standard newspaper, which has, for sometime been carrying on a hate campaign against him. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has now submitted an official complaint to the Standards Board forEngland which supervises local government. If the charge is upheld, it could lead to Mr. Livingstone being suspended or disqualified from office.

In the following article, Livingstone sets out the background to this campaignagainst him and explains why he has become the target of these groups. Theoriginal article can be viewed at the following link:,3858,5140254-107935,00.html
This is about Israel, not anti-Semitism

Not to speak out against this injustice would not only be wrong. It would ignore the threat it poses to us all

Ken Livingstone *
Friday March 4, 2005

The Guardian

Racism is a uniquely reactionary ideology, used to justify the greatest crimesin history - the slave trade, the extermination of all original inhabitants ofthe Caribbean, the elimination of every native inhabitant of Tasmania,apartheid. The Holocaust was the ultimate, "industrialised" _expression ofracist barbarity.

Racism serves as the cutting edge of the most reactionary movements. Anideology that starts by declaring one human being inferior to another is theslope whose end is at Auschwitz. That is why I detest racism.

No serious commentator has argued that my comments to an Evening Standardreporter outside City Hall last month were anti-semitic. So I am glad thatHenry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, accepted onthese pages that "Ken is sincere when he states that he regards the Holocaustas the worst crime of the last century".

The contribution of Jewish people to human civilisation and culture isunexcelled and extraordinary. You only have to think of giants such asEinstein, Freud and Marx to realise that human civilisation would be unrecognisably diminished without the achievements of the Jewish people. The same goes for the Jewish contribution to London today.

As mayor, I have pressed for police action over anti-semitic attacks at thehighest level, and my administration has backed a series of initiatives ofimportance to the Jewish community, including hosting the Anne Frank exhibition at City Hall and measures to ensure the go-ahead for the north London eruv.

Throughout the 1970s, I worked happily with the Board of Deputies in campaignsagainst the National Front. Problems began when, as leader of the GreaterLondon Council, I rejected the board's request that I should fund only Jewish organisations that it approved of. The Board of Deputies was unhappy that I funded Jewish organisations campaigning for gay rights and others thatdisagreed with policies of the Israeli governmen.

Relations with the board took a dramatic turn for the worse when I opposedIsrael's illegal invasion of Lebanon, culminating in the massacres at the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila. The board also opposed my involvementin the successful campaign in 1982 to convince the Labour party to recognise the PLO as the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people.
The fundamental issue on which we differ, as Henry Grunwald knows, is not anti-semitism - which my administration has fought tooth and nail - but thepolicies of successive Israeli governments.

To avoid manufactured misunderstandings, the policies of Israeli governmentsare not analogous to Nazism. They do not aim at the systematic extermination ofthe Palestinian people, in the way Nazism sought the annihilation of the Jews.

Israel's expansion has included ethnic cleansing. Palestinians who had lived inthat land for centuries were driven out by systematic violence and terror aimedat ethnically cleansing what became a large part of the Israeli state. The methods of groups like the Irgun and the Stern gang were the same as those of the Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic: to drive out people by terror.
Today the Israeli government continues seizures of Palestinian land for settlements, military incursions into surrounding countries and denial of theright of Palestinians expelled by terror to return. Ariel Sharon, Israel'sprime minister, is a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office.Israel's own Kahan commission found that Sharon shared responsibility for theSabra and Shatila massacres.

Sharon continues to organise terror. More than three times as many Palestiniansas Israelis have been killed in the present conflict. There are more than 7,000Palestinians in Israel's jails.

To obscure these truths, those around Israel's present government have resortedto demonisation. Initial targets were Palestinians, and have now becomeMuslims. Take the Middle East Media Research Institute, run by a former colonelin Israeli military intelligence, which poses as a source of objective information but in reality selectively translates material from Arabic and presents Muslims and Arabs in the worst possible light.

Today the Israeli government is helping to promote a wholly distorted pictureof racism and religious discrimination in Europe, implying that the most serious upsurge of hatred and discrimination is against Jews.

All racist and anti-semitic attacks must be stamped out. However, the realityis that the great bulk of racist attacks in Europe today are on black people,Asians and Muslims - and they are the primary targets of the extreme right. For20 years Israeli governments have attempted to portray anyone who forcefullycriticises the policies of Israel as anti-semitic. The truth is the opposite:the same universal human values that recognise the Holocaust as the greatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policies of successive Israeli governments - not on the absurd grounds that they are Nazior equivalent to the Holocaust, but because ethnic cleansing, discriminationand terror are immoral.

They are also fuelling anger and violence across the world. For a mayor of London not to speak out against such injustice would not only be wrong - butwould also ignore the threat it poses to the security of all Londoners.

* Ken Livingstone is the London mayor
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005