By Rick Kardonne
Jewish Tribune Correspondent
Friday, 09 May 2008
TORONTO – The United Nations came under heavy criticism by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler in a speech to a large audience of top Canadian legal personnel in the boardroom of the downtown law offices of Blaney McMurtry. This speech, The Law and Human Rights, was sponsored by The Speakers Action Group and the Canadian Jewish Legal Rights Association.
Introducing Cotler was United Church of Canada Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, moderator of the Canadian Council of Churches, who said: "For Christians, combatting racism and antisemitism is a central part of our work. We must get Canada to step up to the plate to fulfill existing commitments towards this end." Also present was Donna Holbrook of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, who recently came under fire in Sderot.
Cotler, speaking on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, began his speech by revealing that a large Rwandan contingent came to Parliament Hill to mark this grim anniversary, but that there was no Canadian press coverage.
He then said that the United Nations had failed regarding (1) the danger of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide; (2) the danger of indifference and inaction; (3) the danger of the culture of impunity and the failure to bring war criminals to justice; and (4) discrimination against Israel in the international arena.
He gave as the main example of the danger of state-sanctioned genocide Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. He accused Ahmadinejad of advocacy of genocide of Israel and of antisemitism, giving as an example the parading of a long-range Shihab missile through Tehran, which is draped with a flag that proclaims: "Wipe Israel off the map!" He even threatens Muslims who recognize Israel who will "burn in the storm," Cotler said.
"The UN Genocide Convention, which happened 60 years ago, expressly prohibits genocide. Ahmadinejad has yet to be invited. The UN Security Council must condemn Ahmadinejad. There are six possible state sanctions against Iran. Secretary-General Ban ki Moon has the right to refer Iran to the Security Council. He has not. We have a responsibility to condemn Ahmadinejad's Iran in the UN."
The second category, that of the danger of indifference and inaction, applies to Darfur in western Sudan: "400,000 have died in Darfur (killed by the Khartoum government’s Janjaweed Arab militias). Three million have been displaced; 4.5 million are on life support systems. And yet there has been no media coverage. The African Union begs for helicopters. In the Khartoum government, Ahmed Haroun, who planned the Darfur genocide, has even been promoted. China buys Sudan oil, and China is complicit to the Sudan genocide."
Cotler proposed the organization of an international summit to "put an action plan into place" against Sudan and its business partners such as China.
Regarding the third category, that of the failure to prosecute war criminals according to existing UN statutes, Cotler emphasized that in both Iran and Sudan, "few of the perpetrators have been brought to justice."
Finally, regarding the fourth category of UN human rights failure, Cotler specifically described what he called "the ongoing delegitimization of Israel under the protective cover of the UN. Israel has been denied equal access under the law. The rights of Israel merit universal respect.
"Last year there were 10 resolutions of condemnation against Israel in the UN. Iran, Sudan and China were not condemned once."
"In one week recently, the UN Human Rights Commission replaced as its Mideast chair John Dugard, who likened Israel to an 'apartheid state', with Princeton Professor Richard Falk, who likened Israel to the Nazis."
Cotler then went on to say that Montreal-born UN Human Rights Commission director Louise Arbour (much criticized for her anti-Israel bias by Alan Dershowitz when he spoke at the Sderot rally here in Toronto on Feb. 25) invited him to Beit Hanoun in Gaza with Bishop Desmond Tutu (who has also made antisemitic statements) as part of a tribunal. Cotler asked Arbour: "Is this special tribune also going to Sderot?" Louise Arbour replied: "No." Cotler then replied: "I won’t be a figleaf" and he refused to be a part of the tribunal.
"It is time that the UN return to its principles" of speaking out against all genocides and of equal treatment of all of its members, concluded Cotler. While he admitted in the brief question-and-answer period that Canada has generally been good in the UN regarding Israel, he did declare in the main speech: "It is time that Canada stand up to state-sanctioned genocide by Ahmadinejad's Iran."