The UN Human Rights Council Makes a Mockery of Human Rights

Feb. 26 2020

Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Office issued a list of businesses “involved in certain activities relating to [Jewish] settlements” in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and parts of Jerusalem. Setting aside the office’s dubious assumption that international law forbids Jews from living in the areas in question, and also setting aside its obsessive fixation on Israel, Evelyn Gordon examines the sheer absurdity of the suggestion that the companies on the list somehow violate anyone’s human rights:

[W]hat horrendous activities do these 112 companies engage in? Well, there are several supermarket chains, which sell groceries to both Israelis and Palestinians. . . . There are several fuel companies, which operate gas stations where both Israelis and Palestinians fill up their cars. . . . There are also several food and clothing manufacturers, like General Mills, Angel Bakeries, and Delta Galil, whose crime seems to consist of nothing but the fact that their cereals, bread, and underwear can be found on supermarket shelves in the West Bank, Golan Heights, and eastern Jerusalem.

By contrast, the United Nations couldn’t find a single company engaged in “captivity of the Palestinian financial and economic markets” or “practices that disadvantage Palestinian enterprises, including through restrictions on movement [or] administrative and legal constraints”—something that might actually raise human-rights concerns. And only three were involved in providing “surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall, and checkpoints directly linked with settlements,” which at least sounds sinister if you don’t realize that such equipment is merely intended to prevent terrorists from slaughtering children in their beds.

Human-rights violations used to refer to grave crimes like murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing. But now, along comes the UN Human Rights Council and says that, actually, even [the provision of] the most essential human necessities—food, water, transportation, communication—raise “particular human-rights concerns.” This turns the very idea of “human-rights concerns” into a bad joke: if every human activity is a “human-rights concern,” then nothing is.

And, as always, the biggest losers will be all the people worldwide suffering murder, torture, rape, and other genuine abuses. For their cries will be drowned out by the din of the UN’s lofty crusade against supermarkets and gas stations.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: BDS, Settlements, UNHRC

Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy