Iranian leader Ahmadinejad in Rudd's sights
Dennis Shanahan, Political editor | May 14, 2008
THE Rudd Government is preparing a case to take Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice for "inciting genocide" and denying the Jewish Holocaust.
Australia is the only nation pursuing Iran's despotic leader, who has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", through international laws.
The Australian revealed last October that Kevin Rudd, then the Opposition leader, promised the Jewish community before last year's election he would take legal proceedings in the ICJ against Mr Ahmadinejad.
The Labor leader said it was "strongly arguable" that Mr Ahmadinejad's conduct - statements about wiping Israel off the map, questioning whether Zionists were human beings and a conference that he convened on the veracity of the Holocaust - amounted to incitement to genocide, which was criminalised under the 1948 genocide convention.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who pushed the campaign against Mr Ahmadinejad when he was Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, confirmed yesterday the Government was seeking legal advice on taking Mr Ahmadinejad to the ICJ. "The Government considers the comments made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, calling for the destruction of Israel and questioning the existence of the Holocaust, to be repugnant and offensive," Mr McClelland told The Australian yesterday. "The Government is currently taking advice on this matter."
Mr McClelland had argued that taking legal action was better than other alternatives. "The alternative to not using these international legal mechanisms is considering wholesale invasion of countries, which itself involves, obviously, expense but more relevantly, ofcourse, the potential for significant loss of life," Mr McClelland said.
An Iranian government spokesman was unavailable for comment when contacted by The Australian yesterday. International pressure on Iran has grown exponentially recently with estimates that the Ahmadinejad Government could have nuclear capability within 18 months.
At the remembrance ceremony in Israel for the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state, Israeli leaders linked the horrors of the Nazi holocaust with the fears of a nuclear-armed anti-Israeli state.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "Sixty-three years have passed since the Satanic factories of death of the Nazis and their collaborators ceased to operate, yet with the passing of time, the dimensions of the Holocaust still remain beyond comprehension, unfathomably shocking, unacceptably chilling. "Who would have believed that 63 years later, hatred of Jews and Israelis would rear its ugly head in so many different places around the globe, provocatively and venomously, inciting hatred?"
Trade Minister Shaul Mofaz claimed Iran could have the technology to make a bomb this year. Earlier intelligence-based assessments suggested Iranian scientists need at least 18months to produce a bomb.
Bush slams Iran in Knesset speech
Matthew Fisher and Sheldon Alberts, Canwest News Service, Thursday, May 15, 2008
JERUSALEM - U.S. President George W. Bush told the Israeli Knesset Thursday that those who would talk with Iran or Syria were guilty of "appeasement" of a kind that once emboldened Hitler.
The remark was widely interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who has said the U.S. should not exclude talking with Iran or Syria.
"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said. "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.
U.S. President George W. Bush attend the Israeli parliament Thursday.Ariel Schalit/Pool/Getty Images
"We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Much of the president's speech to the Israeli legislators was about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the menace of terrorism and how democracies would defeat it.
"To permit the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations," Bush said during a speech that was the focal point of a three-day trip to the Holy Land to share in Israel's celebrations of the 60th anniversary of its creation.
"For the sake of peace the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Bush again pledged to help Israel remain secure. Israel was not a nation of seven million alone against its enemies, he said, but rather "when you confront terror and evil, you are 307-million strong because America stands with you."
Bush described Israel as "the freest democracy in the Middle East" and said that it was his "bold vision" that by the time the Jewish state was another 60 years older there would also be democracy in Syria and Iran.
The president also forcefully denounced anti-semitism.
"We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to civilized society so we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them," he said. "Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away."
In his second visit in four months after not setting foot here during the first seven years of his presidency, politicians and commentators alike have hailed Bush as one of the country's most loyal friends ever. At the same time there has been much comment that the next U.S. president may not be nearly as supportive of Israel as Bush has been.
Before Bush addressed the Knesset, his host, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, also spoke of the scourge of extremism and described Iran as "the greatest threat to world peace."
The prime minister, who is fighting for his political life against mounting bribery allegations, singled out "the murderous, fundamentalist threat of terror, which is devoid of any moral inhibitions, (as) the most important challenge currently facing democratic societies around the globe.
"The outcome of this confrontation will have far-reaching repercussions on the future and the way life of the free world. You, Mr. President, will be remembered as the man who courageously and without hesitation took the reins of leadership and stood firmly and determinedly against this formidable challenge."
Referring to Iran, Olmert said that while Israel did not rule out military action, "presenting a united international, political and economic front (and) more severe and effective sanctions is a necessary even if not final step" to curb the threat.
The Israeli leader recalled that it was the U.S. which was the first country to recognize his country when David Ben Gurion declared its independence in 1948; that the U.S. had provided arms when the Soviet Union gave weapons to Israel's enemies; and that when Bush's father was president he had helped Ethiopian Jews emigrate to Israel.
"The deep-rooted friendship between the United States and Israel is not an accidental one, and it cannot be taken for granted," Olmert said. "It is a friendship predicated on shared values and on a moral, human and social destiny, the main principles of which are individual liberty, social justice and peace."
Bush spent the morning touring the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman fortress at Masada near the Dead Sea. He, Olmert and their entourages rode a cable car up a steep cliff to the place where nearly 1,000 Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman legions trying to maintain control of Judea.
Back in the U.S., Obama, who has favoured direct diplomatic engagement with Iran, condemned Bush for what he perceived as a political smear against him delivered on foreign soil.
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said.
"George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people - or our stalwart ally Israel."
He said the U.S. needs "to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power - including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy - to pressure countries like Iran and Syria."
The White House denied Bush was singling out Obama for criticism, saying the president's remarks were addressed at all politicians who favour talks with radical regimes.
"I would think that all of you who cover these issues . . . have for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that President Bush thinks we should not talk to," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino to reporters. "I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you - that is not always true and it is not true in this case."
Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said he agreed with Bush's characterization about the dangers of appeasement.
While McCain did not directly accuse Obama of appeasement, the Republican senator slammed the Democratic front-runner for proposing talks with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"I think that Barack Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is the head of a government that is a state sponsor of terrorism, that is responsible for the killing of brave young Americans, that wants to wipe Israel off the map, who denies the Holocaust," McCain said in Columbus, Ohio. "That's what I think Senator Obama ought to explain to the American people.''
While Bush and Olmert were sightseeing, Palestinians, who have often accused the U.S. of being too close to Israel to be an honest broker in Middle East peace talks, held marches and launched black balloons in the air over the West Bank to recall events of 60 years ago, which they recall as the Nakba or the Catastrophe.
Bush did not specifically mention the struggling Annapolis peace process, which he initiated last fall, but he did state that he believed the Palestinians would realize their dream of having a state.
© Canwest News Service 2008
US, Israel see need for 'tangible action' on Iran nukes
By BARAK RAVID & SAHAR ILAN, Haaretz, 16 May 2008 / Iyyar 11, 5768
JERUSALEM — The United States and Israel agree on the need for "tangible action" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman said Friday, after a visit by US President George W. Bush.
"We are on the same page. We both see the threat ... And we both understand that tangible action is required to prevent the Iranians from moving forward on a nuclear weapon," Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said.
Regev described diplomatic efforts so far to exert pressure on Iran as "positive", but added: "It is clearly not sufficient and it's clear that additional steps will have to be taken".
Asked about the option of using military force, Regev said: "Leaders of many countries have talked about many options being on the table and, of course, Israel agrees with that."
Senior officials in Jerusalem said Thursday that Israel is fully satisfied with the results of Bush's visit, including policy on Iran's nuclear program.
Israel presents new 'evidence' on Iran
"In talks with the president of the United States during his visit it was made clear that Bush's statements on the subject of Iran's nuclear program are fully backed in practice," a senior official said.
The president's attitude on Iran was well known in Israel, and the expectation had been that he would use forceful language against Tehran, both during talks with Israeli officials and in his address to the Knesset, not only on the nuclear question but on Iran's role in the region.
During meetings with Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, more data was presented to back the desire for a reassessment of an American intelligence report which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
One Israeli source said that it is hoped that the new information would influence the administration's stance on Iran's nuclear program.
The source said that Olmert would discuss the subject during his visit to Washington in two weeks.
President Bush ended his three-day visit to Israel on Friday and headed for Saudi Arabia.
President and first lady take Bible Land tour
The president and First Lady Laura Bush flew out of Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport after a morning at Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, where they viewed artifacts from the time of biblical writings and spoke with young Israelis about hopes for peace.
In his address to the Knesset on Thursday, Bush promised unflinching US support. "Citizens of Israel, Masada shall never fall again, and America will always stand with you," he said.
Bush added that calls for negotiations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are akin to the efforts to appease Hitler before World War II.
The president opened his speech by saying in Hebrew: "Happy Independence Day." His address focused on the alliance between the US and Israel.
"Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you," Bush said.
"You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on America to stand at its side."
Fulfilling 'ancient promise'
He noted that Israel's Declaration of Independence "was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham, Moses, and David — a homeland for the chosen people in Eretz Yisrael."
The president also presented his vision of Israel in the next 60 years. "Israel will be celebrating its 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people."
His address was interrupted no less than 14 times by loud applause.
"America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. And America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.
"Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," the president said.
Bush accused Ahmadinejad of seeking to return the Middle East to the Middle Ages by calling for the destruction of Israel.
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," he said. "We have heard this foolish delusion before.
President manifests 'Zionist vision'"As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
After the speech made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Knesset in March, it was hard to expect a more pro-Zionist speech.
But as a former Knesset speaker, MK Reuven Rivlin, put it Thursday, "I wish our leaders would make speeches like this." Rivlin described Bush as "manifesting the Zionist vision."
Contrary to the applause Bush received for his address, the speech by Prime Minister Olmert was less popular and stirred considerable controversy.
Olmert promised that when there is a peace agreement it "will be approved by a large majority in the Knesset and it will be supported by the vast majority of the Israeli public."
Two MKs from the National Union, Zvi Hendel and Uri Ariel, left the plenum in protest, complaining that the event was "used to promote a political agenda that is opposed by most of the Israeli public."
Sanctions not the final stage
Hendel issued a statement calling on Olmert "to learn from the president of the United States what Zionism is." MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) called out during Olmert's speech, "in your dreams." He later proposed that Bush should replace Olmert.
Throughout the exchanges among the rival Israeli politicians, President Bush appeared to be enjoying himself. When Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik finished her speech, he offered his hand in a "give me five" kind of love.
On Iran, Olmert said that "the seriousness of the threat demands that no means be discounted." However, he made it clear that "a uniform international political and economic front against Iran is currently in place, and tougher and more effective sanctions are a necessary stage, even if it is not the final stage, on the right way to block the Iranian threat."
Hamas condemns the Holocaust
Bassem Naeem, May 12, 2008 2:30 PM
As the Palestinian people prepare to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba ("catastrophe") - the dispossession and expulsion of most of our people from our land - those remaining in Palestine face escalating aggression, killings, imprisonment, ethnic cleansing and siege. But instead of support and solidarity from the western media, we face frequent attempts to defend the indefensible or turn fire on the Palestinians themselves.
One recent approach, which seems to be part of the wider attempt to isolate the elected Palestinian leadership, is to portray Hamas and the population of the Gaza strip as motivated by anti-Jewish sentiment, rather than a hostility to Zionist occupation and domination of our land. A recent front page article in the International Herald Tribune followed this line, as did an article for Cif about an item broadcast on the al-Aqsa satellite TV channnel about the Nazi Holocaust.
In fact, the al-Aqsa Channel is an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement. The channel regularly gives Palestinians of different convictions the chance to express views that are not shared by the Palestinian government or the Hamas movement. In the case of the opinion expressed on al-Aqsa TV by Amin Dabbur, it is his alone and he is solely responsible for it.
It is rather surprising to us that so little attention, if any, is given by the western media to what is regularly broadcast or written in the Israeli media by politicians and writers demanding the total uprooting or "transfer" of the Palestinian people from their land.
The Israeli media and pro-Israel western press are full of views that deny or seek to excuse well-established facts of history including the Nakba of 1948 and the massacres perpetrated then by the Haganah, the Irgun and LEHI with the objective of forcing a mass dispossession of the Palestinians.
But it should be made clear that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza denies the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust was not only a crime against humanity but one of the most abhorrent crimes in modern history. We condemn it as we condemn every abuse of humanity and all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or nationality.
And at the same time as we unreservedly condemn the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, we categorically reject the exploitation of the Holocaust by the Zionists to justify their crimes and harness international acceptance of the campaign of ethnic cleansing and subjection they have been waging against us - to the point where in February the Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened the people of Gaza with a "holocaust".
Within 24 hours, 61 Palestinians - more than half of them civilians and a quarter children - were killed in a series of air raids. Meanwhile, a horrible crime against humanity continues to be perpetrated against the people of Gaza: the two-year-old siege imposed after Hamas won the legislative elections in January 2006, which is causing great suffering. Due to severe shortages of medicines and food, scores of Palestinians have lost their lives.
It cannot be right that Europeans in general and the British in particular maintain a virtual silence toward what the Zionists are doing to the Palestinians, let alone supporting or justifying their oppressive policies, under the pretext of showing sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust.
The Palestinian people aspire to freedom, independence and peaceful coexistence with all their neighbours. There are, today, more than six million Palestinian refugees. No less than 700,000 Palestinians have been detained at least once by the Israeli occupation authorities since 1967. Hundreds of thousands have so far been killed or wounded. Little concern seems to be caused by all of this or by the erection of an apartheid wall that swallows more than 20% of the West Bank land or the heavily armed colonies that devour Palestinian land in a blatant violation of international law.
The plight of our people is not the product of a religious conflict between us and the Jews in Palestine or anywhere else: the aims and positions of today's Hamas have been repeatedly spelled out by its leadership, for example in Hamas's 2006 programme for government. The conflict is of a purely political nature: it is between a people who have come under occupation and an oppressive occupying power.
Our right to resistance against occupation is recognised by all conventions and religious traditions. The Jews are for us the people of a sacred book who suffered persecution in European lands. Whenever they sought refuge, Muslim and Arab lands provided them with safe havens. It was in our midst that they enjoyed peace and prosperity; many of them held leading positions in Muslim countries.
After almost a century of Zionist colonial and racist oppression, some Palestinians find it hard to imagine that some of their oppressors are the sons and daughters of those who were themselves oppressed and massacred.
Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust but find themselves punished for someone else's crime. But we are well aware and warmly welcome the outspoken support for Palestinian rights by Israeli and Jewish human rights activists in Palestine and around the world.
We hope that journalists in the west will begin to adopt a more objective approach when covering events in Palestine. The Palestinian people are being killed by Israel's machine of destruction on a daily basis. Nevertheless, we still see a clear bias in favour of Israel in the western media.
The Europeans bear a direct responsibility for what is befalling the Palestinians today. Britain was the mandate authority that handed over Palestine to Israeli occupation. Nazi Germany perpetrated the most heinous crimes against Jews, forcing the survivors to migrate to Palestine in pursuit of safety. We, therefore, expect the Europeans to atone for their historic crimes by restoring some balance to the inhuman and one-sided international response to the tragedy of our people.
Fredrick Töben comments: The following article confirms my personal experience before the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity, i.e. that individuals working there are politically motivated and have little sense of justice. For example, that truth is not a defence in any of the proceedings and that a ‘hurt feeling’ can find someone guilty is the arbitration standard applied by those who work there. Anyone can have a hurt feeling because it is part of our human make-up – if we let ourselves be hurt! When I first became involved with the HREOC in 1996 then conciliator Kirsty Gowan, who left soon after, informed me that the HREOC is an international political body. Paul Sheehan succinctly sums up HREOC’s nature: “… the deeply ideological nature of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, a fundamentally parasitic and punative institution.” That Australia’s HREOC is merely following the pattern set by Canada’s Human Rights Commission is illustrated in the articles that follow Paul Sheehan’s.
Lawyers, mugs and money
Paul Sheehan, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 April 2008
At the grandiose conference held at the weekend, no one appeared to be grappling with the social cancer of our time: the rising tide of litigation, compulsion, intrusion, the creeping sense of entitlement over obligation, the proliferation of tribunals.
Australia is becoming a society under the rule of lawyers, not law.
What goes on in our courtrooms and tribunals bears only a passing resemblance to the moral code by which the vast bulk of society lives and which maintains social cohesion.
This stark divide was sistilled unintentionally, in the April issue of the Law Society Journal, in a review of The Making of Me, by Tegan Wagner, the story of her gang rape, her ordeal with the legal system and her efforts to reclaim her life. The book is reviewed by Andrew Haesler, SC, who happens to be one of the three senior barristers who cross-examined Wagner, then 17, over a period of three days.
After offering faint praise, Haesler writes: “Her desperate desire for affirmation and self-righteous tone irritates, in a way the parents of a teenager would know. Tegan is not a dispassionate observer. Her critique of the trial process suffers as a consequence…
“Tegan claims she was raped by three brothers. Only two were convicted. I acted for the brother who was acquitted. There were sound reasons for that acquittal. Tegan’s ‘fairer’ system would have seen my client jailed for a very long time. Her rapes were unjust and wrong, but so, too, would be the conviction and long-term imprisonment of an innocent boy.”
Excuse me while I go and vomit.
Innocent Boy had already been convicted of gang rape. Twice. He was serving time in jail after being sentenced by Justice Brian Sully on April 22, 2004, more than a year before Wagner was cross-examined in May 2005.
Innocent Boy avoided trial by jury because his elder brother, and co-accused, had deliberately aborted the trial.
Innocent Boy avoided conviction in this matter because Justice Peter Hidden, even though he made it clear to Wagner that he did not doubt the veracity of her testimony, said she could not convict in the absence of any corroborating evidence.
Innocent Boy bis now the subject of a fourth gang-rape complaint, completely independent of the three earlier gang-rape cases.
As for Haesler’s advocacy on behalf of Innocent Boy, I was in court at the time and this is a taste of what I saw:
Haesler: “I suggest that in your evidence … you invented much of what happened in the bedroom?”
Wagner: “I didn’t invent anything.”
Haesler: “I suggest that both in your evidence and in the tapes you have hidden some of the things that you know occurred in the bedroom?”
Wagner: “I didn’t hide anything. Everything that I remember I put down in my statement …”
Haesler: “I suggest to you then you have not told the truth about who you went into the bedroom with initially?”
Wagner: “No, I have told the truth…”
Haesler: “Then I suggest that you have invented or added at least one extra person?”
Wagner: “I have not invented or added anybody. It was three.”
Haesler: You agree that your memory was affected in some respect by what occurred that night?”
Thatw as the core of his case: confusion or invention by the witness. It took him 432 questions. All up, the three defence counsel asked the victim 1971 questions, during which they repeatedly questioned her veracity and reliability.
Given the complete absence of any significant reform in this area, it comes as only a mild surprise to learn that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, has entered new territory by lodging a complaint with the Legal Services Commission over the recent conduct of a defence barrister in a rape case, Tania Evers. Aftyer a marathon three days of cross-examination of a 15-year alleged victim by Evers, the trial judge, David Freeman, aborted the trial because he said the marathon defence cross-examination had caused the trial to “run off the rails”.
The alleged victim, whow as 13 at the time of the rape, must face another trial, if she can. This is the parallel morality of our court system at work. This is the closed logic of the justice system, where juries are actively prevented – by law and by practice – from accessing any and all material they might wish to access in making a moral judgment.
Reform? You must be joking. You only have to glance at the weekend’s ideas conference in Canberra, where, far from even acknowledging the rising tide of litigation, compulsion and intrudion, there were more calls from more lawyers for more laws, more codesw amd more avenues for litigation.
Perhaps the most disgraceful contribution was the waxen stupidity of the federal Human Rights Commisioner, Graham Innes, who advocated a bill of rights.
It appears never to have occurred to him that in so doing he would be confirming the deeply ideological nature of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, a fundamentally parasitic and punative institution.
The commission, like the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and their clones in other states, exist as a punitive tool for the vexatious, the dogmatic, the axe-grinders and grudge-holders who can exploit the nebulous area of “humanm rights” to cause pain through process.
The result doesn’t matter to them. It’s the burden of accusation that counts. That’s why Islamic fundamentalists wage war against evangelical Christians through the human rights and discrimination machinery. They do so because they can.
Nothing was said at the weekend talkfest to allay fears about this creeping evolution of our legal system away from open democracy, towards the primacy of international law over Australian law and towards the shift of power away from elected parliaments to unelected tribunals.
[- bold emphasis added by AI]
RCMP launches investigation into CHRC tactics
By Ezra Levant, May 20, 2008 12:32 AM
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have begun an investigation into alleged criminal conduct by members of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
An officer of Bell Canada, appearing under a subpoena, testified that the CHRC had hacked into a private citizen's Internet account, to cover their electronic tracks as they surfed anti-Semitic websites under the alias "Jadewarr". You can read the transcript of the hearing here -- a transcript the CHRC did not release to the public.
The victim of the CHRC's illegal hacking, Nelly Hechme, told reporters that she was "completely shocked" by the CHRC's conduct. Canada's Privacy Commissioner, who has jurisdiction over the CHRC, is now investigating the matter.
But not even the CHRC's most passionate critics could have imagined that the Mounties would be investigating the CHRC.
According to this letter written two weeks ago by the Ottawa Police Service, a criminal complaint filed against the CHRC by Marc Lemire has now been referred to the RCMP's Integrated Technological Crime Unit. Here is the key excerpt from that letter:
After a full consideration of all aspects of the matter, it is our opinion that this matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We have discussed this matter with the RCMP and the matter has been assigned to Cpl Stephane Turgeon.
I expect that the RCMP will be in touch with you...
So what happens now? Can the Conservative government really keep using its old talking points, including these two, to avoid dealing with the issue?
The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are independent agencies that administer the Canadian Human Rights Act, according to procedures specified by the law, without interference from the government.
The Department of Justice continues to monitor the Commission and Tribunal to ensure that our human rights system remains effective.
Just how bad does it have to get before the government stops saying that the CHRC follows "procedures specified by the law"? We've got the Privacy Commissioner and the RCMP investigating now. What does it take to get the government's attention -- a NATO airstrike?
And how about the claim that the government is "monitoring" the CHRC to ensure that it "remains effective". Effective at what? Hacking Internet accounts? Shredding their records and deleting their hard drives? Staying out of jail? What exactly about the CHRC's conduct could be called "effective"?
Question: when the RCMP investigates CHRC staff, will the CHRC pay for their criminal lawyers? If so, is that an indication that those CHRC staff hacked the website in the course of their duties?
Until two weeks ago, the Conservative government had plausible deniability about the CHRC's corruption. But not any longer. The Justice Department's 50-page defence of the CHRC's prosecutions under section 13 moved the government from "neutral" into the "pro-CHRC" camp. That was bad policy. And now an RCMP investigation means the government has to do much more than just defend a bad law -- it means it has to defend a scandal. That's bad politics.
The Conservatives have had an excuse for not cleaning up the CHRC's stables: for six months, they've been preparing for an imminent election. Now that Stephane Dion has all but acknowledged that won't happen at least until the fall, it's time for the Conservatives to act, and to act swiftly.
I've got a three-word action plan when it comes to the CHRC: Fire. Them. All.
Tuesday May 19, 2008
CENSORSHIP ON TRIAL: CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSOCIATION APPLIES TO INTERVENE IN IMPORTANT FREE SPEECH CASES
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is applying for leave to intervene in two important free speech cases before the federal and British Columbia human rights tribunals. At issue in both cases is whether the expression of controversial, even hateful expressions can be censored by the state via tribunals that traditionally protect the value of equality by sanctioning discrimination.
BCCLA President Rob Holmes: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic value. Citizens of a democracy should be trusted to form their own judgments about the views expressed by others, including controversial and offensive comments. The BCCLA will seek to protect basic Charter rights so that opinions on all matters, including religion, can continue to be debated freely and without fear through all media of communication.”
Federally in Warman v. Marc Lemire and Freedomsite, the complaint focuses on anti-Semitic postings on a website run by Marc Lemire. In Elmasry and Habib v. Rogers Publishing Ltd., the complainants object to an article by Mark Steyn’s entitled “The Future Belongs to Islam” that was published in McLean’s magazine in 2006.
Both the Canadian Human Rights Act and British Columbia’s Human Rights Code have provisions that prohibit the publication of material that is likely to promote hatred or contempt against an individual or group because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or group.
The BCCLA is Canada’s leading defender of free expression. The Association takes the position that citizens have a responsibility to condemn hateful speech and that the remedy to obnoxious, hurtful speech is to promote counter expression rather than permit state censorship.
BCCLA Vice-President Jason Gratl and Micah Rankin of Hunter Litigation Chambers represent the Association.
Robert Holmes, President
Grace Pastine, Litigation Director
Little or no time for Palestinians in Parliament
Alan Ramsey, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2008
Whatever you think of the Rudd Government's first budget, know that the Labor Party's national secretary, Tim Gartrell, is a happy man. Gartrell is the bloke who has to find the money to fund Labor's election campaigns. As such, Gartrell turned budget night into a nice little earner, thank you. Labor took over the Great Hall of the Parliament, closed it to the general public for the night, and charged $2000 a ticket for a seat at a dinner table (for 10) hosted by a minister or parliamentary secretary, and $500 for a seat at a dinner table hosted by a Labor backbencher.
The Great Hall's sit-down capacity is 750. The Government's executive capacity is 42 ministers and parliamentary secretaries. At $18,000 for 42 "top" tables and $4500 for 33 "also-ran" tables - less costs of about $150 a head - the return to Labor Party election funds had to be not less than $800,000. Plus another hefty bag from a so-called "Labor Business Forum, budget briefing" breakfast, sponsored by Leighton Holdings, which Gartrell organised in the Parliament's second-floor Mural Hall (capacity 450) the morning after budget night. An additional $250,000, at least. We'll know officially later this year.
Good budget business indeed.
Recall another Rudd Government "event" two months ago, this time sponsored by the Prime Minister and co-sponsored by the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson. That was the 60th anniversary motion in which half the Australian Parliament - the House of Representatives - "celebrated" Israel's creation in May 1948 by a vote of the United Nations which ceded the Jewish people a homeland of half of Palestine. There was no debate of Kevin Rudd's motion. Simply two speeches, by Rudd and Nelson, and later a reception hosted by the Israeli ambassador. The date was March 13.
Five weeks later, on April 23, the Melbourne organisation Women for Palestine wrote separately to Rudd and to Nelson, asking if they would "consider favourably" similarly sponsoring a parliamentary motion recognising May 15, the actual date of the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation, as a day of "catastrophe, dispossession, displacement, exile and occupation" for the 700,000 Palestinians who'd lost their homes, their land and, in many cases, their lives in May 1948.
The letters were sent express post. Women for Palestine also emailed each of the Parliament's 226 politicians. The group got one reply - an acknowledgement from the office of Adelaide's Kate Ellis, Rudd's junior Minister for Youth and Sport. Nothing else. Nothing from Rudd or Nelson, either.
In the Parliament this week, two women MPs tried to prick their colleagues' consciences. The Greens senator Kerry Nettle and Labor's Julia Irwin, both from Sydney, tabled motions in the Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Irwin was allowed three minutes to speak on Wednesday, not in the House chamber itself but in the auxiliary main committee room. She said, in part:
"Eight years ago, I visited Israel and the occupied territories. The experience changed my views.
Today we remember what Palestinians call al-Nakba, the catastrophe. Sixty years ago, Palestinians fled their homes to escape massacres. Can those of us in Western nations, who have expressed congratulations to Israel on its 60th birthday, not spare a moment to remember the suffering of the Palestinian people 60 years ago, and the daily consequences of their dispossession, displacement, exile and occupation? Today those 700,000 Palestinian refugees have grown to 7 million. Four million live under illegal occupation. Three million live as non-citizens in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and other countries. Palestine was never a land without a people. "Today it is a people without a land."
Kerry Nettle's motion on Thursday urged, in part: "That the Senate (a) acknowledges and sympathises with the Palestinians whose homes were destroyed or seized and family members killed 60 years ago at the inception of the state of Israel, which the Palestinians call al-Nakba, the catastrophe; (2) remembers with shame the failure of the international community to prevent the bloody events that followed the unilateral declaration of independent statehood by Israeli leaders; (3) acknowledges the unique relationship between Australia and Palestine, commends the Palestinian Authority's commitment to democracy, reiterates Australia's commitment to Palestine's right to exist and our ongoing support to the peaceful establishment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and on this, the 60th anniversary, pledges friendship and enduring support to the people of Palestine".
There was no debate. Nettle did not get to speak in support of what she wanted her colleagues to do. What the Senate then did was throw out Nettle's motion by 48 votes to five, with 23 senators declining to vote. The entire exercise - the reading of the motion and subsequent vote - took nine minutes. Julia Irwin had got three minutes.
Israel protests UN chief Ban Ki-Moon's use of term 'nakba'
By Rotem Sela, TheMarker Correspondent, and Haaretz Service, 16 May 2008
The Israeli mission to the United Nations is seeking clarifications after an official communique released by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's bureau made specific reference to the word "nakba," according to a report broadcast on Israel Radio early Friday morning.
The report said the UN chief telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express his solidarity with the Palestinians on the day they mark the "nakba," the Arabic word meaning "catastrophe" that is used in reference to the founding of the state of Israel.
Danny Carmon, Israel's deputy ambassador to the UN, told Israel Radio that the term "'nakba' is a tool of Arab propaganda used to undermine the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel, and it must not be part of the lexicon of the UN."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday said that the Palestinians will be able to celebrate their independence day on the same day that the word "nakba" or catastrophe is erased from their lexicon. Livni was referring to the Palestinians' "Nakba Day" which is commemorated on May 15, the day Israel was founded in 1948.
Speaking at the closing panel of the "Facing Tomorrow" presidential conference in Jerusalem, Livni said that Israel needs a constitution, and stressed that since Israel views itself as a Jewish democratic state, it must take into account that it will have to relinquish territories. However, she said, land will only be handed over after the Palestinians change their stance.
"Deciding on fixed borders is important, but not enough; before we draw up a border we must decide what will be on the other side of it," she said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also addressed the crowd in Jerusalem, saying that "there is no future for a nation that doesn't know its past."
After giving an overview of the history of the state of Israel, Barak said that of all the events that Israel has experienced, the one thing that he remembers most is the day that he met Ronny, the female fighter pilot from Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot, who symbolized for him the long way the Jewish people had come since the Holocaust. "Ronny flies in circles 30,000 feet over Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot, which was established in memory of those who fought in the Holocaust," he said.
Though he called for peace in his address, Barak chose to disparage those who urge immediate peace negotiations with the Palestinians, saying "the saying 'the wolf shall dwell with the lamb' came out of Jerusalem, but in practice, the lamb is replaced every few days."
Opposition leader and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu began his address before the conference with a focus on finance. He said that Israel could turn into an "Israeli tiger" ? referencing the Celtic tiger, a nickname given to Ireland following its rapid financial development since the mid 1990s.
"Israel can enjoy 6-8 percent growth each year over the next decade," the former finance minister said. He emphasized the importance of the reforms that he had instituted during his tenure as finance minister, which, according to him, directly resulted in the financial growth Israel has enjoyed in recent years.
All three speakers chose to emphasize the importance of education in their speeches. Barak said that Israel's only resource was the gray matter between the ears of Israel's younger generation. He added that the only way to achieve security and prosperity was to invest in education.http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/984009.html
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