Friday, February 18, 2011

Fallen Figleaf- the US veto of its own policy.

Washington Draws a Line in the Sand on Settlements -- With Palestine
By Ian Williams, February 18, 2011 FPIF

It’s tough being a naked superpower when the caterpillars munch away your fig leaf.

In real terms it makes Chamberlain at Munich look like a stickler for principle. The President and Secretary of State of the United States have been pleading and pressuring over Israeli settlements, which Washington opposes.

But who are they pleading with? Who are they cajoling and pressuring? Not the Israeli president building the settlements, but President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, to withdraw the Security Council resolution which expresses the sentiment of the entire world -- including the US -- that the settlements are illegal. In real terms it makes Chamberlain at Munich look like a stickler for principle.

To head off this disastrous dilemma heading to impale its Middle Eastern policy, the US had drafted an ineffectual and in any case non-binding statement that admitted to the “illegitimacy” of settlements in the West Bank, but spent more space condemning ineffectual rocket attacks from Gaza.

But Abbas had no option but to go ahead and put the resolution to the vote. It won 14 to one, with US Ambassador Susan Rice casting a veto.

The administration was scared that it would either be forced to support its own policy in the Security Council and thus risk an excreta tempest from AIPAC -- or that it would veto a resolution that it agrees with and humiliate itself in front of the rest of world, including its real allies in NATO.

“We reject in the strongest terms possible the legitimacy of the continued settlement building,” inveighed Rice, while ferociously condemning them as “folly,” bad for Israel as well. However that just reinforced the international message that the Israeli tail was wagging the American dog to vote against its own policy.

A positive vote would have sent a serious signal to Netanyahu not to trifle with his only protector and major paymaster. However, all Netanyahu has had to do is to refer to the even more crazed ideologues who surround him, who will not hear of “concessions” on settlements. But poor Abbas, beleaguered by WikiLeaks showing him trying to kill the Goldstone Report under US pressure and showing what most Palestinians regard as an overflexible, indeed supine, negotiating posture in the peace talks, is assumed not to have a domestic constituency he has to care for.

One would have thought that after Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain, this administration would have picked up some hints about diplomacy, not least that diktats and dollars to proxy dictators does not make for stable relationships. But the world’s rapidly attenuating super power was reduced to covering for a coalition of deranged rabbis, likudnik-inclined millionaires, Neocons and evangelical Christian Zionists in the UN Security Council.

It did so in front of a Security Council packed with most of the General Assembly members who have expressed their negative views on settlement over and over again to vote on a resolution sponsored by a wide geographical and ideological range of states -- including many EU and NATO members. The resolution was moved by Lebanon, whose ambassador eschewed inflammatory rhetoric and merely cited successive Security Council resolutions, World Court opinions and Geneva Conventions on the issue not to mention Israel’s own commitments under the Quartet’s “Road Map.”

Tip O’Neill’s dictum “All politics is local” is not always true. For a start, polls show that most American Jews oppose Netanyahu and his settlement policy. But more cogently, the masses of Arab citizens on the streets of their rapidly reforming countries bitterly oppose the settlements, and will draw their own conclusions from the Obama policy.

To stop AIPAC huffing and puffing, the Obama administration is about to lose Egypt, Tunisia and much of the rest of the Middle East and erase the last faint hopes of the region that the US can in any way give genuine support to democracy or international law. The disillusionment is going to be all the more profound because of the betrayal of the spirit of Obama’s early speeches in Istanbul and Cairo. Instead of sending serious signal to Netanyahu not to trifle with your only protector, he is now confirmed in his obduracy. And Arabs and other world citizens are even more convinced of US duplicity.

Obama also has yet another crisis coming. The UK, on behalf of France and Germany as well, promised to do all it could to welcome Palestine as a UN member by this September, thereby pushing yet another hot button for AIPAC -- and thus the administration.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Centenary of Bonzo's Co-Star

Ian Williams

Not just gonzos still carry a torch for Bonzo star
by Ian Williams
Tribune, February 11th, 2011

Not since Lenin has there been such a cult. They named Washington’s national airport after Ronald Reagan even while he was alive, but at least there isn’t a Capitol Hill mausoleum enshrining the pickled president. But then, looking at him while he was alive, one sometimes suspected that the embalmers began their work in vivo. As for the airport, there is a macabre synergy in naming an airport after a third-rate actor who hated government and had striking air traffic controllers arrested and manacled.

For many, an unsurprising news announcement was the one that, in American media at least, solemnly shared the news that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s four years after he left the White House. One of his sons shares the more general apprehension that the man with his finger on the nuclear trigger was already suffering from it during his first term.

Nonetheless, across the United States this week, distinguished mainstream commentators, including, sadly, Barack Obama, are celebrating the centenary of the man whose presidency killed the rising prosperity of the post-war years, and whose ideologically-based extravagances are still unwinding in record deficits and the steady collapse of US power and prestige.

One only has to look at two American industries whose growth is in inverse proportion to American industry. The first is the prison complex. When he took office, the incarceration rate was 246 per 100,000 people. When he finished his second term it was on the way to doubling to 435. But like much of his baleful legacy, the trends that he started continue: the United States now has the highest rate in the world, at 751.

His other contribution to growth was to the military industrial complex his predecessor Dwight D Eisenhower identified. He doubled defence spending while in office, from $167 million to $343 billion and the trajectory he launched continues with over $930 billion this year budget. The other graphs to watch are those of average earnings of poor and working Americans, which have been effectively static since his election, and those of the richest Americans which have been steadily soaring ever since, as have the personal debts of working people. Pledged to reduce taxes, he paid the for arms bills and the tax cuts with massive borrowing that ran the national debt up to 50 per cent of gross domestic product. At the same time, Reagan espoused a visceral anti-government ideology (that did not apply to prisons, the police or the military) which famously deemed ketchup to count as a vegetable for school meals.

His policies crashed the US economy the way Margaret Thatcher did to Britain’s. And after the lean years of contraction, the recovery was counted as vindication of the policies that caused the original disaster. The deregulation over which he presided gave the US what was at the time the world’s biggest financial scandal, the $160 billion Savings & Loans debacle. It then went on, ever onwards and upwards, to our current derivatives armageddon. After his departure, Americans were in no doubt about his record. In 1992, fewer than a quarter of Americans thought they were better off after his two terms, while 48 per cent of them viewed him unfavorably, compared with 40 per who were prepared to give him a break.

It is unfair to blame Reagan himself. He was an affable duffer, who sincerely believed in the lines that the cabal around him wrote. That script tapped deep into the national ethos, in the same way that the Tea Party does. Sarah Palin, who does not have the excuse of Alzheimer’s for her ignorance, showed what a deep reservoir of simplicity and reflexive conservative stupidity there is to tap. But if any Brits feel superior, please explain the statue of the co-star of Bedtime for Bonzo now standing in Grosvenor Square.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Word from the Sphinx

FPIF - 13 February 2010
Ordinary Egyptians Have Little to Show for U.S. Military Aid to Egypt

Ian Williams

It was fairly clear that the military would act after Mubarak’s and Suleiman’s ineptly provocative speeches. The motives for forcing him out were almost certainly multi-faceted - and indeed confused. Certainly the gnomic communiques from the Supreme Army Council could have been drafted by the Sphinx for their calculated obscurity.

On the side of pragmatic self-interest, the senior commanders of the military have had a good deal out of the regime, with profits and jobs in all the military-related and controlled industries, not to mention the prestige and other perquisites of power. The senior commanders seem to have calculated that their only chance of keeping their position and privileges was to go with the flow and tell Mubarak to leave.

If they had ordered the army against the protestors they faced a real problem. Would the conscripts and junior officers follow orders and move against their fellow citizens? Mubarak’s announcement of his departure by September and his other concessions profoundly reduced the chances of the military personnel risking their lives, not to mention their honor, for a self-admitted lost cause.

So now the issue is one for delicate compromises. The opposition leaders and the military have to negotiate the proportions of power sharing. The high command will be trying to maintain its power, but their position is weakened: if they are too greedy, then they have to think of the tens of millions who took to the streets and are now confirmed in their potential power. In addition, much of the military does indeed share the sentiments of the protestors, and so their commanders are playing with a weak hand.

The transition will be difficult. Washington has seen it in terms of a move from one amenable strong leader to another more acceptable but equally amenable one. The EU and US preference for Omar Suleiman, a secret policeman in cahoots with what most Egyptians regard as inimical powers, demonstrates how out of touch they are. They have looked at opposition leaders such as Mohammed El-Baradei as potential strongmen and found them wanting.

But that is precisely their attraction. El-Baradei, or retiring Arab League ambassador Amr ElMousa, should be considered as conveners, whose absence from domestic politics and wrangling could make them impartial and consensual spokesmen. El-Baradei showed his integrity under pressure from the UN and others and gained stature, which is perhaps why some of the chattering classes in Washington, who have never forgiven him for that, have been so eager to suggest his unpopularity.

The last thing Egypt wants is a presidential system concentrating power in one person. To replace decades of autocracy will take a parliamentary consensual system that reflects the views of the disparate masses and interests who rallied to overthrow the President - and as they showed the last two days - the regime.

Anyone who knows Egyptians knows their deep interest in politics and international affairs and the evidence of the last weeks certainly indicates they will not revert to becoming passive subjects again.

What are the international repercussions? Washington and the West will now have to take account of the wishes of the Egyptian people rather than rely upon a bribed autocracy. That certainly should reduce the perennial tendency to see the region through Israeli eyes.

It is unlikely that anyone wants to rip up the peace treaty with Israel. There will be no military assault on Israel. But a government in Cairo looking over its shoulder at a newly enfranchised and staunchly patriotic people is unlikely to enforce the blockade against Gaza, or to help Western efforts to frustrate Hamas/Fateh reconciliation. That degree of security cooperation is almost certainly over and the unpopular sales of Egyptian natural gas to Israel will likely be called into question.

But even the US-Egyptian alliance will need much more work and attention than sending a large annual check to the army. Ordinary Egyptians have seen little practical benefit from alleged American friendship, which has taken the form of supporting their oppressors and to some extent impinging on their patriotism by enforcing cooperation with Israel.

In a situation of diminished American power, Washington’s best bet is to sit on the sidelines and applaud, unless it makes it clear that the money to the military stops immediately if it does not reflect the legitimacy established by the street.

One significant and practical gesture would be cooperation in tracking down and returning to the new government the money that Mubarak and his colleagues have looted over the decades.

For the future, Obama needs some more public diplomacy. In the long term, the military aid has to be diverted to civilian uses, and even expanded. But an Obama who does stand up to Netanyahu over settlements is unlikely to have much standing in front of the Arab street - as will be reinforced in the other autocratic dominoes that might topple.

Any suggestion that the US will only welcome a democratically elected regime if it hews to American preconceptions about Israel, or that its welcome will be tempered if Islamic parties are represented in the new government, is guaranteed to be counterproductive.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Voluntary Slavery

The Huffington Post is emblematic of the British Conservative Party's
Big Society project. You do the work for free, and we will rake in the money.
Arianna Huffington and her partners are selling the title for $315 million.

I was asked a long time ago if I'd like to write for the Huffington Post, and lost interest as soon as my enquiries about the rates paid produced the answer that it was all done for the cause.

The numerous, and often accomplished, contributors were paid nothing. And nor will they get any share of that $315 million value that they created. I do hope they will switch off their word processors together, at once.

I remember Arianna Stassinopolopous when she was a social climbing Cambridge graduate who rode to talk show fame on the back of close relationship with rebarbative commentator Bernard Levin. And then she disappeared without trace only to resurface in California as devoted spouse and soulmate of Michael Huffington, the eccentric super-rich, super-conservative who after the divorce admitted to being bisexual. His one good deed was to demonstrate that the USA was not a completely locked down plutocracy, since his Senate bid failed despite massive expenditures on his (and her part).

I next came across her at, of all things, a Nation, alleged teach-in on Kosovo intervention in 1999. As I elaborated later, I could not help wondering to what extent the battles were tribal for her. Serbs, like Greeks, were Orthodox and good, while Kosovars were Muslim and hence bad (a view expressed with even more overt Islamophobic tendencies by Tom Hayden at the event.) She continued in her Milosevic apologist role for some time afterwards, but it was still difficult to sort out her politics, since after all people from the Chetniks and Cato Institute to Noam Chomsky acolytes (and the Nation ) agreed with her.

But then she seemed to be doing good work for a decade or so, despite almost pioneering a new literary form, the blook a bound and printed collection of blogs. I must confess to some doubts re-emerging when Rupert Murdoch turned up at her blook launch party in New York later.

And now we have AOL, whose shares are heading to the buggy whip industry level paying inflated sums in the hope that her name will bring back glory and readers.
But will the liberally inclined readership who were desperate for lively non-Fox news still come. Will those contributors keep lending their free labour for the sake of AOL executive bonuses and Arianna's glory, not least since in her public pronouncements, she seems to be regretting her leftist flirtations. Almost simultaneously, the snotty nosed supercilious editorialists at the Economists were marveling that British middle class volunteers in the national forests expressed unwillingness to carry on volunteering if the Tory government privatized them. They could not see that working for free to make someone else rich is a form of voluntary servitude, an historically rare condition - except for the Huffington Post

Somehow, I cannot help but think that this necrophiliac coupling will see both participants shuffling off this mortal coil.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pray for Democracy - But Not Just Yet...

Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood Trumps Western Wishes for Democracy in Egypt

By Ian Williams, February 3, 2011 FPIF

Muslim Brotherhood(Pictured: The Muslim Brotherhood.)

It might suit such pundits as Blair, Bolton and Netanyahu to pretend that Egyptians are too uneducated and ignorant to be trusted with democracy, but I would put my money on the political literacy of the Egyptians en masse over Americans any day.

One cannot help but suspect that what they mean by “ignorant” is that they support the Palestinians. That is not to say that they necessarily want to rush to war, but certainly the unholy tradeoffs in enforcing the blockade on Gaza are deeply unpopular. The rising was certainly inspired by domestic concerns, economic and democratic, but the delegitimizing effect of pro-Israeli support for the regime should not be underestimated, not least inside the Army, which after all has fought Israel repeatedly.

That is not to say a future regime would declare war or rip up Camp David. Rather it would probably emulate Turkey, and maintain polite but chilly relations with Israel. Cairo will be less biddable, whether from Israel or the US. While Bolton, a deep harborer of grudges, reviles Mohamed El Baradei, it is worth remembering that the present government, along with him, and indeed putative rival Amr Al-Moussa, are all on the record as wanting Israel to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Who can oppose a call for democracy? Well, John Bolton, Peres and Netanyahu can, not to mention Tony Blair, who described Mubarak as “immensely courageous, and a force for good,” even as his mercenary thugs brought blood and mayhem to the streets of Cairo. And of course the time-expired President of Palestine, Mohamed Abbas.

The outright support of Netanyahu and his friends for the alleged stability of the Mubarak regime certainly tempers the enthusiasm of many others in the chattering classes in the US, for toppling the regime in Cairo, including the Obama administration. Ironically their various pronouncements in favor of Mubarak and his anointed deputy Omar Suleiman are very effective stakes through the heart of the regime.

However, Netanyahu, Peres and Blair are following a long tradition of American policy towards Egypt that has for long time been effectively amoral, with no ethical dimension at all. It did not care what happened to Egyptians as long their government did what it was told.

Consistently, from Sandy Berger and Clinton and even before, democracy has been sidelined as a US policy in the Arab world. Originally, any Arab regime that did not threaten Israel had a free pass for torture and repression, but after 9-11, Muslims, Arabs, terrorists all became blurred in the popular mind – and even in Washington policy-making circles.

So for Egypt, democracy would all be fine, if there weren’t a strong chance that the Muslim Brothers would be elected and at least share power. People who are quite happy to respect Catholic dominated Christian Democrats across Europe, rabbi-led parties in Israel, and dare one add, Evangelical dominated Republicans in the US, confess to frissons of fear at the thought that the Muslim Brotherhood will play a large part in a new reformed Egyptian administration.

Just as everybody knows that every Catholic is an inquisitor waiting with a box of matches next to the stake, viscerally, Americans know every Muslim is a terrorist. Fortunately, the images of the peaceful, articulate and passionate demonstrators in Tahrir Square belied that.

It is an ironic comment on consistently failed US policy that if Washington had not stopped the funding for the Aswan Dam under Nasser, the total of $35 billion in military aid, which began as a bribe to wean Cairo away from the Soviets, might have been unnecessary, let alone if the US had maintained its principles. Remember, back in 1956, the US had threatened to crash the currencies of its two biggest allies, Britain and France, and Israel if the three conspirators did not pull out from the Sinai they had just occupied.

Of course the US could withhold aid to Egypt if it elected a new government that was, shall we say, less amenable to Israeli wishes. However, since most of this money is immediately recycled to American weapons makers and does not impinge on ordinary citizens, it is hardly a potent threat to the nation. But if Obama is serious about democratization, he could mention the possibility of stopping the dollars flowing to the Egyptian high command who along with Mubarak, are the major beneficiaries of this largesse.

In fact, there is some doubt whether the bulk of the Army would actually obey orders to move against the demonstrators. Its popular legitimacy derives from its wars against invaders, which is somewhat challenged when the President is endorsed by those who most Egyptians, military and civilian see as the enemy. Perhaps the most potent images which demoralized the police and security forces and deprived them and the regime of legitimacy were the water cannons deployed against praying demonstrators.

The absence of the uniformed security forces and indeed their visible reluctance to stand their ground against demonstrators suggests that demoralization has already set in, while the unleashing of paid thugs that we have seen is reminiscent of the last days of the Indonesians in East Timor, Ceausescu in Romania and other crumbling regimes.

Indeed Mubarak might want to check over the reports of the downfall of the Romanian dictator, where it was the army that decided, under cover of popular protest, the best way to calm things down was to put him in front of kangaroo court and shoot him.

Obama cannot claim non-interference. Washington’s financial, military and diplomatic support for Mubarak are already an intervention. A clear signal that it was all ending could motivate the armed forces leaders to seek a Mubarak-free accommodation with the opposition and ensure an orderly transition to democracy.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Do Unto Others..

United Nations Report: From Palestine to Western Sahara, Double Standards and Hypocrisies

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
January/February 2011, Pages 27-28

United Nations Report
From Palestine to Western Sahara, Double Standards and Hypocrisies
By Ian Williams

It's time for the annual sorting out of the sheep from the goats at the United Nations, and even without the benefit of WikiLeaks we can see on whom the U.S. and Israel have been leaning. In the yearly series of votes on Middle Eastern issues the "nay" votes have come from the U.S, Israel and Canada—which is torn between being a province of Israel or the U.S. on this issue—and a slightly variant assortment of Pacific Islands, helped along by the biggest Pacific Island of all, Australia, whose Labor government has mostly maintained the pro-Israel stance of its Conservative predecessor.

But then, Australia abstained on illegal Jerusalem settlements with Canada voting to express "grave concern"—but then again, Canada voted against the main resolution on the two-state solution with Australia abstaining, so maybe they are colluding in some bad cop, not-so-bad cop routine. Perhaps it's time for those Middle Eastern countries who buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Australian mutton to reconsider their purchases and persuade voters Down Under that their government's policy does in fact have a price.

The UK seems to have maintained some principles and supported the resolutions in defiance of Big Brother in Washington, except where the consensual EU position—enabling a few Israel and U.S. acolytes to hold the whole group hostage—led the 50-plus EU states and hangers on to abstain on issues like the Golan Heights.

Interestingly, in this minor epidemic of pandering, not one country spoke to defend Israeli annexations or settlement building. Typically, for example, "Canada remained concerned about the number of resolutions that singled out Israel, as well as the disproportionate focus placed on the Middle East."

Bearing in mind the disproportionate amount of effort Ottawa spends genuflecting to Canada's Israel lobby, this is almost amusing, but the various abstainers and naysayers used such excuses to explain away their betrayal of the principles of international law, when what they really meant was that they did not want to upset the American dog and its wagging Israeli tail.

The U.S. for its part was "disheartened to see unbalanced resolutions that failed to ask for the difficult steps required by both sides." Between the lines, that echoed the call from the Israeli delegate Meron Reuben, who complained that the resolutions' effect was that "instead of working to bring the parties together in meaningful negotiations and preparing the Palestinians to make the tough choices that will be required to reach an agreement, this distinguished forum engages in the same ritual condemnation of Israel, feeding Palestinian notions of victimhood."

"Balance," of course, depends on where the pivot is placed. One suspects that Reuben would not be happy with a Palestinian offer to withdraw its forces from Israeli territory in return for a similar Israeli withdrawal.

Those coded phrases of "difficult steps" and "tough choices" are diplo-speak for the victim paying blackmail to the thief in order to get a tiny portion of the loot back.

Admittedly, one U.S. delegate claimed that Washington was "committed to working with parties to achieve Arab-Israeli peace, including a two-state solution to the conflict. Through good faith negotiations, the Palestinian goal of an independent state along 1967 lines, and a Jewish state with secure borders, could be realized." One wonders how much devil there is in the details of "along 1967 lines," and whether the Obama administration has bothered to parse the phrase with the Israeli government.

Equally disingenuously, "The United States saw no contradiction between support of the Palestinians and support for Israelis. The United States had given an additional $150 million to the Palestinian Authority, for a total of $225 million for the year. In addition, the United States was the single largest donor to UNRWA, with $237.8 million to date in 2010," according to the American diplomat.

Once again balance reared its ugly pivot. Any objective observer would notice some discrepancy between around half a billion for an impoverished and repressed people, weigh it in the balance and find it wanting when compared with the billions of dollars of direct aid and 40 years of veto protection from international action for the high-tech, prosperous military power doing the repressing.

For a more balanced approach one can look at the report of the Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry into the Gaza Flotilla which hopes for "swift action" by the government of Israel, because, it concludes, "this will go a long way to reversing the regrettable reputation which that country has for impunity and intransigence in international affairs. It will also assist those who genuinely sympathize with their situation to support them without being stigmatized."

That is also an oblique message to the U.S., Canada, Australia and the assorted Pacific atolls who uncritically support Israel, when, the fact-finding mission concludes, "the conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted a grave violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law."

The mission based its findings in part on the autopsy reports on the slain Turks—and, lest it be forgotten, one American, who showed clear signs of being shot dead at close range when already wounded and incapacitated. The problem is disproportionate violence from the Israeli military, not disproportionate attention from the United Nations.
Double Standards

There is indeed a point to be made about double standards, however. The Western Sahara issue remains bogged down in the sand, with France vigorously backing Morocco, and London and Washington in varying degrees going along with it. At the U.N. Decolonization Committee in New York, pro-Moroccan petitioners expressed their concern about the Polisario Front's lack of commitment to human rights. They rather had their case spoiled, however, by the Moroccan police assault on 20,000 encamped protesters near Layoune, the territory's capital. Former American diplomat Christopher Ross, the U.N.'s special representative, hosted talks in New York which ended in their customarily inconclusive way.

Although the local partners are different, the Palestinian and Western Sahara issues are essentially similar. There is a body of international law and resolutions which clearly state that the occupying power should stop occupying and allow self-determination in the territories in question. In the case of Western Sahara, the U.N. set up under Security Council mandate an operation to hold a referendum of the Sahrawi population and Morocco refused to allow it to go ahead, even though it had originally agreed.

Indeed, one could almost suspect that Israel's inspiration for its separation wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice, was the great Sand Berm that Morocco built across Western Sahara.

There might well be arguments about the democratic credentials of Polisario, as indeed there are about Moroccan behavior in its own territory and the occupied territory. But the core of the issue is the referendum that Rabat refuses to allow. All else is, as they say, commentary—although the French-initiated refusal to countenance a human rights monitoring component of MINURSO, the U.N. mission, is as eloquent as it is shameful for France as it is for the U.S. and UK for their connivance.

In the end, neither Morocco nor Israel is going to move without significant external pressure—which, as we know all too well, has not been forthcoming. Indeed, many of those countries so vigorous in defense of international law and U.N. resolutions against Israel are tacitly supporting Morocco, and thus giving moral support to cries of double standards by Israel supporters. Perhaps fortunately, since Israel and Morocco enjoy a long-standing relationship apart from the kingdom's occasional pan-Arab posturing, Israel's supporters do not exploit the analogy more.

Another indication that supporting Palestine in votes is not necessarily a qualification for saintliness is the vote on "Vilification of Religions," which for once the West is right to oppose. Previously about "Defamation" of religions, and conceived to pander to Islamist sentiments at home, this resolution ignores freedom of speech and thought, and also a basic point of theology. Drafted by, of course, Morocco, it calls for "adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from vilification of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general."

Where human rights advocates have problems is that many of the countries that fail to guarantee human rights to individuals are pushing for legal protections for abstractions—i.e., religions. Jews, Muslims and Christians each have different interpretations of their prophets. Is a Muslim in a European country "defaming" Christianity by denying the divinity of Christ? Are Jews and Christians "defaming" Islam by denying the role of the Prophet? Indeed are Protestants defaming Catholicism by refusing to accept the infallibility of the pope? These are dangerous questions, not easily answered by either legislation or U.N. resolutions.

Existing laws and resolutions already offer protection to people who hold those beliefs, no matter how absurd they might appear to others who do not share them, but the form of the "Vilification" resolution certainly does more to fan the flames of the very real Islamophobia in the West by implying Islamic intolerance. The committee vote of 76 countries in favor, 64 against and 42 abstentions is narrowing—with, of course, hypocrisy all around. China, Russia and North Korea all voted for it, presumably with their fingers crossed behind their backs, while Israel, on the way to being a rabbinocracy, voted against. Canada and other Western countries voted against, even though they have laws on their books against blasphemy—which, of course, tend to be devoted to protecting Christianity rather than Islam, which allows Islamic countries to score points.

Looking at this round up of hypocrisy and double standards returns one to the basic and much ignored principle of human affairs: "Do unto others as you would have them to do you." It should be in the U.N. Charter.