Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The UN Kicks Out a Leading Critic

By Joseph Klein

The United Nations security department briefly detained a leading UN critic, Anne Bayefsky earlier this month and then escorted her out of the building after stripping her of her accreditation pass. Ms. Bayefsky, who is affiliated with a UN-recognized non-governmental organization and is an accredited United Nations observer, also happens to be a human rights watchdog who for years has publicized the rank hypocrisy at the UN when it comes to dealing with Israel and its terrorist enemies. Her offense was that she dared to approach a microphone outside of the General Assembly hall in the press area and denounce the one-sided Goldstone Report on Gaza that the General Assembly had just endorsed. In her two minute comments, she criticized the General Assembly for passing a resolution that “doesn’t mention the word Hamas.”

“This is a resolution that purports to be even-handed; it is anything but”, she said. That is a pointed statement but hardly an incendiary one.

Apparently, even two minutes of straight talk was too much for the UN Palestinian representative who complained to UN security. Ms. Bayefsky was whisked away by security and reportedly held for a time in the UN’s security office before being forced to turn in her pass and leave the building.

“The Palestinian ambassador is very upset by your statement,” Ms. Bayefsky recounted the U.N. security chief telling her as the reason for these drastic actions. The Palestinian, who himself has only observer status at the UN, was reported to have been overheard asking whether UN security had “captured” Ms. Bayefsky.

Ever since this disgraceful episode happened, the UN security and press offices have been constantly changing their stories. They have been spinning a bunch of mistruths to cover up for the fact that the UN establishment went along with a Palestinian-inspired effort to censure free expression at UN headquarters.

The cover up went into high gear last week when I asked at a daily press briefing the status of Ms. Bayefsky’s case. I was told by the deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary General that everything was fine. In his words, Ms Bayefsky’s “credentials and the credentials of her organization are not changed at this stage. She belongs to a non-governmental organization. It’s possible in the future that there could be a review, but at this stage there has been no removal of credentials from that non-governmental organization or from Ms. Bayefsky.” (Emphasis added)

It turns out that was not true. Her credentials were lifted and she was barred from the UN premises.

After being called out on last week’s manifest misstatement, the UN revised its story. Ms. Bayefsky was not barred, we were told, because of her brief remarks at the microphone, even though the UN considered what she did to be a breach of its rules. The real reason, according to the security office, was that Ms. Bayefsky had given her pass to an unauthorized person to use in entering non-public areas of the UN facility. That would seem grounds for a reprimand perhaps, but hardly a reason to hold her for a time against her will, take away her credentials and then throw her out of the building.

So then, in an effort to prove how reasonable the UN is, the press was told yesterday by another deputy spokesperson for the Secretary General that “We have just been informed by the Department of Safety and Security that there has been an amicable agreement, in which Ms. Bayefsky would admit to have breached some security rules and would have her pass cards returned to her.”

I asked Ms. Bayefsky whether the latest UN version was true. “This is absolutely false,” she said. “There is no agreement and the pass has not been returned.”

When a reporter followed up at today’s press briefing to inquire what was really going on, the chief spokesperson for the Secretary General, Michèle Montas, spun a web so thick that no spider could even navigate it. She denied that the deputy spokesperson, Marie Okabe, had said just the day before that agreement with Ms. Bayefsky had been reached and that she “would have her pass cards returned to her.” Ms. Okabe’s exact words appear in the full transcript of yesterday’s press briefing posted on the UN’s official website.

Now we are being told that Ms. Bayefsky’s non-governmental organization still has its credentials, even if Ms. Bayefsky herself still does not. The chief spokesperson made all kinds of excuses for the continuing impasses in restoring Ms. Bayefsky’s credentials, putting the blame for any delay squarely on her for breaking the rules and refusing to agree to the UN’s demand for a confession of wrong-doing.

If there is any precedent for how the United Nations handled this case, it has not been cited to the press.

The truth is that the United Nations establishment drinks from the same well that the Islamists have poisoned with their ‘defamation of religion’ resolutions assaulting freedom of expression. They are protecting the Palestinians, who have abused their own observer status in repeatedly denouncing Israel in the most vitriolic fashion, from being confronted with the truth. And the truth is that the Palestinian Authority has been unable or unwilling to control the Palestinian terrorists who initiated the conflict in Gaza by launching thousands of rockets at innocent Israeli civilians. It is the Palestinian terrorists who committed acts against humanity, not the Israelis who were engaging in self-defense.

This case is important because the right of free expression is at stake. Ms. Bayefsky is not being punished for minor infractions of the UN’s security rules. A stern reprimand, or a day’s suspension at most, would have been sufficient if that were all there was to it. Ms. Bayefsky is being punished because of what she said in earshot of the delegates to the General Assembly who are not used to being confronted with the truth. The UN’s web of deception on this matter must be completely unspun.

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