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George Baumgarten

Israeli “Humanitarian” Organization Presents Case at U.N.-- Event Sparsely Attended

George Baumgarten, United Nations Correspondent, May 11, 2012

     The Israeli organization “Yesh Din” (There is Justice) recently made a presentation at the United Nations, under the auspices of the United Nations Correspondents Association. Surprisingly—even in that hall of sentiment hostile to Israel—the event was very sparsely attended, and attracted an audience of barely a dozen, in an auditorium holding over 150.
     Yesh Din—an organization that calls itself “humanitarian”, is run almost entirely by Jewish Israelis. It exists for the purpose of helping and defending Palestinians, against what it sees as the mistreatments or other rigors of the Israeli “occupation”. It lists its “Areas of Activity” as:
1)      Researching and Advocating for Improvement in the standards of Law Enforcement…
for criminal offences committed against Palestinians and their property.
2)      Legal actions against illegal construction on…Palestinians’ privately owned land.
3)      Upholding human rights [of] Palestinians.
In other words, here is an organization which could exist only in a democratic country, with guarantees of life, liberty and property and all other civil rights. In other words…only in Israel.
     The people making the presentation appeared clearly a bit deluded, but not hateful and certainly not anti-Semitic. These are not what one rabbi once called “jittery, self-hating Jews”. And they do appear—at least on the surface—to be sincere, if a bit misguided. Once can speak to them—in both Hebrew and English. And they do not affect the impatient, intolerant demeanor of many extremist advocates. But they do seem to be living and thinking in some alternate universe. And they certainly seem to have little appreciation for the violently hostile world in which the State of Israel finds itself…and not by its own choosing.
     The two Yesh Din members presented two cases to the [sparse] audience of U.N. journalists: An assault by settlers on cattle in the West Bank, and a ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice, to the effect that Israeli companies could, legally, dig in quarries on the West Bank.
     The cattle episode took place on 22 June 2010, and resulted in several cattle being shot (The briefing paper does not mention if they died). Yesh Din represented the cattle owner, an investigation was held and a suspect was identified. Although cartridges from the suspect’s rifle were found at the scene, the case was dismissed for “lack of evidence”. Obviously, Yesh Din believes some “benefit of the doubt” was given to the suspect, a settler from a nearby settlement village.
      The “quarrying” case, handed down on 26 December 2011, established that Israeli companies could engage in “quarrying” (i.e., digging stone out of quarries, for commercial purposes). Yesh Din argues that this might ultimately implicate Israel in violations of international humanitarian law. In this correspondent’s reading, there is scant mention—if any—of what I see as the essential issue operating here: Was this done on private or public land?
     To call these people “well-meaning, if misguided” is perhaps being charitable. What is more germane here is this question: Why is the U.N. Correspondents’ Association giving a platform to these people? There have been several similar presentations (A documentary filmmaker from the “Mavi Marmara”, the editors of a “new edition” of the notorious “ Goldstone Report” [What was wrong with the old one?], etc.) Why is a supposedly non-partisan professional association even getting involved? Perhaps the scantiness of the audience…is a message.
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