Arbour should have known better

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Her flip-flop this week on the new pan-Arab “human-rights charter” — a watery document at best — was an embarrassment for a woman who is now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This charter, which equates racism with Zionism and urges its signers to eliminate both, should have been quickly and firmly denounced as unacceptable.

Instead, Arbour at first signalled her approval, saying the charter represented an important step forward and applauding such “regional systems of promotion and protection” as a way to “strengthen the enjoyment of human rights” — as long as you’re not a Zionist, that would be.

A day later, she backed down, admitting that the charter doesn’t conform to the UN General Assembly resolution that rejects the notion that Zionism is a form of racism.

Her backtracking was welcome, though late. In the Middle East, equating Zionism and racism is an old trick much loved by those whose real aim is the annihilation of Israel. Arbour should have dismissed it right away, especially as only Jordan, of all the countries that have signed this so-called human-rights accord so far, has normalized its relations with the Jewish state. The rest routinely refer to it as the “Zionist entity,” and many, like Syria, have never recognized its right to exist.

Any improvements — even marginal ones — to the Middle East’s human-rights record are welcome, but not at the expense of pandering to the forces of hatred.

Copyright 2008, The Gazette
Original URL: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/editorial/story.html?id=1fdd9d3e-b53c-4bdb-b929-d64c40c3be53