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March 03, 2003

Action Alert - Please Devote Five Minutes to Help Israel

The following is an Action Alert e-mail from Shirley Anne Haber, reproduced verbatim.

Please note that Sirley Anne has given all the necessary e-mail addresses for Canadians who wish to write; below, I have assigned bold font to these e-mail addresses.


Dear Friends,

URGENT! Israel needs our help to ensure that she is treated as an equal participant at the coming United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The UN Commission on Human Rights, UNCHR, begins March 17, 2003 and runs until April 25, 2003 in Geneva. There are only two weeks to make the crucial case for Israel's equal participation! It is critical that EVERYONE make an effort to write. Please send this email to your lists! Please post on websites!

This is one issue where OUT OF COUNTRY members can and must get involved! See SAMPLE LETTER, EMAIL ADDRESSES and BACKGROUND INFORMATION below. Please make every effort to write. Please forward to me a copy of your letter!

Thanks for your efforts,
Shirley Anne Haber sahaber@sympatico.ca
The Media Action Group

THE ISSUE:

Israel will be excluded from participating in all daily meetings of "WEOG", the UN regional grouping to which Israel belongs, during the coming session of the Commission on Human Rights. (WEOG = Western, European and Others Group)

This year Israel will attend the Commission in principle as an equal because this is the first time the Commission has met since Israel became eligible to stand for election to this UN body. The change occurred in May 2002, when Israel was admitted into WEOG in connection with all UN bodies elected in New York. In practice, however, Israel has still not been allowed by WEOG members to attend their important meetings relating to the actual business of the Commission. (see BACKGROUND below)

In other words, Israel is the only UN member state which cannot participate in the substantive strategic and information-sharing sessions that take place in the regional group context of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Israel is the only UN state which is in the degrading and debilitating situation of having to rely on other governments to pass it second-hand information about what is going on at the diplomatic level prior to public meetings of the Commission on any subject whatsoever.

The case for the full and equal participation of Israel in WEOG meetings at the Commission must be made immediately to WEOG states namely: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

SEE LINK BELOW WITH EMAIL ADDRESSES TO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES under 'Write to'!

-----------------------------

WHO SHOULD WRITE:

Citizens of countries which are members of WEOG - there are 28 states.

MAIN WRITING POINT:

To ensure that Israel is invited by WEOG to attend the daily WEOG meetings during the forthcoming session of the UNCHR.

WRITE TO:

People in different countries must write to their own country's
representatives PLUS Germany (the Coordinator of WEOG for this UNCHR)!

a) Your country's permanent ambassador to the UN mission in Geneva
b) If known, your country's head of delegation to the Commission session.
c) Prime Minister or President
d) Minister of Foreign Affairs

***NOTE: Everyone should write to the German Ambassador to the UN in
Geneva who is the COORDINATOR OF WEOG at this Commission on Human Rights!

WRITING GUIDELINES:

* your main request should be in the first line of your letter
* use similar wording to the sample letter but personalize - make appropriate changes for your country
* use some information from the document below to add to your letter to make it original - don't add too much
* letters must be brief courteous and show respect (no long treatises)
* make sure to add your address and postal code with your name

-------------------

SAMPLE LETTER:

This letter is targeted at Canada - other countries must make appropriate changes. (In the case of Canada, two ambassadors should be sent letters, one being the permanent representative of Canada to the UN in Geneva (Ambassador Sergio Marchi), and one being the Canadian Head of Delegation to the Commission on Human Rights (Ambassador Christopher Westdal.)

DATE

TO: Canadian Ambassador Christopher Westdal
RE: Israel should be invited to attend the daily meetings of WEOG held in Geneva during the UNCHR

Dear Excellency,

As the head of the delegation from Canada to the UNCHR, I urge YOU to make every effort to make sure that an invitation is extended to the Israeli
Ambassador to attend the daily WEOG meetings during the UNCHR session in Geneva.

Canada has a record of showing support for Israel in the context of WEOG and at the Commission of Human Rights. I hope that Canada will continue with this support.

Since Israel is allowed to stand for election to the Commission as a member of WEOG, Israel should NOT be excluded from WEOG meetings in Geneva at the Commission on Human Rights. All other UN member states, whether or not they are members of the Commission, and even UN observers, are permitted to attend regional group meetings connected with the Commission. Israel should not be singled out and subjected to discrimination.

Israel should have equal participatory rights with every other UN state at the Commission given that the UN Charter requires "the equal rights of nations large and small".

I urge you to take the necessary steps with WEOG colleagues to ensure that Israel is included in WEOG meetings for the upcoming Commission session.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Israel.

Sincerely,
Shirley Anne Haber

----------------------

WRITE TO: (State the NAME OF THE AMBASSADOR as part of the subject line)

Christopher Westdal Canadian Head of Delegation to the UNCHR in Geneva Fax:
011-41-22-919-9233 christopher.westdal@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

Ambassador Sergio Marchi Canadian Permanent Representative to the UN in
Geneva Fax: 011-41-22-919-9233
geneve@dfait-maeci.gc.ca
(Add: Attention Ambassador Marchi)

The Right Honourable Jean Chretien Prime Minister of Canada
Email: pm@pm.gc.ca

The Honourable Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs
Graham.B@parl.gc.ca

Germany, Ambassador Walter Lewalter, phone 730-1111, fax 734-3043,
mission.germany@ties.itu.int
(Add: Attention Ambassador Lewalter)

CONCERNING OTHER WEOG COUNTRIES: NOTE Write Only to Your Country's
Representatives - add the ambassador's name in the 'subject line'! AND write the German Ambassador

This LINK contains email addresses of AMBASSADORS to all other UN Missions for WEOG members states!
http://www.cicweb.ca/At_Issue/English/weog.html

-----------------------------

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Information has been supplied by Anne Bayefsky, international lawyer who was a representative of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and UN Watch at Durban.

The United Nations is divided informally into five regional groups. The regional groups are geographic except for one, the Western European and Others Group (known as WEOG) - which includes western European states, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and others. The United States is a member of WEOG for election purposes and attends WEOG meetings including those connected with the Commission on Human Rights. Israel geographically belongs in the Asian regional group, but the large membership of Moslem and Arab states has barred Israel's admission to the Asian group. Israel belongs in WEOG, in terms of its democratic character and common interests and value. In May 2000 Israel was accepted to WEOG (until such time as the Asian regional group admits Israel), but with the caveat that it could not stand for election as a WEOG member until May 2002 and that it could only participate in WEOG in connection with UN bodies elected in New York. The Commission on Human Rights is such a body.

Within this context, there is one serious anomaly. According to the current deal on Israel and WEOG, Israel can in principle stand for election to the Commission on Human Rights because the election takes place in the UN's Economic and Social Council preparatory sessions which are conducted in New York. (At the moment, WEOG is attempting to avoid elections altogether and arrive at an agreed-upon rotation scheme for the Commission on Human Rights - and Israel is on the draft rotation.) Despite this fact, WEOG refuses to admit Israel to its regular meetings which take place throughout the Commission.

Membership in the Commission on Human Rights, election to the Commission's Bureau, and participation in regional group meetings surrounding the work of the Commission, has nothing to do with any substantive criteria whatsoever. It has nothing to do with a country's perceived or actual human rights record. Current membership in the Commission includes: Algeria, Bahrain, China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe. And the Chair of the current Commission is Libya.

Participation in regional group meetings at the Commission are not related to membership on the Commission at any given session. Regional group meetings include both UN observer states and UN member states, as the latter vary from year to year.

Membership in a regional group is a key feature of UN politics today.

CRUCIAL POINTS TO MAKE:

1. The UN Charter requires "the equal rights of nations large and small". The credibility of the UN is dependent on adherence to the Charter and the equal participatory rights of every UN member state. The exclusion of Israel from the WEOG regional group meetings at the Commission is a violation of the UN Charter itself.

2. The Commission on Human Rights is seriously discredited by the Chairmanship of a country such as Libya, while Israel is forced to stand in the halls of all negotiating and strategic planning which occurs at the Commission with the participation of every other UN member state.

3. It is completely anomalous for Israel to be able to be elected to the Commission, and yet be unable to participate in the regular negotiating and
information meetings associated with the Commission session itself.

4. The Commission on Human Rights has spent approximately 11% of its total substantive meeting time over 30 years on Israel alone, and approximately 25% of its critical country-specific resolutions over 30 years on Israel alone. In other words, the Commission spends more time discussing Israel and more time criticizing Israel than any other state. In comparison, for example, there has never been a Commission resolution on states such as Syria or China. It is a gross violation of any semblance of democratic governance or fair procedural practice, that equal participatory rights are denied the very state which is the subject of such targeted attention.

5. The EU (and the UN) are each part of the so-called Quartet (the other two members being Russia and the United States) which claims to have come together in the recent past for the purpose of forwarding Middle East peace. The credibility of the EU, (and of the UN itself), to be a neutral and constructive participant in the Middle East peace process is completely undercut by any EU refusal to allow Israel into the WEOG meetings connected with the Commission.

6. The Holy See is a so-called non-member state with observer status in the UN. The Holy See is permitted to attend WEOG meetings during the Commission - even though it is not a UN member - while Israel, a UN member state, is refused admittance. This is again anomalous, discriminatory and a violation of the UN Charter's fundamental principle of equality.

7. "Palestine" has observer status in the UN. It is permitted to participate in the Asian regional group meetings at the Commission on Human
Rights, while Israel, a UN member state, is excluded from any regional group meeting. Again anomalous, discriminatory and a violation of the UN
Charter's fundamental principle of equality.

CONTRADICTING THE COUNTER-ARGUMENTS AND MISINFORMATION

Argument:

The counter-argument to Israeli participation in WEOG meetings connected with the Commission (and also to full Israeli participation in WEOG period), is that the time is not ripe. The argument goes: there are serious violations of human rights occurring in the course of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Many of these violations are the fault of Israel.

Response:

The response to this must be that participation in a regional group at the Commission has nothing whatsoever to do with a country's alleged human rights record. No substantive standard or review is done or purported to be applied to any other UN country. It is discriminatory to suggest that a substantive standard of any kind, factual, alleged or perceived, be applied to only one UN member.

Furthermore, exactly the same argument was put forward in the years immediately following the Oslo accord. Even the Nobel peace prize did nothing to change this claim. The time has never been ripe for those WEOG members opposed to Israel's equal participatory rights. The only reason Israel was partially admitted into WEOG at all in 2000 was because of the insistence of the United States.

Argument:

The related counter-argument is made that participation in WEOG should be a kind of carrot and/or stick used against Israel, in the sense that it must be earned - in the eyes of other WEOG members. Some WEOG members object to Israel's current government and WEOG participation should be withheld until it is changed. Some WEOG members object to the lack of progress on the peace process and WEOG participation should be withheld until it is improved.

Response:

The response to this must be that WEOG participation is not a bargaining chip or honor to be bestowed by other WEOG members for the purposes of forcing changes of a government or its policies. This is grossly offensive to the legitimacy of the democratic state of Israel. It is again a discriminatory policy applied to only one state. It is an abusive use of the fundamental principle of equal participatory rights of all UN nations.

It is also bound to fail as a bargaining chip, since it does nothing but confirm the bias of the EU and the UN against Israel and further marginalize their relevance to any future Middle East processes or outcomes.

Pressure Points:

At this coming Commission on Human Rights session, Germany will be the coordinator of WEOG. This country will therefore have an important role to play in planning WEOG meetings. Germany has a moral responsibility to ensure that Israel is not excluded.

The United States has always been a world leader in insisting upon the equal treatment of Jews and the Jewish state by the UN and the equal application of the UN Charter to Israel. US representatives should be called upon once again to press this case.

In times past, various countries have been said to be unsupportive of Israel's participation in WEOG. These names are obviously unofficial, cannot be substantiated and change for all kinds of reasons over time. Countries named at various times include Sweden, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada. One way to determine which WEOG states are the problem is to insist on a clear response from your representatives on the issue of Israel's participation in WEOG meetings at the Commission on Human Rights.

Alternative Strategies of Reform:

WEOG meets physically each morning throughout the Commission session, (at least until now), in the Palais des Nations itself. If diplomacy in capitals is unsuccessful, some may be interested in making the case in a different manner at the entrance to the daily meetings themselves.

CONCLUSION

The exclusion of Israel from equal participation in WEOG in connection with the Commission on Human Rights violates even the limited existing deal allowing Israel to be a full member of WEOG in connection with those UN bodies which are elected in New York (such as the Commission), and should be immediately changed. This exclusion of Israel from WEOG meetings connected with the Commission of Human Rights must be challenged in WEOG without any further delay.