Yacoub Kahlen, The Electronic Intifada, 22 June 2006
Recently, the Hudson Institute, a prestigious, academic think-tank in the United States, with an impressive list of associates though strongly pro-Israel roots, released a surprisingly amateurish report through its project 'Eye on the UN'. The report criticizes the United Nations for granting consultative status to the internationally respected Palestinian NGO Badil. As Yacoub Kahlen writes, their flimsy critiques are strong indications of the growing desperation amongst elite supporters of Israel that the Zionist lobby is losing the moral argument, and just like the NGO Monitor, the 'Eye on the UN' should not be taken seriously by anyone interested in serious analysis and a human rights perspective.
The Hudson Institute was founded by Herman Kahn, who is described as a 'brilliant futurist'. By way of endorsement, the Institute quotes US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who describes Kahn as:
'a giant. He boldly confronted public issues with creativity and the conviction, in his case correct, that thought and analysis could help make ours a better world.1'
However, despite such endorsements from committed neo-conservatives such as Rumsfeld, one shouldn't think that the Hudson Institute is necessarily a tool of the Republicans and neo-cons alone. Indeed, its board is represented by Democrats and Republicans alike as well as major US corporations. They include the well known neo-con Richard Perle, but also Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), elsewhere described as a 'civil rights leader' and 'lifelong democrat'. It must, however, be mentioned that Innis' integrity has been called into question, particularly concerning his views on the anti-apartheid movement, which he once described as 'a vicarious, romantic adventure' with 'no honest base'.2
All board members appear to share a similarly conservative vision that American-style 'freedom' is what every country in the world aspires to and that the USA should help them reach this glittering ideal. An example of this is contained in the biography of Hudson Institute board member and former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz, who was sent by then President George H.W. Bush to Ethiopia in 1991.
'His mission resulted in Operation Solomon, the rescue of the small Black Jewish community of Ethiopia and their dramatic airlift to Israel. The negotiations also helped cause a simultaneous end to the decades-long civil war in Ethiopia.'
This vision is further confirmed in the Hudson Institute's mission statement, describing itself as:
'a non-partisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom. We challenge conventional thinking and help manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary and collaborative studies in defense, international relations, economics, culture, science, technology, and law. Through publications, conferences and policy recommendations, we seek to guide global leaders in government and business.'
'Since our founding in 1961 ... Hudson's perspective has been uniquely future-oriented and guardedly optimistic. Our research has stood the test of time in a world dramatically transformed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of China, and the advent of radicalism within Islam. Because Hudson sees the complexities within societies, we focus on the often-overlooked interplay among culture, demography, technology, markets, and political leadership.'
Among the subjects on the Institute's current research agenda: 'The War on Terror and the Future of Islam', which characterises much of the Institute's publications concerning Israel and the Palestinians. Although its funding is clearly substantial, the Foundation does not disclose its sources of funding on its website.
Eye on the UN
'Eye on the UN' is a project of the Hudson Institute in collaboration with the Touro Law Center Institute for Human Rights. Its editor-in-chief, Anne Bayefsky, is both a 'senior fellow' with the Hudson Institute and 'visiting professor' at the Touro College Law Center.
Bayefsky is assisted by Gillian Collins, a legal researcher who used to work with Bayefsky at York University in Toronto and Rebecca Tobin, who interned at the Anti-Defamation League,3 well known for its virulent comments against critics of Israel. This three-member staff is complemented by a list of authors,4 which include the well-known neo-conservative Newt Gingrich and Gerald Steinberg (of the NGO Monitor). The site includes reference to an article written by Steinberg entitled 'NGOs Make War on Israel'.
Purpose of the 'Eye'
The stated purpose of the 'Eye on the UN' project, according to its website, reveals an intense skepticism, verging on outright resentment, of the role of the United Nations in international affairs, suggesting that it has betrayed its original intentions. Ignoring the previous history of the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations and instead insisting that the United Nations 'rose from the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust', the website goes on to make reference to the Nuremberg tribunals (which prosecuted Nazi war criminals). However, it claims that the UN 'has not lived up to the task of "naming", let alone shaming or intervening.' The website goes on to claim that 'the UN human rights system has squandered the commitment and passion of its original benefactors'. Rather than supporting the UN in fulfilling its stated intentions, the 'Eye on the UN' makes the ambiguous, and somewhat menacing promise of: 'making transparent the UN's record on its fundamental promise - to identify, condemn, and protect against human rights violations.5
Managing great ambitions with a narrow focus
Given the vast breadth of work that the United Nations covers, if only in the area of human rights, the purpose of the 'Eye' is, it must be said, an immense undertaking for a visiting professor, assisted by a lawyer, a young graduate and a group of independent authors.
However, its 'secret' to managing such an ambitious set of objectives becomes quickly clear. The website's section 'In the Spotlight', and indeed the rest of the site, focuses overwhelmingly on the Middle East, terrorism and, above all, how the organisation perceives the UN's treatment of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Overwhelming focus on Israel
Editor-in-chief Bayefsky ensures that the focus of the 'Eye' is squarely on what it perceives as Israel's ill treatment at the United Nations. In a passionately-written report entitled 'Spreading Hate, Destruction & Terrorism: The UN-NGO Cadre', Bayefsky makes the hysterical claim that NGOs have displaced the impact of States.
'The multibillion-dollar U.N. system was once largely closed to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as the private playing field of member states. But NGOs have now found their way into the most intimate recesses of the U.N. It is a development, however, that is not a one-way street with the members of so-called "civil society" as mere supplicants looking for an opening.'6
The focus of Bayefsky's report, which is surprisingly devoid of analysis for such an experienced academic, is on efforts by NGOs to draw attention to Israel's massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law through a worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which Bayefsky attempts to reframe as 'Spreading Hate, Destruction & Terrorism'.
'It is the large number of NGOs that have been empowered by U.N.-accreditation to spread anti-Semitism, hate, and encourage terrorism from a U.N. platform. The call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel is a central plank of this campaign.'7
Glossing over Israel's behaviour
Without referring to Israel's widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law, the 'Eye' deals with the numerous references to Israel by their bland, UN reference number, with no elaboration, suggesting elsewhere that the disproportionate attention given to Israel discloses some kind of 'conspiracy' against Israel and, by implication, the Jewish people.
The 'Eye' website section 'Memorable UN moments' takes the conspiracy theme further, focusing exclusively on the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances in Durban, South Africa by providing a video as well as various handouts, signs and clothing that were apparently carried or worn by protestors at the conference. It is a curious - and highly misleading - mish-mash of what were clearly fringe, overtly anti-Semitic messages distributed at the meeting together with more prominent pro-Palestinian slogans and messages critical of Israel. The underlying implication is that the protestors, and by extension the entire event was anti-Semitic. The effect of this effort, which organisations like the Anti-Defamation League, American Israel Political Action Committee and others have also undertaken, is to dishonestly and simplistically equate criticisms of Israel or support for Palestinians with hatred of Jews.
Missing in all of this so-called analysis are the numerous, public statements made by the United Nations, world leaders present at the conference and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson that openly and unconditionally condemned anti-Semitism.
Links with the Jerusalem Center and NGO Monitor
While direct references are difficult to find, the Hudson Institute and its 'Eye' project work hand-in-hand with the Jerusalem Center on Public Affairs (JCPA) and its virulent, poorly-researched and hate-mongering publication, NGO Monitor.
While the Hudson Institute itself seems more reluctant to acknowledge these links, the JCPA makes frequent reference to the Hudson Institute, presumably in an effort to try and lend itself credibility and distance itself from its own military background.
But while each organisation seeks to position itself differently - JCPA are the brash, burly military types, while the Hudson Institute staff present themselves itself as polished academics - the two are very much linked and adopt increasingly similar tactics in their efforts to win support for Israel.
Direct links include Max Singer, an associate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs who was a founder and President of the Hudson Institute8. Nina Rosenwald serves on the board of both organisations. Rosenwald also serves on the Board of an organisation called 'Freedom House'.9 In their 'Map of Freedom 2005', Freedom House presents Israel - quite misleadingly - as the only 'free' country in the middle-east, next to Jordan, which is presented as 'partly free'.10 This reference stands in bizarre contrast to the numerous references by the UN, and documented by the 'Eye on the UN', to countless violations of human rights and humanitarian law by Israel, including both its appalling discrimination of Palestinian citizens of Israel and actions of the Israeli military and security forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Criticism of Badil
The 'Eye's' treatment of the UN World Conference Against Racism is used as a 'template' for their treatment of the internationally-respected Palestinian organisation, Badil Resource Centre on Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.
Similar to the shallow and deeply pro-Israel approach of the NGO Monitor, the criticisms raised about Badil by the 'Eye on the UN' are poorly researched and rely on simplistic rhetoric. According to the 'Eye', as with the NGO Monitor, advocating for the legally protected, politically acknowledged and morally defensible right of return and restitution of Palestinian lands is equated with 'advocating the end of a Jewish state'. Badil's important documentation of the passionate sentiments of those whose land was (in many cases violently) taken away from them is equated with 'glorification of violence and encouraging terrorism'. In neither case is there any serious analysis done. What passes for critique is nothing more than empty rhetoric. Most mystifying of all are the 'Eye's' reference to two illustrations, apparently from Badil's website, which depict Israeli oppression against Palestinians and their homes. According to the 'Eye', such images are supposed to represent anti-Semitism.
The report concludes with website references to reports by the NGO Monitor, which has been widely discredited by organisations interested in serious analysis and solid reporting. That the 'Eye' can claim to have a human rights perspective is a laughable proposition.
The Hudson Institute disgraces itself
By associating itself with such an amateurish initiative, where conspiracy theories concerning Israel dominate and serious critiques of state behaviour, human rights and the challenging work of the UN are anywhere from thin to non-existent, the Hudson Institute, by associating itself with the 'Eye on the UN' disgraces itself.
Furthermore, the Institute's and 'Eye's' close links with the overtly pro-Israel Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and its 'NGO Monitor', with its poorly researched, hate-filled messages, make it yet another outlet for confusion, rather than serious discourse and analysis.
The Hudson Institute and the 'Eye' should not be taken seriously
The staff of the Hudson Institute, its 'Eye on the UN' project and particularly the writings of Anne Bayefsky, an unabashed Zionist with a highly selective interpretation of human rights, form part of a long history of scare-mongering by Israel and its supporters, spreading lies and half-truths and undermining the efforts of the United Nations to bring peace to the middle-east.
They are amongst those who maintain the tired position that the UN is "anti-Israel".
While aiming to be more sophisticated, the Hudson Institute and 'Eye' project are essentially cut from the same cloth as the Jerusalem Center for Public Policy and its discredited NGO Monitor. Both disclose a growing desperation by Israel and its supporters, who are fast losing the moral defensibility of their positions.
Just like the NGO Monitor, the 'Eye on the UN' should not be taken seriously by anyone interested in serious analysis and concern over human rights and humanitarian law.
Yacoub Kahlen is a pseudonym. The author is a journalist and political commentator.
1. All unacknowledged quotes in this section: Hudson Watch, www.hudson.org
2. Ref: Lobby watch
3. Ref: Anti-Defamation League, www.adl.org
4. Ref: Eye on the UN
5. Ref: Eye on the UN
6. Ref: Eye on the UN
8. Ref: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
9. Ref: Hudson Institute
10. Ref: Freedom House
11. NGO Monitor should not be taken seriously, Yacoub Kahlen and Robert E. Foxsohn (18 October 2005)