While Syria continues to slaughter its own people, and Iran races toward a bomb-grade level of uranium enrichment, one of the world’s most sought after and staunchly liberal international human rights lawyers will be the guest of StandWithUs Northwest on October 14 to make his case in defense of Israel, and refute claims by international human rights groups that the Jewish state is really the problem in the Middle East.
The Hon. Dr. Irwin Cotler, noted for defending high-profile prisoners of conscience like Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Natan Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov in the former Soviet Union, is a McGill University scholar and professor of constitutional and comparative law elected to the Canadian Parliament in 1999. He intends to explain why international human rights laws do not support the notion that Israel is the racist, apartheid, and Nazi-like state its detractors allege.
“Israel has been the object of de-legitimization since its inception,” Cotler told JTNews from his office in Mount Royal, Quebec. “The real issue is what I call the laundering of de-legitimization [of Israel] under all the public values, and under all the humanitarian values, such that Israel is held out to be the enemy of all that is good, and the repository of all that is evil under the protective cover of the United Nations.”
Framing his approach in a more legal context, Cotler said it’s time to take back the narrative and the initiative in the sometimes-bitter divide between Israel’s advocates and its critics.
“Israel needs to be moving out of the docket of always being cast as the victimizer, having been cast as the accused, to becoming the plaintiff-claimant in the international process.”
The event is StandWithUs’s 2012 annual community reception, when the local chapter of the Israel advocacy educational organization will also update the greater Seattle Jewish community on its yearly activities.
Regional director Robert Jacobs hopes Seattlites will turn out to listen to Cotler, who can talk about Israel and its policies not only from a human-rights perspective but also from a justice and fairness point of view.
“In addition to the traditional supporters of Israel,” said Jacobs, “we’re hoping Mr. Cotler will attract people who, because of they’ve heard so much negative coverage of Israel and so much one-sided hyperbole, now say they are ‘conflicted’ about Israel. He, better than almost anyone else, can make the case for Israel as a defender of human rights in the Middle East.”
Cotler will identify five key areas where he believes there is a clearly irrational application of international law and where he calls the “laundering” of the facts is most evident: Under the protective cover of the United Nations, particularly in Canada and Europe; under international law portraying Israel as the violator; under the struggle against racism and Nazism; and under the cover of human rights.
“Human rights have emerged as the new secular religion of our time,” Cotler said. “If you can posit Israel as the major human rights violator of our time, then Israel becomes the new anti-Christ of our time. I take the issue of Iran to be an international justice issue, maybe the major international justice issue on the agenda today, because Iran today constitutes a clear and present danger to international peace and security.”
Cotler intends to “flip the script” and show how Iran is a serious violator of international law by continuing to obscure its nuclear enrichment program, inciting genocide against Israel — an act prohibited under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide — being a leading sponsor of international terrorism, and suppressing and murdering its own people.
“Iran is engaged in widespread and systematic violation of the rights of its own citizens,” Cotler said. “That is tantamount to crimes against humanity.”
Moreover, perhaps the more serious violator in the region, Syria, added Cotler, has been systematically killing its citizens using the “depravity pattern” repeatedly exhibited by dictators while the world looks on.
“Syrian forces lay siege to a city, and begin with cutting off the water supply and electricity,” said Cotler, “then begin with indiscriminate bombardment using fighter aircraft, then move in with tanks and artillery, continuing the bombardment but at closer range, and then the gangs move in and engage in the wanton slaughter of families and civilians.
“This depravity pattern has been going on month after month, horror after horror,” he said. “The international community intervened in Libya when even less than 1,000 were killed. We’ve had more than 25,000 killed…and still no intervention.”