I would never have imagined this, but my dear friend Shawan Jabarin, who lives in Ramallah, finds himself in the midst of a Canadian battle about human rights.
Last week, members of the board of Rights and Democracy - many years ago, I was 'senior policy advisor' to its president - which is a well-known and highly regarded Canadian organisation, resigned in the midst of a very divisive battle. That night, the president of the body, Rémy Beauregard, died of a heart attack.
At the heart of the quarrel, it seems, is the orientation that Rights and Democracy takes towards the United Nations and, inevitably, towards Israel. And so one of the central issues is a grant that Rights and Democracy gave - a paltry $10,000 - to a legendary Palestinian NGO, Al Haq, which is headed by Shawan. A graduate of our LLM programme at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Shawan now finds himself slandered in the Canadian press as a 'terrorist'.
Distinguished members of the board of Rights and Democracy - Payam Akhavan of McGill University and the Afghan human rights activist Sima Sahar - have resigned in protest. The former presidents, Ed Broadbant, Warran Allmand, Jean-Louis Roy and Jena-Paul Hubert, have signed a letter objecting to the developments
Those who remain have issued a statement full of insult and insinuation directed against, among others, Shawan
The subtext, obviously, is the middle east, which seems to poison everything it comes near. It is all part of the broader lie that the United Nations, and especially its human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council, are hostile to Israel. The misinformation is based upon dishonest websites like 'UN Watch' and 'NGO monitor' (for some crap from the latter,
Let the record show that Shawan Jabarin is a distinguished international lawyer who is highly regarded around the world by all those who cherish human rights. Moreover, let us put an end to the lie that the United Nations is against Israel. Actually, history shows that Israel has had a relatively soft ride at the United Nations, largely because it is protect by you-know-who in the Security Council. Out of frustration, some governments campaign on the issue in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and this seems to nurture the imisimpression that the United Nations is biased against Israel. It's not true. And if there are any doubts, please look at the website of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
For more on the crisis at Rights and Democracy, see: Globe and Mail; Toronto Star; Financial Post.