Yesterday’s Global edition of the NY Times had an op-ed by one David Keyes from the organization, Advancing Human Rights. Keyes informs us of the anti-democratic tendencies and outright corruption of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas. He talks of detentions, arrests, convictions and jail sentences for those who have dared to criticize or insult Abbas.
No doubt Palestinians have many legitimate complaints against their leadership. But is it appropriate for the Times to have Keyes complain on their behalf? Needless to say, if Keyes were truly concerned with the welfare of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, he would be a prominent opponent of the Israeli occupation far more than Palestinian repression and corruption.
But the op-ed doesn’t mention the occupation. Instead, Keyes reveals his own agenda, and it is more about protecting Israel than Palestinians:
A good indicator of how committed a government is to upholding peace with its neighbors is its commitment to protecting the human rights of its own citizens. Nations that disregard the freedoms of their own people are not likely to care much about maintaining peace with their historic enemies. Palestinian human rights, in other words, are key to the peace process.
This is just a variation of the “no partner for peace” mantra. If the Palestinian leaders can’t respect civil rights in their own society, Keyes asks, how can Israel hope to make peace with them?
Then Keyes takes a swipe at Palestinian reconciliation:
Rather than repudiating such genocidal rhetoric [allegedly made by a Hamas official], when an Al Jazeera interviewer asked Mr. Abbas last year if there were political and ideological differences between his party, Fatah, and Hamas, he replied, “In all honesty, there are no disagreements between us.” But there should be enormous — indeed unbridgeable — gaps between any potential peace partner and a terrorist organization that acts tyrannically and calls for the annihilation of a people.
Keyes closes by urging ”the West” to “stand firmly with Palestinian democrats” by “linking Western economic aid to the Palestinian Authority’s respect for free speech.” His recipe for relieving oppression of ordinary Palestinians is to starve the Palestinian economy.
And who is this David Keyes who presumes to speak on behalf of beleaguered Palestinians? He’s the Executive Director of Advancing Human Rights, a relatively new organization started by Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein. Bernstein abandoned HRW because of its criticism of Israel, which he could no longer tolerate. The problem apparently was that HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division (MENA) was devoting a full 28% of its attention to Israel/Palestine. Shocking! The work done by HRW’s other divisions – Africa, Asia, The Americas, the U.S., and Europe/Central Asia – and the other 72% of MENA was not enough to make up for this unfair “singling out” of Israel. So Bernstein started AHR, apparently deciding against the more accurate but cumbersome title “Advancing Human Rights For All Except Palestinians”. And it’s a good thing, because AHR’s present executive director has found a way to feign concern for Palestinians while absolving Israel of any blame.
AHR has assembled an interesting collection of board members, including Irwin Cotler, the fanatical pro-Israel Canadian MP known for howling about the “dangers of a genocidal and nuclear Iran”; Britain’s retired Colonel Richard Kemp, most known for declaring that “during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare," a quote that Alan Dershowitz never tires of repeating. Then there is Keyes himself, who was the Coordinator of Democracy Programs under Natan Sharanksy at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies funded by guess who and was located at the right-wing Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Keyes also was the founder of CyberDissidents.org, an organization apparently devoted to the human rights of all Arab dissidents, with the exception of Palestinians whose human rights have been denied by Israel. Who else is on the AHR Board? Toni Morrison, yes the same Morrison who co-signed a 2006 letter along with Chomsky, Pinter, Saramago, Arundhati Roy, Vidal, Zinn, Naomi Klein, Thomas Keneally (author of Schindler’s List) and others that condemned Israel’s “long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.” Go figure.
Keyes’s efforts on behalf of Palestinian dissidents oppressed by fellow Palestinians is reminiscent of similar pronouncements by the likes of Michael Oren, who bemoan the plight of Christian Palestinians at the hands of Muslims only. These impostors pretend to care about Palestinians while actually working to undermine their freedom and sentence them to perpetual domination by a foreign military. Do Palestinians suffer from corruption, mismanagement, oppression and malfeasance of their leaders? No doubt they do, but wouldn’t it be far more enlightening to let them speak for themselves rather than enlist a pro-Israeli voice to speak on their behalf?