This is a complicated story, but it’s important to understand. As I noted yesterday, last year in the wake of the Gaza onslaught and worldwide outrage, the Canadian government replaced the board of of a federally-funded human rights organization called Rights and Democracy that is supposed to operate at arms-length from the government. The staff of the organization recoiled, and the president of the organization keeled over from a heart attack. And Maclean’s reported that Israel was at the heart of the putsch; the goal was to save Israel from criticism.
I’m revisiting the story again to make the point that when the Israel-centric character of the putsch was exposed, the protagonists denied that this had anything to do with it. This is a signature practice: It is like Douglas Feith writing a whole book about the Iraq war saying that it was all George Bush’s work and saying nothing about his own Zionism or that of other members of the war braintrust, including Abrams, Perle, Frum, and Wurmser. And the mainstream press in our country goes along with this denial by declining ever to write frankly about this religious agenda (even as they talk about the Christian right and stem-cell research till they’re blue in the face).
Back to the Canadians. Here’s an excerpt from the CBC last month:
The new [Rights and Democracy board] members challenged grants being made to three human rights organizations known to be critical of Israel’s human rights record, especially in the Israeli offensive in Gaza. The three organizations are Al Haq, based in Ramallah in the West Bank; Al Mezan, based in Gaza, and B’Tselem, based in Israel.
Aurel Braun, a university professor and the new chairman of the Rights and Democracy board, said he wants to bring accountability to the agency. He also said he thinks two of the organizations that got grants — Al Haq and Al Mezan — have links to terrorism. The third group, B’Tselem, which is Israeli, is biased and undeserving of funding, Braun said.
All three of the recipient organizations “are seen as credible by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Dutch foreign minister,” he said.
A group of board members led by chairman Aurel Braun criticized Mr. [Remy] Beauregard’s leadership, accusing him of giving grants to anti-Israel groups in the Palestinian territories. One board member, Jacques Gauthier, circulated a confidential memo to Mr. Braun and two other board members last May in which he alleged that Mr. Beauregard met with representatives of the banned terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah during a 2008 conference in Cairo. After Mr. Beauregard learned of the allegation, he called it "patently false" and an attack on his reputation.
Aurel Braun lashed back at critics …"I and my board have been subjected to the most vicious partisan smear campaign when all we are, in fact, are human rights activists who are trying to make sure this organization is transparent and accountable and congruent with the good conscience of the Canadian people," Braun said. "I am bewildered by these accusations and embarrassed as a Canadian."
More Braun denial. A letter to the Montreal Gazette from him and other board members of Rights and Democracy:
There is a controversy here at Rights and Democracy – an organization created by Parliament to encourage and support human rights and promote democratic institutions and practices around the world – but what about? The media have stated that the subject of debate is the Middle East or the federal government’s right-wing agenda. These claims are based on appointments to the board of directors, the granting of Rights and Democracy funds to NGOs in the Middle East with a history of one-sided criticism of Israel, and their subsequent repudiation by the board.
In fact the real story here is of a board doing its duty. We on the board found the problems; we did not create them. The current "crisis" has been produced by a staff misled by its leadership and prone to periodic eruptions.
But who is Aurel Braun? Here is a picture of Braun, accompanying Canadian liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to a Toronto synagogue a couple of years ago, where Ignatieff apologized for calling Israel’s missile attack on Qana during the 2006 Lebanon war a "war crime." From the Macleans account, by Paul Wells:
Braun spoke before Ignatieff and laid out the threats to the state of Israel. In this account, Braun mocks Ignatieff for having praised the authors of the book The Israel Lobby, whom Braun compares to Barack Obama’s then-nemesis, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In this account Braun presses Ignatieff on the idea of “disproportionate response” by the Israelis to enemy attack.
According to my tipster, who’s done all the thinking behind this post, "a lexis/nexis search on Aurel Braun reveals about 106 hits for Braun on Israel and 125 for Braun on human rights. Most of the citations were critical of international human rights organizations and legal precedents and one curiously argued against war crime trials for Serbian leaders accused of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and its chief prosecutor (Richard Goldstone). Later in a volte face Braun praised the arrest and trial of Saddam Hussein. The only human rights advocacy he’s displayed is for Jews within the context of the ‘new’ anti-Semitism."