Honorees Walk, Israeli President Embarrassed
A major human rights conference was set up to honor human rights leaders active from Bahrain to Japan, but the honorees walked out because they weren't about to share the stage with someone who would sing the praises of Shimon Peres. Here's the story:
UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has centers in various parts of the world. One is at the University of Connecticut. On October 23 it was to have family members and associates honor the leadership of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja of Bahrain, who is serving a life sentence for his human rights work, grassroots civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama of USA/Japan, the late and legendary Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Salmaan Taseer, murdered by a Pakistani policeman last year after Taseer criticized a conviction under Pakistan's notorious blasphemy law.
However, unknown to the speakers a fifth person to be honored was Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. The head of a state of an apartheid regime was to be honored alongside four wonderful human rights leaders.
Alerted by a Palestinian BDS activist, a small group of professors and CT activists
started contacting the speakers and appealing for them to cancel their appearances. Other activists
emailed please. Here are a number of their letters. In a matter of
days all the speakers cancelled! The only one who gave a reason (and who
called for Peres to be put on trial) was Maryam al-Khawaljah, but it was clear the
speakers all walked because of Peres. The conference went on, but Shimon Peres' son-in-law was the only speaker.
There was also a forum activists hastily arranged the day before on campus. Author Lenni Brenner ("Zionisim in the Age of the Dictators") spoke about Shimon Peres activities in the '70's. He explained that while he criticized South Africa in public Peres as Defense Minister was making deals with
the apartheid state, even offering to provide ith with nuclear weapons. Stanley Heller, host of "The Struggle" TV News spoke about Peres ordering the kidnapping and imprisoning of Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu for daring to give proof of Israel's nuclear bomb factory to the international press. He also mentioned Peres' refusal to take any blame or responsibility for the Qana massacre of Lebanese in 1996 when Peres was Prime Minister. Professor J. Kehaulani Kauanui of Wesleyan spoke about human rights generally and insisted that human rights leadership meant defending the human rights of everyone.
Interestingly enough Shimon Peres son-in-law, Raphael Walden attended the session! In the Q&A
he criticized our views as "one-sided" and defended Shimon Peres' peace record. In response to a
challenge about Qana he denied the U.N. report that its compound had
been attacked by more than 30 Israeli artillery shells and said the over hundred deaths had been caused by one errant shell and that these things just happen in war.
Here's how the collapse of the conference was reported in the Hartford Courant (CT's most important paper)
Incredibly the "Daily Campus", the student newspaper at UCONN Storrs had no mention of the controversy or the UNESCO event despite multiple press releases and phone calls.
Latuff Cartoon about Pres. Peres During Operation Cast Lead