Geneva (Feb. 8)
An impassioned denunciation of Arab charges that Israel violates human rights in the occupied territories was delivered here by Michael Novak, the new head of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. “I was shocked at hearing so much hatred, so many lies, such squalid racism, such despicable anti-Semitism all in the sacred name of human rights, “Novak declared.
He spoke last Friday in response to the speech by Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s political department, who opened the Commission’s debate on alleged Israeli violations last Thursday with bitter attacks on Israel and on the United States for supporting it.
APPARENTLY INSTRUCTED TO TAKE TOUGH LINE
Novak’s speech was awaited with interest by the delegates inasmuch as he is the first appointee of the Reagan Administration to address the international forum. They were clearly taken aback by the vehemence with which he castigated the Arabs and his unqualified defense of Israel in terms much stronger than any used by previous American delegates.
Novak apparently had instructions to take a tough line against Israel’s foes and that is believed here to signal the tone of the new Administration’s rhetoric in future debates in UN bodies.
Kaddoumi himself was extremely harsh, accusing the former Carter Administration of “advertising its hypocritical campaign for human rights” while “simultaneously aiding Israel to build a military arsenal, to improve methods of torture, to speed up its process of Judaization” in the territories. He urged the Reagan Administration to “begin by cen-
suring Israel” but observed that “indeed, this will not take place as Reogan like Carter will revel in isolating the Egyptian regime from the rest of the Arab nation, “a reference to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Novak, in response, declared: “I have heard here attacks upon Zionism in accents of a murderous hatred not heard since the days of the Nazis. It is though this chamber has retrogressed by 40 years, as though this is not 1981 but 1941 and not Geneva but along the Hitler-Stalin axis.”
Novak, a theologian and journalist, was a founding member of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and supported Reagan’s election. He is of Czech origin and non-Jewish. He opened his speech by remarking:
“I was touched when the Pope (John Paul II) went to Auschwitz. In an address to the UN he called attention to the Human Rights Declaration. That declaration, he said, rose above every other factor from the millions of victims of the Holocaust I cannot forget that we sit in this room because of the suffering of millions of people, many of whom might have lived as long as we but were not permitted to live. Our work here flows from their interrupted lives. The Declaration of Human Rights is a memorial to their sacrifice.”
PRAISES ISRAEL’S ACHIEVEMENTS
With respect to Israel, he said: “There is an ancient saying about Israel. The Lord promised Moses a land of milk and honey. A wry joke in Israel notes that ‘unfortunately the Lord did not promise oil. ‘Israel is not a land of rich resources yet the Israelis have built a nation to rival any in the world in its science, arts, symphonies, free press and just and human procedures. When colleagues here attempt to portray Israel as a land without human rights, we must ask, compared to what? Few nations can exhibit a record of human rights practices as developed as those of Israel.
Continuing, Novak said: “The charges heaped against Israel at the Commission are old. The State of Israel is a fact; the peace treaty with Egypt a fact. These are realities to which passion must accommodate itself.”
CHARGE OF TORTURE REJECTED
The Arab bloc sustained another blow when George Dumont, speaking for the International Federation on Human Rights, submitted a report which stated that Israel does not practice systematic or constant torture in prisons where Arab detainees are held and that the conditions of prisoners in Israeli hospitals were satisfactory. The report was based on a recent visit to Israel where the Commission, according to Dumont, had access to prisoners.
Kaddoumi’s speech drew a sharp response from the Isaeli delegate, Ambassador Joel Barromi who charged that “The UN bodies that lend their support to lawless extremism and deny it to the pursuit of peace are taking upon themselves an irretrievable moral stigma.” He blamed in particular “the UN resolution which branded Zionism with the false label of racism,” saying it “must bear some responsibility for the scourge of anti-Semitism now reappearing in many parts of the world.”