GENEVA (Jul. 15)
The president of the U.N. Human Rights Commission has belatedly condemned a blood libel accusation against Jews made by the Syrian delegate on the floor of the Geneva-based commission.
Five months after he was urged to do so by 30 member states, Enrique Bernales Ballesteros of Peru observed, “Any declaration that could provoke racist or discriminatory sentiments must not be tolerated in the Commission on Human Rights.”
He added that “neither myself nor anyone in the commission could share such extreme views, which deserve unequivocal condemnation and rejection.”
Bernales Ballesteros made his statement in a July 3 letter addressed to Morris Abram, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, who had refused to let the matter rest.
In February, the Syrian delegate, Nabila Shaalan, addressing her fellow delegates from the floor, recommended a book called “The Matzah of Zion,” written by the Syrian defense minister, Maj. Gen Mustafa Tlass.
The book presents as truth a blood libel against Jews in Damascus 150 years ago, repudiated at the time by the sultan of Turkey, of which Syria was then a province.
According to Shaalan, the “valuable book” confirmed and “unmasked the racist character of Zionism.”
The Bernales Ballesteros letter said that “such propositions are both contrary to the basic principles which inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and threaten to neutralize the considerable work that the international system has accomplished since its adoption,”
The United States and Israel were joined by 28 other countries in a letter of protest to Bernales Ballesteros. U.N. Geneva headquarters did not respond immediately, apparently hoping the matter would be forgotten.
But Abram was tenacious. His Israeli colleague, Ambassador Yitzhak Lior, said that without his persistence, the letter probably never would have been sent.
According to Lior, Israel has gained support at the United Nations since the Persian Gulf War, especially among the Eastern and Central European states.
The Arab states have lost some of their confidence and Israel has more political room to maneuver, he said.
Meanwhile, there is a movement among nongovernmental organizations accredited to the United Nations to have Shaalan removed from her post.