The UN Refutes Palestinian Claims - Part II

After spending three pages on vilifying Israel and the United States, the Executive Summary spends the next fifteen pages discussing "The State of Freedom and Good Governance" in the Arab region. This is where the authors actually display their knowledge and expertise.

Israel Zwick,

Israel Zwick
Israel Zwick
[Part one of this article can be read at]

On April 7, 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted its infamous resolution 2005/1, which was critical of Israel and supported the "Palestinian people" without even once mentioning the role of terrorism. This resolution was adopted two days after the UN Development Programme released its Arab Human Development Report 2004. According to a press release accompanying the report:

"The Report team brings together some of the region's top scholars, researchers, civil society actors, and opinion makers. The Report is a collation of their experience, knowledge, data and analysis, and represents years of critical study, fact finding, publications, and activism. The team was selected to represent the different perspectives, areas of expertise, and local insights that proliferate in the Arab region."

This team of experts produced a lengthy, detailed document that began with an 18-page Executive Summary. On the opening page, the authors state, "Of all the impediments to an Arab renaissance, political restrictions on human development are the most stubborn. This Report therefore focuses on the acute deficit of freedom and good governance."

While the beginning sounds encouraging, the authors change their tune on the next page: "The continued occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel, the US-led occupation of Iraq, and the escalation of terrorism adversely influenced Arab human development." Then, in boldface type, the Report continues, "Israeli occupation of Palestine continues to impede human development and freedom." After vilifying Israel for a page, the Report continues, "As a result of the invasion of their country, the Iraqi people have emerged from the grip of a despotic regime that violated their basic rights and freedoms, only to fall under a foreign occupation that increased human suffering." The report then goes on to vilify the "occupation forces."

To fully appreciate the absurdity of these claims, one needs to appreciate the size and scope of the Arab World. According to the CIA World Factbook and the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, "The Arab world comprises 22 countries stretching from Morocco in the west to Oman in the east. They have a combined population of 300 million people and their combined economies surpass 1 trillion US dollars annually.... The Arab world stretches across more than 11 million square kilometers. Its total area is the size of the entire Spanish-speaking Western hemisphere, larger than Canada, China, the United States, Brazil, or Europe...." In contrast, the West Bank and Gaza consists of about 6,000 sq. km and contains about three million Arabs. Yet, according to the Report's expert authors, the primary impediment to Arab progress is the mother of all evils, "The Occupation." This is reminiscent of Jackie Mason's humorous monologue on "The Metabolism." Mason observed that Jews were fond of blaming excessive weight not on the chulent and kugel that they eat, but on "the metabolism."

After spending three pages on vilifying Israel and the United States, the Executive Summary spends the next fifteen pages discussing "The State of Freedom and Good Governance" in the Arab region. This is where the authors actually display their knowledge and expertise. They discuss the lack of civil and political freedoms in the Arab world and how it affects economic and social rights. The authors conclude, "By 21st century standards, Arab countries have not met the Arab peoples' aspirations for development, security, and liberation."

Their recommendation is to reform Arab societal structures to guarantee freedom: "The reform required in Arab countries will be marked by the total respect of the key freedoms of opinion, expression, and association in Arab countries and the ending of all types of marginalization of, and discrimination against social groups. It will eliminate all types of extra-legal arrangements such as emergency laws and exceptional courts. It will lay down the foundations for the principles of transparency and disclosure in all organizations throughout Arab society."

This latter aspect of the Arab HDR 2004 was emphasized in the press releases distributed by William Orme, UNDP, Chief of Media. In the press release titled "Some Questions and Answers About AHDR 2004", the main findings and conclusion are emphasized:
The Report concludes that the situation of freedom and good governance in the Arab world ranges from deficient to seriously deficient. Despite sporadic improvements in the human rights situation in some Arab countries, the overall human rights picture in the Arab world is grave and deteriorating. The freedom and human rights of Arabs under occupation, particularly in Palestine, are being seriously violated. Even in independent Arab countries, there is a serious gap in freedom and good governance. Authoritarian regimes severely restrict freedoms and the right to political participation and civil activity to ensure that no opposition arises to challenge their unrepresentative form of government. Constitutional rights are also violated as authoritarian regimes take control of the law and manipulate it to reinforce their grip on power and serve their own interests."
Then it goes on to blame the occupation in Palestine: "At the regional level, the Arab populations under occupation, particularly in Palestine, are deprived of many of their basic freedoms and their human rights. This has a direct impact on the situation in other Arab countries, and provides authoritarian Arab regimes with the excuse of an external threat to postpone reform and movement towards more representative forms of government. It also distracts the attention of political and civil society forces from efforts to achieve freedom and good governance, and focuses it instead on supporting the struggle to end occupation."

Finally, the press release summarizes the major recommendations of the report:
The Report recommends that Arab countries sign all declarations, covenants and treaties that together make up international law, and incorporate these provisions into their constitutions and reflect them in their legal systems. The Report also calls for a gradual and negotiated transition of power to representative forms of government. The first step in the process would be to unleash civil society forces and allow the three key freedoms of opinion, expression and association?a move that would generate a dynamic debate on how to achieve the transition. Arab intellectual, political and civil society vanguards must shake off their apathy and contribute towards creating an intellectual framework and atmosphere conducive to freedom and good governance. This should lead to the emergence of an elite representing all sectors of society, both inside and outside government, to spearhead the movement towards good governance, and ultimately, to an Arab renaissance. The process should include reforming the political system to allow full participation through free and fair elections, the results of which must be fully respected. There should be a separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, with the independence of the latter institutionally guaranteed.
In other words, the Arabs have to stop blaming the Jews, Israel, and the United States for the misery and poverty. Their problems are mostly self-inflicted and they have to heal themselves.

The UNDP distributed seven other press releases that were critical of the Arab governments and their lack of freedom. In order to maintain brevity, these reports will not be discussed here. Interested readers are encouraged to obtain them from the A2HDR 2004 Press Kit website. Each press release is only a few pages long and is very informative and enlightening.

After reading them, one will understand how insignificant the Israeli occupation really is. Actually, the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza follows UN recommendations to promote multicultural diversity. The Palestinian Arabs benefited economically and socially from their association with the more democratic and advanced Israeli society until they unleashed the second intifada in September 2000. That's when their situation deteriorated, as a result of their emphasis on violence and as a result of the subsequent Israeli measures to protect the Jewish population from Arab suicide bombers.