Published November 18, 2009
The United Nations detained an outspoken critic and booted her from its New York headquarters in what the woman, a human rights watchdog, is calling an effort to silence her opposition to the world body.
Anne Bayefsky claims that as retaliation for giving a two-minute impromptu speech defending Israel, her 25-year career of monitoring the U.N. is now in jeopardy — likely to be placed in the hands of a committee chaired by the genocidal regime in Sudan.
Bayefsky gets special access to U.N. meetings in her capacity as the director of a non-governmental organization, the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust at New York's Touro College.
But the longtime U.N. observer has found herself in what she calls a "Kafkaesque" gray zone, where the U.N. confiscated her credentials, then denied to reporters that her access had been blocked.
"This is no accident," she told FoxNews.com, arguing that she is being denied access to vital meetings concerning her prime focus: defending Israel. "This is keeping [the U.N.'s] major critic absent during the heart of the year."
Following a vote Nov. 5 at the U.N. General Assembly, a microphone was set up outside the UNGA chamber for delegates to tout their endorsement of the controversial Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel of committing war crimes during its invasion of Gaza last winter.
Without an invitation, Bayefsky approached the empty podium to offer what she thought would be a counter-balance to speeches from the Libyan president of the UNGA and the Palestinian observer, who both supported the resolution.
"I didn't expect that there would be a problem at all," said Bayefsky, who noted that she and other NGOs have spoken there in the past without incident. (Archived U.N. video shows an official from the NGO Human Rights Watch speaking in praise of the U.N. at the same podium in May 2007.)
Bayefsky blasted the Goldstone Report and called the U.N. a "laughingstock" for singling out Israel and ignoring human rights violations committed by the terrorist organization Hamas against Israeli and Palestinian civilians during the three-week campaign in December and January.
"This is a resolution that purports to be evenhanded; it is anything but," she said of the document approved by the UNGA. "It is a travesty — it calls for accountability, and in fact what we see instead is impunity for the Palestinian side."
Soon after she finished speaking, Bayefsky was swarmed by four U.N. security guards, who brought her to their security office, confiscated her NGO pass and kicked her out of the building, she said.
But the U.N. told reporters a different story at a press conference Tuesday — claiming that there has been no change in status for Bayefsky, even as she continues to sit in limbo.
"The credentials of her organization are not changed at this stage," said Farhan Haq, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "It's possible in the future that there could be a review, but at this stage there's been no removal of credentials from that NGO or from Ms. Bayefsky."
U.N. security officials became angered with Bayefsky after they realized she had brought an assistant to the U.N. proceedings without getting him a personal pass — a breach of protocol that led to a full-fledged investigation by the security office.
But Bayefsky says that the content of her speech is what rubbed U.N. officials the wrong way. She says supporters of the Goldstone report "are going to do everything in their power to silence anyone who gets in their way."
Following her speech, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, was informed that a pro-Israel NGO had spoken after him, and reportedly asked a member of the press, "Did we capture them?"
Later, as she pleaded her case before being forcibly removed from the General Assembly building, a security official told Bayefsky that "the Palestinian ambassador is very upset at the statement you made," she told FoxNews.com.
U.N. officials denied that politics had anything to do with their handling of Bayefsky, and said it was purely an issue of protocol.
"She came to the microphone unannounced, unauthorized and unwarranted. It's so simple," said Jean-Victor Nkolo, a spokesman for the president of the General Assembly. "It's nothing personal against Ms. Bayefsky at all. But it's just that this cannot be allowed."
Though her speech was broadcast live online, the footage was removed from the main proceedings made available by the U.N. on its Web site. Video of Bayefsky's two-minute talk, which first streamed live, has been posted online on YouTube.
"This was broadcast live. These are very serious matters," said Nkolo. "We are trying in this building to work toward peace in a very serious manner."
Bayefsky is now waiting for the U.N. to return her credentials or to refer her case to the Committee on NGOs, which will meet during January and February and could decide whether to renew her NGO pass — a prospect that has her deeply worried.
"The chances of my getting through that committee are basically nil," she said.
The nation that chairs the committee, Sudan, is currently engaged in a murderous war on its own citizens and expelled 13 major aid NGOs from the country in March — meaning that a human rights violator that rejects NGOs within its own borders will be overseeing the approval of NGOs at the U.N.
Asked about this apparent inconsistency, a spokeswoman for the U.N. body overseeing the NGO committee said in an e-mail that "the Departments concerned are investigating this matter on the basis of established practice, jurisprudence and thorough review of the facts."
That spokeswoman, Diane Loughran, noted that "The decision on whether to suspend or withdraw her organization from the UN would be up to the Committee on NGOs upon receipt of a formal complaint." But Loughran said she was not aware of any formal complaints filed with the committee.
In the meantime, Bayefsky has no pass and can't hope for a hearing until at least January or February, which means she could be barred from working at the U.N. for the next few months.
"The next three weeks are the heart of the entire year at the U.N. General Assembly. The frenzy of anti-Israel activity is going on right now," she said.
"There's a reason they're keeping me away — this is no accident."