Israel partisans stoke “human rights” crisis in U.S.-Russia relations
By Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
May 25, 2012
According to a Reuters report on the recent Group of Eight Summit at Camp David, Russia’s G8 liaison Arkady Dvorkovich warned of a potential crisis between Moscow and Washington over the issue of human rights:
Dvorkovich said that at a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev will raise opposition to attempts by some U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation which will address human rights violations in Russia.
Such legislation could take a form of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky bill, named after the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009. The Kremlin human rights council says he was probably beaten to death.
The bill would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians or others with links to his detention and death as well as those who commit other human rights violations.
“New legislation which will address new political issues as imagined by some U.S. congressmen or senators is unacceptable,” Dvorkovich said, promising a retaliation.
The Magnitsky bill was introduced last year by Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission). In a August 9, 2011 Washington Post op-ed to promote the legislation, Senator Cardin wrote:
The case of Sergei Magnitsky has come to symbolize the rampant and often violent corruption plaguing the Russian state. Sergei, a 37-year-old tax lawyer, husband and father working for an American firm in Moscow, blew the whistle on the largest known tax fraud in Russian history. For that he was arrested in 2008 by those he accused, and he was imprisoned under torturous conditions for nearly a year. He was denied medical care and beaten by prison guards; he died alone in November 2009 in an isolation cell as doctors waited outside his door. These facts are accepted at the highest levels of Russia’s government, yet those implicated in his death remain unpunished, in positions of authority. Some have even been decorated and promoted.
Sergei joins a heartbreaking list of Russian heroes who lost their lives because they stood up for principle. These ranks include Natalya Estemirova, a brave human rights activist whose bullet-riddled body was found on a roadside in 2009 in the North Caucasus; Anna Politikovskaya, an intrepid reporter shot in Moscow in 2006 while carrying home groceries; and too many others.
Ben Cardin’s apparent concern about Russia’s human rights abuses stands in marked contrast to his staunch support for Israel, however. Notwithstanding the equally heartbreaking — and arguably longer — list of Palestinian heroes who have lost their lives because they too stood up for principle, the Senator for Maryland’s May 24, 2011 statement regarding President Obama’s speeches on the Middle East peace process and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a Joint Session of Congress leaves little doubt as to his passionate attachment to the Jewish state despite its egregious human rights abuses:
This week, the President highlighted what I have always believed – unyielding U.S. support for Israel’s security, U.S. rejection of Palestinian terrorism, and most importantly, the necessity for the parties to commit to negotiations as the means of resolving the conflict. I also met with Prime Minister Netanyahu today and after that discussion, I am similarly confident that that what bonds our countries is an unbreakable alliance. As he stated before Congress, “Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”
Apart from the Washington Post’s championing of the Magnitsky bill, a cursory look at other stridently pro-Israel media such as The Weekly Standard and Commentary shows that Senator Cardin is not alone in his selective outrage over human rights abuses. So, as Moscow contemplates its “retaliation” against this “unacceptable” legislation, it should also consider whether Tel Aviv might not be a more appropriate target for its ire than Washington.