It looks like April Fool's Day has come early in Geneva, with news that Ismail al-Ashqar, a senior Hamas official, will address the UN Human Rights Council today. Only thing, this is no joke!
The UN Human Rights Council, which only a few days ago unanimously adopted a report praising the Gaddafi-era Libyan regime for its human rights record, has never exactly been a friend of Israel or the Jewish people (or for that matter, any victims of human rights abuse or terrorism). But even this plummets them to a new low.
The topic of Al-Ashqar's address? The issue of Hamas members being held in Israeli jails.
First, perhaps a brief reminder as to Hamas' raison d'être is in order:
For this purpose, look no further than its Charter, which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel (through the use of terror) and the creation of an Islamic state in Gaza, the West Bank, and all of Israel. Hamas has repeatedly and unequivocally said it will never recognize, negotiate with, or permanently live side-by-side with the Jewish state, a point its Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went to great lengths to stress during his recent visit to Iran.
The United States, Canada, and the European Union (amongst others) all classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. Yet the UN Human Rights Council is set to roll out the red carpet and provide a mouthpiece for them.
The issue of prisoner rights is also a peculiar one, bearing in mind Hamas was responsible for keeping Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit hostage for five and a half years, without observing so much as even a modicum of human rights or nod towards international law.
The response from Hamas or pro-Palestinian activists when the name Shalit was raised, and no doubt as al-Ashqar will do so now, is often: "But what about Israel? They have thousands of our prisoners."
Well, what about Israel?
According to the Israeli Prison Service, as of December 2011, there were 4,816 security prisoners serving time in Israeli jails for offenses of national security and terrorism (this includes not only from Hamas, but other terrorist groups as well).
It is worth bearing in mind that the Hamas prisoners, together with their associates from Islamic Jihad, PFLP, PRC and so on, routinely commit war crimes, including indiscriminate and deliberate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, using human shields and generally failing to conduct their operations in accordance with the laws of war.
Unlike Shalit, these individuals are not entitled to the benefits and privileges afforded by the Prisoner of War protections under the Third Geneva Convention, and are subject to prosecution as war criminals. Yet Israel still affords them these protections (and then some) nonetheless.
Terror prisoners in Israel have full visitation rights from their families, free lawyers (paid for by Israel), access to judicial review and regular visits and inspections by the Red Cross (something Shalit was denied during his five and a half years in captivity).
As if that wasn't enough, Israel goes above and beyond its legal (and moral) obligations, and even provides many of these prisoners with cell phones, internet and television access, and option to study for further degrees (again, all paid for by the State of Israel).
By comparison to what Shalit and Israeli prisoners undergo in Palestinian jails, this is like Club Med.
Just prior to the Shalit exchange last October (in which Israel released 1,027 Hamas prisoners), al-Ashqar, said : "[m]ore of Shalits are coming," adding that "efforts to kidnap soldiers will continue until all Palestinian prisoners are freed."
Al-Ashqar also described the killing of Osama bin-Laden as "state terrorism that America carries out against Muslims."
And in case anyone still needed more proof of al-Ashqar's human rights "bona fides" and commitment to peace, in September 2010 he said "Jerusalem cannot be liberated through negotiations or dialogue ... resistance and Jihad is the only way to liberate Jerusalem from the dirt of the Zionist occupation."
At this stage it is still unclear whether al-Ashqar was officially invited to speak by the UN, or on behalf of an NGO. However, the UN does have a formidable track record of providing a platform to terrorists, not least of which Iran's President Ahmadinejad, to espouse their vile hatred and anti-Semitism.
It is also ironic that al-Ashtar, a proponent of genocide and terrorism against Israel, will address the Council just days before the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Yigal Palmor, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson summed it best, when he reportedly said in response to news of al-Ashqar's invitation to speak before the UNHRC: "Only a twisted mind can put Hamas and human rights together."
Perhaps not even Orwell, in his wildest dreams, could have conjured such a scenario. But when it comes to twisted minds, the UN Human Rights Council is in a stratosphere all of its own.