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Hatred’s Hypocrites

By Richard L. Benkin, Ph.D.(22 February 2004)

IHC Abstract
Bangladesh has a history of using its courts to badger and silence journalists whose views conflict with those of certain members of the government or with the nation’s Muslim Fundamentalist movement, a movement that has sent individuals to war against Israelis, as well as to fight U.S. troops in Iraq. The presence of Bangladesh at The Hague not only illustrates the contradictions inherent in the claims against Israel’s security barrier, but also highlights that accusing nations without a democracy among them are the last who should be lecturing anyone about human rights.



It was with a sense of outrage and revulsion I learned that Bangladesh was one of the finger-wagging nations at the International Court of Justice hearings on Israel’s security barrier. For the past three months, I have been at the center of a worldwide effort to free imprisoned Bangladesh journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from his unjust incarceration. Choudhury was taken by police as he was about to board a plane for Bangkok, where he was to receive medical treatment and from where he was to fly to Tel Aviv. He was held and interrogated without any charges for weeks, often in brutal conditions and deprived of needed medical attention. His family was threatened; his home and journalistic offices raided; files and computers seized. Through a program of deliberate leaks and hyperbole, he was accused of being variously an Israeli spy and a Muslim fundamentalist, a womanizer and a homosexual. Just recently, his brother, who has been prominent in his defense inside Bangladesh, was attacked and the police refused even to record the event. Instead, they justified the attack on his brother’s “pro-Israel” activities. Just before re-locating outside of the capital for his family’s safety, his brother told me, “I’ve been targeted.”

A few weeks ago, the government charged Choudhury with sedition, a capital offense, despite repeated assurances to his attorney and family that there was no evidence to support such a charge. By accusing Choudhury of sedition, the government of Bangladesh is stating its belief that he is a danger to that nation. He has been accused of working for the Israeli Mossad, and thus far the “evidence” of his sedition is a speech he was to deliver in Israel. As author of that speech, I can state unequivocally that there is nothing seditious about it. In fact, it is highly complimentary of the government and people of Bangladesh.

There is no incident, recorded or otherwise, of Israeli agents killing even one Bangladeshi. Nor is there any evidence that armed Israelis have compromised the nation’s borders or its citizens’ safety. The government of Bangladesh, however, believes it is justified in taking this action, which places at least one man’s life in danger and has severely disrupted the lives and livelihoods of many innocent individuals. At the same time, Bangladesh denies Israel the right to take similar protective action after nearly 1,000 of its citizens have been murdered, and the lives of almost all of its citizens severely disrupted. Bangladesh acted without seeking any other option, while Israel has explored countless alternate avenues before erecting the security barrier. Yet Bangladesh and other accusing nations cry foul, not because of the security barrier, but because it is Israel’s.

Bangladesh has a history of using its courts to badger and silence journalists. Journalists whose views conflict with those of certain members of the government or with the nation’s Fundamentalist movement - a movement that has sent individuals to war against Israelis, as well as to fight U.S. troops in Iraq - have found it impossible to continue with their craft. A year before Choudhury’s imprisonment, journalist Shariar Kabir was held incommunicado for three months after traveling to India to expose the plight of Hindu refugees who had fled Bangladesh to escape communal tension. He was released on bail and has been virtually silent since. A recent New York Times editorial noted, “Mr. Choudhury’s mistreatment is not occurring in a vacuum. Muslim extremism is growing in Bangladesh. Moreover, violence against journalists…has been increasing…On December 4, a correspondent for a southern regional daily was beaten and stabbed by members of the [ruling] party’s youth wing after publication of an article critical of a key local politician.”

More ominously, a little more than a month after that, another crusading journalist was murdered there in a bomb attack. The Times concluded, “Bangladesh may now be among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.” Further, our own investigations have found Bangladeshi links to terrorist cells in Great Britain and elsewhere.

The presence of Bangladesh at The Hague not only illustrates the contradictions inherent in the claims against Israel’s security barrier, but also highlights that the accusing nations - without a democracy among them - are last to lecture anyone about human rights.



Source: Original text submitted by the author, 22 February 2004.

Abstract written by Anniteh Zahne, an IHC volunteer for www.infoisrael.net.

Edited by IHC Staff.



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