Apr 302017
 

I recently came across an article in a magazine that discussed an academic who grew up in France, moved to Israel, and thence to the United States where he lectures at a leading university. He has written two books of memoirs, both originally in French. The first was professionally translated into English, but he decided to translate the most recent book himself. Being a university professor, he considers himself to be omniscient so he thinks that – even though English is not his first language – he is able to translate into English. The result is terrible! Standard translations of place names are mistranslated (as with so many French-speakers, he cannot distinguish between “town” and “city”) and there are many other gaffes. It is typical of academics to over-estimate their abilities in this respect. Even famous authors who wrote in languages that were not their mother tongue, such as Conrad and Nabokov, had their work heavily edited and corrected by other people.

The truth is that there is no such thing as true bilingualism. However fluent one is in another language, the culture and thought processes of one’s mother tongue will always prevail. This is particularly true of languages such as English, French and German whose grammar and syntax are so complex and sophisticated that it is impossible for people who are not mother tongue to write in them correctly. As someone who was educated at a French school in London, where many of the pupils were “virtually” bilingual, I have observed this phenomenon at first hand. It could be argued that in the case of a language with which one has grown up, or if one lived in a bilingual household, this does not apply. It may be true, indeed, in the case of Hebrew and Yiddish. In the case of Yiddish, no one is monolingual in Yiddish and few ever were, Jews had to learn the language of the host country, like it or not. The same, to some extent, is true of Hebrew. Israel’s national poets, Bialik and Tchernikovsky were not mother-tongue Hebrew. This is a unique situation, however, and does not apply to many people who consider themselves to be “bilingual”.

Another point to make in this respect is that having a good accent in the foreign language is no indication of fluency and accuracy in it. A schoolmate of mine did very badly in the French oral GCSE examination because she spoke French exactly as if it were English with a terrible accent. In fact, she had grown up in France (her father was a British diplomat stationed there) and her essays in French were extremely good. On the other hand, one hears many fluent English-speakers, with good English accents and pronunciation, on radio and television but if one analyses what they are saying one finds all kinds of classic mistakes (such as “arrive to” instead of “arrive at”, etc.).

Apr 182017
 

I have anglicised American children’s books before but never had to translate one until now. The book I am currently translating is a particularly difficult one because it is about a subject that is totally foreign to the UK market, for which it is being translated, namely wine-making. It is all the more difficult because children are not supposed to drink wine, at least not in England! Fortunately, the book makes that point quite strongly, although in France and Italy even little children can be seen drinking wine, even in restaurants, and in other countries religious ritual allows them to drink wine, for Holy Communion, for example, and for Jewish rituals (although in all cases grape juice is allowed).
Transcreation
A children’s book translator is not so much a translator as an interpreter and transcreator. “Transcreation” is a term used to describe the translation and adaptation of culture-specific material such as advertisements, which need to appeal to different cultures and mentalities. But advertising and marketing translations are not nearly as difficult as translating children’s books! For one thing, the culture is completely different in the various English-speaking countries and particularly between the United Kingdom and the United States. Apart from spelling, grammar, punctuation and various colloquialisms, children play different sports, eat different foods and their whole lifestyle is different. It is a major problem explaining all this to people who are used to a very uniform culture – that of the French-speaking world, for instance. In the case of this book, even in parts of the French-speaking world in which there is little or no wine-making (Belgium, for instance) there is a consciousness of wine and the terminology used is well understood but it is almost untranslatable into English (words such as ‘chai’, ‘hotte’ and ‘rafle’ have no direct Couv_GP_2equivalent in English). Translating children’s books requires a lot of creativity, something that most of the people commissioning translations do not understand. For example, in this book the flavour of the fresh grape is compared to that of blackcurrant jam. If the book is being translated for the United States that comparison cannot be used. Blackcurrants are members of the ribes family whose cultivation is forbidden in all but a small corner in the northeastern United States because the plants are subject to a fungus disease that has another host on white fir trees and could destroy whole plantations. For this reason redcurrants, blackcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries are almost unknown in the USA. There are lots of substitutes of course. The same is true of barberries whose cultivation has been banned in the UK for a long time, but they are used extensively in Persian cooking.
Some of the adaptations would not occur to the original author or publisher of the book, such as how a child would address a parent or grandparent. In the UK, there are so many class-related nuances. For instance only a middle class or upper middle class child would call their parents “mummy” or “daddy” and even then, it is now most usual to talk of “mum” or “dad”. As for grandparents, only working class English children would address their grandmother as “nanny” or “nan”, “grandma” is upper or middle class, “gran” is used by most classes at some time (only for grandmothers, however) “grandpa” is upper or middle class but “granddad” is used nowadays by most classes. Similar distinctions exist in the United States but between speakers in the northern or southern states.
Dialogue in general is very different in children’s books, one absolutely has to be a native speaker in order to capture the flavour of a child’s turn of phrase and vocabulary.
So that is why translation of children’s books is the hardest form of translation.

A general remark about book translation
Couv_GP_2
One of the problems of book translation is that a) you have to have a lot of good connections to get to translate a prestigious book, and b) whether a the publisher commissioning the translation will not actually know whether the book is any good or not. I was cheated out of payment for a large book translation a few years ago by an American publisher who hired an editor who rubbished my translation. I had translated many books for this publisher on similar subjects, without a hitch. There were two problems with the book in question: a) it was on a subject that had been dealt with only recently in another book published by the same publisher (!) (why they wanted this one translated is beyond me) and b) The text was really poor! The book was originally written in German and was very tedious and heavy and was then translated into French which is where I came in. The truth is that the original text would not have appealed to English-language readers and was cumbersome and heavy.

I had a similar experience with another publisher a few years’ previously. He wanted three books translated from French that were originally in German. The trouble is that the books, which were histories, contained masses of inaccuracies! It was only when he read them in English that he realised this, but it was hardly my fault!

Dec 252016
 

This was the damage caused by a truck that killed four people, including a little girl, because the owners ran a haulage company as cheaply as they could. They did little servicing of their vehicles and knew perfectly well that the brakes on the vehicle were faulty but they allowed a driver to take it out on the road.They have been sentenced to jail terms. This will not bring the victims back and when they get out of prison these same perpetrators will no doubt go back into some sort of business and run it as unethically as they ran this one.

That is the trouble. As has been pointed out, if you act unethically in business and have no moral conscience, you are bound to succeed! It is the slave-owner mentality, the mentality that allows people to ruthlessly exploit other people for their own benefit. We have seen a few examples of this recently, homeless men held prisoner by farmers who make them work for long hours and pay them little or nothing.

The slave-owner mentality is shared by certain government ministers. Seeing the huge rise in the need for public service interpreters due to the influx of foreigners, the government cynically decided to farm out all public service interpreting (police, court, social services, NHS) by offering a large lump sum to an agency of their choice to supply any and all interpreters for a three-year period. They would be aware, of course, that if the arrangement was to be profitable for the agency, the fee offered to interpreters would amount to slave wages. The original claim was that this would represent a saving of £18 million, a figure invented by someone in the Ministry of Justice and plucked from thin air, of course. In the event, the arrangement actually cost the taxpayer large sums of money. That is because the kind of people who would work for £20.00 for half a day’s work (less, in fact, because they often could not take any other work that day) were not trained, or even competent, interpreters. Often an interpreter would not bother to turn up at all to court or wherever else he/she had been summoned. In a few cases, the lack of a suitable interpreter resulted in a defendant being kept in custody for weeks at a time. In fact, the cost to the taxpayer in terms of lost time, remands, etc. is incalculable.

Due to the utter incompetence and greed of the contracted agency, the government was urged to terminate the initial contract prematurely but it never did so. When the three-year contract finally expired, at least it was not renewed; the new arrangement is with another rapacious translation agency, on the same terms as before, and again interpreters are being paid well below minimum wage. This is possible because interpreters are “freelance”, i.e.allegedly self-employed. The government seems to have come to some sort of arrangement with the Inland Revenue about this, since interpreters ought to be employees of the agency hiring them, but this government encourages the “gig economy” of which interpreters are just another bunch of victims, along with those who work for Deliveroo, Uber and zero hours contract employers. How ironic that this is the government that has introduced the Anti-Slavery Act!

The agencies involved in hiring out public service interpreters are run in the same way as the company that sent out defective trucks that would eventually kill innocent bystanders. Their owners are utterly unscrupulous and interested solely in profit, to the detriment of everything else. We do not know how many victims there are of incompetent, untrained, underpaid people who call themselves language interpreters. The truth is that the translation agencies who use them are hugely successful and will continue to be so because their immorality will be allowed to continue unchecked.

Dec 042016
 

My company offers a range of translation services but there are some in which we specialise:

1) Court interprreting: my business partner and I have appeared as court interpreters in every type of court, in the UK, the USA and Israel. Court interpreters, unlike lawyers, cannot specialise. They work on every type of case from parking in the wrong place to homicide. Some cases we have to handle, such as those involving divorce or sex crimes, are very distasteful, but we just have to keep our heads down and do the best job we can. As interpreters, we are not allowed to interfere in any way, give advice to a defendant or witness, etc. We are not “McKenzie friends”. This often annoys the person for whom we are interpreting but we cannot do otherwise if we are to maintain the trust of the judicial system. A court interpreter must be quick-witted, have an excellent command of both languages, speak clearly and fully understandably, and be able to sight-translate documents, a skill often demanded especially in commercial law cases. All of these are highly skilled talents that the judicial system in the UK consistently ignores. When Chris Grayling was Justice Minister he devised a “brilliant” scheme for cutting down on the expense of court interpreting, by handing it over lock, stock and barrel to some obscure agency on the Yorkshire Moors that instantly did a deal with Capita, who took over the whole thing. The government had plucked a figure out of the air – £12 million – as the potential savings of the scheme. In fact, it COST the taxpayer millions in inadequate interpreting, lost court time when an interpreter failed to turn up, remands in custody when no interpreter could be found,etc.

Capita has massive political influence and fought for years to retain the lucrative contract but in the end they lost out. That is not because sanity prevailed and court interpreting was again administered, as it had been in the past, by the various courts operating their own lists. No, the contract has now been handed to Thebigword, another translation agency one which will be using the same underpaid and underqualified interpreters as before with the same disastrous results.

Sep 292016
 

The Co-operative Group

I was elected to the Members’ Council of the Co-operative Group (the Co-op) on 5th May. In case you are not aware of it, the Co-operative Group and the Co-operative Party (not the same thing) has adopted a policy of boycotting suppliers that have any dealings with any Israeli businesses operating beyond the “Green Line”. This discriminatory resolution, that is not applied to any goods other than those from Israel, will no doubt be strengthened by the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning the “settlements” which is an invitation to greater Palestinian intransigence. The truth is that 80 per cent of the world is ruled by dictators who will naturally side with other dictators (such as the Fatah dictatorship in Palestine and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza) and with countries that are not members of any powerful bloc (such as the Arab bloc). Add to this the fact that most western countries are heavily indebted to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, and it is obvious where their power lies. The latest anti-Israel resolution by the United Nations can be equated to the “Zionism is racism” resolution also passed by the UN to its eternal shame. Meanwhile, the slaughter of innocent civilians continues unchecked in Syria and the Yemen. Let us remember that these are civil wars! What the Arabs would do to the Israelis if they got a chance does not bear thinking about.

The move to ban Israeli produce in the Cooperative Party and the Cooperative Movement was initiated by a very few members who are on the fringes of the Party, but due to the ignorance of members (fuelled by the lies told by the BBC in particular) it is maintained. Israel does not need the Cooperative Movement, the goods boycotted are estimated to amount to a paltry £350,000 a year, when Israel’s exports to the UK can be counted in the billions of pounds. It is the Co-operative Group that needs Israel, not the other way around. Israel was founded on co-operation and co-operatives, more than any other country in the world. It is all very well for people in the Co-op to bleat on about Mondragon and the few European co-operatives, there is not a major enterprise in Israel that was not founded as a co-operative, to say nothing of the kibbutzim and moshavim.

A potted history of the Co-operative Movement

The Co-operative movement that became a sister party to the Labour Party began in 1844 when a group of men in Rochdale decided that the local shops were overcharging for their goods. These men decided to set up a Co-operative shop. From there, the movement mushroomed until it had shops and even department stores, as well as farms, pharmacies and funeral services, all over the United Kingdom, to say nothing of the bank, one of its most lucrative enterprises.

In 2013, a scandal tainted the Co-operative Bank when it was discovered that there was a massive shortfall in its funds, apparently mainly the fault of the Rev. Paul Flowers, then the chairman and a director of the Co-operative Bank. The Co-operative Wholesale Society suffered losses in the millions of pounds, that resulted in its entire reorganisation, including the sale of its pharmacies (which never boycotted Israeli pharmaceuticals otherwise their shelves would have been empty!) and most of the Bank (the Co-operative Society still owns 10%).

The Co-operative Wholesale Society has gradually recovered thanks to excellent new management. It has now adopted a policy of opening mini-supermarkets in every postcode in the United Kingdom, backed by a massive advertising campaign, so the Co-op should be a familiar sight to every shopper. What may not be so well-known is that the Co-op minimarkets operate an effective boycott of agricultural produce from Israel, the only nationwide British retail chain to do so. This was the initiative of a very few activists (it always is!) one of whom was none other than the Rev. Paul Flowers. He has gone, of course, but there are a couple of people left who encourage the boycott to remain in place “on moral grounds” as they put it.One of them at least was precluded from standing for election to the Members’ Council due to his shady past, which says a lot about the sort of people advocating the boycott.

Thanks to these activists, the Co-op claims that “Since 2009, The Co-operative Group has operated a Human Rights and Trade Policy, which establishes the exceptional circumstances under which we will withdraw all trade from a particular state, area or settlement. One such circumstance is where there is a broad international consensus that the status of a settlement is illegal. There are only two examples of such illegal areas: the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara”.

In practice, this means that the boycott is applied to the four major Israeli exporters of agricultural produce including Agrexco and Mahedrin. These Israeli companies export produce from all over the land and do not discriminate between farms in Israel post-1948 or Israel post-1967 or Judaea and Samaria, nor do they discriminate between Jewish and Arab farmers, both inside and outside Israel inside the Green Line. The Co-op continues to refer to “illegal settlements” as if these and the Western Sahara (included “for balance” no doubt) were the only disputed territories in the world! And even in relation to Western Sahara, the Co-op does not in fact boycott suppliers that have dealings with the Moroccan “settlements” – in reality the only target of this policy is Israel. The fact that Israel is singled out in this way, despite the fact that all over the world there are countries and regions whose sovereignty is in dispute and who are allowed to export their goods with impunity, says a great deal for the people who are behind this discriminatory, and even racist, boycott.

Sep 182016
 

Reblogged from Patenttranslator’s blog

We Have the Best Translators in the World – At Least 5,000 of Them!

by patenttranslator

Most people know that if they want something done really well, they have to hire the best people available at the price they demand and then let these people work their magic. Yet, for some reason, this simple truth is not exactly what “the translation industry” is saying in its marketing propaganda on translation agency websites. Of course, these agencies nowadays prefer to call themselves “LSPs” (Language Services Providers, often called Lame Service Providers by translators), as if “agency” were a dirty word, or possibly because they have themselves made it a dirty word.

If you take a look at a few translation agency websites, large and small (although typically large), just about everything else is more important judging from their marketing material than whether the best person will be hired for the job and whether the translator will be given enough freedom and sufficient time to do the job well.

“We Have the Best Translators in the World, _5,000 to 12,000 of Them”

In passing, usually in a single sentence, translation agencies claim on their websites that they, “have the best translators”. But almost none of them will let you see exactly who these excellent translators are and what kind of education and experience they have.

A law firm allows potential clients who visit its website to browse a database of lawyers specializing in different fields and a description of their education and experience is included as well as their e-mail address and telephone number. How else can clients make up their minds about the qualifications and suitability of the person who is to be entrusted with an important legal case? Potential clients want to know who they are hiring.

Clients who need to hire a translator through the intermediary of a translation agency, however, are almost always hiring a pig in a poke.

Translation agencies don’t really have any “translators”, let alone 5,000 of them as one website boasts. All they have is a list (database) of freelance translators. Yet they love to brag so much about the number of translators they “have” these days that they now claim on their websites that they “have thousands of translators”, generally 5,000 to 12,000 translators, where the numbers are specified.

Are there actually 5,000 really competent translators in the world? The total number is probably much, much smaller for just about any given field and language combination.

If a translation agency actually does have, say, 5,000 translators in its database, what does that really mean? How can anybody in that agency possibly know which of those 5,000 translators are really good in a given field and language combination? A project manager might know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of a few dozen of the translators the agency uses regularly, but is it possible to know something like that about such enormous numbers of translators?

If I were a customer, a boast by an agency about the large number of translators it uses would be a serious disincentive for me to hire this agency since it would signify that the agency is simply creating or purchasing databases (they go for about a hundred bucks) containing the highest number of warm bodies in them so that the cheapest of them (as opposed to the best!) could be matched with a job to generate maximum profit for the agency.

The truth is that translation agencies are determined to prevent potential customers contacting translators directly at all costs! If they were allowed to do so, they might realise that the majority of agencies, and especially the big agencies, are only middlemen who, instead of adding value to the translation, mostly just add significantly to the cost.

All of Our Excellent, 5,000 Translators Are Now Our Slaves

I have many contracts in my files with translation agencies that I signed without hesitation some 20 or even 30 years ago. They were usually one to two pages long, 300 to 500 words, and the emphasis was placed mostly on the translator’s duty to maintain confidentiality. Most translation agencies never asked me to sign anything at all, it was only if their client insisted on a confidentiality agreement that one was required to be signed.

Recently, a translator published a contract on Facebook that had been sent to her by an agency who required her to sign it that was 19 pages and almost 11,000 words long. Of course, if you really do have 5,000 translators in your files, you will have no idea which ones are good and which ones are terrible. So you need a contract containing many get-out clauses so that you can refuse to pay the translator should the end-client refuse to pay you – the middleman – since you have no way of telling whether a translation is good or bad since you don’t speak the language and don’t know much about translation.

Instead of trying to find the best possible person for the job at hand and cultivating a lasting relationship with the best translators, many translation agencies now seem to go out of their way to make sure that the most insecure and least experienced translators. They look for the cheapest they can find on the websites that offer translation work and this is what they give their clients. Sometimes they exert a measure of “quality control” by getting the translations “proofread” (i.e. edited, agencies do not know the difference). Sometimes the proofreader introduces a few more mistakes!

The Difference Between Employees Three Decades Ago and “Independent Contractors” Today

These long contracts that de facto turn freelancers who are ostensibly “independent translators” into virtual wage slaves without any of the benefits of full-time employment can also lead to some unintended consequences for the agency.Contracts of employment for full-time staff usually spell out the benefits that employees are afforded, while contracts with freelance translators are replete with obligations, and devoid of rights.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service lists on its website 20 conditions that distinguish independent contractors from employees the most important one being the degree of independence that contractors are afforded, in contrast to employees, who must obey all the rules and regulations of their employer lest they be fired.

What a difference there is between contracts that were signed between employees more than 30 years ago in America, and the contracts that translation agencies are trying to force translators to sign these days, in the USA and throughout the world.

On the one hand, since translators are officially called independent contractors, they have no benefits such as paid leave, Christmas bonuses, etc.

All that an independent contractor can expect is to be paid for his/her services and rarely on time. There is European legislation that has been written into the laws of the countries (including the UK) that payments to sub-contractors must be made in thirty days. The agencies that actually pay within thirty days are rarer than hens teeth. Many impose terms of 90 days on their sub-contracted translators. Even then, the payment may be reduced by factors such as “full matches” and “fuzzy matches”, i.e. non-payment or partial payment for repeated words, which is a scheme that can best be described as theft. And you can bet the end-client gets none of the benefit from the reduction in cost to the agency.

The remainder of the contract between a translator and a translation agency generally specifies a large number of duties for the translator, some of them quite onerous. For example, the translator, although supposed to be an independent contractor, may be forced to submit invoices by using a labyrinthine interface of an agency’s byzantine accounting system; Depending on the agency, he/she may be prevented from using machine translation in any way, shape or form (as a potential breach of security), or on the contrary, forced to use machine translation if this leads to a greater profit for the agency. The translator may also be forced to use a specific CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tool which is particularly conducive to extracting maximum profit from translators by way of the highly lucrative wage theft scheme of deducting money for repeated words as described above.

Many of the clauses in these contracts, including the “non-competition clause”, would be illegal under most jurisdictions and they strip any semblance of independence from nominally “independent contractors”. The United Kingdom even has a Law of Unfair Contracts, but no translator has ever sued an agency under this law as the cost would be prohibitive.

I wonder whether the lawyers, who must be paid handsomely for drawing up these contracts, ever ask themselves the following question:

If more than 50% of the clauses in a contract with a nominally “an independent contractor” is in breach of IRS and/or Inland Revenue (HMRC) rules and regulations that define employees and contractors, how is an agency going to defend itself in court against the claim that it has 50,000 employees, instead of only, say, four in-house, tax-paying employees?

At the very least, all the translators who signed such a contract and worked for the agency, even on a single translation, would likely appear to the tax authorities as employees from whom taxes should have been collected and sent to the country’s treasury department. Failure to do so could result in stiff penalties.

The same applies to VAT. There are literally hosts of translation agencies who are really located all over the world but who buy a local phone number and accommodation address in the United States and the United Kingdom and pretend to be headquartered there. Do they pay tax to the State Board of Equalisation in the USA or Value Added Tax in the United Kingdom? No, they do not, and yet they appear to remain unpunished.They have all the benefits of a UK or US address but none of the expenses of paying council tax, income tax or VAT.

Aug 282016
 

imgres-1THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE HITS OUT AGAIN AT SMALL BUSINESSES
by Josephine Bacon
Not content with slashing the fees of court interpreters and lawyers at the criminal bar, the Ministry of Justice recently announced sweeping changes to civil cases for damages etc., meaning that individuals and small firms will not be able to afford to pursue such cases in future.
The changes mean, among other things, that claimants bringing law suits will incur significantly higher filing charges, increasing by as much as 600 per cent more in some cases! For example, pursuing a claim to the value of £20,000 will incur a 64 per cent fee increase – from £610 to £1,000 – while the charge for pursuing a claim of up to £190,000 has been increased by 622 per cent to an eye-watering £9,500.
Hugh Hitchcock, director at the Swansea firm of solicitors, Douglas-Jones Mercer, says the fee increase will significantly deter small businesses from pursuing civil torts committed against them.
“This massive increase in court fees is of huge significance to business, and many are unaware that much higher fees will now apply if they wish to bring cases to court. Some of the increases are prohibitively high, and I predict that this will create a barrier to access to justice for many small companies.
“All sectors will be affected by this change, but I can imagine it will be of particular concern to the construction industry, where non-payment and breach of contract disputes are rife. There is no doubt that, being faced with such a high outlay of cash for bringing a case will result in fewer valid cases being taken forward”. The victims in all cases will be small business, yet another victory for big business.
Another sector likely to be seriously affected is the IT industry. This will make it easier for big business to steal patents, a practice that is already all too common. Small firms will now be powerless to act.
Whilst the Government claims that the fee increase will gradually remove claims brought by “chancers” and ultimately speed up the legal process, the prospect of losing a valid case will undoubtedly play on the mind of businesses looking to initiate claims, to say nothing of being unable to afford to make the claim in the first place. A case is currently going through the courts of a tool-maker who had their patented process stolen by a high-powered multinational. Such a case, brought by a small company, will now be completely unaffordable in the UK, because the court fee is only part of the costs.
Hitchock continues, “The enhanced fees have been introduced with unprecedented speed and the rationale behind them is questionable at best. I am concerned that, for small businesses that don’t have powerful and weighty in-house law teams fighting battles on their behalf, these increases will deter them from making valid claims”.
The Law Society, with the support of other lawyers’ representative bodies, is taking this concern seriously by launching a judicial review of the increases.

Apr 162016
 

Extract from “the Jerusalem Post” on 14 April 2016

Anyone who follows the UN to even a minimal degree knows that Israel is singled out disproportionately for resolutions and condemnations. Among other things I asked Neuer, what is behind this seeming bias? How entrenched is it? And what can we do about it? A few of his answers surprised me.

Hillel Neuer who is Executive Director of UN Watch in Geneva, lives to take down the bad guys. He faces some of the world’s worst perpetrators of human rights abuses as they deny their crimes and scapegoat Israel at the same time.

Talking with Neuer, two things become clear. The first is that he cares deeply and passionately for human rights. The second is that he is Canadian and that he credits his nationality with helping him in fighting for Number 1.

How did UNWatch come to be?

UNWatch was founded by Morris Abram, the Jewish legendary civil rights attorney who worked closely with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and won the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case granting equality to the votes of African-Americans. In the 1960s he represented the United States on human rights committees in the UN, and eventually became the US ambassador to the UN in Geneva. He voted against the anti Israel biased resolutions in the 1960s-70s, and in 1993, he created an organization dedicated to monitor the UN and make sure it lived up to its own principles, fought against anti Semitism and anti Israel-bias, and fought for universal human rights. That was UNWatch.

It’s pretty clear to see that Israel is singled out for condemnations and resolutions in the UN. What is behind this?

The UN onslaught against Israel has been entrenched since 1975, when the UN adopted the Zionism is Racism resolution. It was repealed, but the infrastructure of anti Israel resolutions is still there. For example, there were 20 resolutions against Israel this year at the General Assembly in New York, compared to only three resolutions against all other countries combined. In Geneva, at the UN Human Rights Council, there have been five condemnatory resolutions against Israel this year, and four on the rest of the world combined.

The campaign against Israel was started by the Arab and Islamic states in the late 1960s. Together, they have 56 votes, and they use them to bring support to their causes: if you vote for them, they will vote for you. Believe it or not, terror also helped their cause. In the 70s, when there were Palestinian hijackings, governments including Switzerland went to the PLO and made a deal: if the PLO stopped terrorism in each country, then those countries would vote for the Arab causes in the UN. And so they did.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.39.23 AMThere is also the fact that those who go after Israel want to deny the Jewish people safety and security. There is no question that demonizing Israel is the new anti-Semitism.

Neuer’s work at UNWatch means that the three months a year the UNHRC is in session, he gives speeches, many speeches. In the last session he spoke 10-15 times covering all kinds of issues and human rights around the world including Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, China etc.

I suggest that the countries whose human rights offenses he exposes must not like him very much.

His reply? “The governments don’t. The human rights victims do.”

And this seems to be the most important thing to him.

In the videos of your speeches, you are so calm and collected despite constant interruptions and accusations by some of the worst regimes in the world. How do you remain so calm and not react to the insanity going on around you?

It helps to be Canadian. When I take the floor, I express the full passion that I have for human rights victims around the world who are being ignored, whether in China, Iran, Russia, Turkey- and I bring that to my presentation. So too, when I address the anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel, I bring the full passion of that injustice to my speech.

At the same time, to be effective one has to know how to restrain oneself — and so I bring my full Canadian-ness which is to be calm, cool, collected. Just like a surgeon who comes to the operating table and there is blood and guts all over the place, at that time the worst thing to do is to allow your emotions to get a hold of you. You must be focused on the job at hand and be calm and collected. So when I’m in that room and I see the equivalent of blood and guts- dictators, tyrannies, people like the Syrians and Iranians who murder their own people, and others who torture theirs, and they speak of human rights, it’s horrific. But I have only two minutes to best further the cause of true human rights and democracy, to think how best to fight dictatorships and double standards.

Outside of that room do you ever become ‘not Canadian’ for a few minutes?Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.47.40 PM

He laughs, “Um… After twelve years, on the job…you have to know how to be effective. You need to know when and where. We use humor to expose the Orwellian absurdity of the place. For example, there is a UN expert of 15 years who is the co founder of the Muammar Gadhafi human rights prize, a man named Jean Ziegler. He not only founded the prize, but he won it! We exposed that and you have to see the humor in it at the same time as you decry the injustice and the disgust of such appointments.

“Of all that you see and experience, the bad, the worse and the ugly, what of the past 12 years stand out most?” The answer comes easily.

Of many moments, the most classic is Durban II. Durban was the world UN conference on racism turned anti-Semitic hate fest, where thousands marched in the streets saying that Hitler should have finished the job. This was a traumatic time for Jews and others. The sequel in 2009 was held in front of the UN Watch office in Geneva. We initiated a major counter effort during Durban 2, which had Ahmadinejad as the opening speaker. We brought thousands of demonstrators to Geneva and organized a real human rights conference, where real victims of human rights from around the world testified about real experiences.

We also exposed the hypocrisy of the UN conference where Gadhafi’s secretary was the Chair of the preparatory committee for two years. We brought in a famous Libyan victim, a Palestinian doctor who suffered discrimination because he was a minority. The Libyan ambassador, shocked to be faced with this victim of her regime, continuously interrupted the doctor’s testimony and eventually turned off his microphone, but enough of his story was heard covered by the media (see it here).We also held a rally to speak out about Israeli victims of human rights abuse, who were ignored by the UN conference where Israel was singled out yet again. Natan Sharansky spoke, Elie Wiesel, and many others spoke against anti Semitism.

Beyond countering and exposing the conference for what it was, Neuer employed what we call ‘rosh gadol’ to thwart those who came to demonize Israel.

There is oScreen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.40.27 AMnly one square in front of the UN in Geneva and we booked it for the whole week. There is only one youth hostel, one major conference center, and we booked it. We booked them well in advance so when the anti Israel, anti Western activists came to town to support Iran and attack Jews, they couldn’t find a conference center, a square, or a place to stay. The anti-Israel activists who were there said that (despite the fact that Israel didn’t participate in the conference), Geneva looked like ‘occupied Zionist territory’. This was a major Zionist victory. That was a week where the true victims of HR abuses were able to have their say and the imposters were frustrated. It’s easy to see this victory meant a lot to him. Chalk one up for the Jews.

What’s becoming very clear is that Israel functions as the perfect scapegoat for the world’s worst human rights abusers. Everyone knows the best defense is a good offense and the nations of the UNHRC are completely aware that Israel is not a serial abuser of human rights—however, by making so much of the UNHRC about Israel, they leave no room or time for criticism of other nations. This
strategy has worked for four decades and it is only growing stronger. UN Watch is the only organization that calls these countries out and highlights the very real and systematic human rights that they perpetrate

The greatest victims of this behavior are not Israel and her people, but the people of those regimes who point the spotlight on Israel and continue to abuse their own people in the shadows. They divert world compassion and efforts towards the created war on Israel and keep it away from themselves.

I have to understand, so ask, How does this happen? How can this occur so blatantly in the United Nations? It seems impossible to believe.

Many people, especially in Europe, imagine that the UNHRC is a council of wise sages, chosen for their adherence to logic, truth, and morality. But the reality is that the council is a political body made up of 47 countries, elected by other countries. Out of the 193 UN member states, 120 of them belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, which is an anti-Western alliance. The current Chair is Iran, and is often Cuba or Venezuela. So you get 120 countries who will automatically vote for dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, China, or Cuba, to be on the UNHRC.

In addition, they bargain using oil or sovereign wealth funds—Qatar has billions of dollars. They go to countries and say vote for us. We will give you oil, investments and votes. The UN works according to vote trading- you vote for me and I vote for you.

I found proof of this in the Saudi Arabian records. The fundamentalist monarchy of Saudi Arabia wrote to the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin and said: we hereby agree to vote for you in the HRC and you will vote for us —it’s on their letterhead.

There are democracies on the UNHRC who should be rallying against this, but often they go along to get along. In fact, we revealed that Saudi Arabia and Britain agreed to vote for one another. We know that Britain approached Saudi Arabia to get their vote and it seems they may have promised to vote for them in exchange.

At what level does this happen? Just the representatives?

At the highest levels. The Foreign Minister would know about it, the PM might know about it. In fact PM Cameron was asked about it and eventually effectively admitted that they voted for the Saudis, claiming they needed a security relationship with them to help combat terrorism.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.40.36 AMWhy is the UN a big deal? Why does it matter?

Ben Gurion is reported to have said “oom shmoom”— (Oom is the shorthand for United Nations in Hebrew), but the reality is that the UN is the single most important repository of international legitimacy. It affects the hearts and minds of millions of citizens around the world. UN decisions are translated into every language and are spread around the world. They affect the reporting of journalists, the decisions of foreign ministries who have UN decisions on their shelves. Students, lawyers, HR groups and the wider public, like it or not the UN influences hundreds of millions around the world and if we don’t like what is happening we cannot ignore it, we need to respond.

Should Israel just leave the UN?

There is no running away from it. You can leave the UN and then you will encounter the same in FIFA- the football association. Are you going to run away from FIFA? Israel fought very hard to get her seat in the UN – people remember the 1929 vote to have a
Jewish state but they don’t remember that there was another fight to become a member and Israel lost the first vote. Abba Eban battled eloquently and valiantly for Israel’s seat. If you want to be an independent and sovereign country- one of the signs of

Apr 152016
 

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The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group’s elections to its Members’ Council were duly held and I was elected to the Members Council. As many readers will know, the Co-op adopted a policy of boycotting suppliers that have any dealings with any Israeli business operating beyond the “Green Line”. This is despite the fact that a similar boycott is supposed to be applied to any “illegal occupation” yet the only “occupation” mentioned other than Israel is the Moroccan “occupation” of Western Sahara. Since Western Saharan products are labelled “Produce of Morocco” it is impossible to tell whether the produce comes from Morocco. The boycott is not applied to other “occupations” which the United Nations deems to be illegal, such as Northern Cyprus, which exports lots of oranges that are also on sale in the Coop.

A brief history of the Cooperative Movement

The Co-operative movement that became a sister party to the Labour Party began in 1844 when a group of men in Rochdale decided that the local shops were charging too much for their goods and decided to set up a co-operative shop. From there, the movement mushroomed until it owned a network of shops throughout the United Kingdom and even department stores, as well as farms, pharmacies and funeral services, to say nothing of the Co-operative Bank, at one time its most lucrative enterprise.

In 2013, a scandal hit the Co-operative Bank when it was discovered that there was a massive shortfall in its funds, apparently the fault of the Rev. Paul Flowers, then chairman. This was partly due to embezzlement and partly due to the unwise decision to take over the Britannia Building Society that had a host of bad debts. The Co-operative Wholesale Society suffered a massive financial blow, that resulted in an entire reorganisation, even its renaming as the Co-operative Movement. Profitable parts of the business had to be sold especially its pharmacies (which never boycotted Israeli pharmaceuticals otherwise their shelves would have been empty!), farms and most of the Bank (the Co-operative Society still owns 20%).

The Co-operative Movement has gradually recovered thanks to excellent new management. It has now adopted a policy of opening mini-supermarkets in every postcode in the United Kingdom, backed by a massive advertising campaign, so the Co-op should be a familiar sight to every shopper. The strategy is to open shops in profitable (wealthier) areas and some of the less productive shops are still being sold off to rival minimarket chains. There are a few larger stores however, such as the store recently opened on Crouch End Broadway in London, that rival the big supermarkets in the facilities they offer, such a deli counter, fresh meat and lots of shelf space.

The Coop also continues to sell its own brands, such as the very popular “99” tea, and its delicious dairy products such as cottage cheese and reduced-fat crême fraîche.

The boycotters

A small clique of people, who are also members of the Cooperative Party (not the Cooperative Movement, although affiliated to it)who continue to advocate a boycott of Israeli fresh produce of all kinds, on the excuse that it *might* come from the settlements.The justification they put forward is that “Since 2009, The Co-operative Group has operated a Human Rights and Trade Policy, which establishes the exceptional circumstances under which we will withdraw all trade from a particular state, area or settlement. One such circumstance is where there is a broad international consensus that the status of a settlement is illegal. There are only two examples of such illegal areas: the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara”.

In practice, this means that the boycott is applied to the four major Israeli exporters of agricultural produce including Agrexco and Mahedrin. These Israeli companies export produce from all over the land and do not discriminate between farms in Israel post-1948 or Israel post-1967 or Judaea and Samaria, nor do they discriminate between Jewish and Arab farmers, both inside and outside Israel proper. The Co-op continues to refer to “illegal settlements” as if these and the Western Sahara (included “for balance” no doubt, but see above) were the only disputed territories in the world! And even in relation to Western Sahara, the Co-op does not in fact boycott suppliers that have dealings with the Moroccan “settlements” – in reality the only target of this policy is Israel.