Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Threatened at gunpoint

I write to object in the strongest possible terms to the accusations made about the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by Michelle Malkin in TheWashingtonTimes (“Ambulances for terrorists?” Commentary, Thursday).

One of our ambulance drivers was threatened at gunpoint in Gaza City on May 11 and made to transport a wounded Palestinian fighter and his armed colleagues to the hospital. On May 13, UNRWA issued a press statement deploring the incident and calling on our ambulances’ neutrality to be respected. From this one incident, which we publicized ourselves, Mrs. Malkin makes increasingly wild claims about UNRWA’s staff.

One of those she accuses of having transported arms in an ambulance was released without charge after a few months’ detention by the Israeli military two years ago — hardly likely if there had been any proof of the allegation. The other she cites had limited access to a U.N. vehicle and has said he was forced to sign a confession written in Hebrew, a language he does not understand.

UNRWA was cleared of the rest of Mrs. Malkin’s allegations by a team from Congress’ General Accounting Office last year. Her article is nothing more than a slur on the more than 12,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza and the West Bank whose working lives are spent upholding the high principles of the United Nations.



Public Information Office

UNRWA Headquarters


Is the feeling right for ladies’ night?

Some might think that New Jersey’s ruling that “ladies’ nights” constitute illegal sex discrimination (” ‘Ladies’ Night’ ruled discriminatory,” Nation, Thursday) is novel or unusual.

But ladies’ nights charging men more than women for the same goods and services have been ruled illegal in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, just as many jurisdictions have ruled that charging women more than men for things like shirt laundering and simple haircuts is illegal. Only three decisions have upheld the ladies’ nights, but all are old and one wasn’t even brought under an anti-discrimination statute.

Tolerating discrimination based upon gender when we would never tolerate similar discrimination based upon factors such as race, religion or national origin sends the incorrect and misleading message that sex discrimination isn’t as serious and isn’t as wrongful and illegal as other forms of discrimination. But sex discrimination is wrong, no matter whose ox is gored.


Professor of public interest law

George Washington University

Law School


Coddling Cuba

Your recent article on the persistence of dissent in Cuba (“Political crackdown fails to quell dissent,” World, Monday) employs as its principal source a report by the International Republican Institute, which you describe as “an organization funded in part by the U.S. government to promote democratic forces and civil society around the globe.”

This somewhat euphemistic description of what would appear to be a blandly benign organization neglects to mention the IRI’s international notoriety and sharp-edged history as a destabilizer of democracy around the hemisphere.

Most recently, the IRI has been a crucial backer of opposition coalitions of the well-to-do in Venezuela and Haiti that worked to violently marginalize democratically elected but leftist governments in both countries, supporting an unsuccessful coup against the administration of President Cesar Chavez in Venezuela and the deposition of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti earlier this year.

In Cuba, the IRI has been one of the principal mechanisms by which the Bush administration’s team of hard-right ideologues, led by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, has worked to provoke the Castro government into overreacting in its harsh crackdowns on dissidents. These eagerly anticipated Havana blunders are then used by Washington to justify squeezing through a new round of hypocritical U.N. resolutions condemning Cuba’s human rights practices. Mr. Noriega may profess his sympathy for his Cuban “brothers,” but in reality he, along with his colleagues at the IRI, are almost single-handedly responsible for imperiling the position of genuine Cuban dissidents, who work not for the Yankee dollar but for an open Cuban society.


Research fellow

Council on Hemispheric Affairs


A soldier remembers

Sixty years ago — or was it yesterday? It hardly seems possible that it was 60 years ago that I heard, then saw, the mightiest armada of aircraft ever drawn together flying out to the European continent — over the top of another armada coming home. It was the 6th of June. Throughout the night and the previous day, we saw columns of men and trucks heading toward embarkation points on the coast — eager young men, all very young, all very scared, but looking forward to meeting their various destinies: ridding the continent of Europe of the Nazi menace. Most of them are gone today, but those of us who remain will never forget that epic experience.

I was a 16-year-old cadet in the Air Training Corps, an adjunct of the Royal Air Force. An American by birth whose parents were British, I was privileged to be — at least at that moment — an observer of one of the mightiest melodramas in history.

All through the night, we could hear the guns roaring in the distance, and we knew that the time we had been waiting for had finally come: We were going back to liberate the continent and rid the world of the Nazi scourge. We didn’t realize that it would be nearly another 45 years before the Poles — the reason the Brits and French went to war in the first place — would be liberated. One couldn’t sleep, not so much because of the guns (after five years of war, we had become pretty used to that) but because the roar was coming from one direction. Occasionally, if you watched closely, you could see the glow in the sky. We knew the time of waiting was over. We, in our trusting youth, never doubted that we would be victorious.

Then, too, you could hear the roar of aircraft heading out toward the continent, although you could not see them clearly. In the early morning, and all through the morning, fleet upon fleet of bombers: B-17s, Lancasters, B-26s, Halifax bombers, P-51s, Spitfires, P-38s, Hurricanes, DC-3s with their three glider troop carriers trailing, could be seen heading out and climbing as they did. Then they were coming home, some almost skimming the treetops, others limping, trailing smoke. Some were in formation with one or two members of the formation missing after a night of hell, although all we could do was exhilarate as we watched. The sky — for as far as one could see — was a vast cloud of planes, a sight never to be forgotten or to be seen again.

We cadets, in our naivety, only saw those columns of vehicles and the men (boys, in fact, because most of them were only one or two years older than we were) but did not think about the fact that many of them would be dead or seriously injured by the day’s end. They headed out eagerly, bravely, ready to face whatever destiny or fate held for them.

My own brother, having survived Dunkirk and El Alamein, was with the Royal Corps of Signals/51st Highland Division that day, destined to participate in the liberation of the Lowlands — from whence he had fought a rear-guard action in the withdrawal at Dunkirk. My brother, born in England, grew up in America and was more American than British. He’s gone now, but that is another story.

Yes, that was 60 years ago, but to those of us who lived through that time, we remember that vast armada, the thousands of boys and vehicles heading down to the embarkation points, and we tend to reminisce. Then, too, we remember that so many of those young men didn’t get to go home and now have small white markers on French soil, where they finally came to sleep — eternally. Sixty years ago — Sunday. Jeepers.


Air Force Auxiliary


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