Samantha Power Already Faces Knives Out From Some on Israel

U.N. Pick Has Been Outspoken on Human Rights — That's Good

New Voice at U.N.: Samantha Power is a human rights advocate. That doesn’t make her an enemy of Israel.
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New Voice at U.N.: Samantha Power is a human rights advocate. That doesn’t make her an enemy of Israel.

By Leonard Fein

Published June 06, 2013.
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The knives are already out. Samantha Power, it is alleged, is an enemy of Israel — this based on comments she made in response to a “thought experiment,” comments she subsequently disavowed.

Power was asked, back in 2002, how her support for liberal interventionism to defend human rights abroad might be applied to a situation like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her reply? “What we need is a willingness to actually put something on the line in the service of helping the situation.” And, she added, “The U.S. might also have to consider imposing a solution on the parties and deploy soldiers to take part in a peace-enforcement mission.”

Let’s be clear here: We are talking about the world’s leading expert on genocide. Her Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is depressingly specific, laying out the essential indifference of the United States to the diverse genocides that have pocked out nation — indifference bordering on complicity. That a person of her accomplishment, of her expertise, of her passion, should be our nation’s representative at the United Nations is a remarkable credit to the Obama administration.

Take, for just one example, the following from her magnum opus: “Before I began exploring American’s relationship with genocide, I used to refer to U.S. policy toward Bosnia as a ‘failure.’ I have changed my mind. It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country’s consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The system, as it stands now, is working.”

Now, one can be a stout enemy of genocide and a deprecator of Israel. The two are not mutually exclusive. But Ms. Power knows full well that a major chunk of her responsibility at the U.N. will be the protection of Israel — and, given her outspokenness, I would expect her to be as firm in Israel’s defense as Pat Moynihan was in his day.

The fact that she once called both Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon “dreadfully irresponsible” comes as no surprise, nor is it, in my view, an indication of a rush to judgment. It may have been impolitic to lump them together in one dismissive phrase, but that which is impolitic is not necessarily wrong. In the case at hand, it was, sadly, quite correct.

So what’s the problem? The problem, evidently, is exactly as she put it in her book “No U.S, president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.”


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