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UN's Murky Approach to Holocaust Events Disclaims Serbia's But Lists It, Israel UNlisted, Smale Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope here

UNITED NATIONS, January 26 – In today's UN, Holocaust remembrance is politicized, and the Department of Public Information which makes decisions is not transparent, does not answer Press questions. On January 25 Inner City Press went to cover a Serbia-sponsored event about the Jasenovac extermination camp, complete with a long speech by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Periscope here. While there was a disclaimer sign, a representative of DPI's Holocaust Outreach unit was there. The event was listed (as "invitation only") on DPI's list of events in the UN Visitors Lobby - but an Israeli-mission sponsored event set for January 31 wasn't listed. Questions to DPI chief Alison Smale, on access and complaints by whistleblowers of malfeasance in DPI, have gone unanswered. At the UN's January 26 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked, UN video, transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about an event that took place in the delegates' entrance last night, sponsored by the Serbian Mission.  It was about a… a concentration camp and it's reported that Croatia wrote directly to António Guterres to try to get it cancelled, given the presentation, and I wanted to know, what can you say about that, I guess?  There seems to be a lot of controversy about it, and I did notice… note some staff of the… I guess, the Holocaust Unit of DPI [Department of Public Information] present.  What was the relationship between the UN and the event?  And do you have any comment on the… the event? Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have any comment on the event.  As you know, different Member States can use the building to hold different events, and that is their right. Inner City Press: But maybe it's related, because I guess I want to understand this.  There's… there's a separate story about an Israeli singer, Benayoun, who had sought to… yeah, who had sought to come.  There was a lot of controversy.  Somebody wrote to António Guterres to say, "Don't have him."  Alison Smale wrote back and said, "He's not invited."  Turns out he is coming, but the event that he'll be at, which is sponsored by the Israeli Mission, is not on the UN's schedule of Holocaust events, it says.  So what's the relation… I guess what I'm meaning is, even if these events have nothing to do with the UN, including the ones that have been held elsewhere in the GA Lobby, who decides which… which events get listed on the… on the list of UN Holocaust week events and which are not?  Is that a political decision?  Who decides that? Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the United Nations itself, including its Department of Public Information, has a programme of Holocaust events, and those are listed as such.  Of course, Member States are free to organize their own events, but many of them will not be on the UN program.  Those are events organized by Member States. Inner City Press: DPI reviews the events in advance and says this one will be listed on our programme, and this one won't? Deputy Spokesman:  DPI has an office that deals with the remembrance of the Holocaust and they deal specifically with that. Inner City Press:  So they decided that the Serbian one was too controversial?  Or how did it work? Deputy Spokesman:  No, the Serbian one is organized by Member States.  Meetings organized by Member States are separate.  You know, there are meetings that are part of the Holocaust commemoration that's organized by DPI, and then there are other ones that are organized by Member States. Inner City Press:  But there's a sign down in the GA that lists the week's events, and some of them are sponsored by missions.  Do you see what I mean?  It's not like there are UN events and mission events. Deputy Spokesman:  Those would have been agreed to beforehand." So the Serbian event was "agreed beforehand" with the UN, since it is listed, but the Israel event is not? On January 29, US Ambassador Nikki Haley is taking the UN Security Council members down to Washington, including to the Holocaust Museum. We'll have more on this. When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres goes to the PyeongChang Olympics next month, his real dream is to get an invite to the north, to Pyongyang, UN sources exclusively tell Inner City Press. Having failed on other diplomatic initiatives like Cyprus in his first year atop the UN, Guterres is "desperate" for some high profile drama, the sources say. The UN's acceptance of a "Junior Professional Officer" who is the son of a high official of Kim John Un's Workers Party -- whom Inner City Press in October exclusively identified as Kim Joo Song, here -- was meant to built the connections to get Guterres into the country. But isn't it the US that Kim Jong Un wants to negotiate with? We'll have more on this. When the UN's Committee on Relations with the Host Country met on January 17, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea read a three-page statement condemning the US for issuing his Mission to the UN's tax-exempt card in the name "North Korea" and not Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He said, "We presumed it would be only a kind of technical mistake by the U.S. side, and returned the card back to the U.S. mission, while requesting them to correct that serious mistake." The statement, which Inner City Press has exclusively obtained immediately after the meeting (photos here, full PDF of letter via Patreon, here) continued that the U.S. mission replied, "It seems to be a glitch in our database, we'll reach out to our office in DC." That was on December 13, the statement said, continuing: "on 14th December there was an explanation from the U.S. mission informing that, quoted as 'Our DC office has indicated that all country / mission names on OFM credentials for Democratic People's Republic of Korea indicate North Korea which is the conventional short abbreviation. The short name for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is North Korea, so the tax card will remain the same." The statement concluded by condemning "such reckless political hostile policy" and demanded an apology. Watch this site. Throughout 2016 New Zealand documentary maker Gaylene Preston and her crew staked out the UN Security Council along with Inner City Press, awaiting the results of the straw polls to elected Ban Ki-moon's sucessor as UN Secretary General. Preston's focus was Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister then in her second term as Administrator of the UN Development Program. Preston would ask Inner City Press after each poll, What about Helen Clark's chances? Suffice it to say Clark never caught fire as a candidate. Inner City Press told Preston, as did many other interviewees in her documentary “My Year with Helen,” that it might be sexism. But it might be power too - including Samantha Power, the US Ambassador who spoke publicly about gender equality and then in secret cast a ballot Discouraging Helen Clark, and praised Antonio Guterres for his energy (yet to be seen). Samantha Power's hypocrisy is called out in Preston's film, in which New Zealand's Ambassador complains that fully four members of the Council claimed to be the single “No Opinion” vote that Clark received. There was a private screening of My Year With Helen on December 4 at NYU's King Juan Carlos Center, attended by a range of UN staff, a New Zealand designer of a website for the country's proposal new flag, and Ban Ki-moon's archivist, among others. After the screening there was a short Q&A session. Inner City Press used that to point out that Guterres has yet to criticize any of the Permanent Five members of the Council who did not block him as the US, France and China blocked Clark, with Russia casting a “No Opinion.” And that Guterres picked a male from among France's three candidates to head UN Peacekeeping which they own, and accepted males from the UK and Russia for “their” top positions. Then over New Zealand wine the talk turned to the new corruption at the UN, which is extensive, and the upcoming dubious Wall Street fundraiser of the UN Correspondents Association, for which some in attendance had been shaken down, as one put it, for $1200.  The UN needed and needs to be shaken up, and hasn't been. But the film is good, and should be screened not in the UN Censorship Alliance but directly in the UN Security Council, on the roll-down movie screen on which failed envoys like Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed are projected. “My Year With Helen” is well worth seeing.


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