Welcome news from Congress

Welcome news from Congress

Good news is tough to come by these days, as we are inundated with truly harrowing negative headlines about war, terrorist threats, and hate crimes. Indeed, the battle for security, justice, and peace seems so hopeless to some that I’ve heard many say they don’t even know where to begin. That’s why I am pleased to report a little good news. This month, the U.S. Congress made progress on two initiatives to prevent anti-American and anti-Semitic hate speech.

On June ‘0, Congress passed my bill, House Concurrent Resolution ‘1. This legislation pressures the United Nations Security Council to condemn Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for violating the 1948 Genocide Convention and the UN Charter by repeatedly and publicly calling for the State of Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Not just a majority, but an overwhelming majority, of the House of Representatives voted to pass this resolution, with the final vote 411 to ‘. In doing so, the House sent a powerful message to the Iranian government that threats to the existence of Israel, America’s best friend and strategic partner in the Middle East, will not be tolerated. We will not stand by silently while another genocide is attempted against the Jewish people.

Indeed, one only has two choices when faced with injustice. You can do nothing and simply walk away in the face of genocide or someone else’s torment and unfair treatment. Or you can do something.

The 1948 Genocide Convention prohibits "direct and public incitement to commit genocide." Further, the U.N. Charter — which Iran, as a U.N. member, is obliged not to violate — requires all U.N. member states to refrain from the use or threat of force against other member states.

The U.S. Congress sees Ahmadinejad’s statements as going against the letter and spirit of these international pacts. Therefore, the Security Council must act. While the United Nations continues to turn a blind eye to such injustice, I am proud that Congress made a clear and unequivocal statement that we will not be silent in the face of a madman who threatens us and our allies.

In another positive development, the House of Representatives was responsive to my calls for new leadership and improved oversight of original programming at Alhurra, the U.S. taxpayer-funded, Arabic language TV network. Alhurra broadcasts to Arab listeners in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe to counter the anti-American biases that pervade the Arab world’s news media. Yet, as I outlined in a May ‘007 op-ed written for The Jewish Standard, the network has been mired in controversy since the Bush administration appointed Larry Register to serve as news director in November ‘006.

Within months of taking over, Mr. Register — who does not speak Arabic — repeatedly violated U.S. written policy by airing live, unedited speeches by terrorists who called for the deaths of Americans and the annihilation of all Jews. Worse, when I questioned officials about the problems with Alhurra’s editorial decisions and lack of effective oversight, the response was appalling. Mr. Register and the Broadcasting Board of Governors actually defended the network’s coverage and toothless monitoring system.

Thankfully, at my urging and under the leadership of Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), on June 6, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations cut Alhurra’s funding by $13.4 million. In addition, the legislation — which the full House passed on June ‘1 — provides $4.’8 million for the transparency program that I proposed in March, which calls for live streaming, archiving, and translation of Alhurra’s original programming. The bill also mandates an investigation into the decision-making process that led to policy violations at Alhurra.

As a result of these efforts, Mr. Register resigned from the network on June 8. His supervisors at the BBG have appointed another news director — this time one who speaks Arabic and, most important, may better understand Alhurra’s role as an oasis of the truth about the United States for all the oppressed Arab listeners around the world.

With Mr. Register’s disastrous tenure behind it, the BBG now has an opportunity to implement positive changes to achieve Alhurra’s laudable goal of countering the hate speech that dominates the Arab world’s news media. Similarly, Congress has now given the United Nations a clear directive to enforce its own charter, directing the world body to take action against Ahmadinejad’s hateful rhetoric.

Of course, neither saga is fully over. Alhurra still must prove to the American people that it is fulfilling its purpose. The U.N. still must act so that Iran knows that its threats of genocide will not be tolerated by the international community, further isolating and potentially weakening the reign of Ahmadinejad and his Iranian backers. However, there is cause for some optimism because so many good people in our Congress stood up for justice. In my opinion, that makes the headlines "House Calls on U.N. to Charge Ahmadinejad" and "Register Resigns" so welcome.

Rep. Steve Rothman represents New Jersey’s 9th District in the U.S. Congress. He wrote H.Con.Res.’1, calling on the United Nations to charge Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for violating the U.N. Charter and Genocide Convention, and led the effort to oust Larry Register as news director from the Arabic language TV network Alhurra for violations of U.S. policy and implement a new accountability system.