see Action Item: Not the Oscars, the Sakharov
Dear Committee Member of the European Parliament ~ Foreign Affairs and Development Committees,
Shortly you will be called on to vote for this year’s winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This prize is a means to honour individuals or organizations who had dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedoms. Can you really say that about every one of the three finalists?
One of the finalists, Guillermo Fariñas, is a fighter for freedom and human rights, in Cuba. He has spent 11-and-a-half years in prison and conducted 23 hunger strikes to protest against the Cuban regime, censorship and human rights violations. Not only has he dedicated his life and risked his life but he has had no return for his sacrifices other than the possibility of change in a brutal regime.
The second finalist, Birtukan Mideksa is an Ethiopian politician and former judge. She was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2008, after speaking to journalists in Sweden. Her crimes were judging corrupt officials on the merits of the case exercising her democratic rights to join a political party. Only after much negotiation, she was released from prison at the beginning of October. Given the Ethiopian regime’s propensity to re-arrest, how long she will remain at liberty and if she will be able to make use of the Sakharov cash prize is doubtful.
The third group are a group of ex soldiers who claim to provide the world with evidence of mistreatment but do it through anonymous second -hand, hearsay testimony making the charges impossible to check. Unlike the Ethiopian and Cuban finalists none of the members of this group has spent as much as a minute in gaol for their beliefs. None have lost their jobs or been mistreated in any way. They have had no trouble spreading their message through the free press in the country they accuse nor internationally. In a world obsessed with Israel there is no silence to break.
Also by contrast with the others this group already receives considerable funding from the European Union and among others the British, Spanish and Dutch governments. The morality of setting out to deligitimise the decisions of a democratic government protecting its citizens may not concern you in deciding the prize winner. However providing even more cash to a heavily subsidized group should.
The money Breaking the Silence already receives pays for a sophisticated media campaign that never once acknowledges the terrorism and genocidal aims of Israel’s enemies that keeps the soldiers in the territories in the first place.
Awarding BTS the Sakharov Prize gives a free pass to the Cuban and Ethiopian regimes, objectively far worse in terms of human rights than Israel and receiving far less publicity. Perhaps equally importantly it also ignores human rights violations against Palestinian citizens who disagree with the regime in Gaza City or Ramallah or are born to the wrong religion. It ignores the acts of warfare that brought Israeli troops in the first place.
A prize to Breaking the Silence would never have been supported by Andrei Sakharov. Doctor Sakharov consistently and unambiguously supported the State of Israel in its battle for survival. He has been quoted as saying, “Israel has an indisputable right to exist,” “Israel has a right to existence within safe borders,” and “All the wars that Israel has waged have been just, forced upon it by the irresponsibility of Arab leaders.” When you cast your vote remember that Sakharov would have opposed the activities of Breaking the Silence as vigorously as he campaigned for human rights in the former Soviet Union.
Finally consider the effect on the reputation of the European Union and the Sakharov Prize if awarded to such a controversial and divisive group. Either Guillermo Fariñas or Birtukan Mideksa would be better choices.