Protest fears behind charity group’s decision
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – George W Bush’s invitation to participate 12 February in an annual gala fundraiser for the Jewish charity Keren Hayessod (United Israel Appeal) has been withdrawn, the group’s lawyer, Robert Equey, told the Tribune de Geneve. The newspaper Saturday 5 February carries an interview with Equey.
The charity’s board took the decision to cancel Thursday night, based on concern about the number of public calls to protest his visit, including demands that Bush, former US president, be arrested for torture and war crimes.
Equey points out that the group has, in the past, invited well-known public figures such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and the invitation to Bush was in line with this practice. The recent publication of his memoirs was the rationale behind the invitation this year. “When we organized his visit we didn’t think we would be attacked and used as an excuse in such a dishonest way. It’s a reaction that is very close to intellectual terrorism.”
Groups on the left and right of the political spectrum were calling for Switzerland to open an investigation and possibly arrest Bush in Geneva, as was the International Organization Against Torture.
Equey points out in the interview that Keren Hayessod is a non-religious charitable association with no political leanings but that some political groups have used the planned Bush visit to issue “lies” about the group’s work.
The UN Swiss Security Cell met Thursday in Geneva to plan security around UN buildings and the President Wilson Hotel, where the gala will take place, given expected protests. “Initial numbers of demonstrators are expected to be at 1,000 (most likely to increase)” the security cell noted, and Friday night airport delays, around the time of Bush’s arrival, could be expected. The event organizers feared, however, that small groups would take advantage of Bush’s visit to create trouble that could spill over into violence.