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Ron Radosh

Why the U.S. Must Leave and Condemn Durban II

February 23rd, 2009 - 10:40 am

The Durban Conference – The  UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance- held in 2001, turned out to be one thing only-  a conference held to single out Israel alone for racism and all the sins in the world. As a pro-Israel website put it, “the Durban conference became notorious for its unbridled attacks on Israel,  led by Iran and a number of other Arab states.”

As preparations for the second Durban conference scheduled to be held in April take place, Britain and Italy announced they are thinking of joining Canada, the Netherlands and Israel in refusing to attend the Review Conference meant to see whether the recommendations of Durban I are being upheld. Britain’s  Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown said: “If we can’t go forward now, we will withdraw. I was at the first conference. I have never seen such a disgraceful event in quite a long international life…We are not going to stand by and allow this racist stuff to get through and be seen as acceptable.”

This judgment comes from an officer of a government that at home, has bent over backwards to to appease Muslim fundamentalists, while tolerating anti-Semitic incidents in Britain without a peep.  If Durban is even too much to tolerate for a representative of Britain, you know how bad it really is.

Commenting on Durban I, Melanie Phillips wrote accurately that “cursory references to anti-Semitism and never forgetting the Holocaust were tossed in as a trade-off for singling out the ‘racism’ of Israel, which was responsible for ‘the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation.’ Instead, an equivalence was drawn between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”  This April’s conference is dedicated to, as their first draft indicates, to condemning Israel for “apartheid,” for “crimes against humanity” and for perpetrating a “form of genocide.”  The conveners of Durban II are anything but objective.

Last October, the Sandinista who is now UN General Assembly President, (itself a travesty) Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann,  said Israeli “apartheid” must “be outlawed,” and met by “a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

So the question emerges: What is the United States going to do? Is it floating the choice that our country too, like our allies Canada and Britain, will most likely not participate? Where is the voice of President Barack Obama, a man most Americans look to for leadership in the fight against racism?

The answer is: total and complete silence. In a devastating article appearing in Forbes, Hudson Institute Fellow Anne Bayefsky presents the shocking details of how the Obama Administration is sacrificing Israel on the altar of political expediency. State Department officials have claimed that they have been working actively to oppose efforts to brand Israel as racist and worse at Durban II.  On February 20, the State Department claimed that they had “strong reservations” about the direction of the conference, and that they were doing all possible to work against those seeking to single out Israel alone as racist.

As Bayfesky demonstrates, the truth is quite the opposite. US representatives said nothing about new proposals for a new anti-Israel manifesto that true to form, mentions no other nation specifically as being guilty of racist practices.  State claims they participate to try and change Durban II’s direction. That claim is nothing but spin.

As the Palestinian delegates introduce new paragraphs that seek to change demands for “concrete measures” against Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands to making such steps “international legal obligations” rather than simply “advisory” opinions, the US team at the  meetings did not object at all, and remained silent. To not say a thing is, according to the conference rules, irreversible. As Bayafesky explains: “the diplomatic rule of thumb is that paragraphs that have not been flagged as controversial cannot be reopened for discussion, as negotiations finalize an end product.”

Even more stunning is that when Iran objected to a  European Union proposal to condemn Holocaust denial, the United States said not one word when the chair asked if any delegation wanted to comment on the EU proposal. The United States delegates did not respond, even though previously when prompted on other matters, the U.S. participants announced that their government could not accept proposals.

If the United States is serious that they seek to change the conference direction, this is not the way to do it. It seems that their main concern, perhaps motivated by a new desire to let the Iranians know that they are willing and anxious to negotiate and talk with them, is to let Iran’s most offensive stands be subject to no American opposition.

The most recent American press release from the State Department says that the US has not made up its mind whether or not to participate in Durban II, and will decide after evaluating the work done in the past week.  They claim that their current efforts are simply part of a  “fact-finding” mission.

I don’t know what facts the US delegates are looking for. They met in the planning sessions for four days. They found that Holocaust denial would not be condemned; that Israel alone would be singled out for racism; that Western states would be accused of Islamophobia, and that free speech would be criticized—such as that which led to the attacks on Geert Wilders for his criticisms of radical Islam.

There is only one thing that is clear. The United States is getting ready to participate in Durban II, and its current stance is already giving the forthcoming meeting legitimacy.  The White House should be flooded with demands that our country immediately announce that it will not attend, and say that Durban II, like the original meeting, has no legitimacy or moral standing. If it does not, I’m afraid that Bayefsky’s conclusion, that “the foreign policy of engagement amounts to a new willingness to sacrifice Israel and an indeterminate number of American values for the sake of a warm welcome from the enemies of freedom,” is all too true.

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