The Rosett Report

One Step Forward (Obama Skipping Durban II)

The good news is that President Obama’s administration has decided not to “engage” in the UN’s anti-Semitic, anti-free speech, anti-democratic Durban II conference, scheduled for April 20-24 in Geneva.

A U.S. delegation went to Geneva two weeks ago to check out the preparations for this pow-wow. They consulted with more than 30 delegations, plus the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and “other interested parties” — and this past Friday the State Department put out a press release saying the conference’s “draft outcome document” (at the UN, conference outcomes tend to be a done deal before the conference begins) “has gone from bad to worse,” and as it now stands is “not salvageable.” The U.S. will not engage in any more negotiations over this document, “nor will we participate in a conference based on this text.”

Yes, here’s a chance to applaud Obama for taking a step in the right direction. In the UN arena, such good news is rare enough that I’m tempted to leave it there. For a moment, let’s celebrate! — Obama has declined to dignify Durban II, the UN’s racist conference on “racism,” with a U.S. presence. When he sent that delegation last month to clock in on the preparations, I was convinced the U.S. would decide to attend the mothership conference itself. I’m delighted to have been wrong.

But let’s also beware the danger here of one step forward, two steps back. Anne Bayefksy of , who has been warning about the poisonous nature of Durban II for almost two years now, has an article at charging the Obama administration with double-dealing on Durban II. Bayefsky notes that while announcing the decision to skip Durban II, the State Department did not declare an outright boycott, or invite others to follow suit. Instead, State tried to defuse the issue by leaving the door ever so slightly ajar. The U.S. might still attend, on the wildly unlikely condition that the conference organizers clean up their act.

Obama’s State Department also slipped into the same press release the information that the U.S. now plans to start engaging for the first time with the UN agency that is basically Durban II writ even larger: the UN’s recently “reformed” Human Rights Council. This Council was created in 2006 from the ashes of the utterly discredited former UN Human Rights Commission. And the new “Council,” despite the sugar coating lavished on it at its inception by then-UN-Secretary-General Kofi Annan, looked so bad from the get-go that the U.S. refused to join.

How bad has the UN’s “reformed” Human Rights Council turned out to be? Bayefsky neatly sums it up:

 “The Council — controlled by the Organization of the Islamic Conference — has adopted more condemnations of Israel than all the other 191 U.N. states combined, while terminating human rights investigations on the likes of Iran, Cuba and Belarus.”

Durban II is a reflection of this warped Council (which is, in turn, a reflection of the UN’s despot-dominated General Assembly, which authorized Durban II). The Durban II preparations bear the fingerprints of a 20-member preparatory committee chaired by Libya, and including Iran, Russia, Cameroon and Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), with Cuba serving as both a member and as rapporteur.

But here’s where it gets worse — though this is less often noted. This same Durban II preparatory committee includes a roster of democratic states, such as Belgium, Greece, Norway, Turkey, Estonia, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil and Chile (you can see the full list here).  The participation of such democracies is seen by the UN’s mislabeled “High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, as evidence that Durban II is shaping up as just dandy.

In a press release last December, a spokesman for Pillay argued that if the Durban II proceedings “were in any way distorted,” then these democratic participants “could — and would — intervene.” The spokesman specified that there was no danger of conference plans going too far astray, because the text of the pre-packaged outcome document (which the Obama State Department has now declared “not salvageable”) “will be something agreeable to all states taking part.” (The same press release denigrated as a “clear example of distortion” one of my articles warning of — yep — the unsalvageable nature of Durban II).

But have such Durban II planners as Norway, Belgium, Turkey and India actually intervened to thwart the bigoted and anti-democratic designs of Libya, Iran, Pakistan and Cuba? Clearly not. In this UN process of negotiating an outcome “agreeable to all states taking part,” the morally supine eminences of Oslo and Brussels, Ankara and New Delhi, are still on board with the rotten agenda of Durban II.

Canada alone has had the backbone to declare an outright boycott of this conference, which it did last year — showing more integrity in the process than the U.S. under either President Bush or President Obama. So, praise to Obama, for waving off Durban II. But to follow that up by dignifying the UN’s twisted Human Rights Council with U.S. involvement is a big move the wrong way. Having put Durban II on permanent hold, the next step forward for the U.S. would be to declare a straightforward boycott, and call on other democratically inclined nations — maybe even Norway and Belgium? — to do the same.