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The U.N. Durban I conference was held in 2001. It was billed as a conference on world racism. States with noteworthy records on Human Rights -- Iran, Libya and Syria -- were among the major players. Israel was the only state in the entire world that was taken to task for racism and human rights abuse. Clearly, the U.N. judged Israel the Big Daddy of Human Rights Abuse in the whole wide world. Imagine, winning against such strong contenders as almost any of the Arab states, and many of the Muslim ones!
Libya as ChairCountry, Cuba, Iran and Pakistan met in August 2007 to plan out the Planning for Durban II.
Durban II is to take place in April, 2009. The planning for it is now taking place. The Arab countries have bloc voting. They and their like-minded U.N. NGOs see Israel and America as the only bad apples in the U.N. garden of Eden, so it isn't surprising that the U.N. would consider running a rerun of Durban 1 with about the same agenda, only more so. It is also to be expected -- given President Obama's foreign policy advisors and his stated sympathy with Muslims -- that the US Administration would made common cause with the latest chutzpadik U.N. exercise in unjustified hate and unwarrented attack on a member state. Obama's strategy is sooo clever: we will help bake the cake -- the U.S.A. attended the planning sessions -- and then not eat it. A bulimic response, if ever there was one.
Eye on the U.N. has been monitoring the Planning Sessions. What follows are excerpts from its Durban Alerts for December 31, 2008 through February, 2009.
The Reports were written by Anne Bayefsky, a professor at Touro College, New York, and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
The UN has just released the latest draft of what is being planned for the outcome of the Durban II Conference. It is a product of behind-the-scenes negotiations. It is nothing short of a declaration of war against modern human rights and fundamental freedoms by Islamic states.
The "themes and messages" of Durban II, considered as strengthening the UN's "anti-racism" program feature:
1. Demonizing Israel
2. Thwarting the war to end terrorism
3. Limiting freedom of expression
4. Creating the Islamic victim
It is an entire section called the "Middle East" which includes:
IN ADDITION TO THE NEW THREATS POSED BY DURBAN II, the Durban II draft begins: "Reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action" in its entirety and the need to eradicate all manifestations of racism..." [emphasis added]
This statement, while seemingly innocuous, accomplishes two things.
(a) The Durban I Declaration asserts that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. This is the only country-specific accusation in a manifesto purporting to address international racism and xenophobia. Regardless of the quantity of new vitriol in Durban II's final product, therefore, it will "reaffirm" the mantra of Israeli racism.
(b) At the end of the Durban I conference, a number of states voiced specific reservations to parts of the Declaration. For example, Canada specifically rejected the parts of the document relating to Israel. By reaffirming the Durban Declaration "in its entirety" all those reservations are intended to be erased.
The UN reissued the current draft of the "outcome document" with a January 12, 2009 date. This has now formally become the basis of negotiations. [Editor's Note: So much for Obama's claim that U.S. participation would reduce bias. -- BSL]
This is opening day of the next Durban II planning meeting and the disinformation campaign is in full swing. The obfuscation starts with the title: Intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group to continue and finalize the process of negotiations on and drafting of the outcome document.
"Extremists, both governmental and non-governmental, are continuing to push the substance to the limits, while weak European states are unable or unwilling to push back. The overall strategy is to keep the Durban II plan under wraps as much as possible, until just days away from the April conference itself, so that it will be too late for many democratic states to pull out," Professor Bayefsky pointed out. "They are being entrapped like spiders in a web, under the charade of combating racism."
Diplomats then deliberately worked at a snail's pace, making their way through two dozen paragraphs of the 250 paragraph document. Particularly active in these "anti-racism" discussions was Iran, whose President is a leading advocate of genocide against the Jewish people. Iran lectured: "This whole conference is to identify sources, root causes, perpetrators of racism and defend and compensate and help the victims. This should continually be borne in our mind."
Iran also objected to European efforts to limit the creation of new international norms at Durban II. Iran said "We don't want to prejudge the high possibility of new forms of ideas, and doctrines based on supremacy of one race over others, or other contemporary form of racism. Then we find ourselves in lack of legislative international norms to address them properly. So let us adopt an open-minded approach to this." Everybody watching knew this was part of an attempt by Islamic states to focus on Islamophobia, insert allegations that counter-terrorism activities are racist, and invent limits on freedom of expression, but the public conversation was conducted in vague generalities, for and against new standards.
In addition, there was an obvious effort by Islamic states to gang up on Denmark. Algeria responded to a Danish suggestion that a provision was not relevant with: "It's that very comment that is not relevant."
Cuba made the stakes at Durban II even plainer, when it claimed – erroneously – that the "document we adopt at the Durban Review Conference will be a legal document." When European Union countries sought to stress existing standards and the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Cuba responded "We understand the EU doesn't want to accept other norms in the area of racism." Whereupon, European countries retreated.
Anne Bayefsky writes that Iran as a Vice-chair of the Durban Preparatory Committee and Syria have long understood Durban II as the playing field of Islamic and Arab states. Both countries are actively shaping the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, hailed by its supporters as an important international effort to address racism. "Today's meeting, dominated by these two rights-abhorring, terrorism-supporting countries, resulted in a circus that is a slap in the face to anyone serious about human rights and racism" said Bayefsky.
By the end of day two the meeting had completed 9 out of 37 pages. The strategy of all those states who seek to bolster support for Durban II - particularly Arab and Islamic states and various African states such as South Africa - is to bury the real agenda under a mountain of UN verbiage and avoid getting to any issue of real importance. European governments admit (albeit behind-the-scenes) that the goal is to make it harder for them to walk out, since superficially there does not appear to be anything objectionable. What they're not saying is that efforts to keep a short-term lid on the Durban II hate-mongering until the conference itself, suits them just fine. The EU then avoids any pressure back home and the diplomats life is made a lot easier.
In the hallways, European Union representatives admit that they do not expect this will be the end of the provisions adopted on Israel. They even defend such an outcome. Their argument is that language on the "Middle East" [a euphemism for criticizing Israel] will be included because the precedent was set at Durban I. Commented Professor Bayefsky, "in their minds evidently, two wrongs do make a right."
The half-hour allotted at the end of the day for NGO contributions included the following two interventions:
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Palestinians have been subjected to an unlawful collective punishment , torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure to their territories. ...the draft declaration is silent as to ... sanctions in the context of the Palestinian people. Palestinian people were omitted from the list of victims of racial discrimination. ... in line with atrocities taking place in Gaza.
...western country should apologize to victims of racism, including the Palestinian people ... the World Conference on Racism should ... recognize the right to just compensation to indigenous peoples, Palestinian peoples and all of the other victims of colonialism and neo-colonialism for the immeasurable damage caused by wars of aggression and colonialism of Africa, America and Asia.
The draft under discussion affirmed "...that the Holocaust...resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with numerous members of other minorities..." Syria objected and called for the words to be removed on the following grounds: "I don't think we should get into a kind of statistical debate. As far as I know that there is no agreement on the consensus on the percentage of those who perished in the Holocaust. Maybe there is some kind of consensus on the figures on the percentage, but we are not quite sure. Maybe those who perished half of the jewish people, maybe less than half, maybe third, maybe less..."
Then the European Union suggested the addition of a new paragraph: "Recalls and urges states to implement UN General Assembly Resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which observe that remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide; condemned without reservation any denial of the Holocaust; and urge all member states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part, or in any activities."
Iran objected: "There is a notion inside this paragraph where there is talk about condemning without reservation any denial of holocaust. This entails with it implicit restriction on elaboration and review, or critical examination and review and study of holocaust - which is a very clear example of a violation of freedom of expression...a fundamental principle right for a democratic society....We suggest the deletion of this paragraph."
Neither of the paragraphs could be agreed upon since the Durban II process is to work by consensus.
At the Durban I Conference a minimalist reference to the Holocaust was agreed upon in exchange for condemnation of Israel as racist. Today it emerged that the same "trade-off" is in the offing for Durban II.
Pakistan told the EU that the paragraphs condemning racist Israel were in the document to stay since Israeli racism was already a feature of the first Durban Declaration and Programme of Action: "May I remind - we are not here to renegotiate the Durban Declaration and it is already there; we are at the Review Conference and we cannot renegotiate. We have to review what...has been implemented or not, what's lacking and what possible course of action we can suggest for addressing this particular cause." Pakistan is correct that the allegation of racist Israel is a part of the Durban I Declaration. No amount of negotiation will change that, and on Tuesday of this week's meeting the European Union already agreed to "reaffirm" Durban I.
All participants are aware Durban I was widely perceived as being an antisemitic and anti-Israel hatefest. The prospect of President Obama announcing the U.S. will not attend, and some European Union countries deciding not to participate, is the elephant in the negotiating room. But the Palestinian delegation made it clear that they will not permit their chief Durban II interest - labeling Israelis as racists - to go off the agenda in exchange for Western participation. "We will not allow taking the issue of Palestine as hostage to the...ongoing process of negotiations or the Durban Review Conference in general." On the contrary, they are convinced the European Union will agree to some form of a condemnation of Israel, regardless of the fact that no other country is in the docket. They watched it happen at Durban I in 2001 and they expect more of the same at Durban II.
[Editor's Note: There is no country called Palestine, therefore while there is a Palestinian delegation, it is not a regular member of the U.N. Yet here it can make itself heard and can dictate agenda. -- BSL]
Here is what the Nigerian delegate had to say about the Iranian contribution: "... one thing about the delegate of Iran is that he is always right in conceptualization and in location...This is the right way to go." "Iran has always this powerful way of conveying and analyzing. Each time you come forth. Iran has a very powerful line of logic and it is becoming difficult to disagree with Iran really."
In the midst of this back and forth, Iran, the EU and the Chair,Yuri Boychenko (Russia), have encouraged out-of-sight consultations in smaller groups. In one exchange, over a provision on "new emerging forms of racism," the European Union said it didn't want to "neglect old and persistent forms of racism." (Translation: they didn't want more allegations of "Islamophobia.") While Iran said old forms had "already been covered." (Translation: they don't want to condemn antisemitism.) Iran then volunteered: "we can work with them to come up with compromise language." And the Chair encouraged a meeting. The product of EU-Iranian consultations on the meaning of racism is sure to be enlightening.
By the end of the third day, only 25% of the Durban outcome document had been discussed. Only 8% of the document was agreed to and adopted.
Democratic states have long taken the general approach that the institution of the UN must be supported regardless of the substance of its activities. Such countries are now in a major quandary. Proceeding to adopt a Durban II outcome will undoubtedly be a major setback for the international protection of human rights. But refusing to lend the forum credibility - on the grounds that this is a racist "anti-racism" platform - will subject these states to sticks and stones. Many developing countries will scream racism, colonialism and insensitivity to cultural differences. The fact that these accusations emanate from states with the worst human records on the planet, however, may not be enough to fortify the backbone of the European Union. But these labels should not easily stick to President Obama.
The key point is that this is not a dialogue from which democratic states and values can emerge triumphant. At the United Nations they do not have the numbers to prevail. This puts them at a tremendous disadvantage at the negotiating table. This is particularly true because the European Union always wants any outcome at all costs. At the UN, it is not prepared to walk away. Of course, this fact is well-known to the anti-human rights crowd, who hold out until the end, throw the EU a bone as a "compromise" and watch them hold news conferences for the hometown crowds feigning "success."
Main features of final two days of last weeks' proceedings:
Intensive negotiations last week in Geneva have resulted in a new version of the "Draft Outcome Document" for Durban II - released yesterday. Iran - a Vice-Chair of the executive committee for Durban II - played a leading role in the drafting process, speaking more often than any other single state. The result? Now on the negotiating table: Jewish self-determination or Zionism is racism. Israel is guilty of apartheid and the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust is questionable.
Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, commented: "this "anti-racism" manifesto is much worse even than its predecessor. Islamic and other rights-abusing states had a field day preparing for Durban II. European states were totally unable to introduce the modifications necessary to protect human rights standards or change the clear intent of the conference."
Here are some of the features now part of negotiations according to the new draft:
State Department officials announced in a press release buried on Saturday, that starting today the United States will attend for the first time the preparatory meetings of this controversial U.N. conference.
The searing images of the demonization of America and Jews on the U.N.'s global stage, and the terrorism in New York 72 hours later, should have made joining this revived forum for U.N.-driven hate inconceivable. But President Obama seems intent on learning the lessons of history - and the relationship between hatemongering and violence - the hard way.
But the Durban Declaration asserts that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. This is also the only country-specific accusation in a document purporting to address international racism and xenophobia. Regardless of the quantity of new vitriol in Durban II's final product, therefore, participation legitimizes the mantra of Israeli racism. What is new is that the new president of the United States doesn't care about the U.N.'s reincarnation of 'Zionism is racism'.
The position is not only repugnant, but naïve. Evidently, American officials believe that an African-American president can climb into a U.N. anti-racism ring, throw his weight around, and the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference will roll over and play dead. Or hard-liners like Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand, and developing countries like South Africa, will jump on a U.S.-led bandwagon.
It will be painful to watch the administration forced to enroll in U.N. 101. At Durban I, the European Union did a numbers count and recognized that Western democracies were bound for the back of the bus. So they proceeded to permit condemnation of racist Israel in exchange for omitting any inconvenient reference to financial compensation for slavery (and adding a minor sop to the existence of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism). No matter that murdering Jews in Israel in the here and now - justified as an alleged struggle against racism - is a modern form of anti-Semitism.
Obama will also come to know the overarching theme of all U.N. meetings, namely, that saving the credibility of the institution itself is the number one priority. This means that having mounted a global conference, any outcome or deal is better than nothing. Such a mindset leaves the extremists in the driver's seat. They will eat multilateralists-in-need-of-a-warm-group-hug for breakfast.
In truth, this Obama trip to the U.N. represents an abandonment of Israel. All his campaign promises to the contrary, sacrificing Israel for the sake of currying favor with others - demagogues included - is clearly at the top of the new president's agenda. Israel asked Obama not to attend. Canada also pulled out of Durban II and expected American support. Instead, today's American foreign policy leaves America's closest ally and its biggest trading partner out in the cold.
The speed at which President Obama is selling off American assets is breathtaking. The speed at which he is selling them out is even faster.
Yesterday in Geneva, President Obama unveiled the new look of America's foreign policy - obsequiousness. It was Day One for his emissaries to the U.N. planning committee of the Durban II conference. This is the racist "anti-racism" bash to be held in Geneva in April. The U.S. and Israel walked out of the first go-round in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. Ever since, the U.S. government has refused to lend any credibility to the Declaration adopted after they left. That is, until yesterday.
Having watched U.N. meetings for the past 25 years, I can't remember a U.S. representative in a public session so openly obsequious, particularly in the presence of such specious human rights authorities. And yet the U.S. delegates appear happy to be there and convey the marching orders of their new commander-in-chief.
According to reports, these officials [from the White House and State Department] claimed "that Washington's decision to participate in the conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government." That would be true - if "coordination" meant announcing hours in advance that the United States intended to do the opposite of what had been requested.
Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was "an effort to change the direction of the conference." Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to "foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration" - the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren't going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document - also already accepted by consensus - read "reaffirming the Durban Declaration." Change you can't believe in, again.
Overall, on Day One, U.N. members were delighted by the new administration's timidity. And they know exactly how to ensure those promises of change continue. In an entire day of a four-day meeting, they reviewed only 11 of the 140 paragraphs. The next set of meetings will be in April right before the conference itself. By the time somebody begins to suspect it might not change, it will all be over, in more ways than one.
... the U.S. sent a seven-person delegation to a preparatory meeting in Geneva this week - without asking anything of conference sponsors in return. The State Department explained the decision as an effort "to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading."
Here is how the discussion went:
European Union: We have a new proposal under the section on education and awareness-raising that would recall the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the remembrance of the Holocaust. It would read:Urges states to raise awareness and to implement U.N. General Assembly resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which inter alia observes that the remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide, condemns without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end.
Iran: My delegation thinks that this is an inappropriate place to incorporate this new paragraph, so we request that this new paragraph be put in brackets. [tabled, not added]
Chair: Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn't seem the case. We move on.
Since the operating principle is consensus, this put the Holocaust provision in dispute. But the American delegation chose not to go on the record strongly supporting the EU's proposal, as it had on other items. Not a peep came from the "change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading" folks.
Here's an even more troubling example, this time involving a paragraph the Palestinian delegation proposed Tuesday in the presence of the American representatives:
Palestine: I would like to propose a new paragraph which reads as follows:Calls for an end of all actions violating international human rights and humanitarian law, the respect for the principle of self-determination and an end of all suffering. Calls also for implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall, and the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.
Chair: Now let's move on to paragraph . . .
Dead silence again, despite the fact that an objection could have made a real difference by putting the paragraph unequivocally in dispute. Everybody knew that there was no other country-specific provision in the 250-paragraph-plus document. Yet there were no comments objecting to the idea of singling out Israel in an anti-racism manifesto, and no call for a paragraph decrying racism in any other state.
Instead, the Palestinian and EU delegations have confirmed that in a backroom deal, the EU agreed ahead of time not to object. Members of the American delegation might not have known of the arrangement in advance (highly unlikely), but regardless, they got tongue-tied when it mattered. The new paragraph is scheduled to appear in a section called "Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance . . ." with the subtitle "General provisions on victims and grounds of discrimination."
In other words, it didn't take President Obama's delegation two days before it sat in silence while Israel was singled out as guilty of racism - again.
Why would the delegation behave this way? The idea, seemingly, is to make it appear to an American audience that the Conference's prospects are improving, that there are no intense disagreements. Just business as usual at the U.N., where multilateral engagement is always a force for good. The less said by the United States, the smoother multilateralism proceeds.
A pistol-whipped United States may be endearing for U.N. human-rights "authorities," like the meeting's very active Iranian vice-chair. It may not be quite so appealing to Americans.
The pace of the preparatory meetings also suggests an intent to keep real conflicts out of the public eye. Only 15 percent of the proposed text has so far been adopted, and 30 percent of the proposals have never been reviewed. Most of the remaining preparatory meetings are not scheduled until April, just prior to the actual conference.
What is more visible is that the U.S. has little to gain for itself - or for global human rights - from participating. Under the consensus rule, many important suggestions have gone unadopted. A proposal to condemn human-rights violations based on sexual orientation ran into immediate objections from South Africa, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Morocco, Holy See, Libya, Egypt, and China. Pakistan said no to a provision that sought to make violence against women and children a criminal offence. Iran balked at a call for states to promote gender equality, and at a suggestion to ensure that the concept of multiculturalism is not used to infringe human rights.
U.S. strategy is evidently to announce the United States participated actively in the planning session, made proposals, and was given a warm welcome. Continuing efforts to improve the final result, it will be argued, are therefore warranted. The pace is sufficiently slow that this refrain will be repeated until it is so late in the day that walking out would cause a major diplomatic furor, which will in turn be used to justify attendance at the Conference itself. Obama's hunger for engagement, in and of itself, is apparently his first priority. Israel is way down on the list and and American first principles are now subject to discussion.
By contrast, what President Obama could have done was to explain to the American public that Durban II is a continuation of Durban I. Its purpose is to foster the implementation of Durban I's Declaration and, at a minimum, to reaffirm it. Because of the Durban I Declaration's treatment of Israel – a modern form of anti-Semitism – alone, the United States should continue to reject it. Not to mention the multiplicity of attacks on basics like free speech, equality, liberty, and security that are still in the Durban II draft.
It should have been that simple. But the behavior of the United States delegation gives every indication that the pretense of change just around the corner will trump the obligation to give Americans the straight goods.
Durban II Cover-up from the Obama AdministrationFebruary 22, 2009
This was initially published in Forbes On Friday, State Department officials and a member of the American Durban II delegation claimed the United States had worked actively to oppose efforts to brand Israel as racist in the committee drafting a Durban II declaration. The trouble is that they didn't. [Editor's Note: See February 19, 2009 comments above. -- BSL]
Following what was clearly a planned public relations exercise, Washington Post columnist Colum Lynch championed the U.S. bravado in an article based on the story orchestrated by the American delegates. In his Feb. 20 article entitled: "U.S. Holds Firm on Reparations, Israel in U.N. Racism Talks," he fawned: "The Obama administration on Thursday concluded its first round of politically charged U.N. negotiations on racism, pressing foreign governments ... to desist from singling out Israel for criticism in a draft declaration to be presented at a U.N. conference in April."
The reality, however, was nothing of the sort. Instead, Obama's Durban II team slipped easily into the U.N.'s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish environs, taking the approach that "fitting in" was best accomplished by staying silent.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian delegation proposed inserting a new paragraph under the heading "Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives ... for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance..." with the subtitle "General provisions on victims ... of discrimination." The paragraph includes: "Calls for ... the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory." In other words, it claims that the Palestinian people are victims of Israeli racism and demands that all U.N. states provide protection from the affronts of the racist Jewish state.
Furthermore, the new Palestinian provision "Calls for ... implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall..." This is a dramatic attempt to change an "advisory opinion" into a "legal obligation"--a status which attaches to no advisory opinion.
But when the Palestinian delegation laid their new proposal before the drafting committee, what did Obama's team do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They made no objection at all.
It also had the very concrete result of not placing the Palestinian paragraph in dispute, and 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.
The Obama team was not only silent on the new "Israel is racist" language, it also said nothing when faced with Holocaust denial. Negotiators from the European Union suggested on Wednesday a new provision to "condemn without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end." Iran--whose president is a Holocaust-denier--immediately objected and insisted that the proposal be "bracketed" or put in dispute. The move blocked the adoption of the proposal and ensured another battle over the reality of the Holocaust in April--at these supposedly "anti-racism" meetings.
Obama should have nixed UN's hatefest by nowFebruary 26, 2009
This article first appeared in The New York Daily News.
Obama is making new friends. The administration's decision last week to participate in planning meetings for Durban II was very well received by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Since both the Durban Declaration from 2001 and the current draft declaration for Durban II claim that Palestinian Arabs are victims of Israeli racism, U.S. agreement would certainly rejuvenate America's relationship with Islamic states. Apparently, the President is tantalized by the prospect. The second reason for the delay seems to be that Obama's new cabinet-level UN Ambassador Susan Rice is flexing her muscles. From Rice's perspective, Obama's commitment to multilateralism means embracing everything UN in sight, starting with joining the UN Human Rights Council. The idea is akin to diving headlong into the UN's equivalent of the shallow end.
A third element in the delay in rejecting Durban attendance, which cannot be discounted, appears to be the stance of a few members of the American Jewish community. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has chosen not to call for an American pullout from Durban II. On February 23, 2009 David Harris, Executive Director of the AJC, explained it to the Jerusalem Post this way: "Our position on Durban II is clear. We have publicly praised France and the Netherlands, among other countries, for insisting on clear red lines and threatening to withdraw if they are breached. We believe the United States shouldn't attend the Conference under the present circumstances." Despite expressing serious concerns about Durban II, the AJC position deliberately falls short of a flat-out call on Obama to stay away.
In fact, on the same day Harris made the carefully-worded statement containing no request on the Administration to pull out now - purportedly because circumstances may change for the better - Israel's Ambassador to Geneva Roni Leshno Yaar said: "I expect the text to get only worse on all issues which are important for Western democracy." Pro-Durban II advocates in the Obama administration are using the appearance of this American Jewish organization operating at odds with the Israeli government as cover.
Not only are "present circumstances" sufficient to justify staying away and discrediting Durban II, they have deteriorated. On Tuesday the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, released her "contribution" to the conference. Since the High Commissioner will serve as Durban II's Secretary-General, her views carry serious weight.
Pillay's report made numerous detailed recommendations but was ominously silent on many fronts. For instance, she failed to advocate that it would be wrong to single out any state in the Durban II declaration. She did not recommend that current draft condemnations of Israel be removed. She knew that the right of Jews to return to Israel - the self-determination of the Jewish people - is said to be racist in current draft provisions. And yet this human rights authority figure said nothing about it. She did announce, however: "We must reaffirm the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action without reservation." That's the same Declaration that says Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism.
The administration, therefore, knows that Durban II will provide: a global megaphone for anti-semites in the name of combating racism and xenophobia, a forum for religious extremists to play-act as guardians of the freedom of religion, a stage for state sponsors of terrorism to fuel the sentiment that counter-terrorism activities are racist plots - and a vehicle for dictators to champion limitations on free speech in the name of human dignity. [emphasis added]
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