No Room at the U.N. Inn
Durban II is going to make Durban I look like a picnic.


Anne Bayefsky

Geneva — The United Nations opened an “anti-racism” meeting here Monday. First up on the agenda? Anti-Semitism. Not anti-anti-Semitism but actual anti-Semitism via a U.N. platform, translated into six languages and webcast around the globe. The occasion was the first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee for the Durban II Conference. For those who worried that Durban II might be a repeat of the first Durban hatefest, which ended three days before 9/11, those fears can be set aside. Durban II is going to make Durban I look like a picnic.

Three quarters of the entire opening day was spent on one subject — an Iranian-driven attempt to deny participatory rights or accreditation to the nongovernmental organization called the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy. Their crime? Algeria was concerned about Jewish money, or “their sources of funding.” The Palestinian observer complained the NGO supported Israeli settlements and no NGO supporting an illegal activity could be involved in Durban II. With Libya acting as the meeting’s chair, Iran as a vice chair, and Cuba as rapporteur, nobody thought to mention the criminals sitting on the Preparatory Committee (or PrepCom) itself.

While the Palestinian ranted about settlements, Algeria and Egypt voiced their support for rejecting this NGO’s accreditation on the basis that inclusion would be “political” and “politics must be set aside.” Neither was the least embarrassed by the obvious contradiction of their alleged rationale and their railing about alleged violations of human rights by a specific state — the only such attack on a country-specific situation the whole day.

The Libyan chair, Najat Al-Hajjaji, served as one of the last chairpersons of the old U.N. Human Rights Commission during its final disreputable implosion. Evidently aiming for a repeat performance with the Durban II PrepCom, Al-Hajjaji bridled at the Belgian suggestion that Iran had not made any concrete, credible objections to this NGO’s participation. Responding for Iran, she revealed how her backroom wheeling and dealing was already in full swing. Speaking publicly, she failed to disclose that the NGO had written to the UN secretariat beforehand asking for specific objections so that it could respond in a timely fashion. Instead, she said the bureau (which includes Iran) had decided Iran need not put its objections in writing in advance of the session — thus guaranteeing the NGO would be shut out when the meeting began.

Throughout the day, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were effusive about the chair and frequently noted how delighted they were to see her presiding. In turn, the chair thanked OIC members for “their support of the presidency.” The love-in was complemented by repeated scenes of the Iranian and Palestinian delegates huddled together in close consultation. The OIC use of Durban II to mount a major anti-Western offensive is readily apparent from the speakers on opening day: OIC interventions numbered 31; interventions from the rest of the world numbered 32 — though the OIC accounts for only 29 percent of UN member states.