The first week of preparations for the U.N.’s racist anti-racism bash, the “Durban Review Conference” (also known as Durban II) has drawn to a close. It now looks like the latest U.N. effort at painting Israel and America as the enemies of human rights — with Iran, Libya, Algeria, and Syria on the side of the angels — won’t be held in Durban, after all. On the list of prospective sites is New York: Apparently, considerations of the number of Jews in the neighborhood may be outweighed by the U.N. dollars that would pour in if it was held on U.N. premises. U.N. premises in places with fewer Jews, like Geneva and Vienna, are also in the running.
While the venue issue is winding down, the struggle for participation, substance, and financing is gearing up. Iran has scored a victory in keeping a Jewish NGO out of the first substantive session of the Durban II preparatory process. Iran objected to the accreditation or participation of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy and then issued a list of demands that the NGO was required to answer. The long list was an intrusive fishing expedition designed to gather data on Jewish NGOs across Canada, including membership lists, identification of any possible dual Canadian-Israeli citizens, and a list of all “financial sources and contributions.” The decision deadline was set for Monday, April 28, but as soon as the NGO responses to the Iranian list were in hand, the EU agreed to postpone consideration in the face of continued Iranian “dissatisfaction” and rubber-stamped an Iranian demand for more answers. The formal decision has now been “delayed” until Wednesday midday, knowing Thursday is a U.N. holiday and Friday involves only the adoption of a report without NGO input. So right from the start Durban II has meant to treat Jewish NGOs differently than all others.
Last week, the Libyan member of the Security Council likened Israel’s bombing in Gaza to “what happened in the concentration camps.” With another Libyan in position of authority here in Geneva, the Durban PrepCom has also been vintage U.N. NGOs are permitted to speak during the proceedings, but acting as a representative of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, here’s a sample of what I encountered.
April 23, 2008 Morning Session
Anne Bayefsky, Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust… this Committee has heard from a number of U.N. members purporting to claim an interest in the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. Such statements must be clearly understood in context. The context is their simultaneous redefinition of anti-Semitism as directed against Arabs and Muslims. In the words of the Ambassador of Algeria yesterday, anti-Semitism targets Arabs because they are also Semites. Anything less, he said, would be a false dichotomy between Jews and Arabs. The dichotomy about which he speaks might be described somewhat differently. Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. This is anti-Semitism. It isn’t about Arabs. It isn’t about Muslims….
Chairperson, Najat Al-Hajjaji, (Libya) – POINT OF ORDER Distinguished Madame, distinguished representative of an NGO Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, please be committed to the item under consideration which is Item 5. Item 5 is entitled “Reports of preparatory meetings and activities at the international, regional and national levels.” …
Anne Bayefsky…To assess those preparatory meetings and to explain their appropriate activities it is necessary to talk about the substance of those activities. So to set the record straight for those preparatory purposes, the term anti-Semitism was coined by an anti-Semite in the 19th century to mean Jew hatred — not more, not less. Much has been said and written in the course of preparing for the conference about the need to address contemporary forms of racism and xenophobia. In this context there is an acid test of the genuineness of alleged concern for anti-Semitism. The major contemporary form of anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism, the rejection of the self-determination of the Jewish people realized in the state of Israel. . . .
Chairperson, Najat Al-Hajjaji, (Libya) — POINT OF ORDER
Distinguished Madame, you are still talking not under the item under consideration. …
And so it went. Over three attempted statements, I was interrupted by the Libyan Chair repeatedly, with additional points of order coming from human rights paragons Egypt, Syria, and Algeria. It made no difference whether the agenda item was preparation, objectives, contemporary manifestations of racism, or the effectiveness of U.N. human rights mechanisms. Over and over, the Chair deemed my remarks not to be connected to the constantly mutating agenda item under discussion.