Politics & Policy

Durban II Double Standard

Discussions of anti-Semitism are silenced, while Iran's benevolence remains unquestioned.

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.

#ad#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.

#page#The Organization of the Islamic Conference has spent years dominating U.N. proceedings, and Durban II — the centerpiece of the U.N.’s alleged “anti-racism” crusade — is their progeny. By the end of the week, it was with genuine exasperation that the Egyptian representative coined a new word: “Durbanophobia.” A couple of days ago he came up with Arabophobia. And we already know about the worldwide plot hatched in the Oval Office, Downing Street, and the basements of evil Danish publishers, called Islamophobia. Now there is a plot against a harmless group of diplomats who just want to hang out together and shmooze about human rights.

In contrast to attempts to speak about anti-Semitism, nobody thought to interrupt Iran’s declaration that it plays a leadership role in the battle against discrimination. Did you know that the state whose president has advocated modern-day genocide by wiping out Israel “is fully committed to eradicate any policy based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and has actively struggled against this phenomena at national, regional and international levels”?  In fact, “in order to promote access of all people to social justice and to eliminate discrimination” Iran has just created “a special committee to deal with cases of discrimination.” Presumably, the women stoned for alleged adultery, and the homosexuals hanged and strung up on cranes in public places need not apply.

#ad#Meanwhile Algeria had the neat idea of misrepresenting the language of a U.N. resolution in order to beat the anti-Semitism-is-us drum. They declared “resolution 64 of the Human Rights Council of February 1994 requests consideration of ‘discrimination against Blacks, anti-Semitism including discrimination against Arabs and Muslims, xenophobia, negrophobia and related intolerance.’ ” Actually, the resolution requests examination of “any form of discrimination against Blacks, Arabs and Muslims, xenophobia, negrophobia, anti-Semitism and related intolerance.”

The fabrication was particularly preposterous in light of the fact that back in 1994 — I was a member of Canada’s U.N. Human Rights Commission delegation at the time — it was an OIC member that insisted “anti-Arab and anti-Muslim” be added before the word “anti-Semitism” so as to create the appearance of a hierarchy. And every member of the OIC refused to vote for the paragraph that contained only a reference to anti-Semitism.  But then historical revisionism at the U.N. is an old favorite.

A representative of Syria announced: “first of all, I should like to draw your attention to the fact that my country in general does not suffer from problems relating to racism.” It so happens that Syria has had a declaration of a state of emergency since 1963, which effectively suspends constitutional rights. But that didn’t stop the “distinguished representative” from announcing there is no racism in Syria because “the constitution Article 25 insists on the fact that freedom is a sacred right and guarantees individual freedoms for all citizens. It swears that it will protect their interests.” Durban II participants also learned that this conduit for Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon “has set up a national commission on international humanitarian law entrusted with the task of coordinating and sensitizing public opinion to human rights and humanitarian law principles.”

The nonstop campaign by Islamic states against freedom of expression has been most striking. Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic conference, claimed “the most serious manifestation of racism is the democratic legitimization of racism and xenophobia. . . . When it is expressed in the form of defamation of religion it takes cover behind the freedom of expression and opinion.” Algeria was “deeply alarmed by . . . a selective and politicized reading of human rights and fundamental freedom exemplified by the ideological preference given to freedom of expression to the detriment to other freedoms. . . . It is indispensible [sic] for these practices to be condemned and outlawed and their perpetrators no longer enjoy impunity by ideological use of freedom of opinion and expression. . . .” [Who knew Algeria supported the Fairness Doctrine?]

Durban II preparation is not just another U.N. opportunity to distort, fabricate, and confuse. The assault on the actual protection of human rights has left the station and is now barreling along with U.N. money on U.N. premises. A newly created “working group” will start to prepare an “outcome document” in a few weeks’ time.

Hope for a united Western front against this assault is now being placed on France’s ascension to the EU Presidency in July, raising the prospect of the EU joining Canada, the U.S., and Israel in the unambiguous rejection of Durban II. Judging from its gutless behavior to date, however, it will take an earthquake to move the EU from its beloved U.N. turf. The lessons for future American foreign policy are considerable.

– Anne Bayefsky is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. She also serves as the director of the Touro Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust and as the editor of EYEontheUN.org.

Anne Bayefsky — Professor A.F. Bayefsky, B.A., M.A., LL.B., M.Litt. (Oxon.), is a Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, and a Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario Bar. She is also an Adjunct Professor at ...

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