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.
Throughout the farcical “human rights” meeting, the seats of the United States, Canada, and Israel were empty — each boycotted these proceedings. The members of the European Union, however, were still glued to their seats. Slovenia, on behalf of the EU, took the following positions in succession over the course of one day: We insist that a decision to accredit this NGO be taken now; we agree to wait for 48 hours before a decision is taken; next Monday (seven days away) is really our final deadline for deciding whether to let this NGO participate in this two-week session. Up against the Islamic Conference, and anywhere in the vicinity of the U.N., an earthworm has more backbone than the European Union.
One enlightening document distributed to participants was a report on the prevalence of racism and xenophobia in the world today. Here is some of the paper trail the U.N. has now contributed to the greater protection of human rights — these assessments are self-reported:
‐ “Iran, as a matter of policy and practice, is opposed to any form of discrimination.”
‐ “Syria does not suffer from the problem of racial discrimination. . . . The phenomenon of racial discrimination does not exist.”
‐ “All Lebanese laws prohibit the use of violence against individuals.”
‐ “There are no racist actions known in the country [of Senegal].”
‐ “Algeria has been at the forefront of the fight against all forms of racial discrimination.”
Iran’s delegation had the most fun. After hailing the “historic Durban conference,” Iran’s opening speech drew the outlines of the Durban II plan of attack:
The emerging of new forms of racism in the aftermath of the Durban  Conference, particularly after 9/11 and under the pretext of the so-called war on terror, reflects the visible rise of the contemporary forms of racism throughout the world and especially against Muslims.”
In other words, Durban II is an Islamic offensive to define Muslims as the preeminent victims of racism, at the hands of Western colonizers acting under the pretense of ending terrorism.
Though the real agenda is no mystery, the OIC is aware of the bad optics. So Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the OIC, announced that the conference “should not turn into an anti-Semitism exercise.” Unfortunately, this was not some kind of long-awaited epiphany. Pakistan, also speaking on behalf of the OIC, told the UN Human Rights Council in September 2007 that “Islamophobia is also a crude form of anti-Semitism.” In other words, it’s fine to include concern for anti-Semitism, provided the Semites in question are Arabs and Muslims. And despite the fact that OIC states continually stressed that Durban II must be about contemporary manifestations of racism, contemporary anti-Semitism was the last thing on their minds.
On the contrary, opening day was a declaration of war against Jews, Israel, and the West. Once again the U.N.’s role is to promote the violation of human rights and not their protection.
— 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.