Politics & Policy

Stammering State Department

Secretary Rice ducks the question: Will the U.S. boycott Durban II?

On April 21, the U.N. begins preparation in earnest for the biggest global hatefest since Durban I — that racist “anti-racism” conference held in Durban, South Africa, that ended three days before 9/11. The second round, scheduled for 2009, is named Durban II — despite the fact that it will be held in an as-yet-undetermined location. Those who thought that hate-mongering against Jews, Americans, and democrats everywhere was just U.N. hot air learned the hard way, soon after Durban I, that hate and terror go hand-in-hand. But for some reason, the U.S. Secretary of State is still struggling with the simple question: Will the U.S. boycott Durban II?

Last Wednesday, during a House subcommittee hearing, Representative Chris Smith posed that very question to Assistant Secretary of State Kristen Silverberg. Silverberg managed this description of Secretary Rice’s position:

[T]he Secretary has said basically, um, that, uh, she, we think there is no absolutely no case to be made for participating in something that is going to be a repeat of Durban I.

From Secretary Rice herself, the only word on the subject of a Durban II boycott came in February during a Senate hearing. She answered Minnesota senator Norm Coleman’s direct question by saying “we have not tried to make a final decision on this. . . . ”

Last Thursday, State Department spokesman Tom Casey responded to a similar inquiry with this “clarification” during Foggy Bottom’s Daily Press Briefing: “[W]e see no reason at this point why the United States should participate in the meeting itself.”

The State Department’s hemming and hawing stand in marked contrast to the leadership of Canada and Israel.

Canadian Foreign Minister Maxine Bernier, for example, declared opposition to Durban II in January:

Secretary of State Kenney and I had hoped that the preparatory process for the 2009 Durban Review Conference would remedy the mistakes of the past. . . . We have concluded that, despite our efforts, it will not. Canada will therefore not participate in the 2009 conference.

Bernier was followed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said in February:

Israel will not participate and not give legitimacy to the U.N. Follow Up Conference on Racism (Durban II), unless it is proven that the conference will not be used as a platform for further anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity.

The following month, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (a Vice-Chairperson of the Durban II planning committee) proved quite the opposite:

The Zionist regime continues and even intensifies its heinous crimes. The world is experiencing new forms and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance — mostly in the northern hemisphere. . . . Alarmed with the ongoing developments we attach great importance to the holding of the Durban Review Conference in 2009 and its preparatory process. The Islamic Republic of Iran will actively participate in the Durban Review Conference and commits itself to play an active and constructive role as we did in the Durban Conference 2001.

(Iran’s “constructive” role? It hosted one of four official U.N. regional preparatory meetings for Durban I and made sure that Jewish non-governmental organizations could not attend.)

At least Mottaki offers a discernable position on the issue. When responding to Representative Smith’s direct question, “Will we not be participating?” Silverberg deliberately obfuscated. “We have not been participating in Durban,” she explained, referring back to a procedural meeting which took place last August.

The garbled attempt by State to leave the door open to U.S. participation in Durban II has left reporters, press officers, NGOs, and allies confused and troubled.

There has been much speculation as to what is really going on. Has the “my U.N., do or die” bureaucracy, long suffering from an acute form of global clientitis, usurped decision-making in the last days of the Bush administration? Is it State Department anticipation of a President Obama, projected as enjoying the limelight of an international anything? Or is Secretary Rice oblivious to the fact that her failure to be out front on Durban II is seriously undercutting efforts to combat this virulent form of U.N.-driven anti-Semitism?

On April 3, voices from many points on the political, religious, and cultural spectrum — including Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, James Woolsey, Bernard Lewis, Alan Dershowitz, Ed Koch, William Bennett, and Norman Podhoretz — appealed to Secretary Rice in a series of newspaper ads, urging that she announce unequivocally that America will boycott Durban II and everything for which it stands.

Madame Secretary, will you answer the call?

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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