WASHINGTON (JTA) – The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, otherwise known as the Durban Conference, was a parley hijacked by radicals betraying the real purpose of the event — the confrontation of racial discrimination worldwide.
The April 2009 Durban II conference promises to top that fiasco, despite the Obama administration’s decision to attempt to influence the process.
In the end it will be a Holocaust-denying, anti-Israel hate-fest. The United States, the Europeans and all other democratic nations should boycott this cynical effort to incite racist hatred and religious bigotry. If the United States chooses to attend this fraudulent conference, we will legitimize and sanction the bigotry and racism practiced by the world’s most intolerant, anti-democratic nations.
Indeed, it is these nations and their long and hostile records that cause the most concern. Let’s look at a few of them.
If you had to choose a responsible chair for the beginning Conference Preparatory Committee, a safe bet would be to pass over Libya. Yet as the upside-down logic of Durban II goes, the Libyan representative was elected by his peers along with vice chairmen from human rights-abusing nations such as Iran and Cuba.
Libya’s twisted worldview, if there were any doubts, was on exhibit last April when its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, appeared before the Security Council and brazenly compared Israeli actions in Gaza at the time to the Nazis’ systematic killing during the Holocaust.
This is what happens when terrorist countries are elevated to the stature of democratic states. What stunts will they try to pull at Durban II?
Last year, Iran added its peculiar brand of democratic practices to the Durban II process when it protested the credentials registration of the Canadian Council on Israel and Jewish Advocacy, in a preparatory meeting on the conference. As Hershell Ezrin, the council’s chief executive officer, told the Canadian Jewish News last May, "The whole process had become so discriminatory to us, we felt that no matter how many times we answered their questions and responded to shorter and shorter deadlines, we were asked the same questions over and over again."
With Iran proudly serving as the center of Holocaust denial today, we can only imagine what it has up its sleeve for this conference.
Syria objected recently to language in conference program documents citing the number of Jewish deaths during the Holocaust, saying it didn’t want to engage in a statistical debate. Iran also objected to Holocaust references, complaining that banning denial was a restriction on freedom of expression.
Yet these countries and their allies have been staunch defenders of the insertion of blasphemy legislation in numerous other U.N. forums, a policy that violates freedom of expression through the suppression of any criticism of Islam or its leaders.
The Human Rights Council, the successor to the Human Rights Commission, also has been active in the planning of the conference at the request of the U.N. General Assembly. Yet the council, like its predecessor, has become irrevocably tarred with anti-Semitism and bias against Israel.
As the State Department’s March 2008 Report on Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism explained about these two organizations, "For many years before its abolition, the Commission on Human Rights had a separate agenda item focusing solely on alleged violations of Israel — namely, Item 8, ‘Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.’ This allowed multiple resolutions against Israel, while no other country could have more than one resolution run against it each year. No other country beside Israel had an agenda item exclusively scrutinizing it. This tradition has been continued by the new U.N. Human Rights Council."
The report said later that "Several important countries, including established democracies, follow a policy of voting ‘on principle’ against all resolutions that criticize a specific country regardless of the merits — unless that country is Israel, in which case they consistently vote in favor of critical resolutions."
The timing of the Durban II conference is equally disturbing, as it will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 20 to 24, overlapping Israel’s annual observance of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 21. How ironic it will be that a conference organized by the United Nations, which gave birth to Israel in 1948 out of the ashes of the Holocaust, promises to repeat its shameful performance of 2001 by again allowing the unbridled eliminationist hatred, condemnation and slander of Israel.
In encouraging this conference to reconvene and worse, leaving it in the hands of the likes of Iran, Libya and other terrorist states, the United Nations again dishonors itself by allowing these tyrants a platform to impose their racial and religious bigotry on the world. How can the United States possibly be a part of this insanity? If we join this charade, we extend this dishonor through our presence, sullying ourselves in the process.
We must do the only honorable deed and boycott Durban II, denying the world’s terrorists and bigots the privilege of our legitimizing presence among them.
(Gregg J. Rickman served as the first U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism from 2006 to 2009.)