To call anything the United Nations does a "new low" does an injustice to all the previous "old lows."
How do you do worse than pass a resolution condemning Zionism as a
form of racism on the anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht, as the UN
did in 1974?
We have already witnessed
attempts to put the UN bureaucracy to work as an international enforcer
of Islamic definitions of blasphemy.
Still, even by the sordid standards of the UN, the 2001 Durban
"antiracism" conference was a record-breaker. Denouncing racism while
conference attendees sold copies of the Protocols of the Elders of
Now, however, the UN faces a new challenge. Was the 2001 anti-racism
conference truly the very worst it could do? Or could it push the
boundaries even further, explore new depths? At Durban, the UN had
allowed an antiracism conference to be hijacked by anti-Semites. But
what if it allowed anti-Semites to organize a conference from the very
start? What if it made hatred of Jews and the annihilation of the
Jewish state the very organizing principle of the conference? Now that
truly would be a record low.
And so it happened. The UN has been at work organizing a "Durban II"
to be held sometime in 2009. The organizing committee for the
conference is chaired by Libya--with seats offered to Iran and Cuba.
Preparatory meetings have been scheduled for Jewish holidays, in an
effort to prevent pro-Israel groups from participating.
In December, 41 Western countries voted to shut off funding for
Durban II. These countries pay the UN's bills--but the non-paying
majority has the votes. This week, Canada gallantly announced it will
not attend the Durban II "circus of intolerance," in the scornful words
of Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism.
Let's hope that Canada's example inspires other democracies to follow.
But let's also understand more clearly what is at stake at Durban II.
In the first planning session for Durban II back in August,
Pakistan's representative declared: "The defamation of Islam and
discrimination against Muslims represent the most conspicuous
demonstration of contemporary racism and intolerance ? It is
regrettable that the world media has allowed defamation and blasphemy
in this form?"
These are more than mere words. We have already witnessed attempts
to put the UN bureaucracy to work as an international enforcer of
Islamic definitions of blasphemy.
During the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005, the Organization of
Islamic Countries demanded that the UN condemn the cartoons as a form
of racism. The UN did not quite do that. But UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Louise Arbour, a Canadian, did take jurisdiction of the
matter and did promise an investigation.
Nor does the UN act alone. Inside Canada too, the Alberta Human
Rights Commission has agreed to treat the republication of the cartoons
as a possible human rights offense. Former Western Standard
publisher Ezra Levant has been called before a tribunal to defend his
decision in what stands, in effect, as the first blasphemy prosecution
in English-speaking Canada since 1926.
Human rights? No, what we are witnessing here is a power grab, an
attempt to seize crucial principles of Western individualism and
reshape them as weapons of domination. The investigation of Mark Steyn
and Maclean's magazine is not so glaringly sectarian as the attack on Ezra Levant and the now defunct Western Standard, but it too is an attempt to redefine "human rights" as a tool for the destruction of individual liberty.
Walking out of Durban II was a great first step toward rediscovering
authentic rights and genuine liberty. But it was only a first step. The
corruption of the human rights ideal has to be fought not only at the
United Nations, but inside the domestic institutions of Western
nations--and within our own minds and consciences.