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Another Racist UN Conference? By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Even longtime observers of the farcical happenings at Turtle Bay were taken aback when the United Nations “World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” went off the rails in 2001.

The UN touted the event as "a landmark in the struggle to eradicate all forms of racism” and “a unique opportunity to create a new world vision for the fight against racism in the twenty-first century.”

But as Hudson Institute scholar John Fonte warned at the time:

“The real purpose of the Durban conference as conceived by its key players -- the NGOs, their ideological allies in the UN hierarchy (…) and their Third World clients -- is to chastise the United States, and begin the long process of transforming our constitutional democracy into something more to their liking. Whether it's to the liking, or with the consent, of the American people, seems not to rank high among NGO priorities.”

Sure enough, Durban delegates lost no time accusing Israel of committing “crimes against humanity,” demanding slavery reparations from the West, and condemning U.S. foreign policy as being “responsible for racial oppression around the world.”

It proved too much for delegates from Canada and Israel, who walked out in protest. Their U.S. counterparts joined them. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell explained:

“I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home. I have taken this decision with regret, because of the importance of the international fight against racism and the contribution that the Conference could have made to it. (… ) I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of 'Zionism equals racism;' or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world – Israel – for censure and abuse.”

Three days after the Durban conference ended – on September 11, 2001 – Muslim terrorists murdered almost 3,000 people on American soil, with the majority of casualties occurring, ironically, not far from UN headquarters in New York.

Not surprisingly, concerns are being raised in advance of the 2009 “sequel” to the controversial conference, widely referred to as “Durban II” and dedicated to implementing the declarations passed almost seven years ago.

Last month, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) and 25 other Republican Senators co-signed a statement that declared:

“The first Durban Conference was nothing more than a platform for rogue nations to make anti-Semit[ic] declarations, demonize Israel and promote anti-democratic values under the guise of ‘human rights.’ Durban II promises to be just as much of a sham as the first Conference…. [T]he Executive Committee of the Preparatory Committee for Durban II is chaired by Libya, and one of its Vice-Chairman is Iran. Ironically, Iran has engaged in one of the most pernicious forms of racism – Holocaust-denial.”

Jason Kenney, Canada's Multiculturalism Secretary of State, announced in January that Canada will not attend “Durban II.” The following month, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni declared that "Israel will not participate… unless it is proven that the conference will not be used as a platform for further anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic behavior."

However, Washington has been hesitant to join the Durban II boycott, perhaps because the 2009 conference will take place on the next President’s watch.

When Senator Coleman asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked about the matter on February 13 hearing, she replied, “We have not tried to make a final decision on this.”

“Rice’s indecision puzzles,” writes Anne Bayefsky, the editor of EYEontheUN.org. “The United States and Israel walked out of Durban I in disgust, and the United States has voted against every Durban ‘follow-up’ resolution at the UN ever since. In December the U.S. voted against the entire UN budget for 2008-09 because it contained funding for Durban II," she continued. “One popular explanation for the mysterious indecision is that Barack Obama is casting a long shadow over the State Department. The theory is that department officials eagerly anticipate a President Obama whose salutatory gestures toward the UN would be something akin to a giant bear hug.”

In the here and now, George W. Bush is still president, and he should join Canada and Israel in an outright boycott of Durban II, says Brett D. Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation.  “Considering that Libya is the chair and Iran is a vice-chair,” writes Schaefer in a special report, “it is hardly surprising that 'Islamophobia' reportedly is high on the proposed agenda for Durban II. Based on efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in the Human Rights Council, this agenda item is likely to be a platform for criticizing America's anti-terrorism efforts and for seeking to curb free speech that ‘defames’ Islam."

Schaefer recommends that the Bush administration and Congress work together to withhold the U.S. share of the regular UN budget being used to fund the 2009 conference. This move would “strengthen the hand of the next Administration in its negotiations with other nations because the UN will have to provide evidence of specific improvements for Washington to convince the American people that Durban II will not replicate the 2001 conference.”

Not everyone is waiting to see what Washington will decide to do.

Canadian Senator Jerry Grafstein has proposed a counter conference – an “anti-Durban” as it were.

“The idea,” Grafstein says, “is that wherever Durban II will be, there will be a one-day counter-conference that focuses on anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, racism and anti-religious persecution.”

Grafstein reports “particularly strong support” for his idea in Germany, England and Spain among parliamentarians who are not Jewish.” U.S. congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) has agreed to head the organizing committee.

The senator’s inspiration for the counter-conference was the proposed 1936 “People’s Olympiad.” Intended as a protest against the official Olympics being held that year in Nazi Germany, the “People’s Olympics” were cancelled when the Spanish Civil War broke out.

The senator has high hopes for his new initiative. His counter conference will take advantage of the media already assembled to cover Durban II, “so we can act as a restraint on UN officials. This time, they won’t get a free ride.”

Unfortunately, the countries poised to organize Durban II constitute the usual gang of human rights abusers and terrorist sponsors. Karl Marx famously declared: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The first Durban conference was both. “Durban II” promises more of the same.

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.

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