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America and Durban II By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Obama administration chose the waning hours of Valentines Day to sneak in an announcement that it would participate in the planning for the UN hate-fest known as the Durban II Review World Conference Against Racism. This decision was reportedly advocated by our new UN ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

Although not committing to actually attend the conference itself, the State Department said that it would send diplomats to participate in preparatory meetings for the conference, which is set to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in April.

"This will be the first opportunity the (Obama) administration has had to engage in the negotiations for the Durban Review, and - in line with our commitment to diplomacy - the U.S. has decided to send a delegation to engage in the negotiations on the text of the conference document," the State Department said.

Iran, the Vice-Chair of the executive committee for Durban II, has played a leading role in the drafting of the text of the conference document, which is referred to in UN parlance as the conference’s “outcome document.” Backed by other members of the Organization of Islamic Conference and by various African states (particularly, Libya, Syria, Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, and Egypt), Iran has refused to budge in negotiations with the European Union and the few responsible states which have been trying to tone down the inflammatory language.

According to the EyeontheUN website which has been tracking the daily proceedings of the Durban II planning committee meetings, Western countries have been constantly put on the defensive. And in its first day of participation in the planning sessions, the United States delegation actually apologized for daring to question the wording of a particular provision.

As reported by Anne Bayefsky, the senior editor of EyeontheUN, a member of the U.S. delegation said meekly that “I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room…I offer my sincere apologies.”

This is an unfortunate example of groveling by those who are supposed to represent the greatest democracy in the history of the world. That is what happens when you forfeit your principles to win a popularity contest. Negotiation is futile when the fix is in and the outcome has already been essentially pre-determined. Canada and Israel realize this. They have stayed away because they will not be parties to a travesty.

Either the State Department has not read the draft outcome document that its planners have prepared for the conference or it simply does not care about the venom that the draft contains. The document includes provisions designed to thwart the fight against Islamic terrorists by playing the Islamophobia card. It calls for massive reparations payments to people who may not even be descended from the victims of slavery in the West, which in any case ended more than 140 years ago, while ignoring current instances of slavery and human trafficking in the Arab world and Africa. It singles out Israel for alleged racism and insists on the right of return for Palestinian refugees, which is intended to extinguish the only Jewish state that exists in the entire world.

Meanwhile, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and other centers of racism, intolerance and human rights atrocities are given a free pass. For example, a paragraph in the draft outcome document that could have been interpreted as applying to Sudan’s “use of Government-aligned or -organized irregular militia to oppress, murder and displace ethnic populations” will most likely not remain in the final version at the insistence of Sudan.

Most importantly, the draft outcome document makes cynical use of the language of human rights and anti-racism to justify an all-out assault on freedom of expression. It does so under the guise of combating defamation of religions. Here are a few examples, which are taken from the January 29. 2009 draft:

· “Urges States to take effective measures to address contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to take firm action against negative stereotyping of religions and defamation of religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols” (para. 159)

· “Calls on States to develop, and where appropriate to incorporate, permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression into national legislation” (para. 160)

· “Stipulates that national laws alone cannot deal with the issue of defamation or negative stereotyping of religions” (para. 216)

The Obama administration’s participation in this corrupted process will do little more than provide it some undeserved legitimacy. If the State Department seriously believes that it will be able to change anything of substance in the draft outcome document, it is deluded. Aside from some trivial tweaking, the drafters of the outcome document have made it clear that they intend to maintain complete control of the process.

And even if Iran and its allies were willing to consider some sort of compromise, what exactly is there to negotiate concerning the core democratic value of free expression?

It is no coincidence that freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the non-establishment clauses all appear together in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Criminalizing the criticism of a religion, as the drafters of the Durban II outcome document want to do, is the first step toward censorship and ultimately toward imposing uniformity of thought and religious belief. As Thomas Jefferson said, "[The] liberty of speaking and writing... guards our other liberties."

President Obama should call home the State Department delegation immediately and announce a boycott of Durban II.

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