To its credit, the Obama administration
decided not to participate in the upcoming United Nations anti-racism
review conference in April, known as Durban II, unless the final document
is changed to drop all critical references to Israel, all language on
defamation of religion as grounds for restricting free expression, and
all language calling for reparations to compensate for Western slavery
of many years ago. The administration reached this conclusion
after hearing back from its delegates on the stench they experienced
first hand during a week of preparatory committee negotiations.
The latest version of the draft “outcome document” for the conference
had actually gotten worse since the U.S. contingent arrived in Geneva
on February 17, 2009.
It appears that the State Department
was telling the truth when it announced that it had wanted to give the
negotiations a try, and then assess how successful we were in changing
the direction of the conference planning before making a final decision
whether to attend the conference itself. It sent two representatives
– a former U.S. ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council and
the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
They held numerous meetings with representatives from different member
states and participated in the negotiations.
The preparatory committee is
delaying release of the latest version of the conference outcome
document, no doubt to keep the controversial details from public scrutiny
as long as possible. Nevertheless, publicizing the U.S. delegates’
futile efforts to salvage an already flawed document exposed the rigged
farce for what it truly is. Laid bare for any objective observers
to see was an anti-racism conference that was cynically being used to
justify what it was supposed to be against: bigotry, racial injustice,
The U.S. delegates were up
against an immovable bloc led by Libya and Iran, who ran the negotiation
sessions of the 20-member preparatory committee in an imperious manner.
Backed by the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and
their allies from Africa and Latin America, the co-leaders of the committee
refused to remove references in the draft alluding to Israel as a “racist”
foreign occupier that engaged in “a contemporary form of apartheid.”
In fact, the Palestinian representatives insisted on adding even more
poisonous language, singling out alleged “discrimination” against
Palestinian “victims” and demanding “international protection.”
Our delegation also failed
to get the language removed from the draft that called for curbs on
free expression in the name of preventing defamation of religions, especially
Islam. And the language on slavery reparations aimed exclusively at
the West remained while contemporary slavery in Arab and African countries
was completely ignored. European Union countries, particularly Britain,
France, Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands, have had no better luck
for months in their own efforts to improve the text.
Curiously, a week went by without
an announcement that the United States had seen enough of the ignominious
direction in which Durban II was headed and would no longer participate. Nevertheless, the final decision to stay home this April was certainly
better late than never. The European countries have yet to follow
In reaching his decision, President
Obama showed some moral backbone. He risked a hostile reaction
from the Organization of Islamic Conference, whose secretary-general
had just recently praised the U.S. decision to participate in the preparatory
talks. The OIC secretary-general said that it was a “credible signal
of the new U.S. administration’s goodwill and desire to introduce
a fresh, fair and objective approach to the issues related to human
rights and Middle East peace process as well as to rejuvenate the United
States’ positive image throughout the Muslim nations.”
After raising the OIC’s expectations
so high, we can expect complaints that the United States once again
bowed to Israel’s wishes by deciding to boycott the Durban II conference.
If Europe, Japan, and Australia show the same backbone Obama displayed
and walk out as well, there will be the inevitable accusations of racism
and neo-colonialism resulting from the vast Zionist conspiracy. This is how authoritarian regimes manipulate democratic norms to take
the offense against democracies and cover their own crimes at the same
The president’s courageous
decision will also go down hard with the two senior members of his administration
who pushed the hardest for our participation in the Durban II planning
sessions in the first place: UN ambassador Susan Rice and Samantha
Power, the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs on President Obama’s
National Security Council.
Susan Rice said that the “United
Nations is indispensable” on a host of issues including advancing
human rights. She believes that U.S. participation in UN efforts
such as the Durban II conference is critical to showing the world that
we are willing to engage in a global platform to denounce the remnants
of slavery and colonialism. In her mind, this goal far outweighs
the countervailing argument that U.S. engagement in certain UN forums
like Durban II would give undeserved legitimacy to a platform for Islamic
states to target Israel and to undermine freedom of expression.
Samantha Power, Obama’s closest
advisor on foreign policy, is a self-professed human rights activist
with a long record of antipathy towards Israel. She would push
the Jewish state under the bus for the sake of showing the Muslim world
how much we are taking their concerns seriously.
Power attended the 2001
Durban anti-Semitic hatefest, yet was indifferent to the disastrous
outcome of that conference. Just months later, during a 2002
interview with Harry Kreisler, the director of the Institute for International
Studies at Berkeley, Ms. Power said that even if it meant “alienating
a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import”
(i.e., Jewish Americans) the United States should stop investing “billions
of dollars” in “servicing Israel’s military” and invest the
money instead “in the new state of Palestine.”
These were not old isolated
remarks taken out of context, as Ms. Power and her supporters have claimed.
In her 2004 review of a book by the radical leftist Noam Chomsky, Ms.
Power agreed with many of his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and
expressed her own concerns about what she called the “sins of our
allies in the war on terror”, lumping Israel with Saudi Arabia, Turkey,
Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan.
In 2007, while she was Professor
of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard's John
F. Kennedy School of Government, Power gave an interview concerning
the Iraq war during which she took a swipe at our special relationship
with Israel. She said that our relationship with Israel “has
often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli
security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics….”
In her view, we have brought terrorist attacks upon ourselves by aping
Israel’s tactics in contravention of human rights. The interview
is posted on the school’s website.
Fortunately, Samantha Power
and Susan Rice lost this round. We will not legitimize Durban
II with our presence. However, we can expect that the UN Human
Rights Council and International Criminal Court will be their next internationalist
causes for the U.S. to join.
The Human Rights Council is
run by the same pack of jackals who are leading the preparations for
Durban II. It has specialized in Israel-bashing while protecting the
most flagrant abusers of human rights such as Sudan. As for the
International Criminal Court, FrontPage Magazine has long reported
how it is preparing to assert jurisdiction over a new universal crime
of aggression that would exempt the leaders of terrorist organizations
such as Hamas and al-Qaeda from prosecution for this crime because they
are not leaders of a member state. However, leaders of democratic
states who use military force against the terrorist strongholds would
be fully subject to prosecution.
Neither of these dysfunctional
global bodies merits our support. We will have to stay tuned to
see if President Obama agrees or is swayed by his misguided advisors.