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Saved from Durban II By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, March 02, 2009

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 Your browser may not support display of this image.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, and repression.   

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 suit. 

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 time. 

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. 

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