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Durban II: Send in the Clowns By: Jamie Weinstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GENEVA – "For months we said that this conference is a circus, this conference is a masquerade," President of the French Union of Jewish Students Raphael Haddad told me at the UN Durban II conference against racism in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday. "When you see that there is someone who is racist with xenophobe, with anti-Semite, with negationist, with homophobe, and he is speaking at a conference against racism, it just means that this conference is a masquerade."

The someone Haddad was referring to was petite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had just given a bigoted speech attacking Israel as "the most cruel and repressive racist regime." For good measure, Ahmadinejad excoriated the West for the entire world’s problems (both currently and in history) and for propping up that wicked Zionist regime. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t find time during his 40-minute speech to make any comments about his own country’s brutal treatment of gays and people of the Baha’i faith, among others.

Ahmadinejad’s speech prompted some European delegations to walk out in protest, but Raphael Haddad didn’t even make it that far. He was thrown out as Ahmadinejad uttered his first words. As soon as Ahmadinejad began to speak, Haddad and his friends stormed the stage donning red clown noses and rainbow colored clown wigs. All of the clowns were naturally thrown out of the hall except the biggest clown of all. He was given 40 minutes to spew absurdities and hate. But there couldn’t be a more appropriate symbol for the UN anti-racism conference. Yes, send in the clowns because the conference is a joke. It makes masquerades look like serious affairs.

Before the conference even began, the United States, Canada and esveral other Western countries declared that they would not be attending for fear it would turn into an anti-Israel, anti-Western forum instead of a conference seriously interested in addressing discrimination. Eight years ago, just days before the Sept. 11th attacks, the first Durban anti-racism conference (which, incidentally, was actually in Durban, South Africa) turned into little more. So far, this conference is looking like more of the same.

The draft outcome document for this year’s conference has gone through many revisions and many of the most egregious and outrageous attacks on Israel have been taken out. Still, code words for Israel can be found. For instance, the document states that "foreign occupation" is "closely associated with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance . . ." You can read "foreign occupation" for Israel and possibly the United States and, of course, neither of those cases came due to racism. I would also point out that Israel’s "occupation" is more of a case of disputed territory, but this is the subject for another column. Anyway, one can only expect that this draft document will become even more anti-Israel and anti-Western as the conference drags on for four more long days.

And yet, at its root, this is not even really an anti-racism conference. It is an anti-Western conference. It is a forum for third-world countries to lash out against more developed ones. Look no farther than the issue of slavery to understand this dynamic. One of the exhibits at the conference that focuses on slavery only focuses on slavery in the Americas. Ahmadinejad mentioned America and Europe’s history of slavery in his diatribe. The draft outcome document only specifically mentions the transatlantic slave trade.

This is all fine and good. The history of slavery in the Americas and in Europe is a horrific chapter of Western history that should be remembered. But so should the Arab slave trade, which was probably
larger in pure numbers than the transatlantic slave trade. Why is there no mention of that slave trade? And why is there no mention of specific countries that still tolerate slavery (I’m looking at you Sudan and Haiti)?

The answer is obvious. This conference isn’t about fighting racism. It is about castigating the West. This is ironic because for all the West’s problems, it is Western-oriented countries, including Israel, that are the most respectful of human rights, which developed the ideas of human rights.

In Western countries, dozens upon dozens of domestic human rights organizations exist to fight for particular human rights causes within their own country, or at least what they perceive as human rights issues. This does not exist in the totalitarian countries that have dominated the conference. I would even argue that the United States, in particular, is arguably the least racist country in the entire world. Our history is scarred, like most societies, with cruel and twisted tales of racial discrimination and of slavery. But in no other country is a story like Barack Obama’s possible. This doesn’t mean that racism is totally eliminated from America, but we have come pretty far to have elected an African American the president of the United States. This doesn’t happen anywhere else and it certainly doesn’t happen anywhere where Western ideas and values have not been incorporated.

Yet, the world has turned upside down. Up is down and down is up. Right is wrong and wrong is right. And at the United Nations in Geneva, gross human rights violators lecture human rights champions.

Welcome to the circus. Welcome to the masquerade.

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.

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