Durban I and 9/11: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Two events that took place a decade ago still reverberate today. It remains to be seen whether we have internalized the necessary lessons in order to move toward a safer future.
The 2001 World Conference against Racism in Durban ("Durban I") is remembered primarily for its open displays of hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people. Demonstrators marched through the streets chanting anti-Semitic slogans, and numerous handouts would have done the Nazis of the 1930's proud. Virtually every session was hijacked by those seeking to turn the conference into a forum for demonizing and delegitimizing Israel. As one observer noted, "[t]he cynicism and intentional disregard of human rights and freedom was mind-boggling."
Those who believed that America was immune from such unthinking prejudice were proven wrong less than a week later. Three thousand people were murdered on 9/11 for no reason other than that they lived in America. In the aftermath of that unspeakably barbaric act, conspiracy theorists alleged -- without a scintilla of proof -- that 9/11 was a Zionist plot, and that thousands of Jewish workers had been warned to stay home from the Twin Towers that day.
It might be thought that the close timing of these two events was mere coincidence. But their philosophical underpinnings were closely related. They were both meant as frontal assaults against modernity and the West. Durban I was an attack on the legitimacy of the Small Satan -- Israel (or "the Zionist entity" as some called it). And 9/11 was an attack on the Great Satan -- the U.S. itself.
Durban I and much of what came after must be seen as an attempt to rehabilitate the grotesque "Zionism is Racism" resolution passed by the U.N. in 1975. How else to explain the focus of a conference meant to alleviate racism worldwide on the Middle East's sole functioning democracy? Though the PLO-inspired resolution was invalidated by the U.N. sixteen years later, it has never been renounced by those for whom creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948, not occupation of "Palestinian" lands in 1967, was the Jews' original sin.
With the original Durban conference as a backdrop, it is easy to explain what has come after.
For example, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel echoes the West's efforts to abolish South Africa's apartheid regime. Indeed, Israel's enemies call Israel an "apartheid" state without admitting that the fundamental characteristics of that evil regime -- strict racial segregation, extremely limited education, disenfranchisement of racial groups, and brutalization of the majority indigenous population -- are anathema to the Jewish state. It is enough for them simply to describe Israel as "racist" so as to delegitimize the nation's very existence.
It is important to note the racism inherent in the Palestinian Authority's recently submitted request to be recognized by the U.N. as an independent state. Palestinian leaders have repeatedly refused to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. At the same time, they have confirmed that no Jews will be allowed to live in the newly created Palestinian state. Thus, while they continue to demand the right of return for all Palestinians allegedly made refugees by Israel's independence, they threaten to make another group into refugees solely because of that group's religion. And the world says nothing!
If one wishes to find Orwellian Newspeak in modern international relations, one need look no farther than Turkey's reaction to the events of the "Freedom Flotilla" and the Mavi Marmara. In that case, nine Turkish mercenaries who made disturbing radio transmissions telling Israelis to "go back to Auschwitz," and who were bent on becoming martyrs, died when they attacked Israeli commandos. The commandos, armed with little more than paint-guns, boarded the Mavi Marmara as it was attempting to breach Israel's lawful naval blockade of Palestinian territory ruled by a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy Israel and wipe out Jews worldwide. In the aftermath of those events, Turkey has demanded that Israel apologize for defending itself, pay compensation to the families of those who planned and initiated the violence, and lift the blockade preventing weapons from entering Gaza. Turkey claims that Israel's blockade (determined by the U.N.'s own Palmer Commission to be a legitimate exercise of self-defense) is a casus belli, and has threatened to send its own navy to protect the ships attempting to breach the blockade.
The attack by an Egyptian mob on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in early September demonstrated the hatred the Arab Street still feels toward Israel. We forget that during the early days of the Egyptian uprising, an American news reporter was sexually assaulted by a mob because they thought she was Jewish.
Unfortunately, President Obama's Cairo speech in June 2009 served to confirm in Arab minds their assertion of Israel's illegitimacy. By justifying the creation of Israel with reference only to the Holocaust, while ignoring Jewish ties to the land that span 3,000 years, Obama reinforced the Arabs' argument that they should not be punished for the sins of Europe in general and Hitler in particular. (Never mind that the Arabs were far from innocent. They were enthusiastic supporters of Hitler's efforts to wipe out the Jews. Had Germany won the war, there is no doubt that the Jewish communities in the Middle East would have met the same fate as those in much of Europe.)
The U.N. could have ended the travesty of Durban I by rejecting the call for a special commemorative event this year. It would thereby have expressed clearly its opposition to the anti-Western, anti-Semitic, racist elements that are rearing their ugly heads in today's world. Instead, the U.N. scheduled Durban III to commemorate and thereby legitimize the anti-Semitic process begun a decade before. One can only wonder at the total insensitivity and blindness of an organization that invited Iran's PM Ahmadinejad to speak at this event. He has denied the Holocaust yet called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth even as his country rushes to develop its nuclear arsenal.
For better or worse, the fates of Israel and the U.S. are inextricably linked. Both countries represent freedom, democracy, and human rights. They serve as a bulwark against forces of evil that would return the world to its darkest times.
The U.N. has become an enabler of the worst kind. In choosing to honor the memory of Durban I, the U.N. will inevitably embolden the forces of evil that seek to harm both Israel and the United States. The recurrence of atrocities such as 9/11 becomes ever more likely.