U.S. at Durban II: A Dangerous Game to Lose

Would President Obama attend or send a U.S. delegate to a Klu Klux Klan planning meeting with the hopes of changing its agenda? That would be outrageous. Then why did the administration announce late last Saturday night that the U.S. is joining the planning sessions for the next U.N. Conference on Racism, known as Durban II, or the International Israel Hate-fest?  The President is making conference calls to Jewish leaders to convince them that the two scenarios are not morally identical, but they are.

Durban I was a stage for anti-Semitism and vitriolic condemnation of Israel and Israel alone. No other country was chastised for acts of racism, not even Darfur, where the genocide continues. Israel was the only country which was criticized and the criticism included even its right to exist as a Jewish nation.  Although the Durban Declaration makes no reference to the many countries which are now or are becoming Muslim, it calls a homeland for the Jewish people as "racist" by definition. Congress called the conference a forum for "attacking Israel, promoting anti-Semitism, and undermining the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." (H.Res. 1361) The anti-Semitism was so flagrant that Colin Powell led a walk out and the U.S. has voted against all U.N. measures which contain elements of the Durban Declaration.

What will make Durban II any better? Nothing. The State Department equivocates that it will engage in the preparation stages of the conference and perhaps not the conference itself, yet all U.N. nations who attend the preparatory meetings have agreed to "reaffirm the Durban Declaration". U.S. participation cannot change the objective of Durban II, which is "to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action." It is a done deal.  When the European Union attempted to remove some incendiary paragraphs against Israel, Pakistan replied that those paragraphs were going to remain since they were part of the first Durban Declaration and Program of Action. "May I remind - we are not here to renegotiate the Durban Declaration and it is already there; we are at the Review Conference and we cannot renegotiate."  Plans for Durbin II have been underway for several years, and a last minute proposal by the U.S. may, at best, remove one or two inflammatory passages but not the core purpose of the event: promoting anti-Semitism.

Durbin II is likely to be worse than Durbin I. Whereas the first conference developed into a orgy of hate speech, the next conference states on its official website that its mission is to "...accelerate progress towards the implementation of measures adopted in 2001." That is, Durban II is where words of hate towards Israel will be translated into actions. If there is any doubt about the motives of the conference, one needs to look at the preparatory committee, chaired by Libya and Iran, neither of which is likely to give up its goal of destroying the State of Israel.

U.S. participation in the planning of Durban II has no chance of removing the demonization of Israel as part of the fixed conference agenda just as having a chat with Klan leaders would not make that organization denounce racism. Moreover, U.S. participation sends the message that the U.S. is ready to negotiate its principles and abandon its most steadfast ally in the Middle East. U.S. participation also undermines other nations who were considering a boycott. Without U.S. cover, other democracies expose themselves to serious retaliation. And a president, who would not make himself available for a photo-op with a Klan leader, should not send a U.S. official to sit at a table with Libya, Iran and other despots whose positions are clearly stated in the Durban I documents. It lends credibility to their shameful pretense of combating racism.

Getting the Klu Klux Klan to renounce racism is an effort defeated before it begins. Yet any student of history knows that the U.S. is engaged in just such a losing game and that it has been played before.  In September 1938, the major powers of Europe sat down at a conference in Munich with a notorious and very outspoken anti-Semite. The nation under discussion then was Czechoslovakia, and like Israel now, Czechoslovakia was left out of the decisions that determined it destiny. The western leaders betrayed their commitments to the Czechs and returned home gloriously waving the useless piece of paper that was the peace agreement. At that conference, the west lost.  Western leaders disgraced themselves, empowered the anti-Semite and paved the way for World War II.  If the U.S. participates in Durban II, we will lose the game and set the stage for some terrifying consequences.
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