Exclusive: Obama Flip-Flops on Durban II

by VINCENT GIOIA April 17, 2009
On April 20-24, 2009, in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations will host the "Durban Review Conference," – a follow-up to the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR). As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UNHRC) is responsible for organizing and convening the event "towards the effective and comprehensive implementation" of the conclusions and recommendations of WCAR, and to continue the "global drive for the total elimination of racism."
 
Sounds good doesn’t it; after all, who is not in favor of ending racism? However the truth is that the conference has nothing to do with racism; it is, like its predecessor conference (Durban I), part of a campaign to coordinate the diplomatic and legal war against Israel, an attempt to outlaw any criticism of Islam and a complete fraud having nothing to do with human rights.
 
The conference to be held in April is better known as Durban II, the sequel to the first such conference held in South Africa in September, 2001. That conference became an anti-Semitic diatribe reminiscent of Nazi Germany. America under George W. Bush honorably refused to participate; but not this time around under Barack Obama.
 
The conference, which starts on April 20th, is strongly opposed by Israel and Jewish groups who say the first Durban conference in South Africa in 2001 amounted to an Israel-bashing session. The U.S. and Israel delegations walked out of that conference in protest over a draft resolution that likened Zionism – the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state – to racism.
 
In contrast to the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration is objecting to an automatic boycott and says it is attempting to change the event's tone via negotiations. Moreover, the Obama administration actually sent representatives to participate in the so-called "planning" for the Durban II conference in February. However since the stated purpose of the Durban II conference is to review and implement the declarations adopted at the UN's anti-Israel decisions that were made in Durban I, there was no possibility that the U.S. representatives could have had any effect on the conference preparations or conference outcome.
 
With the naïveté characteristic of the Obama administration, his administration’s State Department seemingly expected the U.S. could cause the conference to address what the U.S. views as genuine problems of racism worldwide without regard to the anti-Israel and anti-First Amendment nature of the Durban I proceedings. This is obvious since Libya, Cuba and Iran (all members of the UN Human Rights council) have achieved unanimity with all Islamic countries to condemn Israel and silence criticism of Islam. Is any Islamic country noted for its human rights? Any belief that they will solve "problems of racism worldwide" is idiotic.
 
Among the provisions sought to become international law as a result of Durban I are clauses that aim to make any attack on Islam a criminal offense and calls "on states to develop, and where appropriate, to incorporate permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression into national legislation." Yes, you read that right. The transparent purpose is to criminalize all criticism of Islam which the tyrannical Islamic States consider to be "Islamophobia."
 
At Durban I, both the UN-sponsored NGO group and the UN's governmental conference passed declarations denouncing Israel as a racist state. The NGO conference called for a coordinated international campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, and belittling the Holocaust.
 
The NGO conference also called for curbs on freedom of expression throughout the world in order to prevent critical discussion of Islam. As far as the world's leading NGOs – including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – were concerned, critical discussions of Islam are inherently racist.
 
In defending U.S. participation in the Durban II planning sessions, Gordon Duguid, the State Department's spokesman, argued, "If you are not engaged, you don't have a voice. We wanted to put forward our view and see if there is some way we can make the document [which sets the agenda and dictates the outcome of the Durban II conference] a better document than it appears it is going to be."
 
However, this naïve expectation is absurd for two reasons.
 
First, since the stated purpose of the Durban II conference is to oversee the implementation of the first Durban conference's decisions, and since those decisions include anti-freedom of expression and the anti-Israel assertion that Israel is a racist state, it is clear that the Durban II conference is inherently, and necessarily, anti-freedom and anti-Israel.
 
The second reason is that both the State Department and the White House should have realized that they are powerless to affect the conference's agenda because that agenda was already set in previous planning sessions chaired by the likes of Libya, Cuba, Iran and Pakistan; and that agenda includes multiple assertions of the basic illegitimacy of the Jewish people's right to self-determination. The conference agenda also largely adopted the language of the Durban I conference that called for the criminalization of critical discussion of Islam as a form of hate speech and racism. The Durban II conference's agenda is not only openly anti-Israel, it is also openly pro-tyranny, and antithetical to the U.S.’s constitutional First Amendment right of free expression.
 
In any case, the Islamic bloc, supported by the Third World bloc, has an automatic voting majority. Beyond insignificant wording changes, the U.S. has no ability whatsoever to change the conference's agenda or expected outcome.
 
Recently Professor Anne Bayefsky, the senior editor of the EyeontheUN Web site, said that by participating in the planning sessions the U.S. is accepting the conference's anti-Israel agenda. Bayefsky reported that at the planning session in Geneva, the Palestinian delegation proposed that a paragraph be added to the conference's agenda. Their draft "calls for implementation of... the advisory opinion of the ICJ [International Court of Justice] on the wall, [i.e., Israel's security fence], and the international protection of Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory." The American delegation raised no objection to the Palestinian draft.
 
By not objecting to this Palestinian draft, not only did the U.S. effectively accept the ICJ's authority, for practical purposes it granted the anti-Israel claim that whatever Israel does is a violation of human rights (and not for self defense).
 
This assertion aligns with the language already in the Durban II agenda that calls Israel's Law of Return racist. Israeli law, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who wishes to live there, is the embodiment of Jewish nation and the vehicle through which the Jewish people has built a nation-state. In alleging that the Law of Return is racist, the Durban II conference asserts that the Jews have no right to self-determination in their homeland.
 
As Bayefsky and others argued recently, by entering into the Durban preparatory process, the U.S. did two things. First, it made it all but impossible for European countries like France, Britain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, which were all considering boycotting the conference, to do so. They cannot afford to be seen as more opposed to its anti-Israel and anti-freedom agenda than Israel's closest ally. So just by participating in the planning sessions the U.S. has legitimized a clearly bigoted, morally illegitimate process, making it impossible for Europe to disengage.
 
Second, through its behavior at the Geneva planning sessions the U.S. demonstrated that the administration has no interest in changing the agenda in any serious way. The U.S. delegation's decision not to object to the Palestinian draft, as well its silence in the face of Iran's rejection of a clause in the conference declaration that mentioned the Holocaust, shows the U.S. did not join the planning session to change the tenor of the conference but that the U.S. is participating in the planning sessions because it wishes to participate in the conference.
 
All this was confirmed when the administration despite being unceremoniously rebuffed by preparatory session attendees who rejected U.S. proposed changes to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA), is intent on attending Durban II. The documents of Durban I are expected to be adopted at the April 2009 Durban II Conference.
 
Obama has now reversed his position on attending Durban II despite previously stating on Friday, February 27, 2009, that administration efforts to change the Durban II documents were a failure. He stated that the "document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable.
 
The Obama administration has flip-flopped and the United States is reconsidering its boycott of the upcoming United Nations "Durban II" racism conference.
 
State Department spokesman Robert Wood explained in an announcement Monday, "The United States welcomes the recent progress [?] that has been made through the efforts of many delegations, governments and officials in the formulation of the draft outcome document for the Durban Review Conference on April 20." [Wood said this with a straight face despite previous State Department statements that "the document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse."]
 
Wood then said "We hope [U.S.] concerns will be addressed so that the United States can reengage the conference process." But remember, the stated purpose of the Durban II conference is to review and implement the declarations adopted at Durban I.
 
Obama still insists that the power of his oratory and personality will get rogue states like Iran to change their ways and embrace peace with Israel. The fact that Ahmadinejad will be attending the Durban II conference gave the Obama administration a reason to also attend Durban II. Interestingly, the U.S. announcement it is reconsidering attending the conference is consistent with a general change in its policy on dealing with Iran. The Obama administration has said it will open negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear development program, within the context of talks with the Group of Six world powers, including the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
 
The U.S. also decided not to set a time limit within which the talks must either bear fruit or be deemed useless. In addition, both the U.S. and European nations are preparing proposals to drop the American demand that Iran shut down its nuclear facilities during the negotiations, said sources quoted in The New York Times.
 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Monday that he personally would attend the gathering, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
 
On September 23, 2008, the U.S. Congress adopted House of Representatives Resolution 1361 in anticipation of the Durban Review Conference (scheduled for April 20-24, 2009). This resolution calls on the U.S. government to "lead a high-level diplomatic effort" aimed "to defeat any effort by states to use the forum to promote anti-Semitism or hatred against members of any group or to call into question the legitimacy of any state." In adopting this resolution Congress noted the enormous damage to human rights that resulted from the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, and particularly at the NGO Forum, which "misused human rights language to promote hate, anti-Semitism, incitement, and divert the focus of the conference from problems within their own countries to a focus on Israel."
 
The resolution, which was based on a draft written in the Foreign Affairs committee, is a clear congressional expression of wide political consensus on “Durban II.” Democrat representative Howard Berman, the leader of Democrat majority on the committee and the Republican Ranking Member, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and a total of 24 co-sponsors signed their names to the text. This broad-based approach reflects opposition not only to the attacks against Israel that are embodied in the Durban process, but also the disastrous impact on genuine human rights concerns and freedom of expression that results from these activities.
 
Is Obama unaware of a particular resolution passed by Congress?
 
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Vincent Gioia is a retired patent attorney living in Palm Desert, California. His blogs at www.vincentgioia.com and he may be contacted at gioia@gte.net.
 
 
 

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