Durban Two and Mahmoud Too


Kowtowing to radical Muslim and anti-Semitic voices, the fatuous Durban II United Nations Review Conference on Racism has predictably adopted a statement that singles out Israel for contempt and shows utter and hypocritical disdain for free speech.


The document approved in Geneva last week reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) adopted in 2001. David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee points out that the DDPA “wrongly categorized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as racial, and described the Palestinians as victims of Israeli ‘racism.'” Here’s what the so-called Israeli “racists” heard from the Durban II conference at a distance: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, permitted to speak, denounced Israel as a “cruel and repressive racist regime.” In an editorial last Tuesday, The New York Times said, “The fear all along has been that the United Nations conference on racism would be manipulated into yet another forum for demonizing Israel… Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who has called the Holocaust a myth and has advocated Israel’s destruction — did just that.”

Even U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, who generally defended the farcical proceedings in Geneva, condemned the hateful speech by Ahmadinejad. And to their utter credit, European Union delegates, led by the French, immediately walked out to show their disgust at his remarks. The Obama Administration didn’t even have to make that decision, having wisely chosen not to attend the Durban II Conference, anticipating another hatefest against Israel.

The result of the conference wasn’t much different than that of Durban I, when Israel was singled out for harsh condemnation in scores of one-sided, borderline anti-Semitic resolutions, and Israeli and Jewish delegates were prevented from speaking, had their credentials invalidated and in some cases were physically roughed up.

The Conference on Racism did nothing to address the atrocities of the terrorist group Hamas, nor was there condemnation of the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. And as if to underscore the hypocrisy of allowing Ahmadinejad to speak, the attendees ignored the concurrent sham espionage conviction in Iran of American journalist Roxana Saberi.

Why the blatant bias? Because Durbans I and II were in large part the playground of regimes such as Iran, Libya and Syria, which have highjacked the U.N. Commission on Human Rights for their own purposes. Two of those purposes are without question the demonization of Israel and the legitimization of anti-Semitism. (Lest you doubt this, recall that when the U.N. repealed its odious “Zionism equals racism” stance in 1991, with support from 111 nations, more than half of those nations voting against were under a fundamentalist Islamic regime or control.)

But a third purpose goes beyond hatred of Jews and Israel and to the promotion of radical Islam. Evidence of this was the mandate in the Durban II document that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” To some casual readers, this statement might suggest lofty aspirations similar to the goals of hate crime legislation in the United States. But we believe the statement was a not so thinly disguised attempt to impose worldwide censorship on any and all criticism of Islam.

Such a provision, if validated by a nation recognizing international law, could be used to ban the publication of any and all materials deemed “objectionable,” such as the Danish newspaper cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammed two years ago. More ominously, the language could result in the banning of legitimate criticism of extremism, such as the cover story in the Canadian newsmagazine MacLean’s on Islamic extremism, which was pulled from stores after Muslim authorities objected.

As much as we loathe the many instances of media bias against Israel, we would hardly endorse censorship as a conflict resolution tool. Yes, the deliberate incitement of violence is unlawful even in the U.S. at both national and state levels, and unprotected by the First Amendment. But to adopt this language, which could well be interpreted to ban political speech and independent news and commentary regarding religious matters, would throw us back into the free speech dark ages.

Clearly, neither the U.S. nor most democratic nations are going to apply this pernicious limitation on speech within their boundaries. But the U.N. has once again proved it can be held hostage by those with a hateful and racist agenda. Until enough countries with truly democratic and well-meaning intent can assert control over the U.N.’s so-called human rights agenda, the international community will continue to suffer hypocritical shams such as the Durban conferences.