Editorial: We Won’t Get Fooled Again

There are somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million Jews living in the metropolitan New York City area. Every one of them should plan on descending upon the United Nations next September.

You see, September is when a committee of the United Nations has proposed that the so-called “Durban III” conference be held in the Big Apple. The event, scheduled near the beginning of the General Assembly session to attact heads of state, would be a commemoration of the conference held in Durban, South Africa in September, 2001, that ostensibly was convened to condemn racism but in reality became a hate-filled romp against Israel. The American, Canadian and Israeli delegations, among others, walked out of that sordid affair.

In 2009, the Durban II conference in Geneva, Switzerland followed suit with Durban I, and was marked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivering one of his patented anti-Semitic rants preaching the elimination of the State of Israel. Needless to say, the Western democracies were neither entertained nor appreciative of the conference’s tenor, but they voiced their objections from afar, as they chose not to attend this honorific to bigotry.

That the General Assembly would even consider such a commemoration of these conferences shows the utter bias of the majority of U.N. member countries in relation to Israel and Jews. The Hon. Fiamma Nirenstein, the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ Vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism, put it bluntly: “It means reviving manifestations of hate in which the swastika and the Star of David overlap and the hunting season on Jews is declared open, the result being an exponential growth in anti-Semitic incidents. This makes many people happy, very happy.”

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Happy? That hate could so happily and palpably emanate from a world organization which claims to build bridges shows how far off base the U.N. has become. But then again, the General Assembly has long been a bully-laden body; the majority can at its will turn its back on the suffering of millions across the globe (and in their own backyards) in favor of an incendiary and singular focus on a nation comprising one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population. Such was the case with the so-called Durban Declaration.

“Removed from the final declaration were many key detailed references to combating anti-Semitism. The final product and the Durban conference, as well as the numerous follow-up mechanisms invented to perpetuate its message, are a symbol for encouraging racism under the guise of combating it.” That was Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and a noted U.N. observer, talking to the Jerusalem Post recently about Durban.

And now this same virulence threatens to come to the soils of America, in the backyard of the greatest Jewish population outside Israel. Already, the sane and forceful Canadian delegation, in recent history a world leader against anti-Semitism, has told the U.N. where to shove it. The US opposition has to date been more muted than it should be, and will hopefully rise to the level of overt indignation shown by our neighbors to the north.

But this is a rare instance in which the outcome need not be left to ineffectual diplomats. If the conference occurs, either with or without Western democracies’ blessing, the Jewish community of New York should show the U.N. how unwelcome this sort of hypocrisy is on its homeground. A peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousands of Jewish voices – and hopefully of others in solidarity, who recognize that there but for the grace of God go they – would tell the world how painfully abominable it is to resurrect the memory of Durban.

Some have compared the insensitivity of this event to the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero. But the comparison is specious, to say the least. The community center is not intended as a shrine in favor of hate or against anyone, but rather as a resource for law- and peace-abiding Muslims. Argue if you will a lack of sensitivity in the location, but to lump that effort together with this is unfair to the vast majority of the American Islamic community that seeks nothing other than places to gather and pray.

The Durban III is an idea whose time should have come and gone before it was even proposed. For it to be proposed on American ground, in the heart of a major Jewish presence, is beyond insulting, it’s deliberately and blatantly a statement of bigotry and intolerance. We urge the General Assembly to put Durban III out of its misery, and if it doesn’t, we encourage New York Jewry to show up in droves to show the U.N. that there’s no place for its members’ thinly-veiled hatred on our shores.