The Durban Review Conference / Festival of Hate Against Israel and the West (April 20–24, 2009) done come and gone… more or less. It took place without the participation of a number of member states, chief among them the United. On the eve of the conference on April 19 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed “shock” at this decision — why, I dunno.
The US statement cites, as its main stumbling block, the current text’s reaffirmation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), the outcome document agreed by consensus at the end of the 2001 World Summit against Racism in Durban, South Africa – but not agreed by the US or Israel which had both left the Conference before it reached its conclusion.
The Australian Government — which continues to function under KRudd, as it did under HoWARd, as the US’ deputy sheriff in South-East Asia and the world stage — also decided to boycott the event. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, April 19:
…Australia, however, cannot support a document which reaffirms the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action in its entirety – as is currently the case. The 2001 Declaration singled out Israel and the Middle East. Australia expressed strong concerns about this at the time. The Australian Government continues to have these concerns. Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the Review Conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views.
Of additional concern are the suggestions of some delegations in the Durban process to limit the universal right to free speech.
In recent weeks, I have spoken to a number of my foreign ministerial colleagues who share these concerns about the process. Canada (January 23, 2008), Israel, Italy and the United States have already indicated that they will not participate.
As noted by Smith, other states to boycott the event include Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand/Aotearoa, Poland, Sweden and, of course, Israel. Ten states in total (including Australia and the US).
The KRudd Government’s decision to boycott the conference was applauded by Zionist groups in Australia, and criticised by others: see, for example, Opportunity to end racism goes to waste, John Langmore, The Age, April 21; Rudd UN boycott a ‘lost chance’ to fight racism, Daniel Flitton, The Age, April 23.
One of the main arguments put forward as to why UN member states should boycott the event is based on the characterisation of the Durban conference in 2001 as an ‘anti-Semitic hatefest’ (Greg Sheridan in The Australian: “It degenerated into a vile and hateful anti-Semtitic jamboree.”). This appears to be quite wrong, a fact pointed out on December 12, 2008 by Rupert Colville, Spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, partly in response to an earlier editorial in The Australian:
A Google search on 10 December, using “fest” in conjunction with ‘Durban’ and ‘hate’ or ‘anti-Semitic,’ produced 49,900 web-page hits.* “Hate-fest” is not a common phrase, but it has been used in connection with the Durban process by people ranging from the Canadian Prime Minister to other politicians, academics, journalists, anti-Durban NGOs and a huge number of bloggers and other commentators.
The 2001 World Conference was indeed marred by the grotesque behaviour of some anti-Israel NGOs at the parallel NGO forum. Their inexcusable anti-Semitic actions, coupled with some difficult debates at the state level, have unfortunately cast the entire 2001 Conference and next year’s review in a negative light that is, by and large, unmerited.
Next year’s conference will focus on the 2001 outcome document, known as the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA), which was adopted by consensus at the end of the 2001 World Conference. The DDPA consists of 341 paragraphs, of which six refer to the Middle East, anti-Semitism and directly related issues.
The first of those says: “We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten.” The second says “We recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities.”
The remaining four paragraphs include references to “the plight of the Palestinian people” and “the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel,” as well as calling upon “Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom.”
The contents of the DDPA were agreed by all the states present at the end of the 2001 conference. It is a fundamental, thorough and very wide-ranging framework document on racism and related issues. It takes a vivid imagination to turn it into the manifesto of a “hate-fest.”
At the conference itself, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a ‘controversial’ speech, in the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, and in which the war hero with a wonky leg denounced Zionism and Security Council support for Israel (“the most cruel and repressive racist regime”), provided a potted history of Western imperialism, blamed Zionists for the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and opined that:
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the true root of racism is the lack of human understanding as God’s chosen creatures and deviation from the true path of human life and human missions in creation. Due to negligence in worshipping God with awareness and pondering on the philosophy of life and the path towards human perfection – which leads to the natural outcome of being committed to divine values and mankind – the horizon of human insight has declined. And limited and temporary interests became the criteria of evaluation and actions by human beings. Therefore, the seeds of evil power took their shape and by neglecting fair chances for others’ growth, it added to the boundaries of its development.
And so on: the President made no reference to racism inside Iran, which I can therefore only assume does not exist.
A few comments:
The campaign to boycott the event was about as successful as it was ever going to be. Israel, the United States, and a handful of their international allies did not attend: scores of other states did send delegates, as did many NGOs.
All this fuss over God & the State naturally brought to mind dead Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. In addition to expressing vile anti-Semitism, Bakunin also had some more interesting thoughts on this subject. Contra Ahmadinejad, Bakunin wrote “All religions, with their gods, their demi-gods, and their prophets, their messiahs and their saints, were created by the prejudiced fancy of men who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties”; “In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even though arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the advantage of a dominant minority of exploiters against the interest of the immense majority in subjection to them. This is the sense in which we are really Anarchists.”
Notwithstanding the boycott by Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and, the United States, the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference was adopted by consensus on April 21 [PDF]. It makes no reference to Israel or the Middle East.
The response of Zionists and other critics of Durban II are surveyed by the blog ‘Muzzlewatch’; Australian blogger Antony Lowenstein also has some comments; while the Israeli group Gush Shalom issued the following statement:
Iranian Farce and Israeli grotesque
April 20, 2009
A conference against racism attended by Iranian President Ahmedinajad is a farce – but the campaign against this conference, conducted by Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, is grotesque. Ahmedinajad and Lieberman are twins, perfectly fit for each other’s company, both of whom built a political career upon the dissemination of hatred, the constant issuing of inflammatory racist statements designed to arouse the darkest of passions. The Netanyahu-Lieberman government is completely unable to respectably represent Israel in the international arena and defend the country’s most basic interests.
See also : Blasphemy! Bolt! Hate-fest! Dirka Dirka! (March 14, 2009).