UN World Conference Against Racism and the Israel Lobby

In mid-February Obama met with Jewish leaders to explain why the government had decided to participate in planning the “controversial” World Conference Against Racism.  The Haaretz reported that:

The closed-door talks were led by the White House and the State Department, according to the JTA, and the content of the meeting was off-the-record.

The meeting was held after the State Department sent a high-level team to an informal preparatory session in Geneva this week, but declared that a “change in direction” was required before it could commit to full participation in the April meeting.

“We wanted to put forward our view and see if there is some way we can make the document a better document than it appears it is going to be,” he said. “That does not mean, however, that we will take part in future meetings or indeed in the conference itself.”

Delegates to the talks on Monday told the JTA they were organized to give the Jewish leaders a chance to voice their concerns and for the Obama administration to explain its policy about the controversial event.

The decision to attend the planning sessions sparked some criticism from Jewish groups but drew praise from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who urged all member states “to engage constructively on all the outstanding issues” at the conference.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the Durban process was biased against Israel.

“While we understand the pressure on the U.S. to go to Geneva, we urge America not to participate in a fatally flawed UN racism conference that demonizes Israel by singling it out for condemnation,” he said.

U.S. human rights organizations have been urging the Obama administration to engage in the conference in order to tackle the issues that will be discussed during the meeting.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday appealed to the U.S. not to participate in the UN-sponsored conference. Speaking before a delegation of visiting American Jewish leaders, Livni said that “Israel expects the free world not to participate in Durban II.”

Israel and Canada have announced they are boycotting the April 20-24 conference in Geneva, a follow-up to an acrimonious meeting in 2001. Canada said the conference was likely to descend into anti-Semitism while Israel said it would be an “anti-Israel tribunal”.

European Union (EU) countries including Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands are under pressure from Jewish lobbies to follow suit. But they have stayed engaged while struggling to tone down a final UN text to be issued by the conference, diplomats say.

The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban was meant to lay down a blueprint for nations to address sensitive issues.

Israel and the United States walked out in protest over a draft text branding Israel as a racist and apartheid state, language that was later dropped.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has now complained of a “disparaging media and lobbying campaign” against the UN conference  on racism aimed at silencing criticism of Israel by those with “narrow, parochial interests” who demonstrate “reflexive partisanship.”

Navi Pillay
Navi Pillay

GENEVA (AP)The U.N. rights chief on Monday rejected fears that an upcoming U.N. conference on racism might be hijacked by critics of Israel and urged countries to make the meeting a success by focusing on global issues.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the April 20-25 conference has been disparaged in the media and attacked by a lobbying campaign of those who fear a repetition of the anti-Israel moves that marred the first racism conference in 2001.

“This is unwarranted,“ Pillay told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

She urged all countries to put aside “narrow, parochial interests and reflexive partisanship” and work for an agreement that would help eradicate discrimination.

“Failure to do so may reverberate negatively on the full spectrum of human rights work and mechanisms for years to come,“ Pillay said.

She did not name any countries specifically. But the Obama administration said Friday the U.S. will boycott this year’s conference unless its final document is changed to drop all references to Israel and the defamation of religion. U.S. officials are also pressing European nations to boycott the conference unless there are revisions to that statement.

The meeting in Geneva is designed to review progress in fighting racism since the global body’s first such conference eight years ago in Durban, South Africa. That 2001 meeting was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery, and particularly marred by attacks on Israel and anti-Israel demonstrations at a parallel conference of non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through the 2001 conference over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism – the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state – to racism. The European Union also refused to accept demands by Arab states to criticize Israel for its “racist practices.“

In the end, the 2001 conference urged governments to take concrete steps to fight discrimination and recognized the plight of the Palestinian people, which Pillay said showed it rose above “divisive and intolerant approaches.“

“I am fully aware that the legacy of the 2001 Durban Conference has been tainted by the anti-Semitic behavior of some NGOs at the sidelines of that conference,“ Pillay said. “And now the review conference has also been the target of a disparaging media and lobbying campaign on the part of those who fear a repetition of anti-Semitic outbursts.“ [Or perhaps criticism of Israel has been confused with antisemitism and is now being used as an excuse to stifle debate]

Informal negotiations of a draft conclusion for this year’s conference have proven difficult, with many of the 2001 issues – such as criticism of Israel – re-emerging.

Islamic countries, still angry over cartoons and films attacking Muslims, have been campaigning for wording that would equate criticism of a religious faith with a violation of human rights.

Last week, the U.S. State Department sent a team to Geneva to attend preparatory meetings for the conference but said Friday the closing statement under consideration mirrored the 2001 draft and was unacceptable.

The Netherlands and France have also expressed concern about the draft statement.

The UK and Italy also threatened to drop out.  Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown addressing the the inaugural conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) said that  “If we can’t go forward now [in silencing criticism of Israel], we will withdraw.”  While Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: “We will not send an Italian delegation [if it is the same as Durban 2001], but we will try to harmonise our position with other countries who are the friends of Jews. But we will leave a decision until the last minute.”  Much to the satisfaction of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and The Jewish Human Rights Coalition UK (JHRC UK).

The Jerusalem Post has a review of events, written mid-Februry, by Caroline Glick, that is as idiotic as it is vitriolic but with some important information on the content of the conference and what it means to the lobby.

Notice she isn’t worried about antisemitism but about the “legal war” being waged against Israel.  By attending she believes the US is legitimising the verdict of the ICJ in regard to the apartheid wall and adds credibility to the belief that Israel’s Law of Return is racist.

While most Americans were busy celebrating Valentine’s Day, last Saturday the Obama administration announced that it would send a delegation to Geneva to participate in planning the UN’s so-called Durban II conference, scheduled to take place in late April. Although largely overlooked in the US, the announcement sent shock waves through Jerusalem.

The Durban II conference was announced in the summer of 2007. Its stated purpose is to review the implementation of the declaration adopted at the UN’s anti-Israel hate-fest that took place in Durban, South Africa, the week before the September 11, 2001, attacks against America.


The same cannot be said of the [Obama] administration’s decision to send its delegation to the Durban II planning session this past week in Geneva. Unlike every other Obama policy, this is a hostile act against Israel. This is true first of all because the decision was announced in the face of repeated Israeli requests that the US join Israel and Canada in boycotting the Durban II conference.

Some could chalk up the US’s rejection of Israel’s urgent entreaties as an honest difference of opinion. But what lies behind Israel’s requests for a US boycott is not a partisan agenda, but a clearheaded acknowledgement that the Durban II conference is inherently devoted to the delegitimization and destruction of the Jewish state. And by joining in the planning sessions, the US has become a full participant in legitimizing and so advancing this overtly anti-Jewish agenda.

On Thursday, Prof. Anne Bayefsky, the senior editor of the EyeontheUN Web site, demonstrated that by participating in the planning sessions the US is accepting the conference’s anti-Israel agenda. Bayefsky reported that at the planning session in Geneva on Thursday, 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.

Issued in 2004, the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the security fence claimed that Israel has no right to self-defense against Palestinian terrorism. At the time, both the US and Israel rejected the ICJ’s authority to issue an opinion on the subject.

On Thursday, by not objecting to this Palestinian draft, not only did the US effectively accept the ICJ’s authority [isn’t that a good thing?], for practical purposes it granted the anti-Israel claim that Jews may be murdered with impunity. [what was I thinking – the IJC wants to see Jews murdered, of course it is bad!]

As an example of her idiocy: the judgement by the ICJ was that the apartheid wall is illegal because it is built on Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel has every right to build a “security fence” on its own land, not on Palestinians.  Of course that relies on a belief that somehow the ’48 borders are “Israeli” land and not also stolen Palestinian land.

This assertion aligns naturally with the language already in the Durban II agenda, which calls Israel’s Law of Return racist. This law, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who wishes to live here, is the embodiment of Jewish peoplehood and the vehicle through which the Jewish people has built our nation-state. In alleging that the Law of Return is racist, the Durban II conference asserts that the Jews are not a people and we have no right to self-determination in our homeland. And Thursday, by participating in the process of demonizing Israel and its people, the US lent its own credibility to this bigoted campaign.


As Bayefsky and others argued this week, by entering into the Durban preparatory process, the US has done two things. First, it has made it all but impossible for European states 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 and the world’s greatest democracy. So just by participating in the planning sessions the US has legitimized a clearly bigoted, morally illegitimate process, making it impossible for Europe to disengage.

Second, through its behavior at the Geneva planning sessions this week, the US has demonstrated that State Department protestations aside, the administration has no interest in changing the agenda in any serious way. The US 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, show the US did not join the planning session to change the tenor of the conference. The US is participating in the planning sessions because it wishes to participate in the conference.

The Durban II conference, like its predecessor, is part and parcel of a campaign to coordinate the diplomatic and legal war against the Jewish state. By walking out of the 2001 Durban conference, and refusing to participate, support or finance any aspect of this UN-sponsored campaign until last Saturday, for seven years the US made clear that it opposed this war and believed its aim of destroying Israel is unacceptable.

By embracing the Durban campaign now, it is possible that the Obama administration will water down some of the most noxious language in conference’s draft declaration. But this doesn’t balance out the harm US participation will cause to Israel, or to the Jewish people. By participating in the conference, the US today is effectively giving American support to the war against the Jewish state.

The open hostility toward Israel expressed by the Obama administration’s decision to participate in the Durban process should be a red flag for both the Israeli government and for Israel’s supporters in the US. Both Israel and its Jewish and non-Jewish supporters must openly condemn the administration’s move and demand that it reverse its decision immediately.


Some might argue that no Israeli interest is served by openly condemning the White House. But when the White House is participating in a process that legitimizes and so advances the war against the Jewish state, such condemnation is not only richly deserved but required. It is the administration, not Israel that threw down the gauntlet. If Israel and its supporters refrain from vigorously criticizing this move, we guarantee its repetition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: