shouting at ahmadinejad geneva 248 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
No doubt once the curtains are drawn and reflections made on the failed Durban II conference, there will be no shortage of those out to take credit for the mass boycotts and walkouts that took place. Our leading Jewish organizations will no doubt claim victory - and granted, there is some credit to be taken.
Durban II, however, was no victory, but a stain on the very nature of humanity, a horrifying truth: that we, mankind, are unable to unite even in the name of ending humanity's worst suffering.
While the nations that walked out are to be applauded for taking a stand, not derided for destroying the conference (this was done long ago by the likes of Cuba and Libya, which were disastrously charged with facilitating the event), Durban II must be remembered by Jews and non-Jews alike as nothing but a sickening failure. At the Durban Review Conference, there were no winners.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that behind the games and rhetoric of politics lie real lives. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will go back to Iran and continue calling for Israel to be pushed into the sea, the boycotting delegations will return to the real world, and our Jewish organizations will return from their mission.
However, the homosexuals being persecuted in Iran, the oppressed people of Tibet, and those being brutally murdered in Darfur will be left once more without a mandate for their protection. The very people for whom this conference was supposed to exist will neither recoil at the tirade of Ahmadinejad, nor rejoice at the ensuing boycott; rather, they will be left once again to continue their struggle unaided.
How much unnecessary suffering will occur as a result of this failure, nobody knows. For any good to have come out for the events in Geneva, this must be the enduring message: We should not let the significant successes of the Jewish lobby overshadow the failures of the conference.
I must at this stage make clear that I fully support the strategy taken by most Jewish organizations. Their vision was clear and appropriate, their actions well-planned and carried out with dignity and integrity. Likewise, the countries that left the conference are to be applauded.
There is only one thing worse than a conference aiming to end discrimination failing, and that's the pathetic pretense that something was achieved when it wasn't. Before any similar conference occurs again, real thought must go into how the world's most barbaric leaders can be marginalized and prevented from hijacking our human rights agenda. If we are to be the proverbial "bigger man," we must drive forward our ambition to end human suffering. Our desire to cease pain must be greater than theirs to cause suffering.
Stopping the damage this conference could have done is not nearly enough. It is imperative we now go out and achieve what was supposed to be done at the conference. Right now, this is a stalemate, and the people of Darfur, Tibet, Cuba and Iran are still suffering. If we let this be the end, Ahmadinejad will have won after all.
Oliver Worth is a student at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and was involved in the strategy of the World Union of Jewish Students in the lead-up to the Durban Review Conference.