Analysis: Have the Durban conferences been discredited?

“Durban III has been a flop. There is no media. People on the street aren’t interested," says former New York mayor Ed Koch.

September 25, 2011 03:49
3 minute read.
Demonstrators outside 2001 Durban Conference

Demonstrators outside 2001 Durban Conference 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The United Nations held its 10-year anti-racism commemoration conference Thursday to honor the fiercely anti-Israel and anti-Western Durban I event. In view of the counter-Durban movement since 2001 to stymie Durban's radical anti-Semitism and anti-Western attacks, there is a growing consensus that the Durban process has been derailed.

The 2001 “World Conference against Racism” took place in Durban, South Africa, and the name Durban quickly became associated with UN-funded anti- Semitism, intolerance and racism. In 2009, a successor conference, Durban II, was held in Geneva, where Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the first Holocaust and called for a second one against Israel.

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Durban III opens amid boycott by major democracies

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, a German Middle East expert, who co-launched an initiative in 2009 to convince Germany to boycott Durban II, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the Durban process only “resonates very marginally.” He said the “most important countries” boycotted Durban III, adding that in comparison to Durban I and II, the current conference is largely unimportant.

Germany withdrew its participation at the 11th-hour in 2009. Nine European countries, including the major EU democratic engines – France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland and Germany – skipped Durban III because the event codifies hate and anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments.

Former New York mayor Ed Koch, who spoke at the counter-Durban conference “The Perils of Global Intolerance” in New York on Thursday, said, “Durban III has been a flop. There is no media. People on the street aren’t interested. They have failed in their efforts and their PR strategy,” according to a JTA report.

Anne Bayefsky, an authority on the UN and human rights, as well as the main organizer of the anti-Durban conference, has exposed a decade of efforts by anti- Western and radical Islamic countries to use Durban as a mechanism to strip Israel of its legitimacy. This year’s meaningless Durban can be viewed as a kind of crowning achievement of Bayefsky’s tireless work to debunk a racist endeavor dressed up as anti-racism.

Perhaps the natural death of Durban can also be explained by its chief advocates. The waning Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi was a key supporter of the Durban process. Authoritarian regimes such as Castro’s Cuba and the Islamic Republic of Iran have championed Durban. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, whose anti-Israel views carry great currency in Iran, is a fan of Durban. Predictably, last week, Lebanon, Cuba and Iran launched tirades against Israel at the Durban III event.

The UN anti-racism process has achieved the opposite of its stated mission. Member countries, including the controversial head of the conference, Durban-born Navi Pillay, ended up, wittingly or unwittingly, trafficking in racism, xenophobia and hatred of Jews.

The Jerusalem-based group NGO Monitor argues, “More important than Durban III is the Durban Strategy, which political advocacy NGOs continue to lead. The strategy is defined by tactics of demonization and delegitimization that in no way promote coexistence and a two-state solution. Instead, the Durban Strategy results in boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns [BDS], the Flotilla incident, ‘apartheid’ rhetoric, and the like. All of this is in keeping with the general Durban message: Instead of creating something positive for the Palestinian people, the aim is wholly negative about punishing Israel.”

It added: “While Durban III has come and gone, ‘mini Durban’ conferences continue, along with the continued isolation of Israel in international arenas, such as the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court.”

Durban, following NGO Monitor's line of reasoning, spawned anti-Israel activities across other forums, and in a post- Durban I, II and III conference world, the fight to combat hatred of Israel will revolve around blunting boycott, sanctions and divestment tactics against the Jewish state.

Though the major EU democracies and Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Canada boycotted Durban, Human Rights Commissioner Pillay might very well use the UN’s valuable, and limited, resource to mount a Durban IV conference.

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