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The plan to hold a second Durban conference in April 2009, eight years after the first catastrophic UN meeting, has led to slowly growing opposition. The government of Canada led the challenge to the exploitation of human rights in waging political war against Israel by declaring that it will not participate in the 2009 conference. Israeli and American officials also expressed opposition to a repetition of the anti-Semitism and incitement, but in the midst of an election campaign, the US government did not follow Canada in declaring a boycott.
However, Congress has spoken out strongly on the Durban Review Conference, in the form House of Representatives Resolution 1361 adopted on September 23. This resolution calls on the US government to "lead a high-level diplomatic effort" aimed at "defeating the campaign by some members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to divert the United Nation's Durban Review Conference from a review of problems in their own and other countries by attacking Israel, promoting anti-Semitism and undermining the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
The detailed text highlights the enormous damage to human rights that resulted from the 2001 conference, and particularly the NGO Forum, which "misused human rights language to promote hate, anti-Semitism, incitement and divert the focus of the conference from problems within their own countries to a focus on Israel."
Reflecting the analysis provided by NGO Monitor, the text emphasized the damage done by the NGO Declaration that contained abusive language, branding Israel an "apartheid state" that is guilty of "racist crimes against humanity."
The importance of this resolution, which was written in the Foreign Affairs committee, results in part from the wide consensus involving different political constituencies. In a highly partisan political era, this initiative gained the active support of Rep. Howard Berman, the leader of Democratic majority on the committee, and the Republican leader, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. A total of 24 co-sponsors signed their names to the text, including leading Afro-American political figures such as Rep. John Conyers.
IN SOUNDING the warning, the congressional resolution also highlights the declared intention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to use the conference to again attack Israel, and to focus on "global blasphemy," which "would legitimize arbitrary restrictions of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the freedoms of expression and opinion, all in the name of protecting religions from 'defamation' and 'blasphemy.'"
On this foundation, the resolution goes on to propose a 15-point operational plan, including calling on "the president and the secretary of state to lead a high-level diplomatic effort to ensure that the Durban Review Conference focuses on the implementation by states of their commitments to combat racism" and "to defeat any effort by states to use the forum to promote anti-Semitism or hatred against members of any group or to call into question the legitimacy of any state."
It advocates pressure on US allies, such as Egypt (head of the African Group and very active in promoting the demonization of Israel, in violation of the 1979 peace treaty), to "ensure that the Durban Review Conference does not become a forum for anti-Semitism, incitement or hatred..."
While not calling explicitly for a boycott, the authors commend governments, including Canada, "that have declared their intentions not to participate in any... conference that... promotes hate, undermines human rights standards," etc. European governments are singled out for mention, reflecting the concern that, as in 2001, when the US and Israeli delegations demonstrably walked out of the conference, their officials will stay and ignore clear evidence that this review conference is again heading for catastrophe. Europe, unlike Canada and the US, appears to have learned little from the Durban experience.
Congress does not make foreign policy, but this broad-based resolution fills the leadership vacuum on this issue during the US election campaign and lays out clear guidelines for the next president. This is not a narrow "pro-Israel statement," but rather reflects the consensus understanding that the Durban process, and the strategy of abusing human rights rhetoric, is immoral and has been responsible for the destruction of these core values.
The writer is the executive director of www.ngo-monitor.org. and chairman of the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University.