Europe should boycott Durban II

Canada's disengagement was the right call. Now, let's see what Europe does.

stephen harper 88 (photo credit: )
stephen harper 88
(photo credit: )
It's been said that "madness" is repeating an action over and over and expecting a different result. In the case of the Durban Review Conference (DRC), one can only expect a repeat of the unmitigated disaster that was the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban. Hope that lessons may have been learned was quickly dashed at last fall's planning meeting, when the fix was firmly put in. Like the WCAR before it, the Review Conference was hijacked by repressive regimes with wretched human rights records that saw next year's planned gathering as another opportunity to impose their narrow anti-West, anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish agenda on the international campaign to eliminate racism. Let's recall exactly what transpired at the WCAR. Saying there was a problem with anti-Semitism there is like saying the Titanic stopped to take on some ice. The parallel NGO Forum in 2001 was a horrific Orwellian experience, turning the human rights movement on its head with the most vicious displays of anti-Semitism, Holocaust-denial and the denial of Jewish self-determination in Israel. Pro-Hitler T-shirts were on display, with copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion readily available for sale. Jewish delegations were heckled, threatened, intimidated and attacked. Important anti-racism issues dealing with race, gender and poverty were ignored in the hate-fest. The 2001 States Conference that followed was little better. To the shame of the countries involved, the "action plan against racism" that emerged was forever tainted by Israel's lone censure. And this lent credence to the twisted view of the now-defunct UN Human Rights Commission whose annual agenda had featured one standing item: to investigate Israel's putative human rights violations. TO ITS CREDIT, the Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper assessed the situation last fall and made principled decisions. First it correctly decided not to support the allocation of dedicated UN funding for the DRC, and then to pull out altogether. It properly understood malevolent forces had already derailed the review conference, and displayed courageous leadership, determining that Canada will have no part in yet another international forum that has been hopelessly politicized and corrupted. Here is what the Canadian government saw transpiring: • In keeping with normative UN protocols, the original mandate of the DRC was simply to review the implementation of the 2001 action plan. Led by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, this was summarily thrown out in favor of an agenda aimed at indicting the West for supposed Islamophobia, defamation of Islam and racial profiling. • The conference will pick up where the WCAR left off, promoting grotesque charges against Israel as the "racist" successor to apartheid South Africa and seeking to move forward divestment and boycott strategies incubated in 2001. • Today's UN Human Rights Council is facilitating this budding fiasco. Even a cursory glance at its sad, short history as the Commission's replacement should disqualify this dysfunctional, Israel-obsessed body from brokering a genuine anti-racism conference. The planning body for the DRC is chaired by Libya and includes other serial human rights violators such as Cuba, Iran and Pakistan. • The two key preparatory commissions scheduled for 2008 fall over the major Jewish festival of Pessah and the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur - a chilling echo of the original WCAR prepcomm held in Teheran which barred Jewish delegates from participating. Canada made a wise decision to lead what one hopes will be a larger international dissociation from this conference. Our Canadian Jewish Congress will engage in dialogue with organizations that disagree with our government's approach, making the case that the marketing of the UN anti-racism conference is deceptive and beguiling. Early plans for the DRC should be seen as a ransom note from the event's hijackers who will hold hostage legitimate and necessary discussion of real historic wrongs and pressing contemporary human rights issues. In late February Israel followed Canada's lead in announcing that it too saw little hope for resuscitating what seems clearly to be another bigoted conference aimed against the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Similar noises are being heard in a number of EU capitals. Perhaps if enough countries refuse to participate in the Durban II charade, sanity will ultimately prevail. The issue of racism is too important to be exploited by the political enemies of Israel for their own tendentious purposes. The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Jewish Congress.