December 28 2008
Turning Racism into International Law: The UN's Durban II Conference
One thing the United Nations well is hold conferences. Another is generate paper. The result usually is just a waste of time and money.
But with the Durban Review Conference planned for 2009, the UN will be more than wasteful, it will promote anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. The U.S. should boycott the proceedings.
The United Nations long has targeted Israel. There are legitimate criticisms of Israel, but human rights abuses there pale compared to violations elsewhere in the world.
Consider China's pre-Olympics crackdown. Recall the military junta that misgoverns Burma and brutally suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations a year ago.
Observe the horror of Zimbabwe, where a vicious and incompetent government has wrecked the economy and cannot stop a spreading cholera epidemic. Worst of all may be North Korea, a national gulag in which starvation is the norm.
Of these cases, the UN thinks Israel is the most serious. In fact, more serious than all of the others combined, at least in terms of the number of resolutions passed.
For years the so-called Human Rights Commission made a mockery of its name. Two years ago the Commission was turned into the Human Rights Council. The latter is no different, dominated by leading human rights abusers who divert attention from themselves by attacking Israel.
Most famously, the United Nations passed a resolution years ago equating Zionism with racism. Although the UN General Assembly eventually repealed the measure, the organization has promoted the same idea in other ways.
One was the 2001 Durban conference, formally known as the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
Naturally, Israel was targeted. Reparations for slavery were demanded-though from the West, not Arab states. The U.S. was even attacked for refusing to adopt UN treaties, no matter how extreme, without reservations to protect Americans.
Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation reports: "the 2001 Durban conference degenerated into a noxious series of speeches and statements dominated by anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism."
Washington's delegation finally walked out in frustration. Seven years have passed and the UN is planning the "Durban Review Conference" to, naturally, evaluate the results of the first event. The objective, explains the UN, is "the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."
Obviously, no fair-minded person could be in favor of any of those, but the United Nations channels George Orwell when it defines its terms. The so-called Preparatory Committee-established by the new Human Rights Council-is headed by the same Libyan ambassador who earlier chaired the Human Rights Commission. Libya, of course, is a dictatorship which spent years promoting terrorism against Israel and the U.S. and attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
The Committee's vice chairs include Cuba, home of the Western Hemisphere's oldest dictatorship; Iran, which has threatened to wipe Israel off of the map; Pakistan, where religious minorities are widely persecuted; and Russia, which is rediscovering its authoritarian past. Little good is likely to emerge from the cooperation of these nations.
So what is the UN's agenda for Durban II? Reports Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:
"In a series of preparatory meetings over the past 16 months, the organizers have already taken aim at Israel as their prime target. Increasingly, the organizers are also priming the conference for a broader attack on other democratic nations, especially the U.S. Some are pushing for a UN-backed gag order that would enlist Islamic anti-blasphemy laws to stifle free speech worldwide."
Washington has been voting against Durban II preparations and funding, and refusing to participate in the organizing activities. But the UN doesn't care: American taxpayers still are footing 22 percent of the tab. And if the U.S. attends, it will give the conference credibility.
America's departure from Durban I came too late to limit the damage. Washington shouldn't make the same mistake at Durban II.
Argues Heritage's Schaefer, "the best approach would be for the U.S. to come out, as Canada has done, and simply say that it will not participate in Durban II. It makes little sense for the U.S. to consider going when the expressed purpose of Durban II is to review the implementation of the Durban Declaration, which the U.S. walked away from in 2001."
This latest UN farce illustrates a larger problem: What was once referred to as the last, great hope of mankind is an enormous disappointment, most known for pervasive incompetence and corruption.
Unfortunately, the UN's performance never has met popular expectations. Without the support of the U.S. and a handful of other Western nations, the UN can accomplish nothing. Yet the organization spends much of its energy demonizing these very same countries.
As UN ambassador, John Bolton fought valiantly, but futilely, to reform the UN. If the UN is to play a positive role in coming years, it must be transformed. A good starting point would be a U.S.-orchestrated boycott of the upcoming Durban II conference, which threatens to become a forum promoting global intolerance. President-elect Obama has promised change. He needs to apply the same principle to the United Nations.
Michelle D. Bernard is president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum and Independent Women's Voice and is an MSNBC Political Analyst.