Durban II and Human Rights at the UN

Dec 11, 2008 | AIJAC staff

Update from AIJAC

December 11, 2008
Number 12/03 #04

Today’s Update features information and comment on the latest disappointments and acts of bias at the United Nations – including ongoing preparations for a follow-up to the infamous 2001 Durban anti-racism conference in which antisemitism was widespread, as well as the latest  annual UN “day of solidarity with the Palestinian people” and the performance of the UN Human Rights Council.

First up, the Wall Street Journal makes the case that the US should pull out of Durban II, following Canada and Israel. The newspaper points out that the conference, run by Libya with Iranian and Cuban assistance, plans to declare Israel’s policy “a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity, a form of genocide and a serious threat to international peace and security.” It also plans to effectively outlaw all criticism of Islam under the guise of “preventing defamation of religions” and that the UN Human Rights Council has been taken over by the world’s worst human rights abusers. For the paper’s complete argument, CLICK HERE. For those who haven’t seen it, the Australian also had an excellent editorial on the UN’s failure to uphold human rights, as well as Durban II.  Meanwhile, Israeli academic Dr. Gerald Steinberg writes about the contradiction between the “Arab peace initiative” and what the Arab states are trying to do at Durban.

The Jerusalem Post also recently editorialised about the UN, stressing that the organisation still does much useful work, despite its entrenched and overwhelming anti-Israel agenda. The paper was particularly incensed by comments from the General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua as part of the UN’s “Annual Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” in late November. He not only declared Israel an “apartheid” state, but demanded a “campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions” against the Jewish state. For the Post’s attempt to call the UN on its hypocrisy, CLICK HERE. Also commenting on the UN “day of solidarity” was American columnist Jeff Jacoby, who cleverly made the point that d’Escoto Brockmann’s claims would apply much more strongly to numerous other Middle Eastern states. Some more comments on the same subject come from American writer Daniel Tauber. 

Meanwhile, marking the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the NGO UN Watch has published a report entitled “Eleanor’s Dream: 1948 to 2008: The State of Human Rights at the United Nations” and we provide the executive summary below (“Eleanor” in the title refers to Eleanor Roosevelt, who was founding chair of the UN Human Rights Commission.)  Suffice to say, it is not hopeful or pleasant reading, pointing out that the UN Human Rights Council is dominated numerically by states with poor human rights records, with the voting agenda dominated by an alliance that “has acted systematically to undermine and erode core principles and effective mechanisms created by the generation of Eleanor Roosevelt and those that followed.” The report concludes that “the United Nations human rights system as a whole finds itself in a state of crisis.” For the complete executive summary of this important report,  CLICK HERE. To download all of the “Eleanor’s Dream” report (as a pdf), click here.

Readers may also be interested in:

  • More on the agenda behind, and likely effects of, the Muslim attempt at the UN to ban “defamation of religion”, from American analyst Supna Zaidi. More choice dissection of Durban and the UN’s human rights record comes from American journalist Claudia Rosett.
  • A top Egyptian cleric has apparently gotten himself into serious trouble because at a recent UN gathering he was photographed shaking Israeli President Peres’ hand – see here and here.
  • Israeli terrorism expert Yoram Schweitzer’s take on where the tactics of the Mumbai attack fit into the recent history of terrorist violence. Additional interesting comments on Mumbai come from American economist and columnist Thomas Sowell, American Middle East expert Daniel Pipes and Lebanese-American academic Walid Phares.
  • More comments worth reading on the significance of the attack on the Mumbai Chabad house from Indian-born journalist and author Sadanand Dhume and Israeli commentator Bradley Burston.
  • An important argument on Pakistan’s role in terrorism generally, and Mumbai especially, comes from Christopher Hitchens. Meanwhile, author Phillip French comments on why the Jihadists hate India, while another writer, Philip Jenkin, discusses India’s almost forgotten contribution to international jihadists in the form of highly influential radical Muslim cleric, activist and thinker Maulana Mawdudi.
  • Sherri Mandel, whose son was killed by terrorists, offers some words of sympathy and advice for the families of the Mumbai victims. Another Israeli recalls his relationship with one of the victims of the murders in the Mumbai Chabad centre, Norma Schvarzblatt-Rabinowitz.
  • US President-elect Obama, speaking on “Meet the Press“, says Iranian nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, offers Iran “tough but direct dialogue”, outlines a program of carrots and sticks, and tells Teheran it can choose to “do this the hard way or the easy way”. Teheran immediately rejected this as “unacceptable”. Some comment on this exchange is here.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei, who is expected to retire soon, gave an interview in which he described efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program as a “failure” and seemed to blame UN sanctions and other efforts to pressure Iran for this failure. Comments on this stance come from Israeli officials, Israeli columnist and blogger Shmuel Rosner and the Jerusalem Post.
  • Some interesting comments on US President-elect Obama’s dilemmas in Afghanistan, here, here and here.
  • Both the Likud and Labor parties in Israel have held primaries to choose their electoral lists over the past week, and both experienced technical glitches with their voting machinery which delayed voting (for some comment on this, see here). Some reporting and analysis on the outcomes for Labor are here and here, and comment on Likud’s results are here and here. Some interesting general comments on how the election campaign may shape up over coming weeks is here. 


Fighting Racism, U.N.-Style

Obama’s team should follow Powell’s lead on U.N. ‘racism’ forum.

Wall Street Journal, DECEMBER 9, 2008

One of Colin Powell’s best moves as Secretary of State was to pull out of the United Nations’ 2001 conference in Durban against racism once it became an anti-Semitic rant. One of the best moves the new U.S. Administration and Europe could make is to stay away from the follow-up meeting altogether.

“Durban II,” planned for April in Geneva, promises to be an encore of the same old Israel-bashing. The draft declaration says Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians amounts to no less than “a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity, a form of genocide and a serious threat to international peace and security.” We’ll spare you the rest.

Israel will be the main obsession, but it’s not the only target. The draft declaration also goes after the West’s freedom of speech and antiterror laws under the guise of protecting religion (read: Islam) from “defamation.” The entire West will be in the dock for allegedly persecuting Muslims. “The most serious manifestations of defamation of religions are the increase in Islamophobia and the worsening of the situation of Muslim minorities around the world,” the draft reads. “Islamophobia” is a term used to brand any criticism of Islam as a hate crime.

The Islamic terrorists who have killed hundreds of thousands of their co-religionists get a free pass. Instead, the draft calls for a media code of conduct and “internationally binding normative standards . . . that can provide adequate guarantees against defamation of religions.” If this sounds like censorship, that’s because it is.

The conference is being organized by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which, like its discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, has been taken over by the world’s main abusers of human rights. The Organization of Islamic Countries, the most powerful voting bloc at the U.N., put Libya in charge of preparing Durban II, assisted by such other pillars of the international community as Iran and Cuba.

If the Durban II drafters have their way, any challenge of Islamic teachings, including teachings used to justify violence, would be taboo. Reprinting the Danish Muhammad cartoons, exploited by Muslim agitators in 2006 to incite riots around the world, would be a criminal offense. Even gross human-rights violations in Islamic countries — such as stoning adulterers in Iran — could be immune from criticism.

Though couched in the language of religious rights, the draft isn’t concerned with the right to practice one’s religion. If it were, it would have focused on the plight of religious minorities in many Muslim states. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the public worship of any religion other than Islam is forbidden.

The drafters further demand that the fight against terrorism must not “discriminate” against any religion. They specifically complain about the “monitoring and surveillance of places of worship, culture and teaching of Islam.” Since these are exactly the places where Islamic terrorists tend to recruit new followers, stopping such common-sense policing would render the West defenseless.

Israel said last month it will stay away from Geneva. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves kudos for having made that call in January. “We will not be party to an anti-Semitic and anti-Western hate-fest dressed up as antiracism,” he said. The decision about whether to send a delegation to Durban II will be an early test of Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton and the new Obama Administration.

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Editorial: Hipocrita


In the topsy-turvy world of the United Nations, no issue gets more consideration, monopolizes more resources or engenders more sloganeering than the “Question of Palestine.”

The UN maintains a Division for Palestinian Rights, a Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. If only the world body devoted similar energies to fighting AIDS or saving Zimbabwe.

Some say that the UN is a noble experiment gone terribly wrong. But the organization isn’t all bad. A range of autonomous bodies – such as the Universal Postal Union and the World Intellectual Property Organization – do their work in a professional and non-partisan manner (though even among these there are ignoble exceptions).

Moreover, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strived to be a fair administrator and an honest broker. He has expressed concern about human rights abuses committed by Hamas and repeatedly condemned Palestinian Arab attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

Unfortunately, Ban has remarkably little sway over what is said or done in the name of the organization he heads.

THE TRUE character of the UN is exemplified by its 192 member states. And nowhere does the melding of their “values” manifest itself more than in the General Assembly. Here the tyranny of the majority, often enabled by the acquiescence of nations from whom one would have expected better, has made a bitter mockery of the 1945 UN Charter that was intended to make the institution a beacon of tolerance and enlightenment.

By habitually championing the “right of return” – not to a Palestinian state to be created alongside the Jewish one, but to Israel proper – the General Assembly has obliquely committed itself to the demographic destruction of Israel.

Given its long history of having one set of rules for the Jewish state and another for everyone else, it is all too tempting for decent men and women to block out the UN’s Annual Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People which has consecrated November 29 as a day of hate against, and delegitimization of, the Jewish state.

But at this newspaper we are haunted by the words of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

A malevolent man who knew a thing or two about Jew-hatred once taught that a Big Lie can be made credible. He argued that people would have a hard time imagining that their representatives might fabricate colossal untruths.

Neither the evil man, nor his minister of propaganda, ever said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it….” but that was their intent.

THIS BRINGS us to Nicaraguan diplomat, Catholic priest, and General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a self-proclaimed “lover” of the Jewish people. He declared Tuesday that nothing excuses “the failure to establish a Palestinian state.”

Yet rather than blame the Arab and Muslim world which, between 1947 and 2002, explicitly rejected the two-state solution, or blame the Palestinian Arabs whose polity to this day is divided over the possibility of coexistence, d’Escoto Brockmann blames… the Jews.

Then comes the Big Lie: “Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away, and I believe it is very important we in the United Nations use this term,” d’Escoto Brockmann said. “We must not be afraid to call something for what it is.”

To state the obvious: The conflict between the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arabs has nothing to do with apartheid.

There is no system of racial segregation in the West Bank. There is a state of de-facto belligerency between West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Hamas-controlled Gaza seeks Israel’s annihilation, not civil rights. Jews are not colonizers in Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, Israel’s government is ready to abandon much of the Jews’ ancient heartland for peace with security.

As the padre speaks from the den of iniquity that is the General Assembly, we ask: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

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