I had an argument last night with a friend about the US sending a delegation to the preliminary discussions for Durban II. I argued that it’s better for Obama to go, see what’s there, and walk away, than not to show up at all. He argued that this is a disastrous first step to participating. Gerald Steinberg, who knows more about this than most anyone on the planet comments on how this is a high-stakes gamble. Anne Bayevsky’s report, alas, suggests that we’re going to lose this one big time.
A Foreign Policy of Obsequiousness
Yesterday in Geneva, President Obama unveiled the new look of America’s foreign policy — obsequiousness. It was Day One for his emissaries to the U.N. planning committee of the Durban II conference. This is the racist “anti-racism” bash to be held in Geneva in April. The U.S. and Israel walked out of the first go-round in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. Ever since, the U.S. government has refused to lend any credibility to the Declaration adopted after they left. That is, until yesterday.
U.S. representatives were addressing a human-rights negotiating committee with an executive consisting of a Libyan chair, an Iranian vice-chair, and a Cuban rapporteur. Russian Yuri Boychenko was presiding over Monday’s “human rights” get-together. Before them was a draft document which participants plan to adopt in finished form at the conference itself. The draft now contains mountains of offensive references to limits on free speech, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish provisions, and incendiary allegations of the victimization of Muslims at the hands of counter-terrorism racists.
Here is how the American delegates responded to a proposal they understood was incompatible with U.S. interests (“Brackets” denote withholding approval at any given moment in time.): “I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room . . . I have to suggest this phrase remains in brackets and I offer my sincere apologies.”
Having watched U.N. meetings for the past 25 years, I can’t remember a U.S. representative in a public session so openly obsequious, particularly in the presence of such specious human rights authorities. And yet the U.S. delegates appear happy to be there and convey the marching orders of their new commander-in-chief.
Unfortunately, while Obama’s calling the tunes, items like freedom of expression are being rearranged. On the table was a provision which “Calls on States to ensure that lawmakers discharge their responsibilities in conformity with . . . article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . . . ” What did the American delegation have to say about that? Among other things they proposed: “add after article 4, ‘and 5(d)(viii) of the Racial Discrimination Convention.’”
Flashback to 1994. The United States Senate imposed a reservation on U.S. ratification of the Racial Discrimination Convention concerning article 4 because it restricts free speech. Article 4 aims to limit incitement to racial hatred, but is open to an interpretation in direct conflict with the First Amendment.
Obama’s delegation, however, did not object to the proposal to ensure lawmakers adhere to article 4. Instead, they suggested adding a reference to another part of the Racial Discrimination Convention that guarantees an equal right to freedom of expression regardless of race. This idea does not in any way meet the Senate’s command to ensure that the Constitution trumps the treaty in matters of free speech.
There is no escape from Durban II — at least with our vital principles intact.
On Monday, President Obama’s decision to wander into the Durban II sinkhole also raised concerns in the Jewish community. In deciding to attend the planning session, Obama had ignored the direct plea from Israel’s Foreign Minister to stay away, along with Israel and Canada. Instead, on Monday the President sent reassuring messages via phone calls from senior White House and State Department officials.
According to reports, these officials claimed “that Washington’s decision to participate in the conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government.” That would be true — if “coordination” meant announcing hours in advance that the United States intended to do the opposite of what had been requested.
Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was “an effort to change the direction of the conference.” Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to “foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration” — the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren’t going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document — also already accepted by consensus — read “reaffirming the Durban Declaration.” Change you can’t believe in, again.
Overall, on Day One, U.N. members were delighted by the new administration’s timidity. And they know exactly how to ensure those promises of change continue. In an entire day of a four-day meeting, they reviewed only 11 of the 140 paragraphs. The next set of meetings will be in April right before the conference itself. By the time somebody begins to suspect it might not change, it will all be over, in more ways than one.
— Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and at Touro College, New York.
There are few developments I can think of that are more catastrophic than this. Omri Ceren has a particularly astute post on this, with a challenge to Marty Peretz, whose support for Obama — and Samantha Power — included his certainty that this would not happen.
As for the involvement of Samantha Power, see here.
UPDATE: The story just keeps getting worse: US Durban II Double Cross