Analysis of today’s events at Durban by Gerald Steinberg and Anne Bayefsky. Renounce Durban strategy and go after the abusers of human rights. Too bad so few people use the term demopath.
Apr 21, 2009 2:44 | Updated Apr 21, 2009 2:45
Analysis: Ahmadinejad buries the Durban process
By GERALD STEINBERG
The corridor discussions in the United Nations building before Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s arrival focused on two questions: Would he tone down his usual Holocaust denial and threats against Israel in order to appear reasonable? And if not, would diplomats from countries like Britain, France and Norway – those that decided to participate in contrast to Canada, the US, Italy and Germany – fulfill their pledge to walkout if the “red lines” of Holocaust denial and racism were crossed.
We did not have long to wait – the speech was as bad as or worse than the usual Iranian diatribes, and the European diplomats left, being embraced and cheered by Jewish students, NGO leaders and human rights mentors Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz.
Good sign, I’d say. What do you think oao? Among other things it shows how clueless the anti-Zionist party. They are so used to getting away with saying anything, that they make mistakes like this. Ahmadinejad, who was messianically proud that no one blinked when he spoke at the UN in NYC, had a distinctly different reception.
These momentous events took place on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Citing the theme “never again,” participants agreed that this should also mark the end of the Durban process that began at the infamous UN anti-racism conference in that city in 2001. Instead of focusing on real examples of discrimination and mass murder, that event had been hijacked to attack Israel using terms such as apartheid, war crimes and racism. In the official NGO forum, participants that included Human Rights Watch and Amnesty adopted a boycott strategy.
Israel and Jews around the world recognized that this demonization and delegitimation was as dangerous as the physical war and terror campaigns, and in some ways more sinister. For the past eight years, a strategy was developed to combat and defeat the threat. In Geneva, this approach proved successful.
Is proving successful. Don’t jump the gun. Four days to go. Our foes may be stupidly overconfident, but they are nothing if not determined.
Ahmadinejad’s appearance was not a scenario in this strategy – his visit had been announced just one week before the opening session, by which time most of the counterattack mechanism was already in place. The first stage was to prevent another poisonous NGO Forum by “naming and shaming” the funders of the 2001 version, including the Ford Foundation and the Canadian government. UN officials agreed not to grant official sponsorship despite demands from vitriolic NGOs such as Badil (the Palestinian “right of return” lobby funded by European governments) and the Libyan-linked North-South 21 organization. These events were still held, but with very limited participation or impact.
In parallel, during the long negotiations over the draft text for the government conference, Jewish community leaders and Israelis repeatedly held intensive meetings with Western democratic delegations to highlight the destructive impact of singling out Israel for condemnation in the Durban process. Canada, which had been a major supporter of Durban 2001, was the first to recognize the damage, and the US, Italy and others followed.
Thus, when the first session began, the point had been made and the chairs of many delegations were empty, even before Ahmadinejad’s arrival. In addition, the language of the draft declaration that required months of detailed negotiations was largely toned down. The main problem, as President Obama eloquently stated on the evening before the grand opening, was that the entire process had been built on the failed foundations of the 2001 Durban catastrophe. In that case, what had been advertised as an anti-racism conference became a source of racism directed at Israel. To restore the moral foundation of universal human rights, an entirely new structure would be necessary.
In this sense, the Iranian president’s latest hate speech confirmed to all that the Durban process must be totally repudiated before a new foundation for human rights can emerge. This conference has only begun – it is due to continue through Thursday – but Ahmadinejad has already demonstrated that there is no sense in holding any more diplomatic negotiations to find language that involves singling out Israel in any way. Instead, the focus should shift to developing an entirely new approach that prevents further abuses of moral principles by regimes or NGOs that exploit human rights. The sooner the Durban process is dead and buried, the faster a replacement will be developed.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and chair of the Political Science Department at Bar Ilan University.
Ann Bayefsky was somewhat less sanguine about the meaning of the walkout:
Durban Diary, day one: Ahmadinejad’s ugly entrance
BY ANNE BAYEFSKY
Monday, April 20th 2009, 8:04 PM
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance in Geneva Monday at the UN’s so-called anti-racism conference, Durban II, made the point better than anyone else. The UN’s idea of combating racism and xenophobia is to encourage more of it. Ahmadinejad was the very first speaker as the substantive session opened. Handed a global megaphone by the UN, out flowed unadulterated hate speech.
The phenomenon was astonishing. The UN provided a platform for a virulent antisemite on the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. In the name of fighting intolerance, they translated his words into six languages and broadcast them around the world. As he entered the grand room at the UN’s Palais Wilson, he was met by a round of applause. And this is what he said.
He began by denying the Holocaust: The “Zionist regime” had been created “on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question of holocaust.”
And he continued with a genocidal agenda: “the egoist and uncivilized Zionism have been able to deeply penetrate into their political and economic structure including their legislation, mass media, companies, financial systems, and their security and intelligence agencies. They have imposed their domination to the extent that nothing can be done against their will. As long as they are at the helm of power, justice will never prevail in the world. It is time the ideal of Zionism, which is the paragon of racism, to be broken. The world Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuse religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces.”
Note the extraordinary projection involved in this formulation: a movement that personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuse religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces is a pretty good description of many current forms of Islam, including and especially Ahmadinejad’s variety. Hard to find a better illustration of demopathy. Add to this the appalling fact that this Durban Review Conference is trying to outlaw criticism of Islam — i.e., to hide its “hatred and ugly faces.”
As he spoke, the European Union countries that had not withdrawn earlier finally stood up and walked out. But they didn’t really understand what had just happened at all, for when he was finished, all but the Czech Republic went right back in.
France? Kushner? Alas!
Ten countries have now boycotted this second Durban hatefest: Canada, Israel, the United States, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The rest of the world remains inside, providing legitimacy to a forum for hatemongering. They are under the impression that there is no lasting damage being done here either to the credibility of the institutional host or to the cause of protecting human rights. They are wrong.
Why does this remind me of Obama’s arguing that “hey, their military is puny, what damage can I do to American interests by my warm encounter with Chavez?”
And the real victims of human rights are all the poorer for it.
Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, editor of eyeontheun.org and a professor at Touro College.