Durban, Durban

In a thought-provoking (and they are not happy thoughts) piece, Ami Isseroff writes,

Though it is painful to admit it, it should be obvious to all by now that Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds of international public opinion, not just in Europe, Asia and Africa, but in the United States as well. This is evident both in the recent reaction to Operation Cast Lead and in long term trends. This loss is not like losing a Eurovision song contest or not getting the Oscar for Waltz with Bashir. It has, and will have, grave strategic consequences for Israel’s well being, international posture and security.

The odious effluvium of the recent unjust human rights campaign against Israel following the Gaza operation (see here and here) is added to the already broad stream of “anti-Israel” criticism. That will almost inevitably be joined by the stinking effluent of the upcoming Durban II Conference on Racism. — Ami Isseroff, “Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds

Almost inevitably? Durban II is an onrushing freight train, to borrow a metaphor from Barry Rubin, and the US has so far abandoned its ally Israel on the tracks. Ending its boycott of this exercise in delegitimization, the US has sent a delegation to preparatory meetings, supposedly to “change the direction” of the conference. But that is not what they are doing. Anne Bayefsky of Eye on the UN wrote,

On Tuesday, the Palestinian delegation proposed inserting a new paragraph under the heading “Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives … for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance…” with the subtitle “General provisions on victims … of discrimination.” The paragraph includes: “Calls for … the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.” In other words, it claims that the Palestinian people are victims of Israeli racism and demands that all U.N. states provide protection from the affronts of the racist Jewish state.

Furthermore, the new Palestinian provision “Calls for … implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall…” This is a dramatic attempt to change an “advisory opinion” into a “legal obligation” — a status which attaches to no advisory opinion. The ICJ decision, which advises that the Israeli security fence is illegal, has always been rejected by the United States — hitherto. And with good reason. The Egyptian judge had voiced his opinion on the result before the case was even heard, in his capacity as a leading Egyptian diplomat. The terms of reference from the General Assembly who asked for the decision, and the documents they laid before the Court, predetermined the outcome. And as the strong dissent by the American judge and Holocaust survivor Tom Buergenthal pointed out, the Court came to its preposterous conclusion that “the right of legitimate or inherent self-defense is not applicable in the present case” without considering “the deadly terrorist attacks to which Israel is being subjected.”

But when the Palestinian delegation laid their new proposal before the drafting committee, what did Obama’s team do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They made no objection at all.

It is impossible to argue that their silence was unintended. Over the course of the week’s negotiations the American delegation had objected to a number of specific proposals. They had no trouble declaring “we share reservations on this paragraph,” in the context of a demand to criminalize profiling. They “called for the deletion” of provisions undermining free speech like the suggestion to “take firm action against negative stereotyping of religions and defamation of religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols.”

Their silence when it came to Israel was, therefore, deafening. — Anne Bayefsky, “The Obama Administration sacrifices Israel

Barack Obama himself has enunciated Israel’s right of self-defense. So why was the US silent? But there’s more:

The Obama team was not only silent on the new “Israel is racist” language, it also said nothing when faced with Holocaust denial. Negotiators from the European Union suggested on Wednesday a new provision to “condemn without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end.” Iran — whose president is a Holocaust-denier — immediately objected and insisted that the proposal be “bracketed” or put in dispute. The move blocked the adoption of the proposal and ensured another battle over the reality of the Holocaust in April — at these supposedly “anti-racism” meetings. After Iran objected, the chair looked around the room, expecting a response. He said: “Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn’t seem the case. We move on.” U.S. delegates said nothing, even after the prompt.

Again, the American silence must have been deliberate. In marked contrast, after the E.U. objected to a provision calling for limits on free speech, the American delegation had no trouble piping up immediately: “I want to echo the comments from the E.U. This … call for restrictions is something that my government is not able to accept.”

How can we explain this? We know that the US Administration is strongly opposed to Holocaust denial. So why didn’t they object to this? Why did they take a position more extreme than that of the EU?

Not being privy to the internal discussions of the US delegation, I don’t know. But it is not unthinkable that the US has decided to use the conference as a way of pressuring Israel to make further concessions toward an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and it is also very thinkable that the US is doing everything possible to avoid antagonizing its ‘engagement’ partner, Iran.

In 2001, the US joined Israel in walking out of the first Durban conference. Preliminary discussions have indicated that this years’ version will be even worse, and Israel and Canada have decided not to participate. Unfortunately, American participation will go a long way to give weight to the pernicious ‘findings’ and declarations that are sure to come out of it.

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One Response to “Durban, Durban”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    If the United States goes along with the anti- Israel agenda of the second Durban Conference then those who warned against an Obama Presidency will have been proven right. Israel will also then be in an impossible situation confronting an extremely popular, most likely two- term President. I myself have a sense that President Obama will be true to his word, and will not allow Israel to be singled- out and scapegoated. Should I however be wrong we will truly be facing an existensial crisis. For it will indicate that the Obama regime is not going to stand with us on any of the critical issues, including the Iranian nuclear threat.
    We will know a kind of loneliness and isolation more dangerous than ever before. And this when in the United States, the Republicans at the moment are so disorganized and weak as to not constitute any opposition to the President. Congress too would probably tend to side with the President should there be confrontations with us.
    This is all tremendously worrisome. And again my hope is that President Obama will not abandon us, but will be true to his own campaign promises and sense of personal responsibility and honesty.

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