Islamic group alleges ‘smear campaign’ against conference; Libya elected chair, Iran and Cuba as vice-chairs

Geneva, Aug. 27, 2007 —  UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer issued the following report from the UN Durban Review Conference preparatory meeting that opened today in Geneva:


Day 1 of Durban II began much as we predicted. Libya was elected as chair, and Iran and Cuba among the 19 vice-chairs. Contrary to reported UN comments  downplaying the influence of Iran and the 20-nation bureau, the chair revealed today that the bureau held no less than 19 meetings over the last 2 months, “in which all elements were discussed in exhaustive detail.” The fact is that all the way to 2009, Iran will be a key player in the planning of Durban II. Click here for our full comment on the elections.

In plenary speeches today, Egypt on behalf of the African Group immediately singled out Israel by complaining about “continued occupation of Palestine and violations arising therefrom [which] have been subject of condemnation from international community.” Egypt also invoked the “new and dangerous incitement against religion” from the Danish cartoons.

The 57-strong Organization of the Islamic Conference announced its intentions from the start: “The Conference should move the spotlight on the continued plight of Palestinian people…”  The OIC speech quoted from my Boston Globe op-ed from Saturday , and complained of a “smear campaign” against the Durban Review Conference. The OIC also introduced new accusations, not appearing in the original Durban program, of “defamation of religions.”

Syria today said that 9/11 opened the door to new forms of racism and associated intolerance against “Semitic” people. This brings us right back to the pernicious subversion of language that surrounded Durban I, where the word antisemitism — the term for hatred or persecution of Jews — was gutted of all meaning. Recall article 46 of Durban’s NGO Declaration: “…Anti-Arab racism is another form of anti-semitism and Islamaphobia.” And article 79: “Arabs as a Semitic people have also suffered from alternative forms of anti semitism, manifesting itself as anti-Arab discrimination and for those Arabs who are Muslim, also as Islamophobia.”

Activist groups who wish to prevent the anti-discrimination agenda from being hijacked once again must speak out — immediately, before it is too late, before we are back to the darkest days of Durban I.

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