Durban II Draft Revives 2001 Tehran Declaration

Durban II is heading toward another debacle. The draft declaration for the April 2009 conference on racism — as published by the United Nations during the 2nd preparatory session that concluded last Friday — revives the hateful rhetoric of the 2001 Tehran Declaration by accusing Israel of “genocide” and “a new kind of apartheid,” attacks free speech, declares that Islam and its adherents are the world’s greatest victims of racism and of “defamation of religion”, and lists counter-terrorism as a cause of racial discrimination.  The text shatters every one of the European Union’s red lines. See document and UN Watch analysis below.

Instead of condemning this betrayal of the principles of the United Nations charter, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told delegates she was “encouraged by the tone and by the substance of your deliberations over the last two weeks,” and praised “this kind of cooperation and constructive engagement.” She also lauded “the spirit of understanding, accommodation and respect that has characterized the review process thus far.”

In addition to the vitriolic provisions in the draft declaration, a motley group of anti-Western and anti-Israel organizations assembled on the sidelines of the preparatory session to demand that the final conference in April include a NGO Forum. At the meeting and in their letters to UN officials, the agitators falsely claimed to be operating in the name of the NGO Committee on Racism, a Geneva entity that has failed to hold long-overdue elections, meetings, or even consultations with its membership. Will the mainstream human rights movement resist this attempted hijacking?

One thing is clear: the prospect of another NGO Forum like that held in 2001 is cause for alarm. The atmosphere of anti-Semitism at that gathering was described as ‘‘hateful, even racist’’ by former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and as ‘‘disgraceful’’ by South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, who said that parts of the Durban conference were “hijacked and used by some with an anti-Israeli agenda to turn it into an anti-Semitic event.”

Robinson, who served as secretary-general of the 2001 Durban conference, refused to accept the NGO Declaration, and some leading human rights organizations and activists criticized the repugnant anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel in the NGO Forum, and the harassment of Jewish participants it engendered.

Key documents on latest Durban II draft declaration:

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