Obama’s Durban Gambit

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While most Americans were busy celebrating Valentine's Day, last Saturday the Obama administration announced that it would send a delegation to Geneva to participate in planning the UN's so-called Durban II conference, scheduled to take place in late April. Although largely overlooked in the US, the announcement sent shock waves through Jerusalem.

The Durban II conference was announced in the summer of 2007. Its stated purpose is to review the implementation of the declaration adopted at the UN's anti-Israel hate-fest that took place in Durban, South Africa, the week before the September 11, 2001, attacks against America.

At Durban, both the UN-sponsored NGO conclave and the UN's governmental conference passed declarations denouncing Israel as a racist state. The NGO conference called for a coordinated international campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, and belittling the Holocaust.

The NGO conference also called for curbs on freedom of expression throughout the world in order to prevent critical discussion of Islam. As far as the world's leading NGOs – including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – were concerned, critical discussions of Islam are inherently racist.

In defending US participation in the Durban II planning sessions, Gordon Duguid, the State Department's spokesman, argued, "If you are not engaged, you don't have a voice."

He continued, "We wanted to put forward our view and see if there is some way we can make the document [which sets the agenda and dictates the outcome of the Durban II conference] a better document than it appears it is going to be."

WHILE THIS seems like a noble goal, both the State Department and the Obama White House ought to know that there is absolutely no chance that they can accomplish it. This is the case for two reasons.

First, since the stated purpose of the Durban II conference is to oversee the implementation of the first Durban conference's decisions, and since those decisions include the anti-Israel assertion that Israel is a racist state, it is clear that the Durban II conference is inherently, and necessarily, anti-Israel.

The second reason that both the State Department and the White House must realize that they are powerless to affect the conference's agenda is because that agenda was already set in previous planning sessions chaired by the likes of Libya, Cuba, Iran and Pakistan. And that agenda includes multiple assertions of the basic illegitimacy of the Jewish people's right to self-determination. The conference agenda also largely adopted the language of the 2001 NGO conference that called for the criminalization of critical discussion of Islam as a form of hate speech and racism. That is, the 2009 conference's agenda is not only openly anti-Israel, it is also openly pro-tyranny, and so seemingly antithetical to US interests.

Beyond all that, assuming that the Obama administration truly wishes to change the agenda, the fact is that the US is powerless to do so. As was the case in 2001, so too, today, the Islamic bloc, supported by the Third World bloc, has an automatic voting majority. Beyond chipping away at the margins, the US has no ability whatsoever to change the conference's agenda or expected outcome.

SINCE IT came into office a month ago, every single Middle East policy the Obama administration has announced has been antithetical to Israel's national security interests. From President Barack Obama's intense desire to appease Iran's mullahs in open discussions; to his stated commitment to establish a Palestinian state as quickly as possible despite the Palestinians' open rejection of Israel's right to exist and support for terrorism; to his expressed support for the so-called Saudi peace plan, which would require Israel to commit national suicide by contracting to within indefensible borders and accepting millions of hostile, foreign-born Arabs as citizens and residents of the rump Jewish state; to his decision to end US sanctions against Syria and return the US ambassador to Damascus; to his plan to withdraw US forces from Iraq and so give Iran an arc of uninterrupted control extending from Iran to Lebanon, every single concrete policy Obama has enunciated harms Israel.

At the same time, none of the policies that Obama has adopted can be construed as directed against Israel. In and of themselves, none can be viewed as expressing specific hostility toward Israel. Rather, they are expressions of naiveté, or ignorance, or – at worst – deliberate denial of the nature of the problems of the Arab and Islamic world on the part of Obama and his advisers.

The same cannot be said of the administration's decision to send its delegation to the Durban II planning session this past week in Geneva. Unlike every other Obama policy, this is a hostile act against Israel. This is true first of all because the decision was announced in the face of repeated Israeli requests that the US join Israel and Canada in boycotting the Durban II conference.

Some could chalk up the US's rejection of Israel's urgent entreaties as an honest difference of opinion. But what lies behind Israel's requests for a US boycott is not a partisan agenda, but a clearheaded acknowledgement that the Durban II conference is inherently devoted to the delegitimization and destruction of the Jewish state. And by joining in the planning sessions, the US has become a full participant in legitimizing and so advancing this overtly anti-Jewish agenda.

On Thursday, Prof. Anne Bayefsky, the senior editor of the EyeontheUN Web site, demonstrated that by participating in the planning sessions the US is accepting the conference's anti-Israel agenda. Bayefsky reported that at the planning session in Geneva on Thursday, the Palestinian delegation proposed that a paragraph be added to the conference's agenda. Their draft "calls for implementation of… the advisory opinion of the ICJ [International Court of Justice] on the wall, [i.e., Israel's security fence], and the international protection of Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory."

The American delegation raised no objection to the Palestinian draft.

Issued in 2004, the ICJ's advisory opinion on the security fence claimed that Israel has no right to self-defense against Palestinian terrorism. At the time, both the US and Israel rejected the ICJ's authority to issue an opinion on the subject.

On Thursday, by not objecting to this Palestinian draft, not only did the US effectively accept the ICJ's authority, for practical purposes it granted the anti-Israel claim that Jews may be murdered with impunity.

This assertion aligns naturally with the language already in the Durban II agenda, which calls Israel's Law of Return racist. This law, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who wishes to live here, is the embodiment of Jewish peoplehood and the vehicle through which the Jewish people has built our nation-state. In alleging that the Law of Return is racist, the Durban II conference asserts that the Jews are not a people and we have no right to self-determination in our homeland. And Thursday, by participating in the process of demonizing Israel and its people, the US lent its own credibility to this bigoted campaign.

OBAMA'S SPOKESMEN and defenders claim that by participating in the planning sessions in Geneva, the administration is doing nothing more than attempting to prevent the conference from being the anti-Jewish diplomatic pogrom it was in 2001. If they are unsuccessful, they will boycott the conference. No harm done.

But this claim rings hollow.

As Bayefsky and others argued this week, by entering into the Durban preparatory process, the US has done two things. First, it has made it all but impossible for European states like France, Britain, the Czech Republic and the Netherla
nds, which were all considering boycotting the conference, to do so. They cannot afford to be seen as more opposed to its anti-Israel and anti-freedom agenda than Israel's closest ally and the world's greatest democracy. So just by participating in the planning sessions the US has legitimized a clearly bigoted, morally illegitimate process, making it impossible for Europe to disengage.

Second, through its behavior at the Geneva planning sessions this week, the US has demonstrated that State Department protestations aside, the administration has no interest in changing the agenda in any serious way. The US delegation's decision not to object to the Palestinian draft, as well its silence in the face of Iran's rejection of a clause in the conference declaration that mentioned the Holocaust, show the US did not join the planning session to change the tenor of the conference. The US is participating in the planning sessions because it wishes to participate in the conference.

The Durban II conference, like its predecessor, is part and parcel of a campaign to coordinate the diplomatic and legal war against the Jewish state. By walking out of the 2001 Durban conference, and refusing to participate, support or finance any aspect of this UN-sponsored campaign until last Saturday, for seven years the US made clear that it opposed this war and believed its aim of destroying Israel is unacceptable.

By embracing the Durban campaign now, it is possible that the Obama administration will water down some of the most noxious language in conference's draft declaration. But this doesn't balance out the harm US participation will cause to Israel, or to the Jewish people. By participating in the conference, the US today is effectively giving American support to the war against the Jewish state.

The open hostility toward Israel expressed by the Obama administration's decision to participate in the Durban process should be a red flag for both the Israeli government and for Israel's supporters in the US. Both Israel and its Jewish and non-Jewish supporters must openly condemn the administration's move and demand that it reverse its decision immediately.

FOR THE past two years, the American Jewish Committee has been instrumental in convincing the American Jewish community to reject repeated Israeli requests that they call for a US boycott of Durban II. To secure US participation over Israel's objections, the AJC even went so far as to sign a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her not to boycott the conference.

In return for the AJC's labors, its senior operative Felice Gaer is now a member of the US delegation in Geneva. Happily ensconced in the Swiss conference room where the Holocaust is denied, the Jewish people's right to self-determination is reviled, and Israel's right to defend itself is rejected, Gaer now sits silently, all the while using the fact of her membership in the US delegation as proof that the Obama administration is serious about protecting Israel at Durban II.

Whatever the AJC may have gained for its support for Durban II, Israel and its supporters have clearly been harmed.

Some might argue that no Israeli interest is served by openly condemning the White House. But when the White House is participating in a process that legitimizes and so advances the war against the Jewish state, such condemnation is not only richly deserved but required. It is the administration, not Israel that threw down the gauntlet. If Israel and its supporters refrain from vigorously criticizing this move, we guarantee its repetition.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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15 Comments

  • Pops in Vienna 02/20/2009 at 16:49

    I don’t know how you manage to keep cranking these excellent articles out Caroline. Kudos to you!
    Back in the late 60’s when I was a shabbat goy, we used to have this colorful old Rabbi who was a holocaust survivor. I remember when things appeared in the news similar to this Durban conference, he used to shake his head and mutter, stupid goyim, stupid goyim.”
    When I read your article it immediately took me back in time. He’s no longer living, so I’ll have to say it for him.
    Stupid goyim…stupid goyim.

    Reply
  • Marc Handelsman, USA 02/20/2009 at 19:34

    Neo-liberal ideology seeks to engage enemies instead of defeat them. That is why the US is participating in Durban II. The Obama administration is guided by neo-libs, and there should be no surprise of US involvement in the upcoming conference. President Obama’s first 100 days will end during Durban II, and the US shift toward amoral pragmatism will be complete. Israel needs to recalibrate its foreign policy with the US, and plan to be alone in its fight against totalitarian Islam.

    Reply
  • cantbelievemyeyesandears 02/20/2009 at 20:02

    They talk about GW Bush having blood on his hands….nothing compared to the amount of blood on Obama’s hands (and it will be innocent blood) by the time the next US election rolls around. I don’t know if it will be because of willful ignorance, good-intentions gone bad, or well-disguised ill intensions. I don’t care, I just know we’ll see it.

    Reply
  • Timothy Kriete For Israel Genesis 12:1-3 FOREVER MORE AMEN 02/20/2009 at 20:06

    Stupid goyim…stupid goyim.
    AMEN POPS IN VIENNA LOVE YOU BROTHER STAY STRONG
    Congratulations Caroline My Precious Sister On
    Bibi Getting The NOD FROM GOD I TRIED To Tell
    Some Folks In N.Y.C. “Zipi WILL NOT HAVE ANY
    MORE SUCCESS FORMING A GOVERNMENT THAN SHE DID
    BEFORE THE ELECTIONS FOLKS, BOO IF YOU WANT.”
    Stand With Bibi Sis, I KNOW YOU SHALL, It Is
    The LORD God Of Jacob Whom Sets Up People In
    Positions of Authority FOR HIS PURPOSES AMEN.
    STAY STRONG BABY GIRL Thy Brother For ZION’S
    SAKE (ISAIAH 53-63 AMEN) Timothy Kriete :):):)

    Reply
  • Timothy Kriete For Israel Genesis 12:1-3 FOREVER MORE AMEN 02/20/2009 at 20:22

    ONLY A ROCK WITH LIPS WOULD EVEN SERIOUSLY THINK
    THAT ISRAEL HAS EVER BEEN A “RACIST STATE” IF
    ANYTHING SAUDI ARABIA IS BY FAR THE MOST RACIST
    ON EARTH, SO IS THEIR “HUDNA PEACE INITIATIVE”
    THAT ONLY A ROCK WITH LIPS WOULD BELIEVE AMEN!
    BEHOLD ALL NATIONS, TRIBES, AND TONGUES SERVE
    THE GOD OF JACOB OR REAP THE CONSEQUENCES OF
    WHAT THE LORD CLEARLY STATED IN LEVITICUS AMEN!

    Reply
  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 02/20/2009 at 22:46

    Caroline, you are correct; this administration already has made a number of wrong moves.
    By attending the Durban II Conference would in no way be effective while not attending would be a show of solidarity with Israel. This is being the most important position the US needs to take and show the world at this time.
    (Maybe Jimmy Carter is sleeping in the guest room).
    Posted on Israpundit by Ted Belman:
    Another development by Obama seeking American Jewish support to pressure Israel!!
    Excuse me Pres. Obama, if anything Israel needs the support of American Jews to pressure you and your administration to make the right moves.
    First of all, it is not up to you or Mitchell to determine what is good for Israel. If you want to do something worthwhile then show support for the new government being formed in Israel and let the world know its unconditional support.

    Reply
  • a jew 02/21/2009 at 7:30

    caroline,
    please write a piece advising us on how to talk to jewish people who simply will not listen and refuse to hear any of this about obomber.

    Reply
  • Bill K. 02/21/2009 at 10:02

    There is a joke making the rounds about Obama returning the bust of Winston Churchill that had been loaned to the White House by Britain after 9-11. After returning the Churchill bust Obama should have asked for one of Neville Chamberlain.
    Everything the United States has learned about fighting Islamic totalitarianism has been forgotten. There is no past and therefore no lessons to be learned from it for the pragmatic mindset and Obama is as pragmatic as they come. Their focus and Obama’s is narrowly on the here and now and what will “work” at this instant in time. Since the pragmatist eschews principals they take the lazy path of least resistance instead of the more difficult path of maximum advantage. This naturally leads them to appeasement. The fact that appeasement has never worked with Iran (or anyone else) matters not a whit to them. For the pragmatist reality is flexible and can be whatever they want it to be and thus nothing can be ruled out. Talk with Iran while they kill out soldiers and make nuclear bombs to drop on our cities? Absolutely! Surely a compromise could be reached between their desire to kill us and our desire to live.
    Israelis should be as unsettled about the Obama presidency as they have the wits to be. As you mentioned in a previous article Israel needs to have the courage to tell the United States or more precisely the Obama Administration to “Get Lost” when, inevitably, Israel is asked to sacrifice its security to appease Hamas/Hezbollah/Syria/Iran.

    Reply
  • Luigi Frascati, Canada 02/21/2009 at 13:49

    To “a jew”:
    Ahah! Glad to see someone out there has gotten just as all upset as I have after reading this article. I got so angry in fact, that I have taken the unprecedented move of dispatching on my own initiative two e-mails, one to the White House and the other to the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
    My message to the White House, addressed to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact , reads:
    “Why is the US participating in the Durban II Conference in Geneva this coming April? Durban II is openly anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying and as such racist by and in itself. Surely the President would not want the US to participate in a Ku Klux Klan conference. So why does he want the US to attend an openly anti-Semitic conference?”.
    The message sent to the Kenneth Bandler, Director of Communications of the AJC at http://www.ajc.org , has a different tone. It reads:
    “I am a Jew.
    I read in the Jerusalem Post a column by Caroline Glick. In this column Ms. Glick states that the AJC is sanctioning the forthcoming Durban II Conference in Geneva, Switzerland by sending Felicer Gaer to attend. Ms. Glick continues, furthermore, by stating that the AJC even went so far as to write to Secretary Clinton asking her NOT to boycott the conference.
    The full text of Ms. Glick article can be found at : http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=2&cid=1233304831938&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull .
    I would like to know whether this is true and, if so, what are you folks thinking of doing by going to Geneva. Durban II is openly anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying and as such racist all by and in itself. Attending the conference will only serve to legitimize it.
    I am looking forward to your prompt response. Be advised that if do not get a timely response from you, I will proceed to contact each and every online newspaper, TV station and conservative radio-talk host in North America, so as to expose this entire affair. One thing that gets under my skin is those who sympathize with Holocaust deniers – especially when they are Jewish.
    Thank you”.
    And this is exactly what I am about to do if I do not get a satisfactory reply by this coming week.
    I have a deeply entrenched belief that it is not important how we die – it is important how we live. Because of this, as a Jew I absolutely refuse to stay idle in the face of sub-standard nations the likes of Cameroon, South Africa, Senegal, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Armenia and Turkey , among others, coming to demonize my culture, my heritage and my people.
    I further believe that these retrograde countries ought to take a look at their own history – if they have one to take a look at – before they delve into the abyss of topics the likes of Semitism and Zionism, not to mention the Holocaust which they, by virtue of their own heritage or lack thereof, are unprepared to comprehend and thus upon which they are unable formulate an intelligent judgment call . Moreover in the specific case of Turkey and Iran, indeed two sub-standard countries but rich in history and culture, I am not prepared to take any allegations of racism and discrimination when they themselves are blatantly guilty of the same racism, discrimination and violence with respect to their own Kurds and Bahai’s populations.
    I cannot think of a better forum than one dedicated to assess manifestations of xenophobia and related intolerance like Durban II, to remind the participants and attendees of the foregoing sub-standard countries of Ben Johnson’s quote, in that “Apes are apes, though clothed in scarlet”.
    I am instead very proud of the position taken by the government of my own country, the Kingdom of Canada, as outlined in Bulletin no. 16 dated January 23, 2008 [ it can be found at http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?crtr.sj1D=&mthd=advSrch&crtr.mnthndVl=&nid=374379&crtr.dpt1D
    =&crtr.tp1D=&crtr.lc1D=&crtr.yrStrtVl=2008&crtr.kw=Durban&crtr.dyStrtVl=
    26&crtr.aud1D=&crtr.mnthStrtVl=2&crtr.yrndVl=&crtr.dyndVl= ], which reads in the words of Mr. Maxime Bernier, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, in pertinent part as follows:
    “Canada has a long and proud history of fighting racism, discrimination and intolerance in all its form. It was for this reason, and its promise of concerted global action against racism, that we participated in the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa. Unfortunately, that conference degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism that undermined the principles of the United Nations and the very goals the conference sought to achieve. Secretary of State Kenney and I had hoped that the preparatory process for the
    2009 Durban Review Conference would remedy the mistakes of the past. We have concluded that, despite our efforts, it will not. Canada will therefore not participate in the 2009 conference. Canada will continue to focus its efforts on genuine anti-racism initiatives that make a difference. Our government’s decision to seek full membership on the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research demonstrates that we remain committed to the fight against racism and to the promotion of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law at home and around the world.”
    So therefore, “a jew”, while we are waiting for Ms. Glick to write an article on how to educate the Jewish people – and especially on how to educate the uneducatable Jews of the AJC – I suggest to you and indeed I suggest to all bloggers here, Jews and non-Jews, to vent their frustration in a likewise manner by contacting as many news and radio outlets as they can possibly find to unmask publicly this travesty of international order called Durban II.
    The character assassination of our people must be stopped, here and now.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  • Pops in Vienna 02/21/2009 at 20:37

    Go get ’em Luigi,
    If we had more people with your fighting spirit we wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Unfortunately, the US has become “wussie-fied”.

    Reply
  • Arius 02/21/2009 at 23:31

    I thought the last sixteen years of Clinton and
    Bush were bad, but the Obama reign is looking worse. I, an Armenian-American that knows all the tricks of Islam, stands with Israel. There are dark days ahead as the USA makes its descent into national socialism and dhimmitude.

    Reply
  • Luigi Frascati, Canada 02/23/2009 at 7:29

    Here is an editorial appeared this past February 20, 2009 in the The Wall Street Journal Online Edition at
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123508939643928103.html
    relating to the forthcoming Planet Of The Apes redux in Geneva.
    Its telling title: “Obama’s Durban Dalliance – Does an anti-Semitic conference deserve U.S. participation of any kind?”.
    Regards,

    Reply
  • Kristen 02/23/2009 at 18:39

    Found your article on jpost.com … As an American I would just like to say how upset I was to learn about this decision by the Obama administration. It goes against common sense and our country’s policy of standing by Israel. I am trying to spread the word to other Americans. If people find out about this, Obama will have some answering to do. Thanks for the great article.

    Reply
  • Mike Marks 02/23/2009 at 19:29

    Caroline once again you have cut through all the heiffer dust and gotten to the truth. I have to admit I really admire your ability (or gift) for doing so. I am beginning to believe that my President, Barak Obama, would do almost anything to curry favor with the international Muslim leadership (radical or not). I honestly believe that he thinks he can have a rational discussion with these folks, particularly the radicals. He is either very niave (sp?) or is still very heavily influenced by his Islamic roots.
    I have no explanation for the AJC wanting to participate in the Durban II fiasco. Unless it is yet another case of liberal guilt. To an extent I understand guilt, I have often said that I have a guilt gene, however I draw the line at my own personal responsibilty. I am not a colonialist or one who enslaves, I refuse to buy into this logic.
    By participating in this sharade, Durban II, President Obama has failed to provide leadership and “cover” for those in Europe such as Great Britain and France who might have followed our lead. Now it is much more difficult for them to boycott the conference. God bless the Canadians for sticking to their guns!
    My fundamental question to those who wish to create a dialogue with those who wish to destroy us is where do you start? Do you meet in the middle and propose it’s ok if destroy only half of us and in return we won’t complain? This is utter lunacy. I do not know if it liberal arrogance in the sense of “if we could just talk to them we could change them of their misguided ways”. Since “true liberals” don’t recognize the concept of good and evil I had to use the word misguided. Although I make this comment in passing not recognizing good and evil in the world is a real problem for the liberals.
    I also believe Obama believes that he can treat Israel and to a lesser extent the American Jewish community much as the Democrat party has treated African Americans. With the African American community there has long been a sense of “where else can they turn?”, as a group African Americans overwhelmingly support the Democrat party. Israel has few friends in the international community aside from the US and Canada. His political calculus is that Israel has nowhere else to turn so he will treat Israel poorly allowing him to pursue his goals with the Islamists. Personally I think he does this at great risk. I believe that we (the US) have been blessed as a nation becuase of our support of Israel.
    Your previous article about the US and the Soviet Union (the KGB infiltration in particular) during the 40’s and 50’s indirectly illustrates this point. Clearly, except for the grace of God the US could have been weakend even further without some very critically timed events. I believe US support of Israel after 1948 and defeating Germany, ending the holocaust has allowed the US to become and continue to be a great power. We know from the Holy Scriptures that God will bless those that bless Israel.
    I fear that Obama is looking more and more like Neville Chanberlin every day. If this trend continues, his actions toward Israel could have a greater impact on the US than any domestic policy (or policy fiascos).

    Reply
  • Glen Tibbits 03/02/2009 at 5:17

    This quote in a book by Dean Koontz titled “The Good Guy”, pretty much sums up much of what mindset America is in right now.
    “Dean koontz
    “the good guy”
    Contemporary Americans were so prosperous, so happily distracted by such a richness of vivid entertainments, they were reluctant to have their fun diminished by acknowledging that anything existed with fangs and fierce appetites. If now and then they recognized a wolf they threw a bone to it and convinced themselves that it was a dog”.
    I stand in solid support of Israel
    glen

    Reply

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