How bad is it at Durban II?
The answer to that is rather different depending upon what one’s political agenda is. “Durban II”, or more correctly the United Nations –sponsored World Conference against Racism (WCAR) 2009, Durban Review Conference, is supposed to be one of the premier international dialogues on Human Rights. However, the ongoing meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, is living up to the reputation earned at the first session at Durban, South Africa, in 2001… of being an open exercise in grievance-mongering by bands of agenda-driven non-European nations and their NGO supporters.
Allow for a moment a brief recapitulation of the inherent contradictions carried over from Durban I:
Slavery and Colonialism – much ado about reparations for the Atlantic slave trade, so much that even the then-President of Senegal was appalled by the single-minded greed associated with targeting the European nations historically involved in such; an entirely unwarranted conflation of Colonialism (specifically Imperialism) in Africa with the slave trade; no mention what so ever of either the North African or Arabian slave trades nor the roughly contemporaneous slave-taking and selling of the Ottoman Empire. The final document produced by Durban I managed to soft-pedal the issue by condemning the history of slavery but stopping short of openly advocating reparations.
Israel, Zionism and Racism – A blatant attempt was made by the Arab League representatives to resurrect the Zionism=Racism charge long a part of U.N. General Assembly speeches, to codify it in a diplomatic document and to update it (for the media, apparently) by associating Israeli acts with Apartheid. To call that a stretch of the facts is probably the kindest thing one can say about that… unless one is former-President J. Carter of the U.S.A. who has sold books and speaking engagements based on his willingness to make that claim publicly. This item as well didn’t make it into the final document as a direct charge, but the intent of the language was so obvious that neither the U.S.A. nor Israel attended the conference in protest.
Oh, and one more note about process, if you please.
The Durban I final statement, like all major summit and international conference statements, was entirely written by diplomats and staffers *before* the Conference opened. The Conference itself was simply the public opportunity for all the parties with vested political interests in what would be produced to stand up and give speeches on the topic and get their pictures taken by the world’s mass media. It would take a particularly bad (Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium –level bad) case of diplomatic loss-of-manners to throw things into disorder. As all the invited nations to such events already know the final document’s wording before the meeting, the acceptable thing to do if a nation (or leader) can not tolerate the terms is to simply not show up for the Conference.
So Durban I barely escaped being a total failure by producing a watered-down document of no binding value on any of the major contested issues, but not without drawing a boycott from two nations who found the final statement unacceptable: the U.S.A. on principle; Israel on grounds of self-preservation. In the end, only one measurable result occurred and it certainly wasn’t the intended result of the statement drafters… UN High Commissioner on Refugees Mary Robinson lost all support she had from the U.S.A. when it came time to renew her appointment, and shortly thereafter she lost her job.
Now fast-forward to the present. Eight years later, and a Conference under the same auspices chartered to “Review” the process that produced the Durban I statement. This time the same issues have come back, although the exact wording of the slavery terms still lacks either breadth or reparations-mongering, and one more has been thrown into the mix: The specific intention to label a number of academic and political challenges to the nature of the religion of Islam as “Islamophobia” and to find that equitable with the prohibitions against Anti-Semitism.
(I refuse to even discuss here the hysterical side of the argument, nor to attempt to develop any case that Islam teaches or advocates an ideology considered a risk to world peace, so don’t even start in on that sort of debate. Cf. the dismantlement of State Shintou in the post-World War II occupation of Japan for arguments at the time as to why destroying a religion could be considered justifiable if you really must, but do it elsewhere.)
The challenge I am more than willing to make to the WCAR II DRC final document is that it is a direct affront to the principle of law in many, many societies that investigation and political discourse upon a system of social control is not merely acceptable, but a fundamental part of the inalienable right to free speech. It certainly wasn’t always so, but like lese majeste laws, they are now considered a part of the unenlightened past (at least according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Any religion (Organized Religion; one with canon law) that places itself as an instrument of law or governance *as a state* has cast aside any protections it may have had exempting it from Free Speech challenges to that system of governance. There are many examples: The instant that the State of Israel declares it is “a Jewish state”, then criticism of the applicability of religious law to the general populace *is a valid criticism of the government*; The period where the Irish Free State based its constitution upon Papal approval of all articles placed *the role of Catholic authorities* in valid claim when challenging the codification of Irish Law. But *neither* case would justify the open-ended insult of followers of either religion. That could, and should, be taken to task as sectarianism of the worst kind.
The Organization of Islamic States, in their “contribution” to the WCAR II DRC final document, has expressly placed Islam above any such distinctions.
No surprise that, really. Like pre-Reformation Catholicism, the religion and the state are one, in their view. Islam is by intent a system of governance and social order that by design results in Islamic Theocratic States. That is one (of many) reasons why nations like Malaysia find themselves on the horns of a dilemma any time they attempt to move toward a more secular form of governance, and why nationalist states like Egypt are regularly declared “apostate regimes” suitable only for re-conquest at some unspecified date unless they cast aside such secularism.
So much for the right of self-determination of each of the peoples of the world.
So much for the unalienable right to Free Speech.
Nine countries have looked upon the WCAR II DRC final statement and found it so egregiously offensive to the principles of, well of the U.N. for one thing, that they are boycotting the Geneva session.
Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Poland, and the United States of America
My only question is “Why only nine?”
There is some confusion over Canada’s participation as they have sent an observer, but are not participating in the session statement.
The conference is in session right now, and President Ahmadinejad of Iran has been speaking…
He said the magic word, it seems, as several nations' representatives just walked out.
Here is a rough transcript of his remarks. Expect a proper transcript to be available soon via wire services.
Here is the FOXNews and AP version, as of now: They report that representatives from Britain, France and Canada (observer) joined the walk out.
Here was the situation as reported going into the session.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tried to put the best face on this mess yesterday.
Here was the German Foreign Minister’s statement on their withdrawal.
Here is the General Information on WCAR I and WCAR II DRC, from wiki-p. Links in the sources will direct you to the specific statements and proceedings. As always, when using Wikipedia, please check the sources.
WCAR I, 2001, Durban, South Africa
WCAR II DRC, 2009, Geneva, Switzerland