Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - January 22, 2009

Holocaust Denial at the UN Durban II Planning Committee:
"Anti-racism" Forum Provides Platform for Antisemites

The Durban II planning committee, now meeting in Geneva, today took up the Holocaust sections of the "draft outcome document." In final form it is scheduled for adoption at the April Conference. Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, commented: "The Durban II platform was the perfect opportunity for Iran and Syria to deny the facts of the Holocaust. Providing a forum to spew antisemitism is apparently the UN's idea of combating racism."

Today's events ought to signal an end to the U.S. State Department discussion about whether it is in the best interests of the United States to attend Durban II. "If Secretary of State Clinton agrees to go to Durban II, or engage in a political dialogue over the draft outcome document," says Professor Bayefsky, "she will legitimize an avenue for spreading hate - not tolerance."

The draft under discussion affirmed "...that the Holocaust...resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with numerous members of other minorities..." Syria objected and called for the words to be removed on the following grounds: "I don't think we should get into a kind of statistical debate. As far as I know that there is no agreement on the consensus on the percentage of those who perished in the Holocaust. Maybe there is some kind of consensus on the figures on the percentage, but we are not quite sure. Maybe those who perished half of the jewish people, maybe less than half, maybe third, maybe less..."

Then the European Union suggested the addition of a new paragraph: "Recalls and urges states to implement UN General Assembly Resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which observe that remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide; condemned without reservation any denial of the Holocaust; and urge all member states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part, or in any activities."

Iran objected: "There is a notion inside this paragraph where there is talk about condemning without reservation any denial of holocaust. This entails with it implicit restriction on elaboration and review, or critical examination and review and study of holocaust - which is a very clear example of a violation of freedom of expression...a fundamental principle right for a democratic society....We suggest the deletion of this paragraph."

Neither of the paragraphs could be agreed upon since the Durban II process is to work by consensus.

At the Durban I Conference a minimalist reference to the Holocaust was agreed upon in exchange for condemnation of Israel as racist. Today it emerged that the same "trade-off" is in the offing for Durban II.

The Planning Committee also took up the latest draft sections alleging Israel is racist - the only such country-specific allegation in a document purportedly having global application. They include:
  • "Expresses deep concern at the practices of racial discrimination against the Palestinian people as well as other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories"
  • "...the Palestinian people...have been subjected to... torture..."
  • "...a foreign occupation founded on settlements, laws based on racial discrimination... contradicts the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations..."
The European Union indicated it wanted the sections removed. Saudi Arabia called the provisions "very important", and talked about Israeli "massacres" and the "suffering of the Palestinian people."

Pakistan told the EU that the paragraphs condemning racist Israel were in the document to stay since Israeli racism was already a feature of the first Durban Declaration and Programme of Action: "May I remind - we are not here to renegotiate the Durban Declaration and it is already there; we are at the Review Conference and we cannot renegotiate. We have to review what...has been implemented or not, what's lacking and what possible course of action we can suggest for addressing this particular cause." Pakistan is correct that the allegation of racist Israel is a part of the Durban I Declaration. No amount of negotiation will change that, and on Tuesday of this week's meeting the European Union already agreed to "reaffirm" Durban I.

All participants are aware Durban I was widely perceived as being an antisemitic and anti-Israel hatefest. The prospect of President Obama announcing the U.S. will not attend, and some European Union countries deciding not to participate, is the elephant in the negotiating room. But the Palestinian delegation made it clear that they will not permit their chief Durban II interest - labeling Israelis as racists - to go off the agenda in exchange for Western participation. "We will not allow taking the issue of Palestine as hostage to the...ongoing process of negotiations or the Durban Review Conference in general." On the contrary, they are convinced the European Union will agree to some form of a condemnation of Israel, regardless of the fact that no other country is in the docket. They watched it happen at Durban I in 2001 and they expect more of the same at Durban II.