Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - May 28, 2008

Israel-bashing agenda emerges as substantive discussion of
Durban II gets underway in the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group

On May 27, 2008 states negotiating the substance and procedure of the Durban Review Conference/Durban II revealed the anti-Israel agenda in the first "non-paper" outlining issues intended to be discussed.

The non-paper was released in Geneva during the first meeting of the "Intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group to follow up the work of the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference."

Under the subject "Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance", the "victims identified" by an intergovernmental working group include "the Palestinian people under foreign occupation." The paper suggests that the "vulnerability" of Palestinians "is connected to racial or ethnic distinction from the occupying power."

In other words, Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. This is the recast UN formulation of the 1975 General Assembly resolution declaring 'Zionism is racism'.

Durban II is intended to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted on September 8, 2001 and that Declaration included a statement singling out Israel as guilty of racism against Palestinians.

Leading the effort to once again isolate Israel, and demonize the Jewish state as racist, are Iran and Egypt. In the section "Other contemporary forms of racism as reported by different countries" Iran pointed to "the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which constitutes a violation of a wide range of civil and political rights." As part of "Strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including...mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" Egypt insisted that "...Other issues to be addressed include...foreign occupation."

The Durban II agenda should ring other alarm bells for democratic societies, as the non-paper declares a clear assault on the freedom of expression under the guise of combating alleged Islamophobia. Here are some of the issues and suggestions now on the table:
  • "Permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression should be codified."
  • "the need to draw up a code of conduct" for journalists
  • "define the threshold for legitimately restricting freedom of expression in order to protect the victims."
  • "the imbalance between the defence of secularism and respect for freedom of religion"
  • "the ideological pre-eminence of freedom of expression."
In the meantime, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the African regional group - now controlled by the OIC and its spokesperson Egypt - are running circles around the European Union. On the first day of the session of the intergovernmental working group, for example, Egypt spoke more than four times as often as any other state. The German delegate remarked: "I find it quite ironic that our Egyptian colleague was insisting that he wants to be heard, when he was the person that talked most - all the time - here this morning; he has delivered a headline for this meeting which is en attendant l'Egypt [pending Egypt]."