Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - September 30, 2008

Islamic States Launch Frontal Assault on Israel,
Freedom of Expression and Other Human Rights Under the Banner of the UN Durban II Racism Conference

Geneva -- On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Islamic states launched a frontal assault on Israel, freedom of expression and human rights. Their platform is the UN's "anti-racism" forum - the Durban Review Conference which will take place in Geneva in April 2009. On September 29, 2008 the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) laid bare their intended plan of action in a written contribution circulated for the first time. Planning for Durban II entered a new phase as a working draft of the final document to be adopted at the Conference was also unveiled at a planning meeting in Geneva.
The OIC has now said it expects Durban II to repeat or add the following to the travesty of the first Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA):
  • A list of multiple allegations of alleged Israeli human rights violations is accompanied by a demand that Durban II "must look into the human rights situation and urge member states to implement the provisions of the DDPA". Those provisions include the claim that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism.

  • Wild trumped-up statements of global Islamophobia which in turn justify gross violations of freedom of expression around the world.

  • False racism charges intended to justify the introduction of roadblocks to the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

  • Claims that "defamation of religion" trumps individual rights and freedoms, and that individual rights must take a back seat to the protection of unimpeachable "religious" views.
The anti-racism offensive is characterized by ever-expanding fictional affronts. The so-called victims are championed by governments that have no interest in protecting human rights at home. The feigned interest in freedom of religion comes from Muslim states where changing religion or apostasy is a crime punishable by death. OIC plans for Durban II - now central issues for the planning committee - include:
  • "...obstacles hampering progress in the collective struggle against racism and racial discrimination include...persisting impunity on...freedom of expression, counter terrorism or national security."

  • "The most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia...when it is expressed in the form of defamation of religions, it takes cover behind the freedom of expression and when it is expressed in the form of profiling. It hides behind the war against terrorism. The OIC believes that association of terrorism and violence with Islam or any other religion including through publication of offensive caricatures and making of hate documentaries would purposely complicate our common endeavours to address several contemporary issues including fight against terrorism and occupation of foreign territories and peoples."

  • "... some of the most worrying trends since 2001 include racio-religious profiling and discrimination, defamation of Muslims, their faith and beliefs, incitement to religious hatred and its concomitant effects on multiculturalism, national and international peace and stability as well as human rights of the affected communities."
What's next for this dangerous nonsense? The OIC "contribution" moves to the next stage of the planning process, the October 6-17 meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for Durban II. In the words of the new working draft, the OIC submission will be subject to "negotiations with a view to incorporating [it] into a consolidated outcome document of the Review Conference." In other words, there is already an intention to turn the OIC assault on human rights into part of the final declaration.

Bear in mind, who is controlling the Durban II agenda from start to finish. Libya chairs the PrepCom and in that capacity has been manipulating the procedures to favor the OIC. Other "human rights" authority figures shaping Durban II, are Cuba, the Rapporteur and Iran a Vice-Chair of the executive committee of the PrepCom. The PrepCom itself is composed of exactly the same members as the UN Human Rights Council - and that means the OIC has the balance of power. The OIC holds the majority of seats in both the African and Asian regional groups which in turn hold the majority of seats on the PrepCom/Human Rights Council.

The Durban II working draft called "Certain indicative elements in relation to the outcome document" is also alarming in other ways. This "basis of negotiations" demands "concrete actions to ensure the eradication of discrimination" for victims categorized in the DDPA. That includes Palestinian victims of Israeli racism.

Also subject to "negotiations with a view to incorporating [it] into a consolidated outcome document of the Review Conference" is the Abuja Declaration. This is the product of the African regional group meeting on Durban II which took place in Abuja, Nigeria at the end of August. The Abuja Declaration, from the African meeting, takes its inspiration from "the values and principles of human dignity and equality enshrined in the...African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights." Those values include a "vow to undertak[e] to eliminate...zionism." Furthermore, the Abuja Declaration
  • repeats the Israel is racist charge. Its victims of racism include "concern about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation

  • singles out Israel. No other country-specific victims are identified.

  • challenges the right to freedom of expression by calling on states to "elaborate" "permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression" and to "elaborate" "a voluntary ethical code of conduct" for journalists

  • gives Islam special preference. It calls on states to "pay attention to the serious nature of incitement to religious hatred such as anti-semitism, Christianophobia and more particularly, Islamophobia."

  • attempts to restrain efforts to combat terrorism. It links counterterrorism measures to "the rise of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance..."
The process as well as the substance of Durban II is also shameful. Next week, the Preparatory Committee of an anti-racism conference will meet to discuss xenophobia over the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur. Last April the OIC derailed an application of a Jewish NGO to attend the conference. That meeting was scheduled over the Jewish holiday of Passover. There is no doubt that the efforts to exclude Jews from the process are deliberate.

Canada, the U.S. and Israel are not attending the Durban II planning meetings. They should be joined by the European Union and Australia immediately. The red-lines of those still waiting on the sidelines and refusing to join Canada's unequivocal boycott call, like the American Jewish Committee, have been crossed.