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Resources updated between Monday, January 19, 2009 and Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 3 of the UN Durban II planning committee meeting, January 21st, saw Iran once again take the floor more often than other single state. "The UN is giving a regime headed by a notorious racist a platform to manufacture anti-racist credentials," said Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN. "The only question now is whether President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are going to lend legitimacy to this travesty by joining these racists at the table," she added.

Here is an example of Iran's lecture on equality to the assembled Durban II crowd purporting to be meeting for the purpose of combating racism: "The crux of matter that in countries a different group of people - because of color, ethnicity, background - are treated in a discriminatory manner as they go to seek a job, or education or housing. As soon as their ethnical identity, color of skin is known to the employer, educator, supplier of housing, they are treated in a different manner. These double standards should be avoided."

And here is another gem from the Iranian "human rights" expert as he recommends wording for the Durban II "outcome document": "I would like to kindly draw the attention of the house to the fact that here we are working on a conference on racism and racial discrimination... I have my variation - at dictation speed - then if it sounds acceptable...: 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity of rights therefore any doctrine based on superiority of one over another is categorically and strongly rejected.'"

One more Iranian nugget of inspiration courtesy Durban II: "We like to see spirit of compromise... talking about the formulation of providing maximizing redress to victims through inter alia securing access to justice...Make sure justice is served...because justice delayed is justice denied from our point of view."

The speaker, a representative of a country whose president advocates genocide, was clearly wallowing in the UN-provided opportunity to pretend to care about racism. Despite the travesty, not one state made any mention of the lecturer's anti-racism credentials. Those credentials? As described in the most recent annual State Department report on Iran: "The government's poor human rights record worsened...The government severely limited citizens' right to change their government... Security forces committed acts of politically motivated abductions; torture and severe officially-sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning; amputation; flogging; and excessive use of force against and imprisonment of demonstrators...The government severely restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, movement, and privacy. The government placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion...Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and homosexuals; trafficking in persons; and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems." (U.S. State Dept. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Iran, March 11, 2008)

But at the UN, Iran is a human rights authority figure - a Vice-President of the Durban II Executive Planning Committee (or Bureau). The game plan is as obvious, as it is obscene. Here is what the Nigerian delegate had to say about the Iranian contribution: "... one thing about the delegate of Iran is that he is always right in conceptualization and in location...This is the right way to go." "Iran has always this powerful way of conveying and analyzing. Each time you come forth. Iran has a very powerful line of logic and it is becoming difficult to disagree with Iran really."

In the midst of this back and forth, Iran, the EU and the Chair,Yuri Boychenko (Russia), have encouraged out-of-sight consultations in smaller groups. In one exchange, over a provision on "new emerging forms of racism," the European Union said it didn't want to "neglect old and persistent forms of racism." (Translation: they didn't want more allegations of "Islamophobia.") While Iran said old forms had "already been covered." (Translation: they don't want to condemn antisemitism.) Iran then volunteered: "we can work with them to come up with compromise language." And the Chair encouraged a meeting. The product of EU-Iranian consultations on the meaning of racism is sure to be enlightening.

This is exactly the swamp that would quickly surround President Obama should he make the mistake of attending.

By the end of the third day, only 25% of the Durban outcome document had been discussed. Only 8% of the document was agreed to and adopted. Every day at least one hour is lost as delegates meander into the meeting room in no particular rush to get things going. According to the Chair, at least four hours of valuable time have been squandered this week. The Chair's arrival an hour and a half late on the first day contributed to the obvious effort to leave as much undiscussed by the end of the week as possible.

Although this week-long session is allegedly devoted to moving the Durban process forward, in reality the strategy of delay suits the rights-abusing states perfectly. The longer the process can be deemed "in progress" or "still being decided" or "under negotiation" the longer the pressure is on European countries to stay involved due to the lack of a finalized document that clearly crosses red lines.

All participants are hoping that if they keep enough of a lid on the real Durban II agenda, President Obama will be convinced of the harmlessness of U.S. participation.

As the working group crept through the 37-page draft, any paragraph that caused discord (usually between the EU on one hand and Iran, Syria and the African Group on the other), was put on hold. Meanwhile the Chair increased the backroom wheeling and dealing by appointing "facilitators" to work out disagreements behind-the-scenes and report back to the Committee by the end of the week. Senegal, a major figure in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, was appointed one of two facilitators.

Informally, delegates agree that Iran is hijacking the entire meeting, offering "input" on racism that even its allies at times have trouble swallowing. Day 3 marked the second day in a row that Iran took the floor more often than any other single state. Overall, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference dominated the proceedings, in particular Pakistan and Nigeria, in addition to Iran.

The Palestinian delegate made one intervention expressing an interest in moving the sections in the draft alleging Israel is racist from the "reviewing progress" section to the take-action section.

Here are other memorable moments from Day 3 of what the UN considers to be progress in the effort to combat racism:

  • The European Union agreed to hold a Durban II only if it was limited to assessing the original Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. This EU "red-line" has now been thoroughly trashed. Syria said: "If we repeat the DDPA then there is no point to holding a review conference." The EU is still sitting in their seats, content to eat crow one more time.

  • Western countries were constantly put on the defensive:
    • Proposed provision: "one of the principle reasons fomenting the tide of racism is the growing increase in the right wing extremist political discourse, including in some of the most liberal pluralistic societies."

    • Pakistan: "Wherever people are doing something wrong - whether freedom of expression, counterterrorism policies or abuse of national security policies, the legal action which has not been taken against them amounts to immunity."
  • Freedom of expression came under attack numerous times:
    • Iran: "People...say that existing law doesn't allow us to prevent abuse of freedom of expression...Immunity... is there."

    • Cuba: "Include negative abuse of freedom of expression...Insert "...violence by the media and national security forces."

    • Syria: "We are not talking about freedom of expression. What we mean is...the abuse of the right to freedom of expression and not the freedom of expression itself. So we distinguish between the two notions. Difference between the right to freedom and freedom of expression itself. We mean abuse of the right."

    • Pakistan: " We are not talking about freedom of expression, but impunity that has been exercised on the use of these freedoms which creates discriminatory behavior in those societies."
Meanwhile, many of the extreme NGOs that attended Durban I continue to plan to participate in Durban II and to hold an NGO Forum. Such a Forum would be some kind of NGO-focused meeting just before the governmental conference. NGOs continue to press the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for support. The Office has said it will pay for NGOs from the South to attend Durban II. It is unclear how many or how much funding has been allotted for NGOs, or how it will be distributed. A meeting took place over the lunch break with the Libyan Chair of the Durban Preparatory Committee, Najat Al-Hajjaji, and NGOs. Al-Hajjaji raised the possibility of an NGO Forum by repeatedly asking the NGOs about their plans on the subject. She made no move to discourage such efforts, leaving the impression that her real purpose in posing the question over and over was to push it forward. The NGO Forum at Durban I, attended by human rights luminaries such as Fidel Castro, is best remembered for its multiple displays of racism directed at Jews.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

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.

Iran and Syria dominated the second day of the planning meeting for Durban II which is now taking place in Geneva. On day 2 of the week-long session, January 20th, Iran took the floor more often than any other single state. Iran's attempt to dominate Durban II planning, " says Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, "is not surprising. They are a Vice-chair of the Durban Preparatory Committee and have long understood Durban II as the playing field of Islamic and Arab states." Both countries are actively shaping the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, hailed by its supporters as an important international effort to address racism. "Today's meeting, dominated by these two rights-abhorring, terrorism-supporting countries, resulted in a circus that is a slap in the face to anyone serious about human rights and racism" said Bayefsky.

By the end of day two the meeting had completed 9 out of 37 pages. The strategy of all those states who seek to bolster support for Durban II - particularly Arab and Islamic states and various African states such as South Africa - is to bury the real agenda under a mountain of UN verbiage and avoid getting to any issue of real importance. European governments admit (albeit behind-the-scenes) that the goal is to make it harder for them to walk out, since superficially there does not appear to be anything objectionable. What they're not saying is that efforts to keep a short-term lid on the Durban II hate-mongering until the conference itself, suits them just fine. The EU then avoids any pressure back home and the diplomats life is made a lot easier.

As a consequence of Iran and Syria's participation (with the help of Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, and Egypt in particular) the following ensued on day 2:

  • Iran objected to the Durban document's "welcoming" of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's (CERD) "early warning and action procedure." Under this procedure the Committee makes recommendations to the Security Council for the prevention of serious violations of the Racial Discrimination Convention. As a result, the paragraph was put on hold.
  • A paragraph on the implementation of the CERD Convention was put on hold due to Iranian "confusion" concerning whether or not CERD should be able to follow-up on a recommendation it makes in response to a complaint from an individual whose human rights are being violated. The Iranian delegate's long-winded intervention managed to get this paragraph "postponed."
  • The European Union attempted to delete draft provisions which might interfere with the independent operations of the human rights treaty bodies. When it appeared that most states were willing to accept the suggestion, Iran and Syria vehemently objected. Their goal was to insist these bodies start concentrating on "elaborate[ing] model legislation on incitement to racial and religious hatred and freedom of expression" - with Iran proposing even further "model legislation on the necessity of upholding respect for...reputation, public morals as well as incitement to racial and religious hatred." Syria made the Islamic motives even plainer claiming : "the paragraph is of concern to Islamic and non-Islamic countries." When states began to appreciate that the real battle at Durban II was about to burst into the open, the issue was quickly deferred.
  • Iran objected to EU attempts to describe the victims of discrimination as individuals rather than groups. The Islamic agenda is to put "defamation of religion" and "Islamophobia" front and center and to displace rights and freedoms of individuals. After protracted objections by Iran, the matter was deferred.
  • In a long list of "best practices" to fight racism being recommended, South Africa sought to include the following, among others: "formal apologies on colonialism and other historic injustices for reconciliation."
After much discussion all participants, including the EU, agreed to "reaffirming the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action [DDPA] as it was adopted at the World Conference Against Racism...in 2001..." This means that the provision in the Durban I Declaration claiming that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism - will be reaffirmed with the blessing of the European Union.

In the hallways, European Union representatives admit that they do not expect this will be the end of the provisions adopted on Israel. They even defend such an outcome. Their argument is that language on the "Middle East" [a euphemism for criticizing Israel] will be included because the precedent was set at Durban I. Commented Professor Bayefsky, "in their minds evidently, two wrongs do make a right."

Sprinkled throughout the day was the following UN "anti-racism" conversation:
    Chairperson: Is that acceptable to Syria?
    ...
    Brazil: We support the delegation of Syria.
    ...
    Norway: I never opposed the proposal of Syria...
    ...
    Nigeria: Iran ... is making deep and incisive contributions here...
    ...
    Iran: We are fully satisfied with this.
    ...
    Chairperson: Can we add the amendment of Iran?
    ...
    Nigeria: ...we want the paragraph as it is, or as proposed by Iran.
    ...
    European Union: we can get along with the Iranian proposal in the fight against racism.
The half-hour allotted at the end of the day for NGO contributions included the following two interventions:
    BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
    Palestinians have been subjected to an unlawful collective punishment , torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure to their territories. ...the draft declaration is silent as to ... sanctions in the context of the Palestinian people. Palestinian people were omitted from the list of victims of racial discrimination. ... in line with atrocities taking place in Gaza.

    Tupaj Amaru
    ...western country should apologize to victims of racism, including the Palestinian people ... the World Conference on Racism should ... recognize the right to just compensation to indigenous peoples, Palestinian peoples and all of the other victims of colonialism and neo-colonialism for the immeasurable damage caused by wars of aggression and colonialism of Africa, America and Asia.
Nigeria requested the meeting adjourn at 5pm so that delegations could watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Said Professor Bayefsky, "hopefully this flattery will not blind Obama to the sheer hypocrisy of the Durban process, where the racists are running an "anti-racism" conference."

January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This is opening day of the next Durban II planning meeting and the disinformation campaign is in full swing. The obfuscation starts with the title: Intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group to continue and finalize the process of negotiations on and drafting of the outcome document.

"What we do know, despite the UN-eze," says Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, "is that Durban II is widely perceived to be a serious threat to the successful international protection of human rights."

"Extremists, both governmental and non-governmental, are continuing to push the substance to the limits, while weak European states are unable or unwilling to push back. The overall strategy is to keep the Durban II plan under wraps as much as possible, until just days away from the April conference itself, so that it will be too late for many democratic states to pull out," Professor Bayefsky pointed out. "They are being entrapped like spiders in a web, under the charade of combating racism."

"One thing is certain," said Bayefsky, "this is no place for the United States."

The first thing diplomats did on opening day was agree that the draft document before them would formally become "the basis for further negotiations as the final document for the review conference."

Diplomats then deliberately worked at a snail's pace, making their way through two dozen paragraphs of the 250 paragraph document. Particularly active in these "anti-racism" discussions was Iran, whose President is a leading advocate of genocide against the Jewish people. Iran lectured: "This whole conference is to identify sources, root causes, perpetrators of racism and defend and compensate and help the victims. This should continually be borne in our mind."

Iran also objected to European efforts to limit the creation of new international norms at Durban II. Iran said "We don't want to prejudge the high possibility of new forms of ideas, and doctrines based on supremacy of one race over others, or other contemporary form of racism. Then we find ourselves in lack of legislative international norms to address them properly. So let us adopt an open-minded approach to this." Everybody watching knew this was part of an attempt by Islamic states to focus on Islamophobia, insert allegations that counter-terrorism activities are racist, and invent limits on freedom of expression, but the public conversation was conducted in vague generalities, for and against new standards.

In addition, there was an obvious effort by Islamic states to gang up on Denmark. Algeria responded to a Danish suggestion that a provision was not relevant with: "It's that very comment that is not relevant."

Cuba made the stakes at Durban II even plainer, when it claimed erroneously that the "document we adopt at the Durban Review Conference will be a legal document." When European Union countries sought to stress existing standards and the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Cuba responded "We understand the EU doesn't want to accept other norms in the area of racism." Whereupon, European countries retreated.

Here is what we also know:

1) The UN reissued the current draft of the "outcome document" with a January 12, 2009 date. This has now formally become the basis of negotiations. The draft on the table has the following glaring, objectionable provisions (exact quotes below):

    (a) It has only one section - called the "Middle East" - dedicated to naming only one country as racist, namely, Israel,
    (b) It includes a series of claims aimed at undermining counter-terrorism efforts by tarnishing them with the allegation of racism,
    (c) It contains provisions intended to limit freedom of expression, the heart of a democratic society. They include an attack on the Danish cartoons and any alleged defamation against religious personalities and holy books, as well as a call for a code of conduct for journalists,
    (d) Religion and religious themes are mentioned in the Durban II draft 62 different times. This has never occurred in the guise of an "anti-racism" global forum. The contexts are "defamation of religion" and a hierarchy of victims of xenophobia, beginning with Muslim victims.

2) The Palestinian UN delegation is working with extreme Arab and Islamic states and NGOs to insert Gaza-related issues into the text.

3) Extremist NGOs, and other NGOs who view the Durban II process as a means to get their own issues on the international agenda regardless of xenophobic content directed at others, are working together to plan an NGO Forum. An NGO Forum at Durban I was a hotbed of radicalism and antisemitism. No details have been announced.

4) States are continuing to further radicalize the Durban II process - demanding even more provisions which would stifle freedom of expression in the name of protecting Islam. Monday morning South Africa and Syria demanded references to the UN's Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards. That body is now considering so-called complementary standards on "defamation of religion, Islamophobia, as well as racial and religious profiling in the context of anti-terrorism."

**************

Provisions in the January 12, 2009 draft of the Durban II "outcome document":

(a) section on Israel:
  • "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..."
(b) counter-terrorism as racism:
  • "...obstacles hampering progress in the collective struggle against racism and racial discrimination...including...counter-terrorism"
  • "Draws attention to the impact of counter-terrorism measures on the rise of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance..."
  • "Acknowledges that a most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia...[W]hen it is expressed in the form of profiling, it hides behind the war against terrorism..."
  • "Urges States to prohibit by law the practice known as racial profiling and profiling based on any grounds of discrimination..., to adopt other necessary measures to eliminate this practice, to provide sanctions for those who violate the law..."
  • "Calls on States to ensure that any measures taken in the fight against terrorism do not discriminate, in purpose or effect, on the grounds of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, nor on the grounds of culture, religion, belief, names, appearance or language..."
(c) limiting freedom of expression:
  • "Acknowledges that a most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia...[W]hen it is expressed in the form of defamation of religions, it takes cover behind the freedom of expression...Believes that...publication of offensive caricatures and making of hate documentaries, would purposely complicate our common endeavours to address several contemporary issues, including the fight against terrorism and the occupation of foreign territories and peoples"
  • "Urges States to take effective measures to address contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to take firm action against negative stereotyping of religions and defamation of religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols"
  • "Calls for a voluntary ethical code of conduct to be elaborated...in association with the International Federation for Journalists, to address racism in the media and other modern information and communication technologies, while taking into account fundamental issues such as the right to freedom of expression..."
(d) Islamophobia and the Muslim victim:
  • "Notes with concern instances of defamation of religions...in particular Islam..."
  • "Acknowledges that a most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia..."
  • "A framework is needed to provide guidelines for States - aimed at countering defamation of religions"
Bayefsky commented "It is incontrovertible that Arab and Islamic states are using Durban II to demonize Israel and the West, and dramatically reverse gains in the world of international human rights and freedoms. How many more so-called red lines have to be crossed before western democracies get the message that Durban II is an offense to universal values? It is imperative that they refuse to legitimize this endeavour immediately."

January 19, 2009