Share

Print this Page

What's New

Resources updated between Monday, February 16, 2009 and Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in Forbes, "The Obama Administration Sacrifices Israel."

The Obama administration's decision to join the planning of the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference has just taken a new twist: cover-up. On Friday, State Department officials and a member of the American Durban II delegation claimed the United States had worked actively to oppose efforts to brand Israel as racist in the committee drafting a Durban II declaration. The trouble is that they didn't.

The Feb. 20 State Department press release says the U.S. delegation in Geneva "outline[d] our concerns with the current outcome document" and in particular "our strong reservations about the direction of the conference, as the draft document singles out Israel for criticism." One member of the delegation told The Washington Post: "The administration is pushing back against efforts to brand Israel as racist in this conference." In fact, tucked away in a Geneva hall with few observers, the U.S. had done just the opposite. The U.S. delegates had made no objection to a new proposal to nail Israel in an anti-racism manifesto that makes no other country-specific claims.

Getting involved in activities intended to implement the 2001 Durban Declaration--after seven and a half years of refusing to lend the anti-Israel agenda any credibility--was controversial to be sure. But late on Saturday Feb. 14, the State Department slithered out a press release justifying the move. It claimed that "the intent of our participation is to work to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading."

Following what was clearly a planned public relations exercise, Washington Post columnist Colum Lynch championed the U.S. bravado in an article based on the story orchestrated by the American delegates. In his Feb. 20 article entitled: "U.S. Holds Firm on Reparations, Israel in U.N. Racism Talks," he fawned: "The Obama administration on Thursday concluded its first round of politically charged U.N. negotiations on racism, pressing foreign governments ... to desist from singling out Israel for criticism in a draft declaration to be presented at a U.N. conference in April."

The reality, however, was nothing of the sort. Instead, Obama's Durban II team slipped easily into the U.N.'s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish environs, taking the approach that "fitting in" was best accomplished by staying silent.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian delegation proposed inserting a new paragraph under the heading "Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives ... for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance..." with the subtitle "General provisions on victims ... of discrimination." The paragraph includes: "Calls for ... the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory." In other words, it claims that the Palestinian people are victims of Israeli racism and demands that all U.N. states provide protection from the affronts of the racist Jewish state.

Furthermore, the new Palestinian provision "Calls for ... implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall..." This is a dramatic attempt to change an "advisory opinion" into a "legal obligation"--a status which attaches to no advisory opinion. The ICJ decision, which advises that the Israeli security fence is illegal, has always been rejected by the United States--hitherto. And with good reason. The Egyptian judge had voiced his opinion on the result before the case was even heard, in his capacity as a leading Egyptian diplomat. The terms of reference from the General Assembly who asked for the decision, and the documents they laid before the Court, predetermined the outcome. And as the strong dissent by the American judge and Holocaust survivor Tom Buergenthal pointed out, the Court came to its preposterous conclusion that "the right of legitimate or inherent self-defense is not applicable in the present case" without considering "the deadly terrorist attacks to which Israel is being subjected."

But when the Palestinian delegation laid their new proposal before the drafting committee, what did Obama's team do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They made no objection at all.

It is impossible to argue that their silence was unintended. Over the course of the week's negotiations the American delegation had objected to a number of specific proposals. They had no trouble declaring "we share reservations on this paragraph," in the context of a demand to criminalize profiling. They "called for the deletion" of provisions undermining free speech like the suggestion to "take firm action against negative stereotyping of religions and defamation of religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols."

Their silence when it came to Israel was, therefore, deafening. It also had the very concrete result of not placing the Palestinian paragraph in dispute, and the diplomatic rule of thumb is that paragraphs that have not been flagged as controversial cannot be reopened for discussion, as negotiations finalize an end product.

The Obama team was not only silent on the new "Israel is racist" language, it also said nothing when faced with Holocaust denial. Negotiators from the European Union suggested on Wednesday a new provision to "condemn without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end." Iran--whose president is a Holocaust-denier--immediately objected and insisted that the proposal be "bracketed" or put in dispute. The move blocked the adoption of the proposal and ensured another battle over the reality of the Holocaust in April--at these supposedly "anti-racism" meetings. After Iran objected, the chair looked around the room, expecting a response. He said: "Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn't seem the case. We move on." U.S. delegates said nothing, even after the prompt.

Again, the American silence must have been deliberate. In marked contrast, after the E.U. objected to a provision calling for limits on free speech, the American delegation had no trouble piping up immediately: "I want to echo the comments from the E.U. This ... call for restrictions is something that my government is not able to accept."

Evidently, a U.S. team bent on legitimizing Durban II believed it would be counter-productive to object vigorously to sections most likely to be noticed by Americans skeptical about participation in the conference. They must have figured that no objection would mean no controversy, which in turn would mean there would be no cause for complaint from U.S. observers. That's one way to buy favors on the international stage, but it sure doesn't forward a stated intention of changing the Conference direction. Nor does it promote the ultimate need to change the anti-Semitic and anti-democratic direction of global human rights policy.

The week's events also revealed that European negotiators have adopted the same strategy at Durban II that they did at Durban I. After the United States and Israel walked out of Durban I on Sept. 4, 2001, it was the European Union that cut the deal trading off a mention of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism for a reference to Palestinians victims of Israeli racism. Likewise, this week the European Union said nothing in response to the Palestinian proposal but pushed the Holocaust reference instead. No matter that discrimination against the Jewish state, and against Jews for supporting the Jewish state, is the major form of anti-Semitism today.

The manipulation of Holocaust remembrance--knowing that Israel is the bulwark of the Jewish people against "never again"--is as cynical as it gets.

European Union delegates confirmed that their silence on the Palestinian proposal was deliberate, commenting off-camera that the references to Israeli racism had already been made in the Durban I Declaration, and the purpose of Durban II is to implement Durban I.

State department officials and U.S. delegates to Durban II's planning committee insist that their minds have not been made up. Friday's State department press release said "the United States has not made a decision about participating in the Durban Review Conference or about whether to engage in future preparations for the Conference, but the work done this week will be important information for taking these decisions." Similarly, The Washington Post reports, quoting an American delegate: "This is a fact-finding mission; it's just a first step ... Negotiations will probably resume in March or early April."

The strategy is painfully obvious--spin out the time for considering whether or not to attend the April 20 conference until the train has left the station and jumping off would cause greater injury to multilateral relations than just taking a seat.

The delay tactics are indefensible. The U.S. administration attended four full days of negotiation. During that time they witnessed the following: the failure to adopt a proposal to act against Holocaust denial, a new proposal to single out Israel, which will now be included in the draft without brackets, broad objections to anything having to do with sexual orientation, vigorous refusal by many states to back down on references to "Islamophobia" (the general allegation of a racist Western plot to discriminate against all Muslims), and numerous attacks on free speech.

This "dialogue" is not promoting rights and freedoms. It is legitimizing a forum for disputing the essence of democracy, handing Holocaust deniers a global platform and manufacturing the means to demonize Israel in the interests of those states bent on the Jewish state's destruction.

But you can be sure that the State Department report now on Obama's desk reads "can't tell yet, don't know, maybe, too early to tell." Why?

If the Obama administration does not immediately announce that its foray into the morass of Durban II has led it to decide this is no place for genuine believers in human rights and freedoms, there is only one conclusion possible. His foreign policy of engagement amounts to a new willingness to sacrifice Israel and an indeterminate number of American values for the sake of a warm welcome from the enemies of freedom.

The Obama administration's decision to join the planning of the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference has just taken a new twist: cover-up. On Friday, State Department officials and a member of the American Durban II delegation claimed the United States had worked actively to oppose efforts to brand Israel as racist in the committee drafting a Durban II declaration. The trouble is that they didn't.

The Feb. 20 State Department press release says the U.S. delegation in Geneva "outline[d] our concerns with the current outcome document" and in particular "our strong reservations about the direction of the conference, as the draft document singles out Israel for criticism." One member of the delegation told The Washington Post: "The administration is pushing back against efforts to brand Israel as racist in this conference." In fact, tucked away in a Geneva hall with few observers, the U.S. had done just the opposite. The U.S. delegates had made no objection to a new proposal to nail Israel in an anti-racism manifesto that makes no other country-specific claims.

Getting involved in activities intended to implement the 2001 Durban Declaration--after seven and a half years of refusing to lend the anti-Israel agenda any credibility--was controversial to be sure. But late on Saturday Feb. 14, the State Department slithered out a press release justifying the move. It claimed that "the intent of our participation is to work to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading."

Following what was clearly a planned public relations exercise, Washington Post columnist Colum Lynch championed the U.S. bravado in an article based on the story orchestrated by the American delegates. In his Feb. 20 article entitled: "U.S. Holds Firm on Reparations, Israel in U.N. Racism Talks," he fawned: "The Obama administration on Thursday concluded its first round of politically charged U.N. negotiations on racism, pressing foreign governments ... to desist from singling out Israel for criticism in a draft declaration to be presented at a U.N. conference in April."

The reality, however, was nothing of the sort. Instead, Obama's Durban II team slipped easily into the U.N.'s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish environs, taking the approach that "fitting in" was best accomplished by staying silent.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian delegation proposed inserting a new paragraph under the heading "Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives ... for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance..." with the subtitle "General provisions on victims ... of discrimination." The paragraph includes: "Calls for ... the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory." In other words, it claims that the Palestinian people are victims of Israeli racism and demands that all U.N. states provide protection from the affronts of the racist Jewish state.

Furthermore, the new Palestinian provision "Calls for ... implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall..." This is a dramatic attempt to change an "advisory opinion" into a "legal obligation"--a status which attaches to no advisory opinion. The ICJ decision, which advises that the Israeli security fence is illegal, has always been rejected by the United States--hitherto. And with good reason. The Egyptian judge had voiced his opinion on the result before the case was even heard, in his capacity as a leading Egyptian diplomat. The terms of reference from the General Assembly who asked for the decision, and the documents they laid before the Court, predetermined the outcome. And as the strong dissent by the American judge and Holocaust survivor Tom Buergenthal pointed out, the Court came to its preposterous conclusion that "the right of legitimate or inherent self-defense is not applicable in the present case" without considering "the deadly terrorist attacks to which Israel is being subjected."

But when the Palestinian delegation laid their new proposal before the drafting committee, what did Obama's team do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They made no objection at all.

It is impossible to argue that their silence was unintended. Over the course of the week's negotiations the American delegation had objected to a number of specific proposals. They had no trouble declaring "we share reservations on this paragraph," in the context of a demand to criminalize profiling. They "called for the deletion" of provisions undermining free speech like the suggestion to "take firm action against negative stereotyping of religions and defamation of religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols."

Their silence when it came to Israel was, therefore, deafening. It also had the very concrete result of not placing the Palestinian paragraph in dispute, and the diplomatic rule of thumb is that paragraphs that have not been flagged as controversial cannot be reopened for discussion, as negotiations finalize an end product.

The Obama team was not only silent on the new "Israel is racist" language, it also said nothing when faced with Holocaust denial. Negotiators from the European Union suggested on Wednesday a new provision to "condemn without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end." Iran--whose president is a Holocaust-denier--immediately objected and insisted that the proposal be "bracketed" or put in dispute. The move blocked the adoption of the proposal and ensured another battle over the reality of the Holocaust in April--at these supposedly "anti-racism" meetings. After Iran objected, the chair looked around the room, expecting a response. He said: "Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn't seem the case. We move on." U.S. delegates said nothing, even after the prompt.

Again, the American silence must have been deliberate. In marked contrast, after the E.U. objected to a provision calling for limits on free speech, the American delegation had no trouble piping up immediately: "I want to echo the comments from the E.U. This ... call for restrictions is something that my government is not able to accept."

Evidently, a U.S. team bent on legitimizing Durban II believed it would be counter-productive to object vigorously to sections most likely to be noticed by Americans skeptical about participation in the conference. They must have figured that no objection would mean no controversy, which in turn would mean there would be no cause for complaint from U.S. observers. That's one way to buy favors on the international stage, but it sure doesn't forward a stated intention of changing the Conference direction. Nor does it promote the ultimate need to change the anti-Semitic and anti-democratic direction of global human rights policy.

The week's events also revealed that European negotiators have adopted the same strategy at Durban II that they did at Durban I. After the United States and Israel walked out of Durban I on Sept. 4, 2001, it was the European Union that cut the deal trading off a mention of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism for a reference to Palestinians victims of Israeli racism. Likewise, this week the European Union said nothing in response to the Palestinian proposal but pushed the Holocaust reference instead. No matter that discrimination against the Jewish state, and against Jews for supporting the Jewish state, is the major form of anti-Semitism today.

The manipulation of Holocaust remembrance--knowing that Israel is the bulwark of the Jewish people against "never again"--is as cynical as it gets.

European Union delegates confirmed that their silence on the Palestinian proposal was deliberate, commenting off-camera that the references to Israeli racism had already been made in the Durban I Declaration, and the purpose of Durban II is to implement Durban I.

State department officials and U.S. delegates to Durban II's planning committee insist that their minds have not been made up. Friday's State department press release said "the United States has not made a decision about participating in the Durban Review Conference or about whether to engage in future preparations for the Conference, but the work done this week will be important information for taking these decisions." Similarly, The Washington Post reports, quoting an American delegate: "This is a fact-finding mission; it's just a first step ... Negotiations will probably resume in March or early April."

The strategy is painfully obvious--spin out the time for considering whether or not to attend the April 20 conference until the train has left the station and jumping off would cause greater injury to multilateral relations than just taking a seat.

The delay tactics are indefensible. The U.S. administration attended four full days of negotiation. During that time they witnessed the following: the failure to adopt a proposal to act against Holocaust denial, a new proposal to single out Israel, which will now be included in the draft without brackets, broad objections to anything having to do with sexual orientation, vigorous refusal by many states to back down on references to "Islamophobia" (the general allegation of a racist Western plot to discriminate against all Muslims), and numerous attacks on free speech.

This "dialogue" is not promoting rights and freedoms. It is legitimizing a forum for disputing the essence of democracy, handing Holocaust deniers a global platform and manufacturing the means to demonize Israel in the interests of those states bent on the Jewish state's destruction.

But you can be sure that the State Department report now on Obama's desk reads "can't tell yet, don't know, maybe, too early to tell." Why?

If the Obama administration does not immediately announce that its foray into the morass of Durban II has led it to decide this is no place for genuine believers in human rights and freedoms, there is only one conclusion possible. His foreign policy of engagement amounts to a new willingness to sacrifice Israel and an indeterminate number of American values for the sake of a warm welcome from the enemies of freedom.

This article first appeared in Forbes.

February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in National Review Online.

President Obama had been warned to avoid having anything to do with the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference this year. The U.S. walked out of the 2001 Durban I conference because it proved to be a U.N.-sanctioned platform for anti-Semitism. Its final Declaration singled out Israel for criticism, accusing the country of racism.

Ignoring these warnings, the U.S. sent a seven-person delegation to a preparatory meeting in Geneva this week - without asking anything of conference sponsors in return. The State Department explained the decision as an effort "to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading." But the delegation's behavior during the week, which began by expressing "strong reservations about a document singling out Israel for criticism," more closely resembles a double-cross.

On Wednesday, the European Union proposed a provision for the final document - which is to be adopted formally at the Conference itself in April - on the Holocaust. The EU had attempted to add a reference to the Holocaust at the last preparatory meeting (in January), which the U.S. did not attend. But Iran and Syria had objected. The EU proposal was therefore "bracketed" - entered into the items-in-dispute category. Both Syria and Iran had claimed there weren't enough facts about the Holocaust to warrant a definitive denunciation. Iran had also complained that the proposal was in the wrong section.

So the EU tried again, and this time the American delegation was present. Here is how the discussion went:

    European Union: We have a new proposal under the section on education and awareness-raising that would recall the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the remembrance of the Holocaust. It would read:

    Urges states to raise awareness and to implement U.N. General Assembly resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which inter alia observes that the remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide, condemns without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end.

    Iran: My delegation thinks that this is an inappropriate place to incorporate this new paragraph, so we request that this new paragraph be put in brackets.

    Chair: Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn't seem the case. We move on.

Since the operating principle is consensus, this put the Holocaust provision in dispute. But the American delegation chose not to go on the record strongly supporting the EU's proposal, as it had on other items. Not a peep came from the "change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading" folks.

Here's an even more troubling example, this time involving a paragraph the Palestinian delegation proposed Tuesday in the presence of the American representatives:
    Palestine: I would like to propose a new paragraph which reads as follows:

    Calls for an end of all actions violating international human rights and humanitarian law, the respect for the principle of self-determination and an end of all suffering. Calls also for implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall, and the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

    Chair: Now let's move on to paragraph . . .

Dead silence again, despite the fact that an objection could have made a real difference by putting the paragraph unequivocally in dispute. Everybody knew that there was no other country-specific provision in the 250-paragraph-plus document. Yet there were no comments objecting to the idea of singling out Israel in an anti-racism manifesto, and no call for a paragraph decrying racism in any other state.

Instead, the Palestinian and EU delegations have confirmed that in a backroom deal, the EU agreed ahead of time not to object. Members of the American delegation might not have known of the arrangement in advance (highly unlikely), but regardless, they got tongue-tied when it mattered. The new paragraph is scheduled to appear in a section called "Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance . . ." with the subtitle "General provisions on victims and grounds of discrimination."

In other words, it didn't take President Obama's delegation two days before it sat in silence while Israel was singled out as guilty of racism - again.

Why would the delegation behave this way? The idea, seemingly, is to make it appear to an American audience that the Conference's prospects are improving, that there are no intense disagreements. Just business as usual at the U.N., where multilateral engagement is always a force for good. The less said by the United States, the smoother multilateralism proceeds.

A pistol-whipped United States may be endearing for U.N. human-rights "authorities," like the meeting's very active Iranian vice-chair. It may not be quite so appealing to Americans.

The pace of the preparatory meetings also suggests an intent to keep real conflicts out of the public eye. Only 15 percent of the proposed text has so far been adopted, and 30 percent of the proposals have never been reviewed. Most of the remaining preparatory meetings are not scheduled until April, just prior to the actual conference.

What is more visible is that the U.S. has little to gain for itself - or for global human rights - from participating. Under the consensus rule, many important suggestions have gone unadopted. A proposal to condemn human-rights violations based on sexual orientation ran into immediate objections from South Africa, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Morocco, Holy See, Libya, Egypt, and China. Pakistan said no to a provision that sought to make violence against women and children a criminal offence. Iran balked at a call for states to promote gender equality, and at a suggestion to ensure that the concept of multiculturalism is not used to infringe human rights.

U.S. strategy is evidently to announce the United States participated actively in the planning session, made proposals, and was given a warm welcome. Continuing efforts to improve the final result, it will be argued, are therefore warranted. The pace is sufficiently slow that this refrain will be repeated until it is so late in the day that walking out would cause a major diplomatic furor, which will in turn be used to justify attendance at the Conference itself. Obama's hunger for engagement, in and of itself, is apparently his first priority. Israel is way down on the list and and American first principles are now subject to discussion.

By contrast, what President Obama could have done was to explain to the American public that Durban II is a continuation of Durban I. Its purpose is to foster the implementation of Durban I's Declaration and, at a minimum, to reaffirm it. Because of the Durban I Declaration's treatment of Israel – a modern form of anti-Semitism – alone, the United States should continue to reject it. Not to mention the multiplicity of attacks on basics like free speech, equality, liberty, and security that are still in the Durban II draft.

It should have been that simple. But the behavior of the United States delegation gives every indication that the pretense of change just around the corner will trump the obligation to give Americans the straight goods.

President Obama had been warned to avoid having anything to do with the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference this year. The U.S. walked out of the 2001 Durban I conference because it proved to be a U.N.-sanctioned platform for anti-Semitism. Its final Declaration singled out Israel for criticism, accusing the country of racism.

Ignoring these warnings, the U.S. sent a seven-person delegation to a preparatory meeting in Geneva this week - without asking anything of conference sponsors in return. The State Department explained the decision as an effort "to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading." But the delegation's behavior during the week, which began by expressing "strong reservations about a document singling out Israel for criticism," more closely resembles a double-cross.

On Wednesday, the European Union proposed a provision for the final document - which is to be adopted formally at the Conference itself in April - on the Holocaust. The EU had attempted to add a reference to the Holocaust at the last preparatory meeting (in January), which the U.S. did not attend. But Iran and Syria had objected. The EU proposal was therefore "bracketed" - entered into the items-in-dispute category. Both Syria and Iran had claimed there weren't enough facts about the Holocaust to warrant a definitive denunciation. Iran had also complained that the proposal was in the wrong section.

So the EU tried again, and this time the American delegation was present. Here is how the discussion went:

    European Union: We have a new proposal under the section on education and awareness-raising that would recall the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the remembrance of the Holocaust. It would read:

    Urges states to raise awareness and to implement U.N. General Assembly resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which inter alia observes that the remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide, condemns without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end.

    Iran: My delegation thinks that this is an inappropriate place to incorporate this new paragraph, so we request that this new paragraph be put in brackets.

    Chair: Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn't seem the case. We move on.

Since the operating principle is consensus, this put the Holocaust provision in dispute. But the American delegation chose not to go on the record strongly supporting the EU's proposal, as it had on other items. Not a peep came from the "change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading" folks.

Here's an even more troubling example, this time involving a paragraph the Palestinian delegation proposed Tuesday in the presence of the American representatives:

    Palestine: I would like to propose a new paragraph which reads as follows:

    Calls for an end of all actions violating international human rights and humanitarian law, the respect for the principle of self-determination and an end of all suffering. Calls also for implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall, and the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

    Chair: Now let's move on to paragraph . . .

Dead silence again, despite the fact that an objection could have made a real difference by putting the paragraph unequivocally in dispute. Everybody knew that there was no other country-specific provision in the 250-paragraph-plus document. Yet there were no comments objecting to the idea of singling out Israel in an anti-racism manifesto, and no call for a paragraph decrying racism in any other state.

Instead, the Palestinian and EU delegations have confirmed that in a backroom deal, the EU agreed ahead of time not to object. Members of the American delegation might not have known of the arrangement in advance (highly unlikely), but regardless, they got tongue-tied when it mattered. The new paragraph is scheduled to appear in a section called "Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance . . ." with the subtitle "General provisions on victims and grounds of discrimination."

In other words, it didn't take President Obama's delegation two days before it sat in silence while Israel was singled out as guilty of racism - again.

Why would the delegation behave this way? The idea, seemingly, is to make it appear to an American audience that the Conference's prospects are improving, that there are no intense disagreements. Just business as usual at the U.N., where multilateral engagement is always a force for good. The less said by the United States, the smoother multilateralism proceeds.

A pistol-whipped United States may be endearing for U.N. human-rights "authorities," like the meeting's very active Iranian vice-chair. It may not be quite so appealing to Americans.

The pace of the preparatory meetings also suggests an intent to keep real conflicts out of the public eye. Only 15 percent of the proposed text has so far been adopted, and 30 percent of the proposals have never been reviewed. Most of the remaining preparatory meetings are not scheduled until April, just prior to the actual conference.

What is more visible is that the U.S. has little to gain for itself - or for global human rights - from participating. Under the consensus rule, many important suggestions have gone unadopted. A proposal to condemn human-rights violations based on sexual orientation ran into immediate objections from South Africa, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Morocco, Holy See, Libya, Egypt, and China. Pakistan said no to a provision that sought to make violence against women and children a criminal offence. Iran balked at a call for states to promote gender equality, and at a suggestion to ensure that the concept of multiculturalism is not used to infringe human rights.

U.S. strategy is evidently to announce the United States participated actively in the planning session, made proposals, and was given a warm welcome. Continuing efforts to improve the final result, it will be argued, are therefore warranted. The pace is sufficiently slow that this refrain will be repeated until it is so late in the day that walking out would cause a major diplomatic furor, which will in turn be used to justify attendance at the Conference itself. Obama's hunger for engagement, in and of itself, is apparently his first priority. Israel is way down on the list and and American first principles are now subject to discussion.

By contrast, what President Obama could have done was to explain to the American public that Durban II is a continuation of Durban I. Its purpose is to foster the implementation of Durban I's Declaration and, at a minimum, to reaffirm it. Because of the Durban I Declaration's treatment of Israel – a modern form of anti-Semitism – alone, the United States should continue to reject it. Not to mention the multiplicity of attacks on basics like free speech, equality, liberty, and security that are still in the Durban II draft.

It should have been that simple. But the behavior of the United States delegation gives every indication that the pretense of change just around the corner will trump the obligation to give Americans the straight goods.

This article first appeared in National Review Online.

February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in National Review Online.

In a major foreign-policy decision taken over the weekend, President Obama has decided to legitimize the United Nations's "anti-racism" forum known as Durban II. State Department officials announced in a press release buried on Saturday, that starting today the United States will attend for the first time the preparatory meetings of this controversial U.N. conference. The "Durban Review Conference," scheduled for April in Geneva, is the progenitor of the anti-semitic hatefest that took place in South Africa in early September 2001.

The searing images of the demonization of America and Jews on the U.N.'s global stage, and the terrorism in New York 72 hours later, should have made joining this revived forum for U.N.-driven hate inconceivable. But President Obama seems intent on learning the lessons of history - and the relationship between hatemongering and violence - the hard way.

The State Department announcement claims that participating in Durban II preparations still leaves open the possibility of refusing to attend the April conference itself. The claim is completely disingenuous. They know full well that preparations are planned on and off-the-record from now until April and will likely continue until the final moments of the actual meeting - justifying ongoing participation under the guise of "still can't tell yet." Like diplomatic bees to honey. It is the decision to attend at all which represents a huge shift in American principles and priorities. For the past seven and a half years, the United States has boycotted Durban follow-up activities and voted against every Durban-related U.N. resolution.

Moreover, the very objective of Durban II is "to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action." This is non-negotiable and cannot be changed by U.S. participation, period. In addition, all U.N. states attending these preparatory sessions have already agreed to "reaffirm the Durban Declaration". Since the U.S. walked out of Durban I in disgust (along with Israel) and rejected the Durban I Declaration, joining negotiations now means agreeing to its provisions for the first time.

But the Durban Declaration asserts that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. This is also the only country-specific accusation in a document purporting to address international racism and xenophobia. Regardless of the quantity of new vitriol in Durban II's final product, therefore, participation legitimizes the mantra of Israeli racism. What is new is that the new president of the United States doesn't care about the U.N.'s reincarnation of 'Zionism is racism'.

The position is not only repugnant, but naïve. Evidently, American officials believe that an African-American president can climb into a U.N. anti-racism ring, throw his weight around, and the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference will roll over and play dead. Or hard-liners like Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand, and developing countries like South Africa, will jump on a U.S.-led bandwagon.

It will be painful to watch the administration forced to enroll in U.N. 101. At Durban I, the European Union did a numbers count and recognized that Western democracies were bound for the back of the bus. So they proceeded to permit condemnation of racist Israel in exchange for omitting any inconvenient reference to financial compensation for slavery (and adding a minor sop to the existence of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism). No matter that murdering Jews in Israel in the here and now - justified as an alleged struggle against racism - is a modern form of anti-Semitism.

Not only will Obama be buffeted by EU members attempting to save themselves and their pocketbooks, the developing world will be overjoyed at the prospect of debilitating Gulliver. The fact that he is prepared to lie down of his own volition and hand them the strings, just makes the occasion merrier. Obama will also come to know the overarching theme of all U.N. meetings, namely, that saving the credibility of the institution itself is the number one priority. This means that having mounted a global conference, any outcome or deal is better than nothing. Such a mindset leaves the extremists in the driver's seat. They will eat multilateralists-in-need-of-a-warm-group-hug for breakfast.

True, State department officials are masters at claiming victory with a straight face regardless of the drivel they draft. The 250-paragraph draft of the Durban II "outcome document" now before Obama, includes provisions which: say Israel's right of return (Jewish self-determination) is racist, accuse Israel of apartheid and crimes against humanity, seek major curbs on freedom of expression, invent global Islamophobia, and allege anti-terrorism tactics are a racist plot. The anti-democratic forces have thrown in the kitchen sink, knowing full well that Westerners will feign a win if even half of it is removed - though the reality will be a giant step backwards for rights and freedoms.

In truth, this Obama trip to the U.N. represents an abandonment of Israel. All his campaign promises to the contrary, sacrificing Israel for the sake of currying favor with others - demagogues included - is clearly at the top of the new president's agenda. Israel asked Obama not to attend. Canada also pulled out of Durban II and expected American support. Instead, today's American foreign policy leaves America's closest ally and its biggest trading partner out in the cold.

The speed at which President Obama is selling off American assets is breathtaking. The speed at which he is selling them out is even faster.

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in National Review Online.

Yesterday in Geneva, President Obama unveiled the new look of America's foreign policy - obsequiousness. It was Day One for his emissaries to the U.N. planning committee of the Durban II conference. This is the racist "anti-racism" bash to be held in Geneva in April. The U.S. and Israel walked out of the first go-round in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. Ever since, the U.S. government has refused to lend any credibility to the Declaration adopted after they left. That is, until yesterday.

U.S. representatives were addressing a human-rights negotiating committee with an executive consisting of a Libyan chair, an Iranian vice-chair, and a Cuban rapporteur. Russian Yuri Boychenko was presiding over Monday's "human rights" get-together. Before them was a draft document which participants plan to adopt in finished form at the conference itself. The draft now contains mountains of offensive references to limits on free speech, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish provisions, and incendiary allegations of the victimization of Muslims at the hands of counter-terrorism racists.

Here is how the American delegates responded to a proposal they understood was incompatible with U.S. interests ("Brackets" denote withholding approval at any given moment in time.): "I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room . . . I have to suggest this phrase remains in brackets and I offer my sincere apologies."

Having watched U.N. meetings for the past 25 years, I can't remember a U.S. representative in a public session so openly obsequious, particularly in the presence of such specious human rights authorities. And yet the U.S. delegates appear happy to be there and convey the marching orders of their new commander-in-chief.

Unfortunately, while Obama's calling the tunes, items like freedom of expression are being rearranged. On the table was a provision which "Calls on States to ensure that lawmakers discharge their responsibilities in conformity with . . . article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . . . " What did the American delegation have to say about that? Among other things they proposed: "add after article 4, 'and 5(d)(viii) of the Racial Discrimination Convention.'"

Flashback to 1994. The United States Senate imposed a reservation on U.S. ratification of the Racial Discrimination Convention concerning article 4 because it restricts free speech. Article 4 aims to limit incitement to racial hatred, but is open to an interpretation in direct conflict with the First Amendment.

Obama's delegation, however, did not object to the proposal to ensure lawmakers adhere to article 4. Instead, they suggested adding a reference to another part of the Racial Discrimination Convention that guarantees an equal right to freedom of expression regardless of race. This idea does not in any way meet the Senate's command to ensure that the Constitution trumps the treaty in matters of free speech.

There is no escape from Durban II - at least not with our vital principles intact.

On Monday, President Obama's decision to wander into the Durban II sinkhole also raised concerns in the Jewish community. In deciding to attend the planning session, Obama had ignored the direct plea from Israel's Foreign Minister to stay away, along with Israel and Canada. Instead, on Monday the President sent reassuring messages via phone calls from senior White House and State Department officials.

According to reports, these officials claimed "that Washington's decision to participate in the conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government." That would be true - if "coordination" meant announcing hours in advance that the United States intended to do the opposite of what had been requested.

Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was "an effort to change the direction of the conference." Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to "foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration" - the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren't going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document - also already accepted by consensus - read "reaffirming the Durban Declaration." Change you can't believe in, again.

Overall, on Day One, U.N. members were delighted by the new administration's timidity. And they know exactly how to ensure those promises of change continue. In an entire day of a four-day meeting, they reviewed only 11 of the 140 paragraphs. The next set of meetings will be in April right before the conference itself. By the time somebody begins to suspect it might not change, it will all be over, in more ways than one.

Yesterday in Geneva, President Obama unveiled the new look of America's foreign policy - obsequiousness. It was Day One for his emissaries to the U.N. planning committee of the Durban II conference. This is the racist "anti-racism" bash to be held in Geneva in April. The U.S. and Israel walked out of the first go-round in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. Ever since, the U.S. government has refused to lend any credibility to the Declaration adopted after they left. That is, until yesterday.

U.S. representatives were addressing a human-rights negotiating committee with an executive consisting of a Libyan chair, an Iranian vice-chair, and a Cuban rapporteur. Russian Yuri Boychenko was presiding over Monday's "human rights" get-together. Before them was a draft document which participants plan to adopt in finished form at the conference itself. The draft now contains mountains of offensive references to limits on free speech, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish provisions, and incendiary allegations of the victimization of Muslims at the hands of counter-terrorism racists.

Here is how the American delegates responded to a proposal they understood was incompatible with U.S. interests ("Brackets" denote withholding approval at any given moment in time.): "I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room . . . I have to suggest this phrase remains in brackets and I offer my sincere apologies."

Having watched U.N. meetings for the past 25 years, I can't remember a U.S. representative in a public session so openly obsequious, particularly in the presence of such specious human rights authorities. And yet the U.S. delegates appear happy to be there and convey the marching orders of their new commander-in-chief.

Unfortunately, while Obama's calling the tunes, items like freedom of expression are being rearranged. On the table was a provision which "Calls on States to ensure that lawmakers discharge their responsibilities in conformity with . . . article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . . . " What did the American delegation have to say about that? Among other things they proposed: "add after article 4, 'and 5(d)(viii) of the Racial Discrimination Convention.'"

Flashback to 1994. The United States Senate imposed a reservation on U.S. ratification of the Racial Discrimination Convention concerning article 4 because it restricts free speech. Article 4 aims to limit incitement to racial hatred, but is open to an interpretation in direct conflict with the First Amendment.

Obama's delegation, however, did not object to the proposal to ensure lawmakers adhere to article 4. Instead, they suggested adding a reference to another part of the Racial Discrimination Convention that guarantees an equal right to freedom of expression regardless of race. This idea does not in any way meet the Senate's command to ensure that the Constitution trumps the treaty in matters of free speech.

There is no escape from Durban II - at least not with our vital principles intact.

On Monday, President Obama's decision to wander into the Durban II sinkhole also raised concerns in the Jewish community. In deciding to attend the planning session, Obama had ignored the direct plea from Israel's Foreign Minister to stay away, along with Israel and Canada. Instead, on Monday the President sent reassuring messages via phone calls from senior White House and State Department officials.

According to reports, these officials claimed "that Washington's decision to participate in the conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government." That would be true - if "coordination" meant announcing hours in advance that the United States intended to do the opposite of what had been requested.

Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was "an effort to change the direction of the conference." Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to "foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration" - the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren't going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document - also already accepted by consensus - read "reaffirming the Durban Declaration." Change you can't believe in, again.

Overall, on Day One, U.N. members were delighted by the new administration's timidity. And they know exactly how to ensure those promises of change continue. In an entire day of a four-day meeting, they reviewed only 11 of the 140 paragraphs. The next set of meetings will be in April right before the conference itself. By the time somebody begins to suspect it might not change, it will all be over, in more ways than one.

This article first appeared in National Review Online.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In a major foreign-policy decision taken over the weekend, President Obama has decided to legitimize the United Nations's "anti-racism" forum known as Durban II. State Department officials announced in a press release buried on Saturday, that starting today the United States will attend for the first time the preparatory meetings of this controversial U.N. conference. The "Durban Review Conference," scheduled for April in Geneva, is the progenitor of the anti-semitic hatefest that took place in South Africa in early September 2001.

The searing images of the demonization of America and Jews on the U.N.'s global stage, and the terrorism in New York 72 hours later, should have made joining this revived forum for U.N.-driven hate inconceivable. But President Obama seems intent on learning the lessons of history - and the relationship between hatemongering and violence - the hard way.

The State Department announcement claims that participating in Durban II preparations still leaves open the possibility of refusing to attend the April conference itself. The claim is completely disingenuous. They know full well that preparations are planned on and off-the-record from now until April and will likely continue until the final moments of the actual meeting - justifying ongoing participation under the guise of "still can't tell yet." Like diplomatic bees to honey. It is the decision to attend at all which represents a huge shift in American principles and priorities. For the past seven and a half years, the United States has boycotted Durban follow-up activities and voted against every Durban-related U.N. resolution.

Moreover, the very objective of Durban II is "to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action." This is non-negotiable and cannot be changed by U.S. participation, period. In addition, all U.N. states attending these preparatory sessions have already agreed to "reaffirm the Durban Declaration". Since the U.S. walked out of Durban I in disgust (along with Israel) and rejected the Durban I Declaration, joining negotiations now means agreeing to its provisions for the first time.

But the Durban Declaration asserts that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. This is also the only country-specific accusation in a document purporting to address international racism and xenophobia. Regardless of the quantity of new vitriol in Durban II's final product, therefore, participation legitimizes the mantra of Israeli racism. What is new is that the new president of the United States doesn't care about the U.N.'s reincarnation of 'Zionism is racism'.

The position is not only repugnant, but naïve. Evidently, American officials believe that an African-American president can climb into a U.N. anti-racism ring, throw his weight around, and the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference will roll over and play dead. Or hard-liners like Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand, and developing countries like South Africa, will jump on a U.S.-led bandwagon.

It will be painful to watch the administration forced to enroll in U.N. 101. At Durban I, the European Union did a numbers count and recognized that Western democracies were bound for the back of the bus. So they proceeded to permit condemnation of racist Israel in exchange for omitting any inconvenient reference to financial compensation for slavery (and adding a minor sop to the existence of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism). No matter that murdering Jews in Israel in the here and now - justified as an alleged struggle against racism - is a modern form of anti-Semitism.

Not only will Obama be buffeted by EU members attempting to save themselves and their pocketbooks, the developing world will be overjoyed at the prospect of debilitating Gulliver. The fact that he is prepared to lie down of his own volition and hand them the strings, just makes the occasion merrier. Obama will also come to know the overarching theme of all U.N. meetings, namely, that saving the credibility of the institution itself is the number one priority. This means that having mounted a global conference, any outcome or deal is better than nothing. Such a mindset leaves the extremists in the driver's seat. They will eat multilateralists-in-need-of-a-warm-group-hug for breakfast.

True, State department officials are masters at claiming victory with a straight face regardless of the drivel they draft. The 250-paragraph draft of the Durban II "outcome document" now before Obama, includes provisions which: say Israel's right of return (Jewish self-determination) is racist, accuse Israel of apartheid and crimes against humanity, seek major curbs on freedom of expression, invent global Islamophobia, and allege anti-terrorism tactics are a racist plot. The anti-democratic forces have thrown in the kitchen sink, knowing full well that Westerners will feign a win if even half of it is removed - though the reality will be a giant step backwards for rights and freedoms.

In truth, this Obama trip to the U.N. represents an abandonment of Israel. All his campaign promises to the contrary, sacrificing Israel for the sake of currying favor with others - demagogues included - is clearly at the top of the new president's agenda. Israel asked Obama not to attend. Canada also pulled out of Durban II and expected American support. Instead, today's American foreign policy leaves America's closest ally and its biggest trading partner out in the cold.

The speed at which President Obama is selling off American assets is breathtaking. The speed at which he is selling them out is even faster.

This article first appeared in National Review Online.