Durban Watch

Durban II

EYEontheUN ALERT - April 25, 2009

Durban Diary, Day Three/Day Four: A lesson in tolerance

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in The New York Daily News.

The UN's racist anti-racism bash, known as Durban II, continued in Geneva this week. State practitioners of the worst forms of intolerance declared their undying interest in tolerance, while various nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, were interrupted, intimidated or thrown out of the Palais des Nations altogether. It might have been just farcical but for the fact that American taxpayers are paying part of the bill.

Iranian bigot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had set a high bar for UN-driven hatemongering on Monday, and various states, observers and NGOs clearly felt liberated as a result. Libya accused Israel of crimes against humanity, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide and having "set up a Jewish state seeking ethnic and racial purity." The 20% non-Jewish population of Israel with more democratic rights than in any Arab state somehow never got mentioned.

A funny thing happened when the Libyan spoke. The United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Romania, Slovenia and Estonia all walked out. But just as had happened after the Ahmadinejad speech, they bounded back in when it was over. The legitimacy of an anti-racism conference that provides a platform for racists was never an issue for these European charlatans.

The Iranian diplomat left holding the bag after his president departed took umbrage at any criticism of his boss. He complained "there was neither any accusation nor incitement" in his speech and "Iran strongly rejects such irrelevant statements and considers them totally unacceptable." Perhaps he should re-read the bit about "exploiting the Holocaust" and "global Zionism's . . . ugly face."

Current genocide enthusiast Sudan made a nice statement about the importance of "dialogue among cultures and civilizations and religions and full abandonment of extremism, bigotry and division." Did you know that "Sudan was one of the first countries to organize conferences for the dialogue of cultures and religions, with the view that cultures and civilizations originate from understanding, dialogue, acceptance of different and positive coexistence, instead of conflict and confrontation"? I bet you didn't. Not to worry. Neither did anybody else.

Saudi Arabia was not to be outdone. According to Abdulwahab Attar: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia . . . is endeavoring to prevent the occurrence of practices involving discrimination . . . The kingdom's anti-racism legislation is derived from the provisions of the Islamic Sharia, which emphasized equality and human dignity regardless of gender, color or race."

Attar delivered this statement without flinching - notwithstanding the fact that Saudi women have no freedom of movement and that they experience discrimination on every imaginable ground. In Saudi Arabia slavery among migrant workers is commonplace, conversion from Islam is punishable by death and the public practice of any religion other than Islam is illegal. None of that stopped him, naturally, from a long diatribe about freedom of religion in Israel - and about "the importance of all forms of dialogue at all levels to eliminate the causes of intolerance and nurture a spirit of cooperation."

Personally, I'd settle for a driver's license (currently denied all Saudi woman). But without an Israel-bashing angle, the idea doesn't stand a chance at Durban II.