Commentary and Newsletters

Isi Leibler

The debate over 'Durban II' and the AJC

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Jerusalem Post, March 17, 2009

David Harris is an exemplary Jewish professional who is largely responsible for the American Jewish Committee becoming a major creative force throughout the global Jewish arena.

I am therefore saddened by his vitriolic public attack on Anne Bayefsky, Melanie Phillips and Caroline Glick for their well-founded criticism of the strategy adopted by his organization in relation to "Durban II" and the UN Human Rights Council.

The AJC adopted a flawed approach to this issue from the outset, insisting that that the American government and others should participate in the conference. Their attitude undermined efforts by bodies like "Eye on the UN" which invested massive efforts in creating a public awareness of the need for a boycott.

The AJC decision to accept the invitation to participate as a member of the US delegation in the Durban II preparatory committee to ascertain whether this obnoxious body would change its approach was an even greater blunder. They were irresponsible in encouraging the perception that a body totally controlled by the Islamic Conference and rogue states, and even chaired by Libya, with Iran and Cuba serving as deputy chairs, could possibly be anything other than an instrument for promoting evil.

To make matters worse the US delegation, including the AJC representative, actually sat on its hands during the proceedings of the preparatory committee while vicious demonizations of Israel took place. They even remained silent when Iran objected to a resolution condemning Holocaust denial.

For many of us, the jury is still out regarding the Obama administration's approach to Israel. But it would require burying one's head in the sand not to be disconcerted by the new policy of "engaging" tyrants and jihadists, not to mention some of the candidates recommended for government positions in recent weeks.

In this context we look to the American Jewish community, which overwhelmingly supported Obama, to endeavor to ensure that Israel is not sacrificed to enable the US to placate Arab extremists.

Hence the disappointment expressed by Anne Bayefsky, Melanie Phillips and Caroline Glick that the AJC agreed to participate in a US delegation to such a brazenly anti-Semitic body would be endorsed by most activists involved in this area.

One would have expected American Jewish leaders at the least to have also expressed concern when simultaneously with its announcement it would not partake in Durban, the US government proclaimed that it would in future participate in meetings of the Human Rights Council, and would even seek to be elected to the leadership of that despicable body. The US action will only legitimize an organization which represents the antithesis of its title, defends the worst regimes practicing the denial of human rights and now seeks to limit all criticism of Islamic behavior or practice. Alas, the AJC only two years ago was "urging the United States to seek membership on the UN Human Rights Council." It would appear that to this day Harris and the AJC fail to appreciate that organizations purporting to promote human rights which are controlled by tyrannies and dictatorships can never be reformed. They must be isolated and marginalized.

The US backed down on participating in Durban II for two reasons. The most important was the campaign spearheaded by Bayefsky exposing the disgusting behavior of those controlling the proceedings. The second was the stubbornness of the preparatory committee about even paying lip service to behaving decently and amending their draft document. The danger now is that they will come up with a shorter document which does not include the vile language, and the US hailing that as a victory and agreeing to participate in what will still be a massive anti-Semitic hate-fest controlled by the same villains.

David Harris is a devoted and capable leader with a track record of outstanding achievement for the Jewish people. He is not infallible, and erred in this matter. He should take one step backwards and resume his constructive work on behalf of the Jews. Instead of berating those with whom he should be working in tandem, Harris should be at the forefront of efforts to persuade the Obama administration that appeasing jihadists or providing them with legitimacy could have devastating repercussions on the future of the civilized world.