Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Durban II Bandaid

It appears that references which singled out Israel, which which were considered antisemitic and were one of the two reasons (the other being limitations on criticism of religion) that some countries were backing out of the Durban II anti-racism conference have been removed from conference documents.

This may stem the exodus of countries from Durban II (for example the EU had been sitting on the fence about attending) but on the other hand, it may not. That crucial reference to criticism of religion remains and will be something EU countries are sensitive to. For example, a policy whereby criticism of religion is equal to a human rights violation would see the infamous "Danish cartoons" of the prophet Mohamed to be considered as violations of the human rights of Muslims. It could also serve to limit "moderate" members of any faith from criticizing the most orthodox or conservative interpretations of whatever religion they happen to subscribe to.

The conference documents also reaffirm the outcomes of the first Durban conference which any observer would have to acknowledge was a festival of sorts for antisemitic, anti-Zionist, anti-Western countries and NGOs. A conference where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were openly being sold. Other than the language change in the document, there is little that may reassure those states that have already planned a boycott that anything will be different. For example, the UN Human Rights Committee which includes such human rights violators as Iran, Cuba and Lybia is still the conference organizer and just because the language these countries have pushed for has been removed from the documents, does not preclude these countries from unleashing further, hate filled tirades at the conference itself.

So, though Europe may be willing to participate in Durban II given these latest revisions, they may end up sitting in on a repeat of Durban I. A repeat that may have taken place if they were present or not and if the documents had been revised or not. A strong message could be sent by western and like-minded states holding a parallel conference where they could drive the agenda and address real issues of global racism and strategies to combat them.

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