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February 27, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 27, 2009 By Gregg J. Rickman WASHINGTON (JTA)-- The 2001 World Conference Against Racism. Racial Dis- crimination. Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. otherwise known as the Durban Conference. was a parley hijacked by radicals betraying the real purpose of the.event--the confronta- tion of racial discrimination worldwide. The April 2009 Durban II conference promises to top that fiasco, despite the Obama administratiorfs decision to attempt to influence the process. In the end it will be a Ho- locaust-denying, anti-Israel hatefest. The United States. the Europeans and all other democratic nations should boycott this cynical effort to incite racist hatred and religious bigotry. If the United States chooses to attend this fraudulent conference, we will legitimize and sanction the bigotry and racism practiced by the world's most intolerant. anti-democratic nations. Durban It: Boycott the conference practices to the Durban II process when it protested the credentials registration of the Canadian Council on Israel and Jewish Advocacy, in a preparatory meeting on the conference. As Hershell Ezrin. the council's chief executive officer, told the Canadian Jewish News last May, "The whole process had become so discriminatory to us. we felt that no matter how many times we answered their ques- tions and responded to shorter and shorter deadlines, we were asked the same questions over and over again." With Iran proudly serving as the center of Holocaust denial today, we can only imagine What it has up its sleeve for this conference. Syria objected recently to language in conference program documents citing the number of Jewish deaths during the Holocaust, say- ing it didn't want to engage in a statistical debate. [ran also objected to Holocaust references, complaining that banning denial was a restric- tion on freedom of expression. Indeed, it is these nations and their long and hostile records that cause the most concern. Let's look at a few of them. If you had to choose a re- sponsible chair for the begin- ning Conference Preparatory Committee. a safe bet would be to pass over Libya. Yetas the upside-down logic of Durban II goes, the Libyan representa- tiwe was elected by his peers along with vice chairmen from human rights-abusing nationssuch as Iran and Cuba. Libya's twisted worldview. if there were any doubts, was on exhibit last April when its deputy ambassador to the United Nations. [brahim Dabbashi. appeared before the Security Council and brazenly compared Israeli actions in Gaza at the time to the Nazis' systematic killing during the Holocaust. This is what happens when terrorist countries are elevat- ed to the stature of democratic states. What stunts will they try to pull at Durban II? Last year, Iran added its peculiar brand of democratic Yet these countries and their allies have been staunch defenders of the insertion of blasphemy legislation in nu- merous other U.N. forums, a policy that violates freedom of expression through the suppression of any criticism of Islam or its leaders. The Human Rights Coun- cil. the successor to the Human Rights Commission. also has been active in the planning of the conference at the request of the U.N. General Assembly. Yet the council, like its predecessor. has become irrevocably tarred with anti-Semitism and bias against Israel. As the State Department's March 2008 Report on Con- temporary Global Anti- Semitism explained about these two organizations, "For many years before its abolition, the Commission on Human Rights had a sepa- rate agenda item focusing solely on al!eged violations of Israel--namely, Item 8. 'Question of the violation of human rights in the occu- piedArab territories, includ- ing Palestine.' This allowed multiple resolutions against Israel, while no other coun- try could have more than one resolution run against it each year. No other country beside Israel had an agenda item exclusively scrutinizing it. This tradition has been continued by the new U.N. Human Rights Council." The report said later that "Several important countries, including estab- lished democracies, follow a policy of voting 'on principle' against all resolutions that criticize a specific country regardless of the merits-- unless that country is Israel, in which case they consis- tently vote in favor of critical resolutions." The timing of the Durban It conference is equally dis- turbing, as it will take place in Geneva, Switzerland. from April 20 to 24, overlapping Israel's annual observance of Yom HaShoah. or Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 21. How ironic it will be that a conference organized by the United Nations. which gave Durban II: Go to the conference PAGE 5A birth to Israel in 1948 out of the ashes of the Holocaust. promises to repeat its shame- ful performance of 2001 by again allowing the unbridled eliminationist hatred, con- demnation and slander of Israel. In encouraging this confer- ence to reconvene and worse. leaving it in the hands of the likes of Iran. Libya and other terrorist states, the United Nations again dishonors itself by allowing these tyrants a platform to impose their racial and religious bigotry on the world. How can the United States possibly be a part of this insanity? If we join this charade, we extend this dishonor through odr presence, sullying ourselves in the process. We must do the only honor- able deed and boycott Durban II, denying the world's terror- ists and bigots the privilege of our legitimizing presence among them. Gregg J Rickman served as the first U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti- Semitism from 2006 to 2009. By Shai Franklin NEW YORK (JTA)--In al- lowing U,S. representatives to attend consultations this week in Geneva. in a seri- ous attempt to detoxify the Durban Review Conference in April, President Obama has taken one of his first concrete steps to show the wo[d that the United States is not afraid to engage and on our own terms. Rather than immediately recasting the confrontational image perc.eived by so many during most of the Bush years, the new administra- tion may take advantage of the lingering resentment and apprehension as well as Barack Obama's credibility as an agent of progress and change. The world and the United Nations have been optimisti- cally curious about Obama's internationalist agenda and his new team. As those pre- paring the new U.S. strategy know well. "'new politics'"has not overtaken the United Na- tions or many of the regimes represented at its headquar- ters in New York and Geneva. The U.N.'s notoriously cynical human rights agenda is no exception. By exacting a price for joining the Durban process and other high-profile hu- man rights mechanisms, and possibly even giving a second chance to the International Criminal Cour the post- Bush United States might be able to strike a better deal if it does so before the diplo- matic swords are turned into ploughshares. The American Jewish community should be a natural advocate for this approach. Most immediately, the Durban Review process, fol- lowing up on the U.N.'s 2001 World Conference Against Racism held in Durban. South Africa, is both a threat and an opportunity to show that Washington is unwilling to let the fight against racism be hijacked without a fight. European governments will be hoping to avoid a boy- cott of Durban II, and U.S. participation will give them tremendous cover. Having made a non-decision under President Bush not to par- ticipate in the review of com- mitments from the infamous 2001 Durban conference, the United States must now be wooed to attend. The original conference. prootel as a global plat- form against racism, was commandeered easily by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel forces and left an indelible stain on the anti-racism agenda. If the internationally admired Obamaadministra- tion does not send a delega- tion. millions of Europeans, Asians and Africans will be forced to reassess their sup- port for so-called human rights crusaders and even the United Nations itself. The new administration already has demonstrated its good faith merely by participating in this week's discussions. Either of the two possible outcomes is preferrable to re- maining on the sidelines. The consensus statement deliv- ered by the European Union at last October's Preparatory Committee session in Geneva avoided any acknowledge- ment of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel focus of Dur- ban I or the blatant anti-Israel * language already included for Durban II:--a disap- pointment if not a surprise. By reinforcing the position of working-level diplomats with direct intervention by the president or Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Washington can set out specific conditions for attending April's review conference. If the Europeans are un- able or unwilling to stand up to those regimes using the universal fight against rac- ism to demonize Israel. then world opinion will excuse the United States of Obama: If there are guarantees of a responsible outcome docu- ment. the United States can agree to see it through. If a renewed U.S. effort succeeds. the eause of fighting racism is strengthened and Israel is spared yet another unfair series of condemnations. If the approach fails, we will be able to remind European allies and U.N. leaders that even a good-faith U.S. effort was rebuked. If Durban II is the first short-term test of whether the world's ideal U.S. presi- dent can make a dent in the U.N.'s business as usual, the Human Rights Council is a medium-term opportunity. The council was an over- promised and underprepared successor to the old Human Rights Commission. Ironi- cally, while its first two terms have been even more fo- cused on allegations against Israel at the expense of most other countries the counil continues to enjoy widespread benefit of the doubt because it was hailed as the great salvation and the U.N. system sees noway back. Durban II will come and go, but the Human Right Council will be around for years, and there may be no better moment for the United States to enter with some ad- vantage or even concessions. To start, the United States  can put governments on notice that Durban II is a test, and that if the review conference again brands Israel as the leading cause of racism worldwide, even with U.S. participation, there is no reason we should expect U.S. membership in the Human Rights Council to bring any better. Rather than wish- ing for our worst fears to be proven right, we should realize that Israel is best served by having the Unffed States--the 800-pound go- rilla in the room. In the long run. more than fighting racism and anti-Semitism at Durban It or regularly reviewing the full range of human rights guarantees, the International Criminal Court is the best hope for putting thugs on notice that there are enforce- able penalties for committing crimes against humanity, Americans--specifically American Jews--were in- strumental in conceiving the ICC, which the U.S. govern- ment subs,equently rejected on the rationale that U.S. soldiers might be subject to prosecution. Its roots go back to the Nuremburg tri- als following World War [I, where Hitler's henchmen faced international justice for atrocities unprecedented in modern history. The ad hoc Nuremburg model has been replicated, most notably for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, but a standing court to try ifl- dividual perpetrators and allow societies to rehabilitate themselves is indispensable to ensuring peace and politi- cal stability, With an expanded Demo- cratic majority in the U.S. Senate and many Republi- cans still committed to U.S. moral, leadership overseas. 2009 offers a new opportuni- ty for the United States to ad- dress outstanding concerns from a position of strength and finally sign on to this fundamental instrument of international law. Why should Jews or any Americans take a stand on an institution that often seems so corrupted and antithetical to our interests? The United States and Jews around the world were instrumental in crafting the United Nations and its human rights instruments. We did not support the UN's cl:eation as a means of defending the J'ewish state but as the best way to ensure justice and peace on Earth. We have allowed ourselves as a community to be dragged down to the level of our detractors, dignifying every unfair criticism with a phalanx of responses and counter-arguments. We have ceded the moral" high ground not on the question of Israel not com- mitting war crimes but on the principle that our role at the United Nations is to estab- lish international standards of decency. By supporting an effort to re-engage the United Nations on human rights, we not only enable the United States to reinforce its moral authority and to better protect Israel diplomatically. Most critically, since God Chose the Israelites to be a light unto the nations and not to focus exclusively on our own survival, we endeavor to take back the United Nations and redeem the concept of universal human rights, which has been trivialized for far too long. If Durban Il and the Hu- man Rights Council. as well as the Criminal Court. do not fulfill their potential, Israel surely will continue to face one-sided condemnation. More important, we will have failed in our obligation as Jews and our self-appointed mission as Americans. If our ideals mean anything, we must be willing to step .up and say so in absolute terms as well as not only a politi- cal tactic. The lessons of the Holocaust must mean more than saving Jews from future annihilation, as imperative as that is. Even before Hitler and the pogroms and the Crusades, we had a sacred task to repair the world. The reality of 192 dictator- ships and democracies each owning avote in the U.N. Gen- eral Assembly-is not going to change. President Obamahas emphasized repeatedly that this is the imperfect world the United States seeks to lead toward the right path. Despite the unpopularity of many U.S. leaders and poli- cies during the past several years and at other times in history, most citizens of the world still see America as a beacon and an ideal. This is a'cremendous asset and a unique burden. There is no time to waste. Shai Franklin is senior fellow for United Nations Affairs at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Dry Bones KAB00O00, Tr " BUT THE CRASH THAT'5 HARD A2OUND