The UN never ceases to amaze. Just when we thought we had become immune to all the poisonous concoctions that get dished out, once again, ten years down the road, we are being offered a remake of the notorious “Durban 1”, the UN conference against racism which—to everyone’s horror—was transformed into a racist conference against Israel and the Americans. At that time, incredulous after the speeches by Mugabe, Fidel Castro and Arafat, who condemned in chorus the colonialist West and racist Jews, the Canadians, Americans and Israelis walked out. Later on, in 2009, when the UN organized “Durban 2” in Geneva, the Italian government, which had learned its lesson, refused to send a delegation. And, in fact, our entire parliament, from left to right, voted a resolution rejecting any anti-Semitic and anti-West sideshow. The protagonist this time was Ahmadinejad who took the opportunity to repeat his denial of the Shoah and promise to exterminate all Jews. Backing him was a plethora of NGOs who, undaunted, assisted the UN in its “anti-imperialist” campaign, as they had done with the violence in Durban in 2001.
So here we are again. According to the UN schedule, as Anne Bayefsky in “Eye on the UN” warns us, today the Third Committee of the General Assembly must vote on a resolution proposed by Yemen specifying all the details (including the date set probably for September 21, 2011, namely the day before the General Assembly annual opening in order to have the greatest number of heads of state) of a decision already passed by the General Assembly in 2009. It provides for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Durban 1 and reconfirms its extremely violent platform. In 2009, Italy voted against it, as did Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania and the United States. But a majority of 128 countries, backed by the entire Muslim world, non-aligned countries and a good number of African countries, kicked again the ball toward the net, through the “Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration” which, having met in Geneva October 11-22, decided that this General Assembly will bring back the epic of Durban.
It is a saga that, as journalist, I remember well, as I covered the conference in South Africa in 2001. Those were just the days before the attack on the Twin Towers and never was a hate scenario better laid. Durban was the premise to Ground Zero. While from the podium speakers heaped on the US and Israel all the sins of the world and demanded that they pay the penalty, Jews wearing kippahs had to protect themselves against the demonstrators touting portraits of Bin Laden (which at the time I saw and reported on) and hounding the Jews. The Jewish centers in the city were stormed and closed and the press conference of the Israeli delegation was violently assaulted and interrupted. Israel was compared to Nazism and accused of apartheid in order to claim, particularly in South Africa, its lack of legitimacy. At the same time, Americans were demanded to handsomely recompense Africa for damages from slavery. The fact that, for centuries, the Arabs were cruel slave traders who deported Blacks from Africa, had become a memory denied and forgotten.
The Durban declaration that they now want to resurrect and celebrate again, singles out Israel as a racist state, without naming any other country in the world. The myriad types of ethnic and religious discrimination that infests the world, for the declaration does not exist and it doesn’t even say a word about the thousands of massacres that have bloodied the globe for reasons of the color of one’s skin or beliefs: not the 165,000 Christian victims per year, for 80% in the Muslim world, are mentioned; not the tragedy of the Tutsi in Rwanda nor that in Darfur and not that of the Uiguri or Kurds, let alone the persecution and discrimination of Jews in numerous Eastern countries and the growing anti-Semitism now being seen again in the West. Re-approving the Durban document means rekindling, with the elephantine power of the UN General Assembly, a whole series of institutional initiatives giving rise to cultural and economic boycotts, discrimination against athletes, artists and scholars and proliferating the accusations of war crimes to any Israeli official in sight. It means reviving manifestations of hate in which the swastika and the Star of David overlap and the hunting season on Jews is declared open, the result being an exponential growth in anti-Semitic incidents. This makes many people happy, very happy.
Above all, it means dragging the UN into cultural and political disgrace, making any real possibility for anti-racist initiatives even more remote. Who could imagine this organization fighting against ethnic and religious discrimination if the opportunity to do so is used to persecute Israel and satisfy the enemies of the West? We can only hope that Yemen’s resolution will be voted down, but we’re not counting on it. In the meantime, in any case, Patrick Ventrell, spokesman for the US delegation to the UN, said that the United States is against the proposed date, September not being “an appropriate time”.
Hon. Fiamma Nirenstein
Vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Chair of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism
Italian Chamber of Deputies