UN HQ

By Andrew Tucker, Director at thinc.

Introduction

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison affirmed on May 6, 2021, that the Australian government “will not associate Australia with one-sided and contentious language that singles out Israel or an event that champions such language. This is entirely consistent with my Government’s very strong voting position on UN General Assembly resolutions in the Human Rights Council and elsewhere. We will continue that same approach to Durban for later this year. … I do not accept that anti-Semitism, cloaked in the language of human rights, serves any justified purpose nor the cause of peace. Just in case anyone was in any doubt.”

Human rights?

Indeed, while expressed in lofty language, the human rights system is an empty shell that can be – and is daily – filled by an infinite variety of moral, religious, ideological and political forces. In his recent important book Jewish Internationalism and Human Rights after the Holocaust (Cambridge University Press, 2021) Dr. Nathan Kurz writes:

“Recent empirical work has laid bare a fundamental truth: despite pretensions to a historical universality, human rights are a political language, and actors often graft concerns they bring with them from elsewhere onto the universalist template of human rights. Both Latin American solidarity activists and African nationalists transposed circulating anti-imperialist rights discourses onto human rights. American conservatives and West German professional associations appropriated human rights for anticommunist aims. Ecumenical Christians recast their struggle for religious freedom in the language of human rights. Trade unions remolded their activism on behalf of workers into a contest over the freedom of association. Even Amnesty International, the prototype for the modern human rights NGO, folded human rights into a liberal British preoccupation with civil liberties. The very existence of multiple “vernaculars” of human rights owes much to how their elasticity has served as a crucial component of their attraction for so many. It is left for readers to decide whether human rights has served as “an empty vessel that could be filled by a wide variety of conceptions.”

The human rights system is the main weapon used by the opponents of the Jewish people to undermine and delegitimize the Jewish state of Israel.

Durban

Perhaps the most blatant example of how the human rights system can be abused is the Durban debacle.

As is well known, the Durban Declaration (2001) in effect was the reincarnation of the infamous UN General Assembly’s “Zionism-is-racism” resolution (1975). After that resolution was revoked by the General Assembly in 1991, it was the Durban Declaration that took its place. According to the Declaration, Palestinians are “victims” of Israeli racism. Israel is the only state mentioned in the entire global manifesto, notwithstanding that it purports to address racism and xenophobia the world over.

The UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism held in Durban in 2001 was intended to confront racism. Instead, it turned into a disturbing orgy of overt, violent anti-Semitism. Resolutions were adopted calling out Israel as an apartheid state, and demanding it be sanctioned and removed from the UN. The US and Israeli delegations stormed out of the meeting.

Europe’s hypocricy

With the active support of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, the European Union negotiated with the Arab/Islamic states and South Africa to produce the final declaration. According to Prof. Anne Bayefsky of Human Rights Voices, “The deal they struck was to include the isolation and condemnation of Israel in exchange for the removal of references to reparations for slavery and other items that would have had direct and financial ramifications for European states. The product is known as the “Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” or the DDPA.”

What did the Durban Declaration say?

The Durban Declaration says:

Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Para. 63. We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation…

The claim is sometimes made that the Durban Declaration does not use the exact words of Zionism-is-racism. This of course completely misunderstands the language, intent, origins, and use of the Declaration and its message ever since – and the total isolation of Israel in the Durban “anti-racism” frame of reference.

The clear intent of the Durban Declaration is the lie that Palestinians are victims of racism at the hands of their occupier Israel. No other state is singled out as victimizing anybody for racism.

“Durban IV”

On December 31, 2020, the UN General Assembly decided that in September 2021 it will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the racist “anti-racism” world conference held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. More specifically, the UN plan is to garner universal approval from Presidents, Prime Ministers and foreign ministers from across the globe for a formal “political declaration” in support of the Durban Declaration.

The following countries voted against the merits of the resolution: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Germany, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Netherlands, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and United States.

The Human Rights Council – an about face?

However, on March 19, 2021, the United States delivered a statement at the UN Human Rights Council in which it seemed to support the Durban Declaration and the 20th anniversary. The US statement was made on behalf of “more than 150” state signatories – including e.g. Australia and the Netherlands. The statement includes the words:

“Recalling the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, we are committed to…address and combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance…” (emphasis added)

This was alarming, to say the least. Given the substance of the 2020 General Assembly resolution, there can be no doubt that “Durban IV” will violate the stated interests and values of Western nations like the USA, Australia and EU member states. It has already been decided by the General Assembly that the political declaration to emanate from “Durban IV” will reaffirm the 2001 Durban Declaration in its entirety. In the words of the December 2020 resolution:

Also decides that the meeting will adopt a short and concise political declaration aimed at mobilizing political will at the national, regional and international levels for the full and effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and its follow-up processes;” (emphasis added)

Fortunately, the US has on May 3, 2021, announced that it will not support the “Durban IV” conference. This is a bold and principled move that is to be applauded. The State Department announced:

“The Biden Administration has put racial justice at the top of its priorities, both in multilateral fora and at home. The United States also remains deeply committed to combatting anti-Semitism at home and abroad. Furthermore, the United States stands with Israel and has always shared its concerns over the Durban process’s anti-Israel sentiment, use as a forum for anti-Semitism, and freedom of expression issues. The joint statement on racism includes a brief reference to the fact that the Durban conference happened 20 years ago and in no way reflects a change in our position regarding the problematic portions of the document or the process that led to its creation. The United States will not attend or participate in any events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action or the World Conference on Racism, which preceded it.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that Australia will not be participating in “Durban IV”.

On May 6, 2021, Canada has also announced it will not be supporting Durban IV. A government spokesperson said: “Canada is concerned that the Durban Process has and continues to be used to push for anti-Israel sentiment and as a forum for antisemitism. That is why we do not plan to attend or participate in events surrounding the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action,”

It is important that as many nations as possible follow the example of the US, Australia and Canada, and confirm that they too will be boycotting the Durban initiative as long as it continues to single out the Jewish people for condemnation.

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2 Comments

  1. This is one of the most pathetic article I have read on the issue. Just because Israel was the only state singled out does not mean it did not do anything wrong. The abuse and racial discrimination against Palestinians is so blatant that attempts to cover it is getting embarrassing. Unlike 60yrs ago, there are images circulating all over the world now. Israel might get away with it on the diplomatic stage of the UN by coerciting other countries boycott and leveraging strategic alliances but the world is watching and Israel is on the wrong side of the history.
    I am Jewish and I am outraged and ashamed. And you should be too. If you’re not, go and visit our palestinian brothers, talk to them, hear their stories. Or are you afraid that you can’t look at yourself in a mirror and write shallow a’d hypocritical pieces like this one again?

    • We’re not saying Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians cannot be criticised. But the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is not about racism. It is about national identity and self-determination claims. It is a big mistake to reduce this complex dispute to an allegation that Israel is racist. Durban was a violently antisemitic event, that many countries have since boycotted, for very good and important reasons. The singling out of one country for condemnation is unacceptable. We work closely with many Arab Israelis and Palestinians. They all confirm there is a huge difference between the position of Arabs in Israel and the situation in the occupied territories. In Israel itself there are definitely Arab-Jewish tensions, and there are lots of Arabs who feel treated as second class citizens. But equally there are many Arabs who are well integrated and successful. There is no systemic racism against Arab Israeli citizens. As far as the territories is concerned, the conflict with the Palestinians is not a problem of racism. The question of how Israel should manage the resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians does not belong in a document about combatting racism.

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