Tag Archives: Durban

Durban Conference ends with a bang

This is from the final press statement of Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who announced the likely adoption of the final report and then launched into it:

It was very difficult. I had to face a widespread, and highly organized campaign of disinformation. Many people, including Ministers with whom I spoke, told me that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which as you know was agreed by 189 states at the original World Conference Against Racism in 2001 was anti-Semitic, and it was clear that either they had not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidely exaggerated.

Many others have labelled the entire Durban process as a “hate fest.” We have had some rough moments in the process, but a “hate fest?” I’m sorry, this is hyperbole. It is a gross exaggeration. But it is everywhere on the Internet. And I’m sorry to say many mainline newspapers who incidentally declined many op-eds that I sent up to them. Because I kept urging States to take part, one of the most vociferous opponents of the conference called me the “dangerous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” So if you see a special look about me, that’s the danger. Another called me the “ludicrous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” That look I have dropped since. I expect these types of personal attacks to continue for the rest of my tenure. But I can live with them because I see this conference as a success and I know that you will judge this process in a valid and fair way.
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Indigenous peoples and Israel-Palestine

Harley Eagle works with First Nations peoples with the Mennonite Central Committee in Canada. I was stunned to learn that he has been approached on multiple occasions by Canadian Jewish groups who identify as aboriginal. “They come to us and tell us ‘our paths are similar. We have gotten our land back. We hope the same for you. We are cut of the same cloth.’” (I wrote about former Canadian AG Irwin Cotler’s Jews-are-aboriginal formulation here.)

Harley says they tend to target Christian aboriginal people as well as inter-tribal political groups to form a larger political body.  They invite people on trips to Israel.

But Harley’s group had already been doing an exchange program with Palestinians. “For we younger First Nations people who haven’t experienced colonialism and being put on reservations directly, the Palestinian program helps us remember what our people went through. It’s very powerful, but for the Palestinians, visiting Native American reservations is shocking because they see the future of their own people.”

Jewish groups and 1 Iranian group yanked from conference

{update: 1 member from B’nai Brith was also kicked out} Thursday, the Associated Press writes:

UN kicks Jews, Iranians out of racism meeting

GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations expelled three groups from its conference on global racism Thursday for unacceptable behavior related to the opening speech that Iran’s president gave denouncing Israel.

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UN Side-Events: The silencing of Palestinian NGOs

Badil[Pictured from left: Ingrid Jaradat Gassner of Badil, Maysa Zorob of Al Haq, and Harley Eagle of the Mennonite Central Committee] According to the United Nations website:

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has organized a series of events and cultural activities during the Durban Review Conference to highlight the issues being discussed at the conference.

Under themes such as the rights of indigenous peoples, the link between racism and poverty, and policing in diverse societies, the side events organized by OHCHR have enabled a large number of stakeholders to exchange views and share good practices on the issues at the heart of the Durban review process.

Non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors, such as victims’ groups and academics, are essential in combating all forms of racism and OHCHR has encouraged their participation in the review process.

To help showcase the activities of civil society actors, OHCHR also made several meeting rooms available for the organization of further side events for organizations accredited to take part in the Conference.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, the head of Palestinian residency and refugee rights group Badil. She told me they were called into the UN office a few weeks before the conference started and told that they could not hold side-events that were region-specific.

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Is Israel being singled out? Well, yeah.

It’s easy to fall for the extreme polarization here. They hate the UN so you suddenly defend it. They say everyone is an anti-Semite so you want to say no one is. It’s a natural emotional response to this kind of elevated rhetoric, but in the end, it’s not helpful.

In fact, Israel does have some very legitimate claims when they talk about being singled out in the United Nations.  For example, in January, the UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into Israeli human rights violations during the attack on Gaza. But they neglected to call for an investigation into Hamas and other armed groups.

Or there is the Durban I 61-page outcome document- Israel and Palestine are  the only countries/territories that are mentioned. Everything in it that is said about Israel and Palestine is both fair and mild. The hullaballoo about the Durban II document, which makes no mention of Israel and Palestine, is simply that it endorses the Durban I document. Of course, Durban I also singles out the Holocaust for acknowledgment. That kind of singling out would be greeted warmly.

There are numerous examples of a range of human rights concerns that get, relatively speaking, little attention, while the Israeli occupation gets a lot of attention-almost all of it, I might add, apparently useless, given that we are in the 41st year of occupation. Obviously many Muslim countries in particular use this issue so they need not address their own. I have found myself rolling my eyes when forced to listen to Iran lecture Israel on human rights, even if I agreed with many elements of their critique.

But none of that makes what Israel is doing OK or even remotely acceptable.

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Entire world captivated by civil society groups!

Here’s the media gallery at the UN today when the civil society groups from around the world that work on racism and various forms of discrimination finally get to speak- each gets 3 minutes.

Of course, the outcome document was actually voted on and finalized yesterday, so these speeches, the moment for which some NGOs have been preparing all year, are merely symbolic, if that.

I have now heard from 2 sources that the French were about to bolt (presumably because of Ahmedinejad and the larger campaign against the conference) so they quickly voted on the document early before hemorrhaging more countries. It’s just one more way that a conference about racism has ended up being a conference about Israel.

I spoke to one delegate of African descent who told me about an earlier meeting with the NGOs and the general commissioner. The biggest applause line was after one delegate got up to call out the ways the conference had been hijacked by the Israel lobbyists here, resulting in the marginalization of everyone else’s voices.”They have made few friends here,” she says.

Must we Jews always see ourselves as victims?

Having endured a remarkable 2 hours in room ten at the UN today listening to Jon Voight, Alan Dershowitz and others explain how Hamas, Hezbollah and the Nazis are the same; Achmadinejad and Hitler are the same, and that we are now confronting a new Holocaust (I’ll need to write this out in pieces, it was that painful), I have been struggling to find the words for the pathology that has helped unleash this tsunami here at the Review Conference. Far from boycotting, the Israeli proxies have taken over.

Before, I called the pathological denial of Palestinian humanity, let alone Palestinian suffering, “moral schizophrenia”, to borrow the term from IF Stone. But after today’s display from Dershowitz, Wiesel, Sharansky and others, I’ve decided we need a stronger term for this sickness. My friend Susie used the term “Shoahism” meaning the holocaust as your religion. But there’s more.

The mere mention of Palestinian suffering sends these people into paroxysms of defensiveness and even rage. They go on and on about Holocaust denial, but this phenomenon is cut of the same cloth. It is virtually impossible for them to hold both the narrative of their own suffering, and the narrative of Palestinian suffering. It’s as if they did, they might break in two right there in front of us.

Jewish Peace News’ Judith Norman and Alistair Welch offer this:

Antony Lerman, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, addresses the question of why so many Jews, in Israel and around the world, seem blind to Palestinian suffering. The answer he gives – that many Jews see themselves as permanent victims – is not particularly new, but this article gives a particularly lucid account of this sense of victimhood and the effect it has in legitimating policies that lead to great suffering for Palestinians.

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OMG! Photo of repressed Muslim woman is actually movie still!

Hilarious. In an awful way. I wrote yesterday about the kids lined up with posters in front of the UN “protesting” women’s rights etc… This one on the left is of a Muslim woman being buried in preparation for being stoned.

My very smart friend Yaman sent me an email syaing this exact same photo, which is used frequently in the right wing media, showed up in Frontpage Magazine during “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.”

Turns out it’s a production still from an independent movie called the Stone.

Here’s the full sized production still, and here’s what the actress looks like when not buried up to her waist for a photo shoot. (The still is found, in context and in Swedish, on this site.)

He writes: “Scary how it’s the same network of people all around the world who are sensationalizing this beyond all proportions, so bad that they have to use fake photographs to support what they’re doing. The irony of course is that they’re the one’s silencing the conference, not the other way around.”