Durban IV, held this year on Sept. 22 and marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, turned out to be a debacle. This was expected.
But the lies that it propagated, like those of its predecessors, did not begin in 2001, with the first such gathering in South Africa. The world should have seen what was coming back in 1975 when the “Zionism is racism” mantra was introduced with the passage of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379.
Indeed, Durban was and remains a most regrettable creation of the United Nations.
It is high time for the United Nations to reject useless distractions from its mission of promoting humanity and peace. It must simply prohibit this hateful commemorative event from happening again.
If member countries want to hold a festival of hate, they should do so without the blessing or the name of the United Nations. To go through this dishonest exercise of announcing something in the name of fighting racism, which prompts at least 20 Western countries correctly to boycott it, while others attend under political pressure, is ridiculous.
The United Nations should just save itself the embarrassment of having its name attached to this fiasco. The countries firmly committed to Durban are those that have called for Israel’s destruction. Many of them commiserate with Iran.
“Zionism is racism” is just a catchy slogan. Of course, there’s no truth in it. Zionism is not racism. The ancestral Jewish homeland, like Judaism itself, is built and based on a code of humanitarian behavior that is reflected today in Israel’s richly diverse population, one conceived in freedom, free will and mutual respect. The rest, let’s be honest, is politics and opinion. As in any democracy, Israel feasts on political debate. Its history reflects such energy.
For millennia, expanding civilizations made the Holy Land the prize of conquests. Jewish settlement there in an industrial world increased in the 1800s, even before Theodor Herzl launched the Zionist movement.
For 73 years, the modern State of Israel has blossomed as a legal, sovereign nation and is the foundation of thousands of years of the history and practice of Judaism.
In addition to Zionism not being racism, Israel is not an “apartheid” state. The mere utterance of words doesn’t make it so.
The construction of a security wall or other security provisions does not make it so. The BDS movement, another demeaning, delegitimizing campaign, is mostly harmful economically to Palestinians and enemies who perpetuate destructive “from the river to the sea” rhetoric. Israel does not exist on illegally occupied land. Research the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).
These propagandistic themes are bogus. They persist without any basis in fact. Neither do such messaging efforts help the ambition, vision or hope for a Palestinian state. Any effort to guide or assist Palestinians toward statehood is getting a sneak preview in Gaza and parts of the West Bank (Areas A and B). They are not managing well, but not because of Israel. They are failing because of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which maintain the failed ambitions since the U.N.’s Partition Plan.
Durban will forever be known as a failure, the utter antithesis of the United Nations. So embarrassingly flawed is its heinous mission that it raises one question: Why allow these commemorations to occur at all? What is the purpose of the United Nations convening “hate fests” against a country that, in fact, delivers so many positive contributions to repairing the world? Consider the following:
The answer is as simple as it is obvious. There is no purpose in convening any Durban commemorative event. None. It is a waste of time and resources.
Surely, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, a man of peace, understands how such events linked to Durban are counterproductive. In the same way that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) removed the Carnival of Aalst in Belgium from its World Heritage list in 2019, the General Assembly and its agencies should disengage from anti-Zionist festivals.
Such events are poisoning minds. As Durban IV is now part of the past, perhaps the U.N. can exercise its power to halt Durban V.
Read President Kaufman's analysis in JNS.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
At the turn of the 21st century, much of the world feared computers around the world would crash, setting off all kinds of millennial chaos. It didn’t happen. Clocks continued to tick; computers continued to run.
For the United Nations, perhaps the time was right for another chance to rid the world of racism, end slavery, and sex trafficking of women and children. Perhaps it was time to conquer famine and disease. In 2001, planning for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance took shape. The site for this noble, if not symbolic event, was Durban, a location on the southern coast of Africa, a continent racked by all of the above problems.
As often happens with the United Nations, a space built on visions of peace, the event aimed at fighting humanity’s millennia-old maladies would devolve into a hatefest. Durban, instead, would become a battleground against an ancient people who’d build an identity from receiving a divine code of human behavior and entering a sliver of real estate bordering the Mediterranean. Four days into the event, the United States and Israel withdrew their delegations in protest.
Twenty years after Durban, the very United Nations that organized and promoted the original Durban Conference announced another round of fighting human rights and racism. Fast-forward 20 years into the 21st century. Something called the “Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” (DDPA) is planned to offer “discussions” that will become a report to be presented to the U.N. General Assembly at its 76th session in 2021 and the Human Rights Council’s 45th session. Can’t wait. And neither can Iran.
The representative of Iran requested that on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the DDPA, the Intergovernmental Working Group would “address the wide range of issues addressed in the DDPA, as well as the new manifestations of discrimination,” in particular issues of “xenophobia and Islamophobia.” So full of irony is this request from one of the chief violators of human rights in the world that one can only wonder if such a request from this member-nation makes the entire event a nonstarter, at least for the United States and Israel.
Other nations have requested that the 20th anniversary of Durban be celebrated with “one thematic event” in Geneva and one “high-level political event” in New York. Other groups requested producing promotional materials and “high visibility” from such countries as South Africa and Cuba, among others. Much, if not all, of the free world must wonder if the phrase “well-intentioned” has a chance to be relevant here. What’s more, the plans call for member states, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, of which B’nai B’rith International is so credentialed, to organize and participate in the Durban 20th anniversary programs.
The framework for this meeting is beginning to sound awfully like something the world has already witnessed in the first Durban Conference. Are we headed for Durban déjà vu—another hatefest?
When the governments of Iran, Cuba and South Africa figure prominently in the planning, it’s reasonable to feel skepticism. Will the funds budgeted for this conference perpetuate United Nations bias against Israel? This funding could surely be better spent on reducing famine and sickness.
What else would make such a conference fruitful? Dream about these developments: the U.N. conference opens with a salute to Gulf States and other countries seeking peace and normalized relations with Israel. The Palestinian Authority declares the end of its covenant to destroy the State of Israel. Gone is the drumbeat of language declaring Israel an “apartheid state.” A new Palestinian government replaces its covenant and ceases uttering the refrain about how Israel targets innocent children and stops claiming the Temple Mount and the Western Wall have no attachment to the Jewish people. Imagine the progress in such a world. Nice dream. (Snap) Wake up.
Twenty years ago, while people from the free world were packing for Durban, pre-conference documents assailed Israel for “the racist practices of Zionism.” In 2021, contrary to popular belief, many in the world understand and appreciate positive contributions of Muslims and their faith in God. At the same time, no one can honestly deny Islamophobia or xenophobia of any kind, particularly when significant parts of the world live with extremist threats to kill other people, destroy other faiths or cultures and “annihilate” Israel.
Twenty years ago, delegations condemned Israel for her “treatment of Palestinians” in defending her borders. Never mind the relentless terror directed at Israel, the tunneling, kidnappings, stabbings of civilians, the firing missiles at Israeli towns from Gaza homes, schools, hospitals, even mosques.
The DDPA should try again to promote racial reconciliation, to construct a message of peace and harmony and do what the United Nations was designed to do since 1945 — “to prevent conflict, to help parties in conflict to make peace or to create conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish.” Avoid Durban Déjà vu.
Read President Kaufman's expert analysis in Inside Sources.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
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