Why the Durban Walk Out does not matter

O, praeclarum custodem, ovium lupum! — Cicero

Notice that the Western media has obsessed over the Western walk out during Ahmadinejad’s speech at Durban II. In the first place, the conference’s overall irrelevance must be noted, as those countries with the most serious issues are not by and large represented by credible representatives (this includes in particular those African and Asian states with the most tortured histories of colonial occupation and attempted extermination, many of whom today practice heavy discrimination against their own citizens and residents) and the Western countries that bothered to show up have demonstrated their indifference to the problems of racial discrimination and oppression previously in the conduct of their foreign policy, and in many cases even their domestic policy (one need look no further than the place of the Roma in southern and eastern Europe, for instance; let us see what will be done for these at Durban; we should not even raise Australia’s indigenous peoples). This considered, the Walk Out is irrelevant.

But aside from this, the pompous walk out has reinforced the ability of despots to block out their own misdeeds and excesses by using the Palestinian or whatever other issue to misdirect international attention from, say, a glimmering example of why Libya cannot be trusted with institutional leadership at any level of the international system, save for bureaucratic grunt work, where its incompetence and subterfuge would not be of great consequence to the already sluggish pace of progress there. Witness the conduct (some might call it arrogance) of Libya’s chair at the conference when confronted by a victim of that regime’s crimes. What is truly sad is that there is no strong representation for Libya’s Berbers, whose troubles have been all but ignored by anyone peeping into Libya’s chauvinistic and dictatorial recent past, from Khadduri to Bush. As much is the case elsewhere. The French will attend, but never take responsibility for the brutal nature of France’s presence in Africa and Asia, this as a “human rights activist” represents a government that still widens the bellies of bigmen in Francafrique. The conference should not be taken as unserious because of its love for thundering at Israel, but for its mere premise!

What was so hypocritical as to make one’s mouth dry was to see the the Czech delegation pullout. Is this not a country where Roma are disallowed from bars, restaurants and public pools and where government and the public indulge in the crudest racialism and xenophobia? They are for sure at the head of the EU, but if anything their more important neighbors should have forced them to sit through to learn something about the problem. Thus is the conference’s malevolence: The unscrupulousness of the Iranians allows for every order of offender to creep and slither by without ever addressing its actual mission. There is no problem with boycotting the conference, though the boycott’s motivations say much of the nature of its supporters’ cynical world view. Surely the Israelis deserve some finger wagging and admonishment for their behavior. The boycotters’ self-righteousness the behavior of those pitiful governments still in attendance is what is truly troubling. The very idea that the troubles of lambs can ever be addressed sincerely by a council of wolves is evidence that Durban II is without even the “best of intentions.”

The bottom line at Durban II: Durban is a platform on which despotic majorities and dictators may stand on the backs of those whom they pretend to represent and agitate on behalf of.


8 thoughts on “Why the Durban Walk Out does not matter

  1. This is getting a bit much, on the heels of that conference about religious tolerance initiated by King Abdullah. And, here, the whole setup is really problematic: organized racism is rarely practised against people in government, but people in government are the only ones who get to go to UN conferences. But that was perhaps your point.

    The walkout seems terribly silly, though. Better to stay and fight back: it’s not as if Iran doesn’t have oppression issues of its own to answer for (Baha’is), and Libya’s Berbers are a perfect case in point. I was happy to see the other day that the Obama admin has chosen this strategy in regard to the Human Rights Council, by making a bid for membership and promising active involvement after Bush boycotted for years due to the fact that Libya and others were turning it into an anti-Israeli circus (which they were). There was a great HRW report on that recently (the latest yearly report?), where they insisted democratic nations should not only participate, but organize to ensure that they elect fellow democracies from the different areas — eg. Mali instead of Niger, etc.

    Finally, yuck, France. The UN should organize a conference against France.

  2. kal: One thing that Western countries didn’t like at all at Durban-I was the discussion on slavery – the brouhaha over Palestine allowed the Western states (not that Mauritania or Saudi Arabia would relish such a discussion) to get away scot-free.

    Ahmedinejad is a wonderful excuse for them to boycott and walk away from a discussion on for example the effect of anti-terror laws on minorities or job discrimination, persistant even in such benevolently liberal states as Sweden, or the obnoxious alien legislation in place in Denmark or Italy. That moron of an Iranian president is of course the best thing that could have happened for Israel and some of its Western groupies – you can practically hear the cheering on Ahmedinejad in the upcoming elections from that camp…

    Btw, am I the only one to be absolutely flabbergasted at how slavishly some Western countries toe the Israeli line on Durban II? Whatever the excessive (or not) anount of attention devoted to Palestine at Durban II, one would have thought that the patent ethnic cleansing and discrimination in place in Israel/Palestine would have made them somewhat guarded in their stampede – you begin to wonder what they hold against Mugabe…

    alle: While it is broadly preferable to have Canada or Norway heading the HRC rather than Libya, the difference between their promotion of human rights abroad is of degrees and not nature: while Libya will be happy talking of Palestinians in Israel and suppressing any discussion of minorities in Sudan/Saudi Arabia, Canada/Australia/Netherlands would rather more discuss homosexuals in Senegal or the Bahai in Iran than – Palestinians in Israel, illegal renditions by the USA, or the thousands of Ikhwanyine emprisoned in Egypt… A HRC made up of states is always going to be unfair and prejudiced, but I suspect that what really encenses the US (and its cheerleaders) is that they cannot control the HRC as they can control the SC…

  3. ibnkafka: I think the points you raised reinforce my perception of the conference generally: It is a pointless exercise in demagogy and well educated childishness. The debate over slavery is a stupid one. Enough of it goes on today in Europe, America, the Arab countries and Asia that gabbing over past slavery is a disservice to the living, as much as (perhaps more than) Ahmadinejad’s comments are a blow against the Palestinians. Durban does not serve “peoples” and especially not ones suffering discrimination. It serves people like Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu and the rest that like to stomp on others.

  4. IK — Well, yes, maybe degree, but a very big degree. I think you’re much underestimating many European states here. Sure, they have different priorities, and there’s always going to be hypocrisy, but at least many display a somewhat serious interest in promoting human rights in these kinds of fora. The HRW report was about how activist non-democracies (they singled out Algeria and a couple of others, and voiced disappointment about South Africa among the democracies) use the council to actively work against human rights and provisions for transparency, and try to derail the council’s work. Since there’s no one organizing an opposition to that, they tend to win.

    Also, the HRW proposal was more about finding local democratic allies than about Western states asserting their own hegemony over the council, since it is anyway organized by regional quota. Better to have a democratic state from Africa than to let Qadhafi run amok (Mali over Sudan, RSA over Zimbabwe). Common sense, really, but the US has been pushing a pointless delegitimization and boycott line instead. Perhaps because, as you say, they can’t control the council, or conference, but Libya, Iran etc really does their pro-boycott arguing for them when they’re clowning around like this.

    Anyway, I agree with you about the way Western states have dealt with Durban II. Most have responded totally out of proportion to what was actually been said — even Ahmadinejad’s rant was comparatively mild, and could easily have been swamped in counterattacks had they chosen that strategy.

  5. A few points about the racist UN – Durban “anti-racism” conference

    Why Western countries tend to boycott it.

    1) Since Muslim nations (OIC & Iran) push to criminalize criticism of Islamists’ bigotry, doesn’t it mean that anything being said in that conference is the opposite of tolerance and of truth?

    2) How can the UN avoid the largest practitioner of racism, which is Arabism (against: Kurds, Berbers, Africans, Jews, Assyrians, Asians, etc.), but focuses on the so called “anti-Arab racism”?
    [ Arabism is racism! ]

    3) When will Arab racists & Islamic bigots let go of the UN and stop hijacking it with it’s lobbies (silencing Arab racist genocide in Darfur, yet daming innocent Israelis who merely try to survive)?

    4) Why is Arab terror singling out Jews not racist?

    5) Why is the essence of the entire “conflict'” in the M.E. not a form of bigotry by Arab Muslims who can’t “accept” the non Arab non Muslim pluralistic democratic Israel?

    6) Are Jews living, or even allowed to live in racist “Palestinian” controlled territories (Judenrein – ethnic cleaning)?

    7) When will lefty radicals (Meretz/B’Tzelem) talk about preferential treatments to Arabs OVER Jews inside Israel, like in Hebron and in other cases?

    8) Why are (Arab Palestinian or Hezbollah) the ones using its own kids as cannon fodders considered “innocent victims”?

    9) Is Israel battling just terrorism or an ARAB MUSLIM CAMPAIGN OF GENOCIDE since the 1920’s?

    10) Is it not anti-Jewish racism to brand Israel’s fight to defend lives as “racism”?

    11) How more racist can the Durban-conference get, If the two oppressive regimes: Libya & Iran are the “stars”?
    Libya – whose Muamar Qaddafi, besides his own persecution of non-Arabs, especially millions of blacks in his country, who describe themselves as living like: slaves or animals, Qaddaf the one of the champions in today’s racist Arabization, and Arabist racism push against Africa (whose “vision” has been compared to Hitler’s “lebensraum”), in: Chad, Nigeria, etc., ultimately his crimes in the Sudan region helped in leading the current Al-Bashir’s genocide on Millions of Africans (financed mainly by Libya and S. Arabia).
    Iran, the regime of Islamic bigotry’s oppression on its own population with an added special persecution on all on-Muslims: Christians, Baha’i, Jews, etc. or on non-“pure-Persians” like: Ahwazi – Arabs, Kurds, Azeris, Baluchis, etc. now under the leadership of: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [EichmannJihad – the Islamic Hitler] who plays as if he “denies” the holocaust only in order to prepare for (his wishful) the second, “wiping off Israel”.

    Thus, the shame of the UN, kidnapped by the epitome of intolerance today, the infamous twin fascism: Arab racism, as in Gadhafi, and Islamic bigotry as in Amadinejad, are going to be “preaching” (and determine) to the world on tolerance.

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