Commentary and Newsletters

Caroline Glick, Melanie Phillips and Anne Bayefsky

Durban II Alert - A Response to David Harris (AJC)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Jerusalem Post, March 16, 2009

It stands to reason that that David Harris would be sensitive to criticism of the AJC's participation in planning "Durban II." [David Harris blog, "Durban Diplomacy", March 15, 2009] After all, by taking part in the Durban II planning process on a US government delegation, AJC contemptuously ignored repeated calls from­ Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Minister Isaac Herzog for the United States government to stay away and announce it will not participate, period. Israel's priority, and the priority of much of the American Jewish community was to delegitimize the hate-fest, not place an AJC representative on its planning committee.

The fact of the matter is that the only reason the US made a tactical retreat from the process was the pressure created by criticisms such as ours, along with protests made by Israel, Canada, and other American Jewish organizations and leaders.

For more than a year, the AJC has conducted an extensive lobbying campaign of the American government and of foreign governments to stay in Durban II.

On December 11, 2008 Harris told The Jerusalem Post: "We can't afford to declare Durban II lost without more focus on diplomacy." On January 12, 2009 the AJC's human rights arm, the Blaustein Institute, wrote to Secretary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice: "The Durban Review Conference provides an opportunity to review states' progress in the implementation of their commitments to combat racism made in 2001... While some organizations are calling for a US boycott, we believe that is the wrong decision at this time." As recently as February 22, 2009 Harris told the Post: "Our position on Durban II is clear. We have publicly praised France and the Netherlands, among other countries, for insisting on clear red lines and threatening to withdraw if they are breached."

If they are breached? The AJC's own UN monitoring body, UN Watch, reported the breach had occurred on October 28, 2008, in a report aptly called "Shattering the Red Lines: The Durban II Draft Declaration." Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations told the Post on December 11, 2008: "We clearly see that all the red lines that have been enumerated by the Europeans have been violated."

Under the guise of ever-shifting red lines (that in any incarnation Israel and the rest of the Jewish world understood were crossed long ago), AJC has caused great damage to Israel's diplomatic standing.

Contrary to much misinformation, the fact of the matter is that the Obama administration has not made a final decision about whether it will attend Durban II. Its recent departure from the planning sessions in Geneva left the door open for cosmetic changes to the text of the conference declaration that, if made, would allow its negotiators to claim a spurious victory.

The key point which Harris chooses to ignore is that the agreed objective of Durban II is to reaffirm and implement the 2001 Durban Declaration. That document singles out Israel for censure and says that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. Consequently any attempted sanitizing of the latest text will be worthless, since by definition the new Declaration will re-affirm the 2001 singling out and demonization of Israel.

Then too, Harris's claim that the US's tactical withdrawal from the planning sessions will make other nations more likely to walk away from Durban II is both incorrect and misleading. The ambiguity of the US's current position has held back the Australians and the British from withdrawing since they do not want to be double-crossed by an Obama administration that eventually attends. Absent a clear American stand, the French and the Germans are putting enormous pressure on Italy and the Netherlands not to break ranks with the rest of the EU - which have no intention of leaving. Initial suggestions by both countries that they would not go are now in doubt.

Worse still, as a quid pro quo for its tactical retreat from Durban II, the US is on the verge of announcing that it will run for a seat (election is a foregone conclusion) on the UN Human Rights Council - a move strongly advocated by none other than the AJC's human rights institute. In the words of an AJC press release January 29, 2007: "The human rights arm of the American Jewish Committee is urging the United States to seek membership on the UN Human Rights Council." The Council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 UN member states combined. By joining the UN Human Rights Council, the Obama administration will be legitimizing a body dedicated to the delegitimization of Israel.

It is shameful that the AJC has chosen to join this cynical and sinister process, whose outcome can only be to weaken Israel and strengthen her enemies. And it is outrageous that the AJC has sought to defend its participation in the process by attacking those who point out the consequences of its actions.

No one knows whether the Obama administration or other Western governments will finally stand their ground against pro-Durban, anti-Jewish and anti-democratic forces. What is certain, however, is that if the Obama administration, European countries or Australia do decide to stay out and the West thus finally says no to the substance of Durban I, it will be through the efforts of all those who have tried to delegitimize the process rather than those whose actions have effectively helped an unconscionable exercise come to fruition.

Caroline Glick Melanie Phillips Anne Bayefsky
Senior Contributing Editor of the Jerusalem Post British Journalist and Author of Londonistan Touro College