Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The AP reports that the latest draft document of Durban II no longer singles Israel out for condemnation (no other country was mentioned specifically), and also has eliminated provisions which would make criticism of religion a human rights violation. The AJC has the new draft text, and it looks like this report is correct. The changes came after the EU threatened a mass boycott of the event. This now looks to have been averted -- the French Foreign Minister claimed that the changes mean the document no longer breaches EU "red lines".

This is excellent news, and I applaud the courage and conviction of the international actors who have hopefully made it possible for Durban II to focus on all the pressing issues of racism and intolerance that plague the global community. It was unfortunate that ultimately only a boycott threat could do what subtler diplomacy couldn't, but this was perhaps the most dramatic way for the EU and the rest of the west to indicate the seriousness of its position here. And I do hope that this shift means that the entire world -- Israel and America included -- can participate in this conference. Both Israel and America have much to learn and much to teach about questions of racism and intolerance. I'm not idealistic enough to believe that these conferences are anything remotely akin to a truly fair and deliberative environment -- but the symbolism matters.

There are, however, at least two potential avenues for concern remaining. The first is that the offending articles will be introduced during the conference as an ambush. Presumably if this happens, the groups that would have boycotted will simply walk out. The second is the behavior of NGOs at the conference. Much of the most offensive behavior at Durban I was done at the parallel NGO meeting. I'm not sure what role NGOs will play at Durban II, but given that the last time around they basically drove Jewish attendees off the grounds, it is worth keeping an eye on.

Still, fabulous job.

1 comment:

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

I'm not as encouraged, enthusiastic or optimistic as you. Mostly for the reasons you mention towards the end of your post. I just blogged about it myself.

I still don't believe there are any real safeguards against a repeat of Durban I, especially when the new document reaffirms the 2001 conference and is still being organized by the likes of Iran, Lybia and Cuba.