Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Eleventh Hour Image Make-Over for Durban II?

We'll see next month if this makes a difference.

The first U.N.-sponsored World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, (2001) turned out to be anything but anti-racist. Instead, it devolved into a festival of Israel bashing and overt expressions of Judenhass, spurred on by Arab and North African delegates aided and abetted by left-leaning EU and North American NGOs. If there were any doubts that the Durban Conference had become unhinged, such doubts surely were dispelled when copies of that old Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, were circulated among conference delegates.

The sequel to the Durban conference is scheduled to take place next month in Geneva. Popularly dubbed Durban II, this conference has shown every indication that it will simply be a redux of the original conference in 2001. Organized through the United Nations Human Rights Council, and heavily influenced by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Durban II has been poised to pander to an overt anti-Israel and pro-Islamist agenda. Like its predecessor conference, Durban II is unlikely to address racism or human rights abuses in the very countries at the centre of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Israel announced early on that it would boycott Durban II. Canada did likewise. Aside from the overt Judenhass that was expected to colour the conference, Canada also has objected to the proposed "defamation of religions" policy, which the OIC hopes to make binding upon all member nations in the U.N. What's wrong with a policy against the defamation of religion? "Only one problem," notes Sun Media columnist Lorrie Goldstein.

The 1639-word resolution, drafted by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan cites only one religion by name in need of protection from offensive speech -- Islam.

In fact, the importance of protecting Islam and Muslims from defamatory speech is cited five times in the resolution, while Christianity, Judaism and all other faiths aren't mentioned.

The human rights organization UN Watch says the true intent of the resolution, which is expected to pass, is to "define any questioning of Islamic dogma as a human rights violation, intimidate dissenting voices and encourage the forced imposition of Sharia law."

It warns the biggest victims will be moderate Muslims living in totalitarian Islamic states, who will be made even more vulnerable to charges of defamation and blasphemy by radical Muslims. And radical Muslims consider the offence of blasphemy to be punishable by death. But don't expect Durban II to condemn that.

This issue has raised some troubled eye brows in the United States as well, where "defamation of religion" statutes would almost certainly bump up against the First Amendment protection of free speech. The Obama administration's decision to withdraw from the planning committees and the threat of a U.S. boycott of the conference has emboldened the European Union to threaten likewise. Australia too has announced its intention to boycott.

And so the political football is now back with the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Reporting from Geneva, Frank Jordans of AP writes:

Muslim-backed references to Israel and the "defamation of religion" have been dropped from a draft declaration being prepared for next month's world racism meeting, United Nations officials said Tuesday.

The United States and the 27-nation European Union have threatened to boycott the April 20-25 meeting in Geneva unless Muslim countries back down from demands to limit free speech that criticizes Islam or other faiths. They also objected to passages that singled out Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.

The draft declaration now speaks only of concern about the "negative stereotyping of religions" while omitting direct references to Israel.

For the record, I don't think that changing the language to "negative stereotyping of religions" is much better that "defamation of religions." It seems more like a semantic sleight of hand than a genuine change of focus. In truth, it doesn't change a thing.

*Update* -- Pat Condell doesn't mince words. "Free speech is my religion."

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