Saturday, April 18, 2009
"Racism" conference is no place for democratic nations
Word from the U.S. State Department today that Washington will not participate in next week's U.N. conference on racism is a step forward, not backward, for settling international conflicts. On the surface, it would appear that more engagement would be the best thing. But Democratic nations that value honesty and integrity should have nothing to do with this meeting, which the United Nations is convening to try to repair the damage from the last racism conference in 2005 in Durban, South Africa, according to the Reuters international news service. "With regret, the United States will not join the review conference," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said today, putting an end to deliberations inside the new Obama administration about whether or not to attend the conference, known as Durban II. The United States and Israel walked out of the 2005 conference after Arab states proposed a declaration defining Zionism, the Jewish statehood movement that led to the creation of Israel, as racism. Months of negotiations over the wording of the first Durban II statement failed to get offending language removed, Reuters said, after Arab nations added language barring "defamation of religion," a reference to the 2006 controversy over cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad that were published in a Danish newspaper. Wood indicated that the United States saw the addition of that language as an effort to restrict free speech. But a draft statement that removed all references to Israel and to the cartoon controversy also was found wanting, Wood said, possibly because Iran's virulantly anti-Israel leader, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was scheduled as the conference's keynote speaker. Canada has also said it will boycott the conference to avoid a repeat of the "Israel-bashing" from the last conference, Reuters said. The European Union is still deliberating whether to attend, Reuters said.