The 2011 Durban Review Conference, known as Durban III, has been billed as a continuation of the 2001 and 2009 United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance previously held in Durban, South Africa and Geneva, Switzerland. Both previous conferences failed to meet their stated objectives of addressing issues of international racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, degenerating instead into a tribunal which demonized and singled out one nation. Anyone would guess that perhaps that nation would be Sudan, China, Saudi Arabia or perhaps North Korea. But it was Israel, the lone democracy in the Middle-East, the one nation among its neighbours where religious and ethnic minorities are flourishing and where there is free press, free speech and women’s rights.
The 2001 World Conference against Racism Draft Declaration perpetuated the falsity that Zionism is racism, and charged that Israel’s so-called occupation of Palestine was racially motivated and therefore relevant to the Conference agenda. The 2009 conference included similar anti-Israel rhetoric, implying in part that: a homeland for Jewish people is racially based; Israel is guilty of apartheid; and that the historical accuracy of the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust is subject to debate. The Conference speakers included violent dictators and virulent anti-Semites such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran who spoke in 2009 and manipulated the racism issue to advance his anti-Israel propaganda.
We are in a moment in history where standing up against anti-Semitism is not only necessary but long over-due. Those who cannot remember, who consciously ignore or refuse to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Unfortunately, in the case of the Durban conferences, the international community has refused to learn from the first conference and have allowed for a repeat of this anti-Semitic platform again in Geneva and now in the United States. As international leaders gather at the United Nations to condemn Israel and the Jewish people, we, as North Americans and as participants of a global community, have the responsibility to speak out before anti-Semitism at the United Nations turns into violence and history repeats itself.
Holding to the facts of history has never been so important as leaders like Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, works to influence public opinion by distorting the facts. This Holocaust-denier has used the Durban conference to minimize the atrocities that occurred in the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad not only denies the systematic killing and genocide of 6 million Jews through horrific and inhumane measures, but is also working hard to propagate the delegitimization and demonization of Israel. For instance, at Durban II in 2009, he claimed that Zionism is “a kind of racism that has tarnished the image of humanity”; that Zionism “personifies racism” and that the international community should do everything possible to “eradicate” the Zionist “regime”. Adolf Hitler also believed that the world should address a Jewish conspiracy and stated in Mein Kampf that “the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.” It is difficult to deny the parallel between the statements made by Ahmadinejad in 2009 and Adolf Hitler’s statements in his 1925 publication. It is alarming that the international community is showing so little discernment for right and wrong as Ahmadinejad is still regarded as a respected member of the United Nations and was given a platform to speak.
Furthermore, forty percent of the UN Human Rights Council Resolutions are against Israel. Israel has been condemned by UN resolutions more than any other country on earth even compared to countries like Sudan, Cambodia and North Korea where millions of people have been killed and been victims of human rights abuses. For instance, Israel has received approximately 220 condemnations while Sudan has received only 45 and North Korea only 10 condemnations. Iran was elected V-P of the General Assembly, with the Durban III conference and the vote on Palestinian Statehood as their first major assignments. It is disturbing to observe that double standards, anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitism are Nonetheless, the international community is predominantly silent and in some cases outwardly supportive of the UN’s policies towards Israel and of the Durban III conference, as in the case of Germany and Australia. Justifying anti-Semitism under the banner of addressing racism issues, silence and even support for the Durban III conference by the international community is building momentum in an alarming direction.
At the grassroots level, a broad coalition of over 30 organizations both religious and secular lead by The Coalition for True Justice made up of over 25 Christian leaders and organizations, Jerusalem Institute of Justice, Eagles’ Wings, Stand With Us and EYEontheUN.org and many others are choosing to respond to the Durban III Conference and not be silent. Based on their shared values and commitment to support the welfare and security of the democratic state of Israel, the above organizations invite people everywhere to join them in mobilizing support for Israel at the United Nations. They strongly oppose the legitimacy of the Durban III conference and the Durban Declaration which singles out and discriminates against Israel among the family of nations. They call upon democracies and decent people everywhere to reject the legitimacy of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the Durban Declaration as instruments which are forever tainted by the stain of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, they call upon the United Nations to end its relentless and one-sided condemnation of Israel, to desist from perpetuating anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric and from encouraging hate and violence against the Jewish people.
On September 20th at 7:00pm an organized prayer rally for Christians and anyone interested will be taking place at the Crenshaw Christian Centre East in New York City where dozens of leaders, prayer networks and hundreds of Christians will gather to show support for Israel and pray. On September 21st, a protest against Durban III will take place at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza from 11AM-2PM where people of all backgrounds will show support for Israel. Leaders from a wide spectrum of political and religious perspectives will be speaking at the event. On September 22nd, The Perils of Global Intolerance: The United Nations and Durban III Conference presented by The Hudson Institute and Touro College Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust will address the question of ‘what happens when a group of states collude to corrupt the meaning of human rights’ like at the Durban III conference. Among some of the speakers at this conference are: Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, John Bolton, a former US Ambassador to the UN and Mike Huckabee, the former Governor of Arkansas among many others.
I believe we all have a responsibility to respond to the assault on Israel in the international community. There are several ways that we can exercise this responsibility. First, everyone can sign the petition to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at www.protestdurban3.com. Second, I want to invite you to join the thousands of people who will protest at the United Nations on September 21st to confront the hypocrisy and the evil enabled by the UN and to express support for Israel. Third, those who hold to Judeo –Christian values and anyone else interested should attend the prayer rally at the Crenshaw Christian Centre East on in NYC on September 20th.
The enemies of Israel are also enemies of our Western values and culture, Judeo-Christian beliefs, and essentially enemies of anything that does not fit into Radical Islamic religious and cultural perspective. If we do not stand up against leaders in the international community who are using the United Nations as a platform for the spread of their racist and radical beliefs and policies, it is only a matter of time before our own rights and freedoms become threatened, the time to speak out is now.
As a Christian woman I often hear about my religion’s dark anti-Semitic past of persecuting Jews and also of spreading Replacement Theology. However, today I and many others have the opportunity to say that we will not repeat history but rather we will stand up for what is right and support the Jews by standing for Israel in this critical moment in history. People often ask the question “if I was there what would I have done” when they visit Yad Vashem or some type of Holocaust memorial. Today, we don’t have to ask what we would have done in the 1930s and 40s, we have to ask what we are doing now!?
Josee Chiasson is a York University student completing an Honours Bachelor's Degree in psychology. She is a current intern with a pro-Israel Christian organization, Eagles' Wings, where she is the coordinating administrator of a protest to confront Durban III at the United Nations.