Morocco part of the white Durban-II coalition
You’ve all heard about the hullabaloo in Geneve, in relation to the so-called Durban II UN conference against racism, a follow-up from the 2001 Durban I conference which was viewed with dismay by Western mainstream media and foreign ministries on account of its insufficiently respectful language towards Israel (1). Only four heads of state attended, but since one of them was Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, there was bound to be a media blitz from the usual suspects on the usual red line (as we sayin Morocco) – Israel. Not that this was spontaneous – the Swiss newsmagazine Hebdo reportsthat the Israeli foreign ministry as well as Jewish and pro-Israeli NGOs co-ordinated their efforts:
La conférence de Genève devait faire le point sur les progrès de la lutte contre le racisme depuis Durban I, en évitant ses dérives antisémites passées (lire encadré en page 31). Elle a pris l’allure d’un match retour et d’un succès pour les groupes de pression juifs. Depuis près de huit ans, ces derniers sont préparés à ce rendez-vous, dont le jour d’inauguration, le 20 avril, coïncidait de surcroît avec la commémoration de la Shoah. Les préparatifs de cette contre-attaque ont débuté dès le lendemain de Durban I. Arrivé du Canada à Genève, le professeur d’histoire Gil Troy se rappelle du retour d’Afrique du Sud de son collègue Irwin Cotler en 2001 «traumatisé, le visage défait avec un sentiment de colère et de trahison. Depuis lors, les communautés juives se sont dit: “Plus jamais ça.”» «J’ai immédiatement pensé qu’il fallait agir», se souvient, lui aussi, Gerald Steinberg, professeur en Israël: «Durban I nous est tombé dessus par surprise. Nous n’étions pas préparés, nous dormions.» Des ONG jugées antisémites avaient pris le pouvoir à Durban? C’est sur ce même terrain qu’il fallait contre-attaquer. Gerald Steinberg fonde alors NGO Monitor, une organisation basée à Jérusalem qui se propose de fournir aux milieux intéressés et au grand public «des analyses critiques de la production des ONG internationales» sur Israël. Autrement dit, de saper leur crédibilité, à commencer par Human Rights Watch et Amnesty International. «Notre premier succès a été de pousser la fondation Ford à ne pas soutenir les organisations participant à Durban II.» (…)
Sur le plan opérationnel, Gerald Steinberg en témoigne, des contacts se sont très vite noués avec des groupes de pression et des communautés, notamment en Europe et aux Etats-Unis. Comme deux Juifs égalent trois opinions, selon le dicton, impossible d’imaginer une planification au niveau international. Mais cela n’exclut pas la concertation, qui s’est intensifiée au fil du temps. Tzipi Livni, encore ministre israélienne des Affaires étrangères, a rencontré une trentaine d’organisations juives du monde entier à Jérusalem, le 26 février 2008, «afin de coordonner les efforts pour éviter que la conférence [Durban II] (…) ne devienne une fête de la haine anti-israélienne et antisémite», selon le Jerusalem Post. Andy David, porte-parole du Ministère des affaires étrangères israélien préfère, lui, parler d’information. «Les organisations juives n’ont pas besoin de l’Etat d’Israël pour se mobiliser», résume-t-il.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, witnessed on the pressure and propaganda she’s been facing from the pro-Israeli camp:
Since day one of my new job as High Commissioner, I was committed to the Durban Review Conference. From September 1 when I took office until today, I simply cannot recall how many meetings, phone calls, discussions I have had with my team and with ministers, ambassadors, NGOs, journalists, to explain why this conference was so important and why it should enjoy participation by all.
It was very difficult. I had to face a widespread, and highly organized campaign of disinformation. Many people, including Ministers with whom I spoke, told me that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which as you know was agreed by 189 states at the original World Conference Against Racism in 2001 was anti-Semitic, and it was clear that either they had not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidedly exaggerated.
Many others have labelled the entire Durban process as a “hate fest.” We have had some rough moments in the process, but a “hate fest?” I’m sorry, this is hyperbole. It is a gross exaggeration. But it is everywhere on the Internet. And I’m sorry to say many mainline newspapers who incidentally declined many op-eds that I sent up to them. Because I kept urging States to take part, one of the most vociferous opponents of the conference called me the “dangerous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” So if you see a special look about me, that’s the danger. Another called me the “ludicrous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” That look I have dropped since. I expect these types of personal attacks to continue for the rest of my tenure. But I can live with them because I see this conference as a success and I know that you will judge this process in a valid and fair way.
If people actually read the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, they would have realized that it includes a paragraph which says that “the Holocaust should never be forgotten”. It includes two paragraphs that denounce “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”, and one paragraph which mentions the suffering of the Palestinians, their right of self-determination and the security of all States, including Israel, and two paragraphs calling for peace. That’s all there is on the Middle East. And I could not get these corrections published in some important newspapers, particularly in the US, who used the word hate fest without checking these paragraphs.
The final document of this conference – the Conference product, if you like – also says the Holocaust must never be forgotten and deplores anti-Semitism along with Islamophobia and all forms of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and related intolerance. But already the propaganda machine is starting to wind up to term this conference a failure, a “hate fest and all the rest of it.” This is extraordinary. Yet no one has really written up the true story of this Conference – a strange rough and tumble affair full of smoke and mirrors, I must admit, yet very definitely a success story, with plenty of good will as well as plenty of bad will of the type I have described just now.
Judging from post Durban II declarations from some Western countries, the results as reflected in the final declaration have been a total victory for the Western and pro-Israeli camp:
– no mention of any reparation due to victims of slavery or colonialism, even on purely moral ground;
– no mention of the notion of defamation of religion;
– the single specific genocide mentioned is the Jewish genocide (see point 66 of the final declaration);
Total victory, in other words:
Durban II s’achève sur un succès malgré les polémiques (Le Temps)Malgré les dérapages de représentants de certains Etats et d’ONG notamment pro-iraniennes et pro-israéliennes, Durban II constitue un grand moment du multilatéralisme. Grand, car les difficultés qu’il a fallu surmonter durant le processus de préparation de la conférence étaient considérables. La question de diffamation des religions que les pays islamiques souhaitaient introduire dans le texte, estimant qu’elle répondrait aux problèmes d’islamophobie découlant notamment de la lutte anti-terroriste, a été écartéeaprès des pressions européennes très fortes. De même, la notion de réparations liées au colonialisme n’a pas été retenue non plus. Quand à Israël, il ne figure pas dans le document final. Les concessions faites par les Etats africains et arabo-musulmans ont été importantes. Les pays sud-américains ont joué un rôle stabilisateur par leurs prises de position modérées.
Apart from the outright criminalisation of anti-zionism, what more could the Western countries have hoped for? Well, they failed in obtaining that sexual orientation be mentioned in the declaration, and had to accept a mention of islamophobia (point 12), a notion that the most strident editorialists and intellectual of the Eurabia persuasion insist doesn’t exist (for a good overview of the Durban II outcome, see here) – indeed, in the latter category, French journalist Caroline Fourest felt that the Western countries should have gone even further. France’s Bernard Kouchner, no great friend of Iran nor of the Palestinian cause, felt elated, while the European Commission was quietly satisfied.
Judging from the initial press coverage however, you would have thought that David Irving and Ayman al Zawahiri had taken over the show. Of course, the presence and speech of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had provided the pretext for a boycott and walk-out from the more significant Western states (2), under Netanyahu’s vigilant gaze. Described as anti-semitic, Ahmedinejad’s speech made no mention of his deplorable negationist obsession, allegedly on Ban-Ki-Moon’s urging – and the UN Secretary General apparently also did his piece in view of his own re-election campaign by pressing Ahmedinejad not to assimilate zionism with racism. In fact, the written version of his speech distributed before hand contained a sentence on “the ambiguous and dubious issue of the Holocaust” that wasn’t uttered by him in his live delivery – the Western walk-out was thus not initiated by any negationist utterance. The Jewish genocide had nevertheless figured prominently in the pro-Israeli NGO’s campaign before and under the Durban II conference (Elie Wiesel was present, and Geneva’s Jewish community held a Holocaust memorial service in front of the UN Geneva HQ).
So exactly what prompted the Western countries’ walk-out? The following part of his speech, on Israel – what else?
Coercion and arrogance is the origin of oppression and wars. Although today many proponents of racism condemn racial discrimination in their words and their slogans, a number of powerful countries have been authorized to decide for other nations based on their own interests and at their own discretion and they can easily violate all laws and humanitarian values as they have done so. Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering and they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And, in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine. The Security Council helped stabilize the occupying regime and supported it in the past 60 years giving them a free hand to commit all sorts of atrocities. It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide while the awakened-conscience and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutalities and the bombardment of civilians in Gaza. The supporters of Israel have always been either supportive or silent against the crimes.
While the genocide accusation raised against Israel is baseless, the rest is rather unexceptional, with some allowance for his fiery language, and the facts presented – double standards in condemnation of racism but support of Israel, impunity of Israel’s violations of international law, government-sanctioned discrimination in Israel, the Security Council’s support of Israeli policies – are mainstream fare in the Israel/Palestine debate:
“Un grand moment d’hypocrisie européenne, dit Omar Barghouti, l’un des chefs de file du mouvement de boycottage d’Israël. Je désapprouve les propos qu’Ahmadinejad a prononcés par le passé sur l’Holocauste ou la nécessité de renvoyer les juifs en Europe. Mais l’honnêteté oblige à reconnaître que sa déclaration à Genève est purement factuelle. Même le département d’Etat américain dit qu’Israël pratique, je cite, “une discrimination institutionnelle, légale et sociétale” à l’égard de ses citoyens arabes. Ce n’est pas du racisme, ça ?”
What the walk-out thus means is that any fundamental criticism of Israel – beyond the usual hand-wringing about Israel killing somewhat too many Palestinians/Lebanese for its own good – is off bounds, beyond the pale of acceptable diplomatic discourse.
The fact that the countries boycotting and walking out on Durban II on account of Israel are almost exclusively Western hasn’t been lost on the natives (Senegal’s Le Soleil for example) and on some lucid Westerners – Bakchich’s Ian Hamel (“Ahmadinejad suscite un tollé… chez les Occidentaux“), and especially The Guardian’s Seamus Milne (but the Irish are really honorary Palestinians) who has for example written:
What do the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy and Israel have in common? They are all either European or European-settler states. And they all decided to boycott this week’s UN conference against racism in Geneva – even before Monday’s incendiary speech by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which triggered a further white-flight walkout by representatives of another 23 European states. In international forums, it’s almost unprecedented to have such an undiluted racial divide of whites-versus-the-rest. And for that to happen in a global meeting called to combat racial hatred doesn’t exactly augur well for future international understanding at a time when the worst economic crisis since the war is ramping up racism and xenophobia across the world.
He goes on:
Israel’s supporters often complain that, whatever its faults, it is singled out for attack while the crimes of other states and conflicts are ignored. To the extent that that’s true in forums such as the UN, it’s partly because Israel is seen as the unfinished business of European colonialism, along with the Middle East conflict’s other special mix of multiple toxins. The Geneva boycotters, fresh from standing behind Israel’s carnage in Gaza, are in denial about their own racism – and their continuing role in the tragedy of the Middle East.
But he’s partly wrong: the pro-Israeli, Western coalition at Durban II isn’t monochrome. If we allow for some individuals, such as the Senegalese former human rights rapporteur Doudou Diene who – contrary to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – is unable to find any ethnic or racial discrimination aspect in the Palestine question, three non-Western countries joined this diplomatic coalition of the willing: Jordan, Saint Kitts and Nevis – and Morocco, of course. Let us cite the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris:
“All the Latin American, all the African nations except Morocco, all the Asian nations stayed,” Harris said. “That was striking and disappointing.”
The Jewish Week, which cited him, added Jordan to the list of non-Western countries walking out:
The speech prompted a walkout by 25 nations, including Jordan and Morocco.
The Jerusalem Post puts Morocco in good company:
Some 40 diplomats from more than 20 countries, mostly Europeans but including Morocco, followed suit, as did several nongovernmental organizations, including B’nai B’rith International.
The Jerusalem Post didn’t include Jordan on its list of walk-outs, but confirmed that Morocco was part of the club. Neither Egypt – Israel’s indefectible ally – nor Turkey walked out. Norway’s representative staid put as well.
Morocco’s delegation at the Durban II conference in Geneva was led by the infamous justice minister Abdelouahed Radi. Member of parliament for his rural fiefdom of Sidi Slimane since 1963, and leader of the socialist USFP, this professor of “social psychology” is notorious for his vast land possessions, his local omnipotence in Sidi Slimane and for his obsequiousness towards the monarch. He was thus the one leading the Moroccan delegation’s walk out, for utterances about Israel and Palestine that are standard fare in Morocco in general and in USFP newspapers or party meetings in particular. The speech he pronounced at Durban II (a shorter English version is available here) was the usual hodge-podge of royal sycophancy and bland pronouncements on Morocco’s staggering human rights achievements. Of course, knowing Morocco’s recent and startling diplomatic profile, one shouldn’t be overly surprised. After all, the offending speech was pronounced by one of those dastardly devious shias… For what it’s worth, Morocco won the plaudits of the American Jewish Committee:
AJC commended those delegations, including several European countries and Morocco, that walked out of the hall in protest during Ahmadinejad’s remarks.
For the record, the rest of the Maghribi presence at Geneva was more subdued: Libya’s Najat al-Hajjaji presided over Durban II’s preparation committee, and Algeria tried in vain to get the future UN Observatory on racism under the purview of the ill-famed Human Rights Council:
Même l’absence dans la déclaration du projet d’Observatoire du racisme se révèle positive. L’Algérie voulait que les lignes directrices de cet observatoire soient fixées par le Conseil des droits de l’homme, une instance onusienne où les régimes autoritaires réussissent souvent à imposer leurs vues. Pour obtenir le consensus, ce projet ne figure plus dans la déclaration. «La Haut-commissaire aux droits de l’homme qui porte ce projet pourra donc le mettre sur pied en toute indépendance. Ce qu’elle a promis de faire», relève Adrien-Claude Zoller.
Algeria furthermore denounced the boycotters (3) – but is noteworthy that the speech was given at a low diplomatic level – by Algeria’s permanent representative at the UN in Geneva, Idriss Jazaïry. Haven’t detected any signs of what Tunisia and Mauritania were up to.
Further readings on Durban II:
– the official Durban II site;
– Muzzle Watch’s numerous posts on Durban II;
– Philip Weiss’s “Two great points about Durban II and the Ahmadinejad speech“;
– Alain Gresh’s (Le Monde diplomatique) analysis, “Durban II, délire et désinformation”
PS: A funny detail. Pro-Palestinian militants are often accused of revisionism and negationism whenever they make a direct or indirect reference to nazism when discussing Israel/Palestine. Of course, Israeli politicians or pro-Israeli propagandists never feel any such compunctions – Silvan Shalom, Israel’s Tunisia-born vice-prime minister, thus compared Ahmedinejad with Hitler in response to the speech – and at Auschwitz of all places, during a ceremony for the annual March of the Living. The playing field certainly isn’t level.
(1) The Durban I declaration has been grossly misrepresented in mainstream discourse. As Palestinian militant Ingrid Jaradat from the human rights NGO Badil says:
On se demande parfois si les diplomates occidentaux ont seulement lu la déclaration de 2001, dit Ingrid Jaradat. Car ce texte, qui est caricaturé en permanence, évoquait essentiellement le droit à l’autodétermination des Palestiniens, tout en garantissant le droit à la sécurité d’Israël et en rappelant le caractère inoubliable de l’Holocauste.”
(2) Le Nouvel Observateur listed the following countries as boycotting the Durban II conference on account mainly of Israel: Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Germany, USA, Australia, New Zealand and – of course – Israel. The Czech Republic, in charge of the rotating presidency of the EU, followed suit after Ahmedinejad’s speech, sparking a typical dispute among EU member states about who should do what.
(3) El Moudjahid:
Le diplomate algérien a déploré le boycott de ce rendez-vous onusien par certains pays riches, soulignant que ce boycott “témoigne d’une réticence à défier directement le racisme dans leur propres sociétés ou à affronter ses conséquences sur les pays précédemment colonisés”.