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With all the racism in the world, the Durban conference on Racism in South Africa turns into an Israel-bashing session

Anti-Racism, in Name Only

National Post (Canada)
July 30, 2001

Organizers of a major United Nations conference that will begin in Durban, South Africa next month do not have to look far to find examples of the "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" that is the purported subject of the meeting. In Zimbabwe, just across the border, President Robert Mugabe is encouraging his thugs to prosecute a race war against white farmers. Further north, in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, tribal hatred between the Hutu and Tutsi has led, directly or indirectly, to the death of at least three-million people in the past seven years. In Sudan, Khartoum's Islamic government sponsors a savage campaign of bombardment and chattel enslavement against Christians and animists. Racism and intolerance are rampant in other parts of the world as well: Macedonia is embroiled in ethnic conflict between its slavs and ethnic Albanians. In obscure corners of Indonesia, groups of Christians, Muslims, ethnic Malays and indigenous headhunters butcher one another with spears and knives. And then there is Iran and the Arab Middle East, where homophobia and poisonous anti-Semitism are preached as de facto state religions. In Syria, articles that have appeared in the official Syrian media describe the Holocaust as a "myth." The country's defence minister is the author of a book promoting the theory that Jews kill Gentiles and consume their blood. Bashar al-Assad, Syria's President, recently delivered a speech on the occasion of Pope John Paul II's visit to his country declaring that Jews "try to kill all the principles of divine faiths with the same mentality of betraying Jesus Christ and torturing Him."

Given all these clear examples of virulent hate and intolerance, what do many nations want to talk about when the Durban conference convenes on Aug. 31? Israel, naturally. Delegates at a UN-sponsored regional preparatory meeting in Tehran earlier this year singled out the democracy as a paragon of hate, accusing it of "a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity [and] a form of genocide." (Naturally, the numerous instances of human rights abuses and discrimination that are standard fare in Islamic theocracies and totalitarian police states went unmentioned.) And what most concerns African nations? Not Sudan nor Mauritania, apparently, where chattel slavery is still practised, but the West, most of which abolished slavery more than a century ago. At a separate official preparatory meeting held in Addis Ababa last year, a group of African experts concluded the Durban conference should address "measures for reparation, restoration and compensation for nations, groups and individuals affected by slavery and the slave trade, colonialism, and economic and political exclusion." They want cash, in other words -- presumably in addition to the billions Western nations already spend in the form of aid. Oh, and just in case anyone reading the document is suffering under the delusion that Mr. Mugabe and his thugs are also guilty of racism, the authors tell us "the legitimate claims of Africans concerning land of which they had been deprived as the result of colonization and racist policies, as in the case of Zimbabwe, should not be confused and interpreted as manifestations of racism." Thanks for the clarification.

In the past six months, U.S. President George W. Bush has gained our admiration for, among other things, his view that the United States should not go along with superficially noble but substantially flawed multilateral exercises simply for the sake of show. His administration's position on the Durban anti-racism conference agenda, the final version of which is now being debated in Geneva, is consistent with this position. "The conference should not equate Zionism with racism or take up the reparations matter. And if they do, the United States will not go," said a spokesman for Mr. Bush on Friday. "How can you say this is a conference to combat racism if it borders on anti-Semitism?"

Canada and European nations have resisted the temptation to criticize Mr. Bush's "unilateralist" approach on this issue, and some leaders have actually expressed support for the U.S. position. They are right to do so. Many of the Arab and Third World attendees at the Durban conference will be more interested in bashing Israel and ancient colonialists than in pursuing substantive measures aimed at redressing real examples of modern racism. If spurious issues appear on the conference agenda, Western nations should not dignify the event with their representation.