Kudos to the Bush administration and Secretary of State Colin Powell for taking a principled and courageous stand in withdrawing from the United Nations World Conference Against Racism.
This widely celebrated gathering in Durban, South Africa, was ostensibly convened to celebrate tolerance and diversity – but instead became a platform for the dissemination of anti-Israeli and anti-American propaganda.
In his opening address to the conference, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that while "racism is now universally condemned ... far too many people are still victimized because they belong to a particular group." True enough. People often don't back up their words with actions.
Then Annan added, "Often this discrimination veils itself behind spurious pretexts." As an example, Annan cited people being "denied jobs ostensibly because they lack educational qualifications." The suggestion that merit-based employment is a "spurious pretext" for discrimination is so wrong-headed that it brings into question why the United States would allow itself to participate in a conference led by the proponents of such values.
But beyond that, let's examine whether Annan measures up to his own standards. When you think about it, the notion of concealing discrimination behind "spurious pretexts" pretty well sums up this conference. Here we have a group of nations – many with abysmal records in racial relations themselves – calling a conference behind the pretext of denouncing racism, and then encouraging discrimination against the Israeli people and ill-will against America. It's an age-old propaganda technique to invoke the rhetoric of righteousness to advance the cause of unrighteousness.
Hiding behind this contrived atmosphere of racial unity, the conference prepared a draft declaration unmistakably condemning Israel for "practices of racial discrimination against the Palestinians as well as other inhabitants of Arab-occupied territories."
Secretary Powell issued a pointed statement explaining the United States' withdrawal and exposing the flagrant hypocrisy of the prime movers of the conference. Powell took strong exception to proposed declaration language equating Zionism with racism and accusing Israel of a new apartheid and committing racist war crimes, acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and state terrorism against the Palestinian people.
The United States was not alone in its assessment of the biased turn of the conference. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the conference was a farce and "an unbelievable attempt to smear Israel."
But Jesse Jackson, attending the conference as a member of the Black Leadership Forum, accused the Bush administration of using the dispute concerning Israel as an excuse to exit the meeting to avoid serious discussion of slavery and reparations for the descendants of African slaves. It seems that Jackson can always be counted on to take the anti-American position. Interestingly, his remarks exactly mirrored those of one of the leading spokesmen for the P.L.O.
But the charge is patently ridiculous. Months before the conference began, the United States warned that it would not allow the convention to be used as a forum to bash Israel or to demand reparations for slavery by the United States. America only walked out after Palestinians and their supporters refused to compromise. Even Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, a delegation member, agreed, "This was not a question of persuading people ... (but) of an iron wall we were up against, and there was no give."
If this conference had truly been interested in eradicating racism, it wouldn't have singled out Israel and the United States as targets for its selective indignation. It would not, for example, have permitted Zimbabwe to escape scrutiny for its violent campaign to drive whites from farms or accusing Jews of intentionally harming Zimbabwe's ailing economy.
Former President Jimmy Carter, in vintage Pollyannaish form, criticized the Bush administration for walking out of the conference. He said that we could have done more to combat racism by continuing "in the Durban conference to address other problems with inherent racism."
Au contraire. Why should we help to legitimize a proceeding that makes a mockery of the very cause it purports to promote?
While it may not suit former President Carter, it is clear that with respect to this issue the Bush administration is going to place substance above form. More and more the United Nations has become a bully pulpit for the promotion of global liberalism.
For too long the United States has been ignoring the overt anti-American and anti-Israeli bent of the United Nations. This little conference should serve as a wake-up call to those who would forfeit our sovereignty to some international body that obviously holds a collective grudge against the United States and does not have her best interests in mind.