Secretary of State Colin Powell is not at that United Nations conference on racism in Durban, South Africa this week. Neither he nor the rest of the Bush administration wants to lend its imprimatur to a conference to accuse Israel of racism for merely existing.
Condoleezza Rice, the chairman of the National Security Council, opposed our participation, too. Only a small team headed by a midlevel diplomat will represent the United States.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the self-appointed inspector of the morals of everyone else, is taking a "private delegation." Mr. Jackson should feel right at home. In 1979 he pronounced himself "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust," and apparently is not yet sick and tired of hearing the Israelis branded as racists and compared to the Nazis. He'll have ample opportunity to hear a lot of that in Durban.
The description of Israel as a racist state is advocated by two dozen Islamic nations, and is the only nation singled out for such inflammatory denunciation. The stories about the Holocaust are "an exaggeration," trumped up by the Jews for international consumption.
There's lots of precedent for this Arab propaganda. When Israel celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day in April, the official Palestinian newspaper featured a column by Hiri Manzour headlined "The Fable of the Holocaust." "The figure of 6 million Jews cremated in the Nazi Auschwitz camps," he wrote, "is a lie."
Fiamma Nirenstein, an Italian journalist based in Jerusalem, provides a grim catalogue of anti-Semitic propaganda culled from the official press of Arab states. "From Cairo and Gaza to Damascus and Baghdad, from political and religious figures to writers and educators, from lawyers to pop stars and in every organ of the media," she writes in Commentary magazine, "the very people with whom the state of Israel is expected to live in peace have devoted themselves with ever-greater ingenuity to slandering and demonizing the Jewish state, the Jewish people, and Judaism itself -and calling openly for their annihilation."
You can also find multiple examples on the Web site of the Middle East Media and Research Institute. (www.memri.org). Some examples read like rhetoric from Wannssee, the Nazi meeting in 1942 where Reinhard Heydrich sought suggestions for the Final Solution.
Among the most grisly examples, though not isolated in its specifics, is a sheik's sermon from a mosque in Gaza, broadcast on Palestinian Authority radio: "A young man said to me: 'I am 14 years old, and I have four years left before I blow myself up amongst the Jews.' I said to him: 'Oh son, I ask Allah to give you and myself martyrdom. ... Blessings for whoever has raised his sons on the education of Jihad and martyrdom; blessings for whoever has saved a bullet in order to stick it in a Jew's head."
Is it any surprise that a poll taken by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that 81 percent of the Palestinian respondents approved of suicide bombings targeting Israelis? The poll was conducted after a suicide bomber exploded in a pizza parlor in Jerusalem, chosen because it was overflowing with babies in strollers, carriages and their mothers' arms. Fifteen Israelis died.
One eerie suggestion gaining support in Israel would erect an electric fence topped with barbed wire, several hundred miles long, with watchtowers manned by heavily-armed soldiers surrounding Palestinian settlements. A clearing without buildings and vegetation, scanned by infrared sensors to detect any movement, would prevent suicide bombers from penetrating Israeli territory.
It's an idea born of despair, fraught with frustration, and put forward in various formulations that would inhibit free movement. The alternative, of course, is for Israel to continue conducting "targeted assassinations" against terrorists who are dedicated to killing and/or training killers of Jews.
After the Holocaust and the "discovery" of the Nazi concentration camps, the world was quick to marvel that so few people paid attention to virulent expression of anti-Semitism. Both victims and bystanders in Europe and America wondered why they had not fought back with greater force of both word and deed.
We can't plead ignorance this time. One of the most popular hit songs in Cairo, Damascus and East Jerusalem is called "I Hate Israel." ("Darling, they're playing our song.") Ancient myths built on prejudice are brought back by popular demand. Egypt's leading government-sponsored daily details how Jews use the blood of gentiles to flavor Passover matzoh. A Syrian text teaches that Jews are criminals and must be "exterminated." Arab "moderates" say nothing.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson is sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust, but he still has lessons to learn from it.