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Friday, 3 April 2009

a country that respects human rights

I think I will preface all of my posts on the Durban 2 conference on racism with these three quotes. If anyone reads regularly, you would have seen two of them before. The first is from the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, who urged attendance, and pointed out that:
. . . only six of the 341 paragraphs on Durban 1 singled out Israel, while there was also a resolution stating that the Holocaust “must never be forgotten”
The second is from Ha'aretz, who is not quite so hysterical with cries of anti-semitism as many western papers seem to be, and who state quite matter of factly:
The United States and Israel walked out of the first UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, to protest against an attempted resolution comparing Zionism to racism.
You might want to ask some Palestinians about that, seeing as they are under occupation due to Zionist beliefs. Maybe it is true.

The third quote is from UN Association of Australia president John Langmore: He concedes that at the 2001 conference attempts to misuse the talks to criticise Israel had taken place (but I wonder, if we return to the opening statistics put forward by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society), he also said that:
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism declared "the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination" while also recognising "the right to security for all states in the region, including Israel." [My emphasis].
Well, that's what the international community all agree on, isn't it? So what is the problem?

Further information on the Durban Conference website (IV. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) states :
In her October 6, 2008 speech, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay acknowledged the antisemitism of the 2001 NGO Forum, while minimizing its implications:

Seven years ago at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, the virulent anti-Semitic behaviour of a few non-governmental organizations on the sidelines of the Durban Conference overshadowed the critically important work of the Conference. Measures were taken to address this betrayal of the core principles of the Durban Conference, and the NGO document was not forwarded to the Conference
. [My emphasis].
In his December 12, 2008 article, "Distortions plague anti-racism conference," Rupert Colville, Spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights writes “The purpose of this Durban Review Conference (sometimes misleadingly referred to as ‘Durban II’) is to examine the implementation of the outcome document of the World Conference against Racism which took place in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Unfortunately both newspapers replay a number of factual distortions which have become increasingly widespread on the internet over the past year, including numerous references to the review conference as an anti-Semitic ‘hate-fest’.” [My emphasis. The papers he is referring to are The Australian and The Wall Street Journal which ran articles on the Durban conference].
Australian Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tom Calma, will lead an Australian delegation of three officials to the talks. He represents Australia's top human rights body. He said
... he had not observed either anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic sentiment in the preparations for the conference and urged both the Government and Opposition to send representatives.
Julie Bishop, the opposition foreign affairs spokesperson does not want Australia to attend, and our own government still seems to be sending human rights officials as opposed to government representatives, but it is better than nothing, which might have been the case. Julie Bishop fears it will become a platform for anti-Semitism, but I think Israel fears that it might become a platform for criticism against [it] for its occupation of Palestinian territories. Well, that's not anti-semitism, that's called having a conscience. At the same time, Israel said in January, in the midst of the onslaught of Gaza, that:
the Foreign Ministry considers the "Durban 2" World Conference against Racism, scheduled for April in Geneva, as the point when they can determine the extent to which Israel's standing as a democratic country that respects human rights has been damaged. Israel has rallied many countries against the conference on the grounds that it will become a platform for anti-Semitism, and has also announced, along with the United States and Canada, that it will boycott the conference. [My emphasis].
Considering Israel is not attending the conference, has convinced many other countries not to attend, or to be leery of the conference; considering its forces killed 1400 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, many of them children, might mean that its standing as a democratic country that respects human rights has been damaged quite severely. But I forget myself. Black is white, and Israel does not have to fear any criticism because no-one will be there to criticise them, (or to criticise other governments who do not respect human rights, either), if the Julie Bishops and Kevin Rudds of the world have their way.

Calma said:

the Geneva conference would examine issues critical to the role of national human rights institutions, such as policing and diversity and the rights of indigenous peoples.

"These are matters that governments need to engage on a global level in order to ensure that their policies are in line with international standards. It is also an opportunity to share good practices in these areas."

Hear, hear! Considering Australia has recently committed to honouring an election promise of signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Langmore, in the same article, says:
"It is about the issue of racial discrimination, and that is a problem in our country and in a great many others, and we have some experience in trying to handle it, but we also have some lessons to learn from other countries," he said.

While Professor Langmore conceded attempts to misuse the talks to criticise Israel had taken place, he said it was an overreaction and a self-defeating gesture for Australia not to attend. "If you are concerned to ensure equitable principles are developed and applied, then you need to participate — Australia needs to participate," he said.
[My emphasis].
Many Americans also feel that their country should be concerned about ensuring [that] equitable principles are developed and applied, and are also concerned about racial [and sexual] discrimination, as seen from the 92 signatories of human rights and civil groups, and individuals in the U.S. who are urging the Obama administration to attend (the U.S. has so far decided to boycott). Those signatures can be found at the end of this post. The open letter was published in Ha'aretz, which shows that the Israeli media is paying close attention to this issue, even if other media is not.

The points that the signatories raise are eloquently argued, but too long for this post. I have posted the article in full before, and it is linked to at the end of this entry, or go to the source, here. The sub-titles within their letter summarise why the signatories think the Obama administration should attend Durban, and those titles are listed following this paragraph. If one really believes that a democratic world with equality for all is the way to go, then what dispute is there with the ideas that are being expressed?:

Refusing to Discuss Racism on a Global Platform is Inconsistent with a Policy of Engagement with the International Community

The United States Should be Fighting for the Strongest Protections against Racism

Specific Objections Raised do not Warrant a Boycott

The United States Must Not Attempt to Ignore our History of Slavery

The United States Must Engage the Global Fight for Racial Justice in Good Faith

The Current Position of Non-Participation is worse than that of the Bush Administration

A United States Refusal to Discuss Racism Encourages Other Countries to do the same

So at least Australia will have a face at the Durban Review Conference, which means that we must be slightly better than the Bush administration, or is that the Obama administration? The conference seems to be labelled as a racism forum in the press, but is really anti-racist, or is about tackling racism. As Mr Calma said of the Australian government, and the opposition:
"I'd encourage them to participate, I don't think it's going to compromise anything."


Other posts referencing Durban 2 in lizardrinking are as follows:
Durban 2 - Americans who want Obama to Attend
Still no decision
It's all in the genes
Stories and Controversies
I guess Catholics just don't like them


Organizational Signatures on the open letter to Obama.

1. Advocates for Environmental Human Rights
2. Alianza Latinoamericana por los Derechos de los Inmigrantes, ALDI
3. Black Alliance for Just Immigration
4. Black Workers for Justice - Europe (BWJ-e)
5. BLACK Advisors
6. Center for Constitutional Rights
7. Cidadao Global
8. Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois
9. Coalition to Save Harlem
10. Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
11. Croydon African Caribbean Family
12. Equal Justice Society
13. Equality Now
14. Four Freedoms Forum
15. Global Afrikan Congressuk
16. Hawai'i Institute for Human Rights
17. Highlander Research and Education Center
18. International Action Center
19. Justice Now
20. Labor/Community Strategy Center
21. Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
22. Maria Iñamagua Campaign for Justice
23. Matahari: Eye of the Day
24. The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
25. Minnesota Tenants Union
26. Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA)
27. National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Chicago Branch
28. National Conference of Black Lawyers
29. National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
30. National Lawyers Guild
31. National Lawyers Guild - Minnesota Chapter
32. National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
33. National Rail Maritime and Transport Union 0543 Local Finsbury Park Branch
34. Norbertines of the Priory of St. Moses the Black
35. NY Solidarity Coalition with Katrina & Rita Survivors and the Survivors Assembly
36. United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)
37. Urban Justice Center
38. Willets Point Defense Committee
39. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
40. Women of Color United
(please see individual signatures on next page)

Individual Signatures (with organizational affiliation for identification purposes only)

1. Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director, US Human Rights Network
2. Alexandra Oprea, Senior Editor, UCLA Law Review, Vol. 57
3. Aleyamma Mathew, Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action
4. Alice J. Palmer, Chicago, Co-Chair of the People Programme
5. Amelia Parker, Program Coordinator, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law
6. Amy Agigian, Center for Women's Health and Human Rights, Suffolk University
7. André Degbeon, Founder, AFRO TV BERLIN
8. Andrés Castro, Founder/Managing Ed., The Teacher's Voice
9. Ann Fagan Ginger, The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
10. Anthony Gifford, Barrister (UK) and Attorney-at-law (Jamaica)
11. Asantewaa Gail Harris, Community Vision Council
12. Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive Editor,
13. Brenda Stokely, New York Solidarity Coalition with Katrina & Rita survivors
14. Charles Amjad-Ali, Ph.D., Th.D., The Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Justice and Christian Community, Director Islamic Studies Program, Luther Seminary
15. Council Member Charles Barron, New York City Council
16. Chris Crass, Catalyst Project
17. Clarence C. Gravlee, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
18. Colin Rajah, International Migrant Rights & Global Justice Program Director, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (NNIRR)
19. Professor Connie de la Vega, University of San Francisco, School of Law
20. Dr. Corann Okorodudu, Professor of Psychology & Coordinator, Africana Studies
21. Daniel Hazen, Board Member, US Human Rights Network
22. David Gespass, President-Elect of the National Lawyers Guild
23. David Kreindler, Vermont Workers' Center
24. David Wildman, Executive Secretary, Human Rights & Racial Justice Mission, Contexts & Relationships, General Board of Global Ministries United Methodist Church
25. Dawn Stanger, Vermont Workers' Center
26. Denise Williams, Ph.D., Negotiation, Conflict Resolution & Peacebuilding, California State University Dominguez Hills
27. Ms. Diane King, Director, Seeking Joint Solution
28. Dianne Burnham, Ohio Valley PEACE, Outreach
29. Donald H. Smith, Ph.D., Past President, the National Alliance of Black School Educators; Former chair, the Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry, the John Henrik Clarke House, New York City
30. Dowoti Désir, Founder of the DDPA Watch Group
31. Ms. Dra Barryl A. Biekman, President of the African European Women's Movement "Sophiedela"; Chair of the National Platform Dutch Slavery; Past President of the Pan African Strategic and Policy Group (Panafstrag Europe EU/NL; Board member of Tiye International
32. Edith M. Jackson, Howard University
33. Edward L. Palmer, Chicago, Co-Chair of the People Programme
34. Ellen Raider, Independent Commission on Public Education
35. Emira Woods, Foreign Policy In Focus/Institute for Policy Studies
36. Eric Mann, Author, Dispatches from Durban: The World Conference Against Racism and Post-September 11 Movement Strategies.
37. Erika Simard, Vermont Workers' Center
38. Eva Paterson, President, Equal Justice Society
39. Francisco Ramos, Executive Director, Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois. (CAAAELII)
40. Gary Orfield, Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning. Co-Director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA
41. Gerardo Renique, Associate Professor, Department of History, City College of the City University of New York
42. Dr. Gloria A. Caballero-Roca, Hispanic Studies, Earlham College
43. Gwendolyn Anderson, Member, NEA, WEAC and Milwaukee Teachers Association
44. Henrietta Faulconer, Northside Neighbors for Justice
45. Ignatious Muhammad, Member, Nation of Islam
46. Dr. Irma Loemban Tobing-Klein, President MDG Global Watch
47. Iwan Leeuwin, Chairperson, AAD Network in the Netherlands
48. James Haslam, Vermont Workers' Center
49. James Rowan, Northeastern University School of Law
50. Dr. Jason M. Ferreira, Department of Race and Resistance Studies College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University
51. Jeanne Mirer, Secretary General of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers
52. Rev. Jeremy Tobin, Board Member, US Human Rights Network and Executive Board, Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA)
53. Jerrika Rivera, President, Asociacion Latina DBA Latina Association
54. Jewel L. Crawford, MD, National Medical Association; Participant, UN World Conference Against Racism, 2001
55. Joanna Cuevas Ingram, Student Member, National Lawyers Guild - San Francisco
56. Joceline A. Clemencia, Director Cultural Institute Independence, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles
57. John A. Powell, Executive Director, the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
58. Jonathan Kissam, Vermont Workers' Center
59. Jose R. Matus, Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras
60. Joshua Cooper, Director, Hawaii Institute for Human Rights
61. Kalin Williams, Malcom X Grassroots Movement
62. Katie Seitz, Teaching for Change
63. K-C Nat Turner, Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
64. Keith Jennings, President, African American Human Rights Foundation
65. Kristine Suozzi, Ph.D., New Mexico Health Equity Working Group Coordinator
66. Dr. Lady Dhyana Ziegler, Professor of Journalism, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida
67. Laura Roskos, Ph.D., Co-President of U.S. Section, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
68. Lisa A. Crooms, Howard University School of Law
69. Loretta J. Ross, National Coordinator, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective
70. Lucy Murphy, Convenor, Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington
71. Lynn Roberts, PhD, Assistant Professor & Coordinator, Community Health Education Track, Urban Public Health Program, Hunter College
72. M. Thandabantu Iverson, Ph.D., Indiana University Labor Studies Program, School of Social Work
73. Madeline Labriola, Hudson Valley PaxChristi
74. Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The University of California. Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center
75. Marilyn Fischer, Franciscans International
76. Martin Y. Iguchi, Ph.D., UCLA School of Public Health
77. Dr. Martin C. Okeke, (PhD) Former President of the Organisation NIDOE-France, Vice President PanAFSTRAG-France
78. Matt McGrath, Vermont Workers' Center
79. Mavis G. Biekman, Board Member, African European Women's Movement Sophiedela, The Hague, The Netherlands
80. Monami Maulik, DRUM-Desis Rising Up & Moving
81. Monique Ndigo Washington, The Healing Drum Collective
82. Nancy J. Bothne, Instructor, DePaul University
83. Nancy Munger, Co-President of U.S. Section, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
84. Nina T. Harawa, MPH, PhD, Department of Research, Charles Drew University
85. Nkem Dike, Northwestern University, IL
86. Nzingha Assata, Founding Member, The Alliance of Afrikan Women in England
87. Peg Franzen, Vermont Workers Center
88. Mr. Philip M. J. Baptiste, III, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc
89. Queen Quet, Founder, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition
90. Radhika Balakrishnan, Professor of Economics and International Studies , Marymount Manhattan College
91. Raj Patel, Affiliation. UC Berkeley Center for African Studies
92. Ramona Ortega, Executive Director, Cidadao Glo

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr