Friday, April 24, 2009

MuzzleWatch reports from Durban II

"MuzzleWatch" - 5 new articles

1 More Darfur propaganda
2 Durban Review Conference Roundup
3 Poor Angelina: Jon Voight's "New Holocaust"
4 How do you decide who really wins?
5 American NGO delegation: "the fix is in."

More Darfur propaganda

All NGO (non-governmental organization) literature has the name and contact information of the organization that published it. That is, after all, the whole idea. This literature, with absolutely nothing printed on the back, was left on the NGO tables at the Durban Review Conference. There is no name printed on the cards because they don't want you to know who published them. Clearly the Darfur card, which uses a likely inflated figure, has not been printed by a Darfur advocacy group. It has been printed by one of the right-wing Israel advocacy groups. The objective is somewhat unclear. Not sure why they didn't just write, "the UN doesn't care" to continue their message.


Durban Review Conference Roundup

Scholar Stephen Zunes does a terrific job of putting the Durban happenings in a broader context:

Legitimate concerns about Israeli policies regularly appear at international forums sponsored by the United Nations. But they have sometimes been contaminated by sweeping statements condemning the state of Israel itself, and portraying some of the most racist and chauvinistic aspects of Zionism as representative of Jewish nationalism as a whole. However, these kinds of discriminatory resolutions have been declining in recent years, as countries have become more willing to recognize that, while some governments may pursue racist policies, no state should be singled out as inherently racist in and of itself. Efforts by anti-Israel delegations at the 2001 anti-racism conference in Durban were defeated and weren't considered a realistic threat at the Geneva Conference either.

…Still, even some of the more reasonable resolutions critical of Israel proposed at the 2001 conference distracted attention from the broader issues at stake. Such efforts often result in dividing Jews — themselves a historically oppressed people — from their natural allies among people of color. Furthermore, other governments that have as bad or even more racist policies than Israel have not been subjected to as much attention at such conferences.

The JTA reports:

The United Nations pulled credentials from a number of Jewish activists who disrupted a speech by the Iranian president at the Durban Review Conference.

Of the 46 badges that were pulled this week for disruptive behavior, the vast majority were from individuals accredited through Jewish organizations. Notably, the French Union of Jewish Students lost 21 badges.

Credentials were stripped as well from four members of the European Union of Jewish Students and one B'nai Brith member. Between them, the French and European Jewish student groups had 370 members accredited, amounting to more than one-third of all the NGO activists at the conference.

U.N. officials said they believed Jewish activists who already had their credentials pulled swapped badges with members of another group, Coexist.

Antony Loewenstein has some things to say:

The purpose of Durban remains essential, namely finding ways to address genuine human rights issues across the globe. Israel should not be protected from criticism or abuse. It's a normal country, like any other.


Poor Angelina: Jon Voight's "New Holocaust"

Jon Voight starred in the first movie that ever made me really cry: Conrack. It was one of those classic patronizing white people fantasy movies about the inspiring white teacher who saves the poor black kids living in the segregated South. But I was a kid and I cried through the whole thing. Ironic now, since Voight made me cry again but for an entirely different reason.

He used to be liberal but he's become a born-again lover-of-the-Torah (see video) and a somewhat incoherent anti-communist. He said of Obama recently:

This is a perilous time, and more than ever, the world needs a united and strong America. If, God forbid, we live to see Mr. Obama president, we will live through a socialist era that America has not seen before, and our country will be weakened in every way.

He started off his talk at the anti-semitism Dershowitz hate-fest panel with an ode to the Jews. He's cultish in his fetishization of the Jews. He kicked off with a couple poems about how we Jews are pretty much the cat's meow. We're even good in business. It's weird and embarrassing. We're chosen alright:

The Jewish people have given mankind the perfect tools for living, the teachings of the great Torah, which if followed, bring us to peace love courage wisdom and justice and every possible answer to life's needs.

(Photo: My bad picture of Voight and Wiesel) This is hard core. I don't even know any Jews, including the practicing ones, who believe that. Those Chabdniks are good. After letting us know what a "righteous Christian " he is, he gets into it:

Last year I visited the victims of suicide bombings. It was very difficult for me to spend time with these people. Ron Kerma is here-his daughter, 17 years old, was killed in a senseless act. I looked in their faces and my heart was almost torn out. I spoke to a young girl who was victim of a bombing, and she expressed to me she is trying to find ways to forgive. We spent time in Sderot which has been a victim of 7,000 bombings since the turn of the century. All the children have the syndrome that comes from being in battle- they wake up screaming.

Then he cuts to the chase:

I feel complete complete outrage at anyone who can make excuses for this barbarism. And I feel complete contempt for anyone who is not intelligent enough to see that this propaganda in the media painting the Palestinians as poor victims is capable of destroying the Jewish nation of Israel. (I think he means the Palestinians are capable of destroying..)

We're witnessing a new type of holocaust. And we good people of all faiths should express outrage and demand the truth be heard. The Palestinian radicals have only one prayer on their lips. And it is to kill and rid every Jew young and old from Israel. Let us pray for the courage to stand up and fight against all antisemitism that has found its way to all the evildoers, let us pray for peace with the understanding we do not bend to terrorism in any shape or form for the sake of peace. God bless us. [text corrected]

That's the new line. It's not even enough these days to shut everybody down by saying they're anti-Semites. The new line set forth in this session, and drawn aptly by Alan Dershowitz later on, is that this is all the new Holocaust. Thousands of Palestinians die, but this is a new Jewish Holocaust. And the moral Israelis, as ever, are simply defending themselves from the evil radical Palestinians who want nothing more than to kill the Jews.

Scholars have to study this. It's just too amazing. Shoahism.


How do you decide who really wins?

This conference is taking place on multiple levels. There are diplomats meeting behind closed doors; NGOs meeting in the lounge; large scale formal gatherings in the main room; and rallies outside its gates. And then there is the international media coverage which may define the story in the end. Further, there are thousands of people here, all with different agendas. How you turn all of this chaos into a coherent narrative depends, in part, on how you define power.

News accounts suggest the Israeli leaders are thrilled with how the conference has turned out, meaning they are happy that Ahmadinejad effectively delegitimized the proceedings. They needed him. I overheard a low level Palestinian diplomat say, on the other hand, that he is tired, angry, frustrated and pissed off. An Arab Israeli NGO delegate told me, "The Palestinian delegation gave up everything. They let them take every word about Israel and occupation out of the final outcome document, and they got absolutely nothing in return."

Meanwhile, Eye on the UN's Anne Bayefsky and company (sponsors of the Alan Dershowitz session) continue to make Israel the victims. It's an amazing magic trick. Thousands of Gazans are either dead or hospitalized after this January's war, but Israel, and we Jews, are the only victims that matter here.

Coming here myself has made me distrust virtually all reporting of Durban I. Already, I see terms in the media like "hate-fest" and " the "racist anti-racism conference." A journalist friend noted that at a press conference she attended, all of the reporters were asked questions from the right wing Israel Lobby talking points. (There are NGO Monitor fact sheets all over the press rooms here.) I don't doubt there was anti-Semitic literature and language at Durban I. But was it 90% of the conference, or .09%? I have no way to know. I do know, however, that yesterday's Sharansky, Voight, Dershowitz session, supposedly on anti-Semitism, was a tour de force of insulting and demeaning anti-Muslim/Arab stereotyping and callousness, infused with Islamophobia, and that not one media account will ever call it what it is.

There's simply no question that there are plenty of Arab and Muslim diplomats in particular who are more than happy to use their air time to go after Israel and ignore their own miserable human rights records. This is not news. And I'm sure that if you took enough time, you could find someone who supports Hamas, someone else who hates Jews, and someone else who hates women.

But where is the power? That, in some ways, is the only question that matters. And in the end, Israel continues to act with diplomatic impunity, thanks in large part to the US which protects it. That's why a strong UN is a threat.

The United Nations is not a corporate entity. It is a place where every country has some voice, though some-like the United States and other Security Council members- have much much stronger voices than others. At a conference like this, the representatives of those countries, no matter how vile, stupid or cruel, get to speak. As Ijm Dike told me, "After Ahmadinejad spoke, any leader of state could have gotten up and taken him to task, and then re-asserted the focus on the conference. I don't understand why nobody did that. Besides, Obama keeps telling us you need to talk to your enemies. How does boycotting a conference, which is mostly about important work on racism around the world, further anything?"

It doesn't.

American NGO delegation: "the fix is in."

mbers of the US civil society delegation, all part of the US Human Rights Network, held a press conference yesterday. I came directly from the session with Alan Dershowitz et al, which was so jammed with people and cameras and reporters that folks were locked out the room. It was a striking contrast to this press conference in a tiny room with a few reporters in the basement. It was a perfect metaphor for the different ways power has played out in these halls.

(Similarly, I'm writing from the media are of the main hall right now. When Achmedinejad was here, there was standing room only. Today, dozens of country reps are getting up to actually address racism and discrimination, and the media area is nearly empty. Turns out that people talking about helping others is boring.)

Ajamu Baraka of the network and the others on the panel seemed shell shocked when minutes before the conference started, they learned the final outcome document had already been approved. It was only day 2 of a 5 day conference, and none of the NGOs who had spent thousands of dollars and human hours to get here, had had a chance to make their statements. While acknowledging this is primarily a state driven process, Baraka said, "the fix is in." Indeed.

There is no struggle against racism without the NGOs, but governments are here to angle for their own interests. Got a complaint against the UN? Get in line. The difference of course, is that groups doing human rights work here generally respond to the laundry list of inadequacies by talking about how the UN might be strengthened. The UN Watch/NGO Monitor right wing Israel lobby types seem to really want to destroy the UN, and at this conference they generally don't mind taking everyone else down with it.

Ijm Dike (pictured above) of the Urban Justice Center's Human Rights Project, the driving force behind much of the US delegation, has an entirely different frame on what's really going on here- why the US and other states backed out from the conference. The whole demonization of Israel issue is a sham. These folks believe the United States was deeply worried about efforts to pursue recognition that slavery is a crime against humanity and reparations.

They're mad at Obama. Really mad. This is a defining moment and Obama has failed the test, letting politics get in the way of a sincere commitment to address systematic racism.

Internal documents show the United States was against the draft statement of 2001 because of these issue, over a year before Durban I took place. Think about some of the countries that boycotted- besides the US and Israel, you have Canada, the Netherlands and Australia, all with lengthy histories of repressing their indigenous populations and/or the slave trade . Hence the boycott, with a convenient excuse handed to them by the Israeli campaign of counter- demonization.

Their statement: "US activists call on the international community to take responsibility for ensuring the DRC address issues of Racism for all people and that we do not allow for the narrow focus that has been allowed to derail this conference and overshadow important issues of racial discrimination, including poverty, gross inequality, and persecution based on race and caste."

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