A signal motif of President Obama’s first month in office has been a near about-face in American policy toward the Islamic world. The President has made strenuous efforts to “reach out” to Muslims by laying the blame on the U.S. for difficulties, but has done so in a way that has shamefully compromised not only the truth but also fundamental American values — and which will not appease our Islamist adversaries.
As part of this outreach, the U.S. is participating in the preliminary sessions of the “Durban Review Conference,” to be held in late April in Geneva. “Durban II,” as its universally called, is intended to review progress on the implementation of the resolutions produced by the now-notorious UN-sponsored “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” held in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
That conference was initiated and dominated by Muslim countries and the Third World, and in the usual moral inversion characteristic of the UN, turned into an orgy of anti-Americanism and Israel-bashing while ignoring the egregious abuses of the sponsors’ governments.
Durban II will be more of the same. It is to be held under the auspices of the UN’s so-called Human Rights Council, which is chaired by Nigeria and includes among its members such exemplars of human rights as Cuba, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In Geneva, Libya will be in the Chair, with Iran among the vice-Chairs and Cuba as rapporteur.
Durban II may yet exceed the infamy of the first model. Sensing their increased power to intimidate in the years since 2001, Muslim nations especially may be more thorough in their assault on the U.S. and in undermining the legitimacy of Israel. And while participating NGOs — including such groups as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — were responsible in 2001 for many of the worst aspects of Durban I, this year their themes have been taken up by the conference itself, including efforts promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to gag a free discussion of Islam.
The U.S. walked out in 2001 and has refused to support any follow-up. The Bush Administration indicated that it would be inclined not to participate in 2009, but it left open the final decision for the new administration.
Both Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama promised during the election campaign that they would boycott the Geneva conclave, but that promise — like so many others — has been left behind amidst the empty pizza boxes and discarded preachers of the Obama campaign, as last week the U.S. began participating in preliminary conference sessions.
Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman, defended American participation in the planning process by saying “if you are not engaged, you don’t have a voice” and that the U.S. wanted “to see if there is some way we can make [the agenda] a better document that it appears it is going to be.” But Durban II is a review conference. Its explicit purpose is to review implementation of the resolutions produced by the first conference, and the heart of its agenda is therefore foreordained to track the outcome of Durban I.
The Europeans have been involved in the preliminary meetings for the past year and have been unable to substantively alter the agenda; whatever their objections they are outvoted by Muslim and Third World countries.
So far, Israel, Canada and the Netherlands have indicated that they will not attend Durban II. Other European countries, including Great Britain, Germany, France and the Czech Republic, hinted they would also boycott — a serious blow to the legitimacy of the Conference. But they can only do so if the U.S. stays away, as they will not allow themselves to be seen as more pro-Israel than the U.S., so American participation has smothered what had been decent instincts.
Already the American role is troubling. At the first session attended by the seven-person U.S. delegation, for example, a draft statements endorsing the International Court of Justice’s condemnation of Israel’s anti-terrorism barrier was passed without U.S. objection.
If the U.S. doesn’t object to draft statements like this, why sit in? One can only conclude that the stated reasoning is a sham and that the simple fact of our participation is intended as yet another gesture of humility to the Muslim world; or worse, that the Administration is naïve about the ultimate intentions of conference participants or is simply willing to turn a blind eye to conference abuses whatever the cost to our American values and the security of our allies.
The logic, then, would seem to be continued attendance at these sessions, and even the conference itself, as there will be no point at which the U.S. might reasonably make a break. As our diplomats must surely understand, for the U.S. to participate in the planning sessions and then pull out at the last minute — to participate in the planning and then reject the outcome — would only infuriate the Muslim world, which is precisely what the Obama Administration wishes to avoid.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Obama has been given the choice of American shame or Muslim anger. By participating in the planning sessions, the President has chosen shame. But unless the U.S. now fully capitulates to Durban II in a way that even the Obama Administration would find difficult to stomach, the President will not only have brought the U.S. shame, but he will have the insatiable anger of militant Muslims thrown in for good measure.
The Administration needs to learn that there is no satisfying the Islamists and the Muslim dictator states. The question is whether by the time the President gets that message he will have dangerously undermined not only our allies but fundamental American interests as well.