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Reflections on Durban II

Unlike my colleague Yitro, I would like to share some thoughts about the Durban II UN conference that has recently concluded.

What has been so frustrating about the media coverage of the latest UN blight on history, is that the significance and potential future impact of the latest collective security outrage has passed almost completely without comment. 

Last week, 100 countries all voted to sanction a text that affirms Israel to be a racist country.  That the Western and European nations (for the most part) excluded themselves from this disgraceful tirade, should not have been a matter of controversy, but a basic moral stance that is expected by tolerant populations everywhere. However, even beyond this, many nations  proceeded to demonise Israel on the basis of false accusation, and anti-semitic fervour.  One cannot help but to draw on the lessons of history to demonstrate just how threatening the implications are from this latest concerted effort to eradicate the world of Jews by deligitimising their homeland .

The first Durban conference contained text that was drafted in Tehran.  It caught western delegates offguard, and they were not prepared for what was sprung upon them.  Notso Durban II.  Yet in the lead up to this repeat farce Countries including my own sat of the fence and waited in the vain hope that diplomacy could smooth over the inconvenience of blatent anti-Semitism. 

What then occured was hardly surprising.  But even after the event so many people still simply do not get it.  The verbal onslaught of Ahmadinejad was presented and interpreted as a “free speech” exercise by some, and by “let it be seen for all to determine for themselves” by other media commentaries.  But this is not the point.  The point is that more than 100 nations of the world, many of whom truely oppress human rights and subjugate ethnic populations, officially sanctioned and lauded this display of bigotry.     

The moral sounding rhetoric of Human Rights is a palatable concept for most Australian’s.  Last week I went to a presentation by one of the youth delegates of Australia to the UN.  Her intentions were well directed, but her naievte was alarming, and her sense of self confidence was way beyond her capability.  If this is the future of our leadership, then God help us.  I chose not to raise the issue of Durban II as the setting was not appropriate.  However I sat there the whole time thinking about the track record of the organisation that she now stands in front of as an ambassador, and wondered how any sane person could become sucked into a machine that is so politically hypocritical, and so patently disfunctional in dealing with global conflict and disaster.

In summing up what Durban II actually means to me, a Jewish person in Perth, Western Australia, it actually creates a resolve to strengthen my connection to Eretz Yisrael.  I understand what true racism is, but morso I also understand through events such as Durban II the true meaning of what Israel represents to our impaired world, as it exposes a great philosophic divide. 

Israel is not just a nation, it is a Jewish nation.  The world’s only Jewish nation, where the beacon of morality was created and gifted to the Israelites.  Monotheism was created here, and it represents a power that is greater than the human condition and greater than the irrepressable ego of those who cannot comprehend their subservience to the higher spiritual force that created them.  A rejection of Israel is a sign of ingratitude to the harmony of creation itself.    

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook spoke with love about the modern return from exile to the Jewish State of Israel.  Many people struggle to define Israel because they cannot distinguish between the nation (a political entity) and the Jewish people both ethnically (a cultural entity) and religiously (a theocratic entity).  However all Jews with a bond to their heritage understand that these elements are intertwined.  One cannot work without the other.  Not just in our personal lives, but on a global and historic level.  Reb Tzvi Yehuda talked about the soldier of Israel as not just an ordinary soldier, but one that was Kadosh – engaged in the mitzvah of protecting the Jewish State. 

Rabbi David Samson in “Torat Eretz Yisrael” writes about this further;  The Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael is not based solely on the fact that it our homeland.  There is a reason it is our homeland.  The Almighty created it especially suited to us.  We could only be a nation here.  Only in Eretz Yisrael could we genuinely fulfill our Torah; not just in the sense of observing all of the mitzvot applicable only in Israel (over one third of the 613 commandmants and the majority of Talmud), but in the deeper, more fundamental sense of being Am Kadosh.

This concept is hard to grasp after 2000 years of exile.  Without a soveriegn nation entire sections of Jewish law were not studied with practical application.  Laws dealing with living on the land, agricultural cycles, the Temple, sacrifices, ritual purity (literally half the Mishnah).  The wide body of laws applying to Monarchy, the Sanhedran court, and conduct during War were not learned as foundations of Israeli nationhood.  In the exile, our identity shifted away from our national character, forming a Judaism that focussed on the Individual not the Clal (community). 

Israel is the world’s Jewish nation that demonstrates Torah is not just a Divine moral code or system of ritual.  Torah is a national constitution, a Divine cosmic and national law, embodied in a Divenly chosen community, and fulfilled in a Divinely chosen land.  A Divine community with a real Government, a real Army, a real economy, and all aspects of sovereign national life.

Deep down, this is what the Durban momentum seeks to undermine.  Behind all the politics is an understanding by the Islamist believers that Israel is a manifestation of the Shechinah and the soul of the Jewish people.  In their eyes, this cannot coexist with their own theological foundations which supercede the original form of monotheism.  How wrong they are in that belief, and how upsetting it is that the religious undertones of the latest global political charade are not so much acknowledged or even remotely understood by the political leaders of the Western world.

With these thoughts in mind, I would like to share the following repost from the UN Watch, that highlights with why the Durban II debacle is such a significant  and misunderstood blight on the global political scene.  Israel does not need to justify why it is not “racist”.  Yet the abuse of the term and concept of free rights, by those very nations who do not provide rights to their people, is rank hypocracy.  It should be exposed far more than it has been, and it should be contemplated and understood for the sake of our own future security and wellbeing.

April 17, 2009

United Nations, Palais des Nations, GENEVA, Switzerland

The eyes of millions of victims of racism, xenophobia and intolerance are upon YOU, the representatives of states and the United Nations. And instead of hope you have given them despair. Instead of truth you have handed them diplomatic double-talk. Instead of combating antisemitism you have handed them a reason for Jews to fear UN-driven hatemongering on a global scale.

The Durban conference – allegedly dedicated to combating racism, antisemitism and other forms of intolerance – will open April 20th on the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler without agreement on even so much as remembering the Holocaust and the war against the Jews. Your draft words on the Holocaust – the very foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – have been narrowed to the barest mention from previous versions.

And if the minor reference survives at all – it will be a testament to your interest in Jews that died 60 years ago, while tolerating and encouraging the murder of Jews in the here and now.

Furthermore, the draft before you demonizes the Jewish state of Israel and then has the audacity to pretend to care about antisemitism in a single word buried among 17 pages. Antisemitism means discrimination against the Jewish people. Since it is evident that almost none of you have the courage to say it, the face of modern antisemitism IS the UN – your – discrimination against Israel, the embodiment of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

Over and over again we have heard a massive misinformation campaign about the content of these proceedings and the draft before you. We have heard the tale that this draft does not single out Israel, that the hate has been removed, that the fault of the antisemitism at Durban I was that of NGOs while states and the UN were blameless.

Perhaps you think that journalists and victims will not bother to read for themselves the Durban Declaration adopted by some governments. There is only one state mentioned in it – Israel. There is only one state associated with racist practices in it – Israel. And yet the very first thing that this draft before you does is to reaffirm that abomination, abomination for Jews and Arabs living in Israel’s free and democratic society, and for all the victims of racism ignored therein. Lawyers call it incorporation by reference when they hope nobody reads the small print. The propaganda stops here. We have read it. We understand the game. And we decry the ugly effort to repeat the Durban agenda to isolate and defeat Israel politically, as every effort to do so militarily for decades has failed.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chair of this Preparatory Committee also told us this week that the Durban Declaration in all its aspects is a consensus text. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the Canadian reservations made in Durban in 2001 which state categorically that the Middle East language was outside the conference’s jurisdiction and not agreed. Perhaps they failed to notice that one of the world’s greatest democracies, the United States, voted with its feet and walked out of the Durban I hatefest? The Durban Declaration has never represented a global consensus among free and democratic nations. When the head of the Islamic conference treats Durban as a bible, in their words, it is more accurately a defamation of religions.

This week you decided which states ought to serve in a leadership role at next week’s conference. Among them are some of the world’s leading practitioners of racism, not those interested in ending it. You have also decided to hand a global megaphone to the President of a state which advocates genocide and denies the Holocaust. 

So in a state of shock and dismay we address ourselves not to the human rights abusers that glorify the Durban Declaration or its next incarnation, but to democracies — and we ask: Will Germany sit on Hitler’s birthday and listen to the speech of an advocate of genocide against the Jewish people and grant legitimacy to the forum which tolerates his presence? What about the United Kingdom, the birthplace of the Magna Carta? Or France that helped to ship last generation’s Jews to crematoriums?

You could have fought racism. You chose instead to fight Jews. You could have promoted the universal standards against racism already in existence.
You chose instead to diminish their importance in the name of alleged cultural preferences. You could have protected freedom of expression. You chose instead to undermine it by twisted concepts of incitement. You could have brought victims of racism together in a common cause. You chose instead to pit victims against each other in an ugly struggle for meagre recognition. For those democracies that remain under these circumstances you are ultimately responsible for what can only be called an appalling disservice to real victims of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance around the world.

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