The latest on Durban II planning...
The Americans could have played a more responsible role...but remained silent...
On Wednesday, the European Union proposed a provision for the final document — which is to be adopted formally at the Conference itself in April — on the Holocaust. The EU had attempted to add a reference to the Holocaust at the last preparatory meeting (in January), which the U.S. did not attend. But Iran and Syria had objected. The EU proposal was therefore “bracketed” — entered into the items-in-dispute category. Both Syria and Iran had claimed there weren’t enough facts about the Holocaust to warrant a definitive denunciation. Iran had also complained that the proposal was in the wrong section.
So the EU tried again, and this time the American delegation was present. Here is how the discussion went:
European Union: We have a new proposal under the section on education and awareness-raising that would recall the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the remembrance of the Holocaust. It would read:
Urges states to raise awareness and to implement U.N. General Assembly resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which inter alia observes that the remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide, condemns without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end.
Iran: My delegation thinks that this is an inappropriate place to incorporate this new paragraph, so we request that this new paragraph be put in brackets.
Chair: Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn’t seem the case. We move on.
Since the operating principle is consensus, this put the Holocaust provision in dispute. But the American delegation chose not to go on the record strongly supporting the EU’s proposal, as it had on other items. Not a peep came from the “change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading” folks.
Here’s an even more troubling example, this time involving a paragraph the Palestinian delegation proposed Tuesday in the presence of the American representatives:
Palestine: I would like to propose a new paragraph which reads as follows:
Calls for an end of all actions violating international human rights and humanitarian law, the respect for the principle of self-determination and an end of all suffering. Calls also for implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall, and the international protection of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.
Chair: Now let’s move on to paragraph . . .
Dead silence again, despite the fact that an objection could have made a real difference by putting the paragraph unequivocally in dispute. Everybody knew that there was no other country-specific provision in the 250-paragraph-plus document. Yet there were no comments objecting to the idea of singling out Israel in an anti-racism manifesto, and no call for a paragraph decrying racism in any other state.
Instead, the Palestinian and EU delegations have confirmed that in a backroom deal, the EU agreed ahead of time not to object. Members of the American delegation might not have known of the arrangement in advance (highly unlikely), but regardless, they got tongue-tied when it mattered. The new paragraph is scheduled to appear in a section called “Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance . . .” with the subtitle “General provisions on victims and grounds of discrimination.”
In other words, it didn’t take President Obama’s delegation two days before it sat in silence while Israel was singled out as guilty of racism — again.