- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

Secretary of State Colin Powell has come under fire for deciding not to attend the U.N. conference on racism beginning today in Durban, South Africa. The Rev. Jesse Jackson is a leading critic of Mr. Powell's absence. For him, Mr. Powell's empty seat meant a step back from progress on racial issues.To the contrary, Mr. Powell should be congratulated precisely for taking a hard line against racism by not compromising on language in the draft conference documents that accused Israel of racism. His absence means one less nation willing to fan the flames of hatred between Arab countries and Israel.
In the wake of the controversy, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has been forced to drop from the agenda a "Zionism is racism" clause, but Islamic nations are still proposing language linking Israel with racism. These countries have already undermined their own credibility by contributing to the racism debate during the preconference sessions, where they displayed posters showing Israel's Star of David printed over with Nazi swastikas. Anti-Israel sentiment was echoed back in Cairo in the hit song "I Hate Israel." And an Egyptian columnist for the government-sponsored paper Al-Akhbar expressed thanks to Adolf Hitler, "who on behalf of Palestinians took revenge in advance on the most vile criminals on the face of the earth," as the September issue of Commentary reported.
Mr. Powell's absence makes a resounding statement. That statement would have been more convincing, however, had the United States declined participation altogether. After all, we already pay the lion's share of these events. The U.S. government is hoping feebly to change the harsh language toward Israel by the presence of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Southwick, whose task it is to roam the halls in search of a more Israel-friendly atmosphere. Mr. Southwick is not supposed to take his official seat at the conference as a U.S. representative unless this happens. This is silly. Mr. Southwick's roaming will do little to heighten the stature of a superpower already under fire, and will do even less to change the deeply-rooted hatred of the Arab nations toward Israel.
While the conference has turned into a whining session to fan racism rather than defeat it, one African leader currently practicing racism will likely be given a pass. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been supporting the systematic expulsion of white farmers from their land. The expulsion campaign has included arson, beatings and the imprisonment of aging white farmers. The campaign has also hurt the blacks living off the produce of the white farmers, as well as blacks who farm the land. Any criticism of Mr. Mugabe's destructive racism has been overshadowed by complaints against Zionists, homophobes and anyone skeptical of giving financial reparations to Africa for slavery that occurred two centuries ago.
When participants at a U.N. racism conference are ready to leave prejudices at the door and address subjects that challenge politically correct biases, the United States might consider attending. Unfortunately, that day is not likely to come any time soon.


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