- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

So, the United States and Israel have finally had enough of the naked display of anti-Semitism at the singularly misnamed World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa. Whatever took us so long?

With this conference, the United Nations has reverted to its old deplorable self. Does anyone wonder why Americans, generally speaking, don't trust the organization and are reluctant to pay the lion's share of its budget? We are even footing 25 percent of the bill for the conference in Durban, where the United States is being vilified as a matter of routine. While it was certainly appropriate for Secretary of State Colin Powell to refuse to attend, it was a naive mistake for the United States to think that we could influence the outcome of the declarations with a lower-level U.S. delegation floating about.

In fact, you can be assured that whenever people come together to discuss the lower human instincts such as intolerance and racism, these same instincts will rear their ugly heads in the worst way. Invite people to examine and explore their grievances, express their true feelings, and nothing but nastiness will result. In Durban, everybody feels entitled to victimhood with the exception of apologetic and guilt-ridden Americans and Europeans, whose colonialist past is considered the root of all evil. They have no one to blame, unless they chose to blame the Vikings and demand reparations for raping and pillaging from the Scandinavians, which at least would make for a new twist on a very old story.

In fact, more than anything, the proceedings have brought back memories of an old 1960s song by Tom Lehrer "National Brotherhood Week." Not a blessed thing has changed since he wrote it as a spoof on good-intentions-weeks. Not usually one to quote Tom Lehrer, I nevertheless found the refrain ringing in my head with every newspaper article about the conference. Remember the refrain? "Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics/And the Catholics hate the Protestants/And the Hindus hate the Moslems/And everybody hates the Jews."

In this case, the anti-Semitism whipped up by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and aided and abetted by numerous Muslim countries has run so high that Israel has been singled out as the only country to deserve special condemnation, a practitioner of apartheid. This in a world of egregious human rights offenders that include countries like Russia, China, Sudan, Iraq, Egypt or Zimbabwe next door, where white farmers are being driven from their farms for no other reason than the color of their skin.

Among the offending language, which caused the United States and Israel to walk out but not the European Union was this draft statement: "The World Conference recognizes with deep concern the increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism in various parts of the world as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority." Well, don't believe for a moment that the authors of that clause were worried about anti-Semitism at all.

While reparations for slavery were for a long while the cause celebre of the conference, the issue has been overtaken by anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as its primary theme. Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson felt compelled to deplore this fact, in a fairly backhanded way. Mr. Jackson seemed concerned that it has detracted from his own agenda racism in the United States. "It is a shame, we've let the Israeli-Palestinian thing constrict our view of racism to a keyhole," he said in his capacity as a non-government delegate.

The tone of this conference unfortunately is a sign of greater problems facing the Middle East. Muslim countries obviously feel they have cornered Israel, at least in public relations terms. Militarily, it very much looks as though Mr. Arafat will be successful in forcing the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon through the continued Intifada and suicide bombings. The Durban conference represents the public relations arm of this effort, a wonderful forum for Mr. Arafat to rant in front of a receptive international audience.

Have no doubt about it, all the condemnations of Zionism are part and parcel of the movement to erase the state of Israel from the map of the Middle East. In this instance, as in many others, Martin Luther King Jr. expressed the thought with great clarity. "When people criticize Zionism they mean Jews … Zionism is nothing less than the dream and the ideal of the Jewish people returning to live on their own land … and what is anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jew of the fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord to all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against Jews because they are Jews. In short it is anti-Semitism."

That this should be the essence and outcome of a U.N. conference on racism would be ironic were it not such an outrage.

E-mail: hbering@washingtontimes.com

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