UNITED NATIONS (JWN and agencies) – In contrast to widespread concern that yesterday’s Durban Review Conference at the United Nations would be another international hate-fest against Israel, the parley dragged on through a bland series of politically correct pronouncements about human rights delivered to a congregation marked by empty chairs.
Israel received the expected hypocritical castigations from a few countries known for their embarrassing human rights records, and the conference heard a brief plea for tolerance from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Let us stand firmly against anti-Semitism,” Ban stated. “We must oppose Islamophobia, and reject discrimination against Christians. Bias based on religious identity has no place in our world. Let us defend the rights of all, without distinction of any kind.
Perhaps the most notable—and constructive—thing about the Durban III conference was the number of protest rallies and counter-conferences taking place outside.
The largest rally was mainly organized by Evangelical Christian groups. The tone was set for the protest when Roz Rothstein, founder of the Israel advocacy group Stand With Us, shouted into the microphone, “Today we are all Israelis!” Voices in the crowd yelled back, “Halleluyah.”
Many in the crowd of an estimated 600 people had come from far away to stand for Israel. Rev. Robert
Stearns, founder and executive director of the Evangelical Christian group Eagles Wings, a rally co-sponsor, said people had come from 20 states.
Addressing his remarks to the UN, Stearns said it is “time to do your job and address the real human rights abuses” in the world instead of attacking only Israel. “Enough is enough,” he declared.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York issued a statement praising the Jewish-Evangelical Christian alliance. Michael Miller, council executive vice president and CEO, said the alliance is “pivotal for support of our shared values here in the United States and of course for the critical support it signals for Israel.
“We are comforted knowing that as uncertainties lie ahead, we can rely on true friends such as Robert
Stearns and Eagles Wings to stand with us and help carry our message nationally and globally to a committed and vibrant faith community.”
Israeli Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon told the rally that the UN “should be a place for peace and love” and that instead “today you see hatred against the Jewish people and anti-Semitism.”
“We say to them, `We are not afraid of you. … We are strong, committed and we will prevail,” he said
of Israel. “When we see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran coming every year to New York City … when you see him full of hatred talking about killing Jews, you better believe it.
“I am sending a message to President Obama – you have to wake up and show leadership and deal with the threat coming from Iran. It is a threat not only for the Jewish people living in the Holy Land of Israel; it is a threat to all.”
Gary Kellner, executive director of the International Center for Christian Leadership, said the Durban conference, “while it professes to stand against racism and genocide, has a history of Israel bashing. It has nothing to say apparently about the 2.5 million Christians murdered in the Sudan in the last decade or of
the executions in Iran. The only violations it finds to condemn are those it sees in Israel. It is the theater of the absurd. So we are gathered here today to say stop the Durban double standard.”
At a somewhat more low-keyed protest across the street from the UN, the Hudson Institute and Touro
College held a parley entitled, “The Perils of Global Intolerance: The United Nations and Durban III.”
Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton denounced the world body for commemorating the tenth anniversary of Durban I, a conference which he said violated the very purpose of the UN. He called Durban III an exercise in the deliberate delegitimization of the State of Israel.
Other participants in the counter-conference included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, former New York City mayor Ed Koch, international lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Speaking at a UN gathering in New York, Canadian Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney blasted the UN for commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Durban anti-racism conference. He called the Durban conference, which Canada first boycotted in 2009, as nothing but another “hate-fest.”
The US, which walked out of the 2001 event with Israel and boycotted the 2009 follow-up, boycotted Durban III as well. So did Australia, Austria, Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands—and, of course, Israel.
“Israel will always be on the front lines of the fight against racism,” said Israeli UN mission spokeswoman Karean Peretz. “However, we refuse to participate in the commemoration of a conference that sought to legitimize hatred, intolerance, and prejudice against the state of Israel, under the banner of combating