During a recent meeting at the UN, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay seemed to downplay the responsibility of governments in instigating violent protests, while Pakistan tried to dilute the meaning of antisemitism.
On Thursday, February 21, 2013, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized a conference on the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence. This is a series of seminars held around the world against the concept of “defamation of religion,” an Islamic-inspired notion that aims to limit free speech.
In her opening statement, the High Commissioner said that “In recent years, incidents involving hate speech, negative stereotyping in the media and even advocacy of religious or national hatred by public officials and political parties have resulted in killings of innocent people, attacks on places of worship and calls for reprisals.” We agree with her that racism, discrimination, hate speech and incitement to violence should be constantly and unequivocally condemned and combated. However, her statement failed to hold governments responsible for provoking social unrest. According to the New York Times, 19 people died and 160 were injured in Pakistan following “government-sanctioned protests” over an obscure YouTube video.
MESSAGE BY KIYO AKASAKA, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC INFORMATION
TO THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ANTI-SEMITISM AND HOLOCAUST DENIAL
18-19 NOVEMBER 2010, DUBLIN
One cannot begin to understand the origins of the Holocaust without cknowledging the anti-Semitism that led to it. And, one cannot understand the dangers f anti-Semitism without learning the universal lessons of the Holocaust. Ignoring these facts increases the risk that they will be repeated.
Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism. It wounds the people who suffer the most – the survivors. And it extends this hurt to every Jewish person, as a heartless reminder of unspeakable cruelty and the ruthless attempt to eliminate every member of their families.
Anti-Semitism fuels hatred and hatred kills. Yet it persists.
It persists because we have not yet learned. We have not fully understood that discrimination against people anywhere hurts people everywhere. Minorities of all kinds continue to be persecuted and murdered. And too often, we have been indifferent.
The United Nations takes this indifference to heart. As Secretary-General Ban said, earlier this year, “the United Nations Outreach Programme on the Holocaust is working closely with survivors to ensure that their stories are heard and heeded as a warning of the consequences of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. Holocaust survivors will not be with us forever, but the legacy of their survival must live on. We must preserve their stories, through memorials, through education, most of all through robust efforts to prevent genocide and other grave crimes.”
The Programme also partners with teachers and civil society groups in furthering Holocaust education. These partnerships help to weaken Holocaust deniers, who in the face of the truth, can no longer claim ignorance of historical fact. The Programme’s “Discussion Papers Journal” provides a forum for scholars to examine the causes of the Holocaust and its relevance today. It encourages the international community to work together to help stop crimes against humanity, including genocide.
I congratulate the organizers of this important International Conference on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial and encourage all of the scholars and experts here to continue to examine these issues, work to dispel myths, and fight discrimination.
On November 23, Sudan, on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced in the General Assembly’s Third Committee a resolution on the adoption of the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference. The Conference was held in Geneva from April 20 – 24, 2009, and is best remembered by the dozens of democracies that walked out during Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial opening address.
The delegation of Israel called for the vote, explaining that her government refused to afford credibility to a process that was “obsessed” with the Middle East. The text was initially adopted with 161 countries in favor, 6 against, and 12 abstaining.
After the vote, however, the delegation of the Russian Federation raised a point of order to note that their “yes” had been recorded as an abstention; they then requested a new vote. The United States responded that it was “highly unusual” for a new vote to be recorded, asking under what rule of procedure the Committee would be acting. The Chair replied that although it was, indeed, unusual, the rules do not prohibit the retaking of votes. Furthermore, in previous demands for a new vote, the requesting delegation had pressed the wrong button. As the Russian delegation had insisted that he had pressed the correct button, the Chair deemed it acceptable to grant a re-vote. However, the United States argued that because the delegation had not requested a reconsideration of the resolution, a second vote would be invalid.
The Chair decided to hold another vote, and the final count was 163 in favor, 5 against, and 9 abstaining. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Russian Federation, changed their votes from abstentions to “yes.” The Marshall Islands, which initially voted “no” was absent during the second vote, as was Macedonia, which had voted “yes” originally.
Canada was one of five nations to refuse to vote for the Durban Outcome Document (the other four were Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, and the United States.) The Canadian representative explained that the language in the text reaffirmed the outcome document of the first Durban Conference in 2001, and that his government would not lend its approval to such a politicized process. Moreover, the delegation argued that references in the document to the Middle East bore no relevancy to the fight against intolerance.
The other five countries that walked out of the Conference, namely Germany, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Poland and Italy, all abstained. They were joined by Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Tonga.
In a general statement on the resolution, the delegation of Israel remarked that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” Israel argued that the 2001 Durban Conference “had descended in a brazen display of anti-Semitic racism,” and the promotion of racist agendas. The representative of Israel further explained that they had initially decided to reserve judgment on the General Assembly’s decision to convene the Durban Review Conference; that they had realized the Conference’s potential to rectify the wrongs of 2001, but that these hopes had been misplaced. Though Israel acknowledged the importance of various elements of the Review, the Conference had, nevertheless, reaffirmed the 2001 Durban Declaration. The delegation explained that Israel was “fully committed to address, in a professional manner, the scourge of racism, xenophobia and intolerance,” but that it could not support a document that endorsed the 2001 Durban Declaration.
In what may be a portent of things to come, Islamic accusations against the West dominated a UN session today dedicated to follow-up of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa.
This week in Geneva saw the first meeting of the “Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards,” which was created by a UN Human Rights Council resolution on follow-up to the 2001 Durban conference. Initiated by Algeria on behalf of Africa, it was adopted in December 2006 over the opposition of the EU, Canada and other democratic states on the Council. The resolution sought to “heed the decision and instruction of the 2001 World Conference against Racism.”
The Ad Hoc committee is not formally part of the planning for the controversial 2009 Durban Review Conference, but is an overlapping entity that treats the same theme and involves the same diplomats. Its mandate is to elaborate “complementary standards” to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and to provide “new normative standards aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism including incitement to racial and religious hatred.”
The EU this week reiterated its unease with the committee but pledged to cooperate. Egypt on behalf of the African Group justified the need for the committee.
Today’s session quickly turned to familiar UN subjects of “foreign occupation,” the Danish cartoon controversy, Islamophobia, and colonialism:
Algerian Deputy Permanent Representative Mohammed Bessedik drew thinly veiled comparisons of today’s treatment of Muslims to the Nazi atrocities against Jews. “The policy of targeting Muslims would actually aim at dehumanizing them by assaulting their identity to legitimize an attitude of racial discrimination similar to the one that targeted another Semitic people in the 20th century.” He described the threat of “reawakening the hydra of the anti-Semitic campaigns of the 20th century, which we now call Islamophobia.” Click for full speech (in French)
Egypt’s representative cited the Danish cartoon controversy as an example of where legislation exists but was not implemented, or has not been updated. He also criticized recent fires and riots in Paris and other European cities. These, he claimed, can constitute threats to international peace and security. “Let this mechanism prevent these phenomena from escalating, so that the Security Council does not have to deal with them,” he urged.
The representative of Belgium asked that specific country cases not be named, but Egypt denied having made references to any particular country, adding “If political exploitation of migrants or religions for political reasons comes from a particular region, if fires and riots come from a particular region, if resistance to combat these phenomena come from a particular region, this is not my responsibility.”
Egypt offered the example of the “Da Vinci Code” film, which was deemed insulting “by the Christian Pope and by the 7-8 million Christians in Egypt.” Egypt did not allow this movie to be shown in any movie theater and “even bringing it in as a tourist can get you in trouble.” Christians are not a majority in Egypt and Sharia law is the pillar of Egyptian law, he said, but respect for all religions is paramount. The devout Muslim members of parliament were the first to push for this legislation, he noted.
In thinly veiled jibes against Israel, “foreign occupation” was raised repeatedly by Islamic states. Syria and Algeria called it one of the worst forms of human rights violations. Egypt referred to countries that occupy other countries for a lengthy period as “a form of racism by itself” and “a racist regime of occupation.”
Egypt accused the Europeans of lacking political will to combat racism.
Senegal stressed the need for finding new language for contemporary manifestations of racism — another way of calling for a reopening of the Durban 2001 declaration.
Egypt and Pakistan criticized “racial profiling” against individuals of a different religion. Egypt said that this should constitute a complementary standard.
Geneva rights group welcomes today’s principled statement by Secretary Rice
Geneva, February 14, 2008 — After South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki announced that his country will play host to a follow-up session of the discredited 2001 Durban anti-racism conference, UN Watch expressed worry about a repeat of the original debacle. The Geneva monitoring organization welcomed today’s statement by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, as reported by the Associated Press, that the U.S. will not attend the meeting if it is anti-Semitic, and UN Watch called on other states to clarify their red lines.
“Next year, South Africa will play host to the Review Conference to evaluate the implementation of the decisions of the World Conference Against Racism which was held in our country in ,” Mbeki told the South African parliament on Friday. (Click for full speech.)
Although some observers had speculated that Mbeki meant to refer only to a regional preparatory meeting, senior sources in South Africa confirmed that the government intends to host the final 2009 Durban Review Conference.
The original 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa was supposed to combat racism, but was widely criticized as having degenerated into a festival of hate, with virulent anti-Semitic street demonstrations and physical attacks, leading the United States and Israel to walk out. Canada recently announced it will not participate in what has become known as “Durban II,” citing concerns that the process was heading once again in harmful directions.
“Those of us trying to prevent a recurrence of the 2001 violence and hatred are alarmed by the prospect of holding the sequel in the same country,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
“Moreover, the text of the UN resolution on Durban II, as well as UN practice for all review conferences, require that the meeting be held within the framework of the General Assembly in New York, or at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva.”
“Only the UN has the power to decide the venue,” said Neuer, “and the European Union and other member states need to make clear that a breach of the rules on this question would be the crossing of a red line.”
The location of the 2009 meeting is expected to be finalized at the upcoming April 2008 meeting in Geneva of the conference’s planning committee. The African and Islamic blocs are expected to support South Africa’s request, along with other countries including Cuba, China and North Korea.
“Apart from venue,” said Neuer, “with Qaddafi’s Libya as chair of the planning committee, and Ahmadinejad’s Iran as a vice-chair, there are obviously many other serious concerns that need to be addressed.”
UN Watch welcomed the new clarification issued today by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, in response to its Jan. 28, 2008 letter protesting her endorsement of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which contains anti-Semitic provisions.
“Last week the High Commissioner endorsed the Arab Charter, but today she has shown courage in criticizing its ‘incompatibility… with international norms and standards,’ and that’s a step forward,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director. “We welcome Ms. Arbour’s recognition today that the Arab Charter includes ‘inconsistencies’ in regard to its approach to the death penalty for children, the rights of women and non-citizens, and anti-Zionism.”
“At the same time, we await a response to our demand that the UN official who advised the High Commissioner to sign the initial January 24 announcement be held fully accountable,” said Neuer. “We are talking about someone who recommended the endorsing of a charter that promotes classically anti-Semitic themes, describing Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, as uniquely evil, and advocating its ‘elimination.’ We trust that the High Commissioner — whose mandate centers on the notion of individual responsibility and accountability, and who opposes the culture of impunity – will lead by example and ask the responsible adviser to draw the necessary conclusions.”
“This latest episode only underscores the kind of dangers that are up ahead. With Ms. Arbour serving as secretary-general of the Durban Review process — ostensibly UN meetings to combat racism, but which is chaired by Libya with the help of Iran and Cuba — we trust that she will immediately and forcefully oppose any similar efforts to hijack the language and idea of human rights for anti-Zionism or to denigrate Western democracies,” said Neuer.
Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC): “In many instances Holocaust survivors, instead of promoting . . . harmony, are campaigning against Muslim symbols in the Western world. They should be the most ardent advocates against discrimination.Islamophobia is also a cruel form of Anti-Semitism.” Click to Read PDF of Full Speech(ed. note: text is dated Sept. 21 2007 but was actually delivered on Sept. 25, 2007)
Algeria: “. . . a worrying upswing in Antisemitism which now targets Arabs and is extended by oversimplification to all Muslims.”
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Joint NGO Response
Sept. 28, 2007
His Excellency Ambassador Masood Khan
Organization of the Islamic Conference
Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva
Dear Ambassador Khan,
We, the undersigned human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, write to express our grave concern over certain remarks that you delivered before the UN Human Rights Council this past Tuesday, 25 September 2007, which offend Holocaust survivors around the world and harm the cause of equality and human rights for all.
In your statement on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, you addressed the issue of “Defamation of Religions.” As representatives of civil society, we express our firm condemnation of all violations of freedom of religion. We strongly support universal respect for citizens of all faiths without discrimination.
We therefore can neither comprehend nor accept your unprecedented remarks which effectively accuse Holocaust survivors of practicing discrimination and promoting disharmony. In addressing accomodation for Muslims in the Western world and the potential for political and social harmony, you said that “in many instances Holocaust survivors, instead of promoting such harmony, are campaigning against Muslim symbols in the Western world. They should be the most ardent advocates against discrimination. Islamophobia is also a cruel form of Anti-Semitism.”
We are unaware of any such “campaigning” by Holocaust survivors. Moreover, even if it were true that individuals were engaged in such an alleged effort, it would constitute unjustifiable stereotyping to label an entire group — particularly surivors of a genocide — on the basis of the alleged actions of a few.
We believe that Holocaust survivors, elderly men and women who are often frail and suffering from illness, are deserving of our sympathy and respect, not denigration in a speech at the United Nations.
We also regret that the baseless accusation of discrimination on the part of Holocaust survivors was compounded by remarks that effectively deny these and other victims of Antisemitism recognition of their particular form of suffering. Islamophobia, Christianophobia, and Antisemitism are the recognized terms for the hatred of Muslims, Christians and Jews. However, saying that Islamophobia is itself a “form of Anti-Semitism” only serves to corrode and confuse the very meaning and existence of Antisemitism, the term coined in the 1870′s by proto-Nazi Wilhelm Marr as a euphemism for the German Judenhass, or “Jew-hate”. Not only is it nonsensical to claim that groups other than Jews are the objects of Jew-hatred, but it has the pernicious effect of blurring the meaning and impact of any condemnation of Antisemitism. We are gravely concerned that this is not the first time that Pakistan has made such statements at the UN.
Once again, pursuant to the values of the UN Charter, we express our unqualified support for the respect of all religions, and opposition to discrimination of any kind.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration and respect.
Dr. Theodor Rathgeber
German Forum Human Rights
Angela C. Wu
International Law Director
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Hillel C. Neuer
United Nations Watch
Roy W. Brown
Main Representative, UN Geneva
International Humanist and Ethical Union
Rabbi François Garaï
World Union of Progressive Judaism
Chief Representative to the UN Geneva
Association for World Education
B’nai B’rith International
Dr Francois Ullmann
Ingénieurs du Monde
President of Social Ecology Foundation