Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2001/ 16 Elul 5761

Wesley Pruden

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Goodbye to Durban:
The farce be with you -- THAT'S quite a production number over there in Durban. No spangles, but a lot of squiggles.

The United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, Related Intolerance (and Lack of Ample Street Parking) is not exactly the greatest show on earth, but the delegates of the Arab League and certain African states could put Barnum & Bailey's clowns in the shade.

The United States pulled out of the circus yesterday, with Israel following just behind, and not a minute too soon. The delegates had to stop twice en route to the airport to throw up.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had earlier vowed not to go near the conference, denounced as "hateful language" the draft the delegates drew up to set out the aims of the conference. Too bad, the secretary said. A conference on racism might have done some good if the task had attracted serious people to Durban.

The sticking point, at least for the record, is the determination of the Arab states, frustrated because the Jews won't cut their own throats, to label Israel a "racist state." Three wars, an intifada and dozens of suicide bombings over the years have accomplished little more than to demonstrate Palestinian courage, valor and off-the-battlefield bravery against women and children.

"The Durban conference is a farce," said Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister.

And indeed it is, and not only because the Arab states have turned it into a hate-the-Jews fiesta to make the ghosts of Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann and Albert Speer feel right at home. The loudest voices so far have been those of Fidel Castro, who suggested on Sunday that the United States should pay the reparations the African nations have demanded as payment for the "legacy of slavery," and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who showed up, as usual, to pick whatever pockets he could find. Inviting Fidel and Jesse to a conference on combating racism is akin to inviting Larry Flynt to a conference on what to do about pornography.

The rhyming Reverend, who is in Durban as a hanger-on with the "Black Leadership Forum," couldn't resist tossing a ripe tomato at the Americans and the Israelis as they left Durban. He was disappointed, he said, that President Bush allowed the debate over Israel to determine whether the United States should stick around for the insults. "In many ways," he said, "the American delegation never walked in." ("And that's a sin," he could have said.)

Salman el Herfi, who identifies himself as "the Palestinian ambassador" although there is no Palestinian state to be the ambassador of, agreed with the former shadow senator of the District of Columbia, which is not a state to be a senator of, either. The Arab delegations had been utterly reasonable, Salman el Herfi assured everyone, but it was the U.S. delegation of infidels that refused to compromise. "It's sad, it's sad they didn't leave room for dialogue, they didn't leave room for flexibility." The United States pulled out, he said, because it would not face up to responsibility for slavery and the injustices done to American Indians. He stopped just short of a demand to change the name of the Redskins. "Their withdrawal will not affect the success of the conference. The conference will succeed."

No doubt. "Success" is assured because the conference was intended from the earliest planning sessions not to ameliorate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, but to be a forum for invective, insult, abuse and mockery of America and the West. America and the West, which profited from slavery 200 years ago, is also where the abolition of slavery began. Two hundred years later, there's still slavery in the world, but only in Africa and the Third World, whence it came. The Arab states have no interest in talking about the enslavement of Christians by Muslims in the Sudan. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who as a Baptist preacher was ordained to spread the Gospel of Christ, has scant interest in those enslaved for their faith. It's easier to extort from gullibles at home, and considerably more profitable.

Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations who is an African himself, is in Rwanda, trying to find a way to stop tribal fighting in Congo, which is making more slaves. He regrets the withdrawal of the Americans. It's not much fun to insult Americans if they're all back in Washington. But Mr. Annan might have come up with a way to satisfy the descendants of the Africans who captured and sold all those slaves to buyers in the West two centuries ago.

"I don't think any attempt should be made to pick on one country or one region," he said, "because, as I said, we are all guilty of it and we are all to take measures to tackle it." Well, maybe. But if we're all guilty, whose pockets do we pick?

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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