U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) introduced a House resolution last week to prevent U.S. taxpayer money from funding the ‘009 U.N. Durban Review Conference II, a follow-up to the ‘001 conference that was decried by Western nations for its anti-Israel agenda.
Rep. Scott Garrett has introduced a bill to keep taxpayers from funding the ‘009 Durban II Conference.
The United States and 45 other member-nations of the U.N. voted in December not to support Durban II. According to the resolution’s text, the first conference was "used as a platform to advance anti-Semitism and, consequently, the United States and Israeli delegates walked out."
While the United States has adopted a pattern at the United Nations of voting against the conference, Garrett’s bill prohibits U.S. funding and participation in it and any related preparation. A congressional statement sends an important message that the government’s constituency also supports the action against the conference, Garrett told this newspaper last week.
"The U.N. has taken an overly critical stance to put it mildly of positions relative to Israel," Garrett said. "The United States, therefore, has to stand up constantly and reinforce the message that we will not stand or tolerate this behavior. One of the ways we can do that is with the purse strings."
Garrett has long supported the idea of withdrawing the United States from the United Nations, which has lost its credibility, he said, citing the oil-for-food scandal, what he termed the lack of accountability of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and a slew of one-sided anti-Israel resolutions. His efforts to withdraw the United States have met with opposition, however, so he has sponsored several bills in recent years to limit U.S. funding.
Despite these efforts, the media continue to refer to the United Nations "as an arbiter of fair dealings around the world," Garrett said, and the international body continues to influence public opinion.
"They’re not relevant in the sense of actually living up to their mandate, which is to try to prevent war, prevent genocide, [and] end conflicts," he said. This recent bill, he added, is "just another message strongly sent to the U.N. of our disdain for their continual support of activity criticizing Israel."
The ‘001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance was held in Durban, South Africa. The conference focused mainly on Israeli treatment of Palestinians, which led some participants to call for the United Nations to reinstate its General Resolution 3379 of 1975, which equated Zionism with racism. The resolution was repealed in 1991. The United States and Israel, charging that the conference had become politicized and focused on attacking Israel, withdrew their representatives.
In addition, several African countries and NGOs demanded individual apologies from each of the countries responsible for slavery, as well as reparations and recognition that slavery is a crime against humanity.
In the final document resulting from the conference, direct criticism of Israel was removed but the document did refer to the Palestinians’ "right to self-determination" and express concern at their plight "under foreign occupation." Furthermore, the document called for support for the New African Initiative, debt relief, funds to fight AIDS, the recovery of stolen government funds transferred to the West by former dictators, and an end to human trafficking. Reparations were not mentioned.
After the conference, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism’; or support the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggest that apartheid exists in Israel; or that single out only one country in the world Israel for censure and abuse."
James Kenney, Canada’s multiculturalism secretary of state, said in January that his country would not participate in Durban II. Canada and Australia issued statements during the ‘001 conference accusing its participants of hypocrisy. Earlier this year, Kenney called the original Durban conference "a circus of intolerance," according to media reports.
Although he introduced the bill only last week, Garrett is confident that it will move forward quickly and without roadblocks, because of positive reactions to a bill he introduced earlier this year condemning rocket attacks on Israel. The Durban resolution has 17 Republican co-sponsors. No Democrats have yet signed on.
"I’m not one to guess," Garrett said, but "I can see no reason why we should have opposition to it."