Response to Durban Hysterics

David Harris, the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in New York pens this refreshingly sane rebuke to the most rabid of the anti-Durban extremists (whose excesses I have denounced here and here, among other places). When the United States opted to test the waters and send a delegation to the conference’s preparatory meetings in Geneva last month, one of the members was the AJC’s Felice Gaer. Predictably, Gaer was demonized, and, as Harris relates, the AJC’s participation became “red meat for a chorus of critics, led by writers Caroline Glick in Israel, Anne Bayefsky in the U.S., and Melanie Phillips in the U.K.” These frantic voices levelled unconscionable and unhinged attacks on AJC’s patriotism, integrity, and support for Israel, also assuring that, by simply appearing for talks, the United States was dooming itself, and the entire West, to complicity in a morals-eroding, world order-destroying “hate-fest.”

Harris’ response to such over the top pronouncements:

In the end, these three well-known observers, in their consequences-be-damned approach to Durban II, got it wrong. They viciously lashed out at anyone who dared to disagree on tactics, irresponsibly questioned motives, incorrectly prophesied the U.S. position and failed to see that European nations were now more, not less, likely to walk out. Indeed, Italy adopted the U.S. stance within days.

To become so blatantly and blindly partisan and to irresponsibly accuse groups like AJC of cavorting with Holocaust deniers and doing willful damage to Israel, is, I’d say, well over the top.

An even greater tragedy than the fact that the United States will not be attempting to further its agenda by participating at Durban is that the debate leading up to the conference was so skewed by such baseless, and often ad hominem, attacks. Reasoned debate and discussion would have been the best way to attempt to move the conference to a credible anti-racism platform, and reasoned debate and discussion would have been the proper way to argue in the lead-up to the conference. Unfortunately, we were left with neither.