Anti-Racism Conference is Not the Next Holocaust

Frenzied anti-Durban propaganda is not limited to blogospheric wingnuts, I’m afraid. Writing in The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Representatives Mike Pence and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen rail on next month’s anti-racism conference with feverish gusto, eagerly seizing the bait of the ridiculous premise that the entire conference is worthy of scrapping because it seeks to build off its predecessor. The Representatives’ heated rhetoric — which more or less forecasts an Armageddon of hatred if the United States and its allies do not repudiate every tidbit of the conference — unsurprisingly soars into the absurd, reaching a level that borders on the downright offensive.

Like the struggles of years ago, we must never eschew what is right in favor of what is easy. We can abdicate neither our responsibility to address and reject bigotry wherever it lurks, nor our obligation to safeguard public funds as Americans face extraordinary economic challenges. To give meaning to the words ‘Never again,’ the United States and other responsible nations must not fund or participate in any part of Durban II.

Pence and Ros-Lehtinen begin their piece with a reference to the Holocaust. To imply that participating in the Durban Review Conference would amount to another mass murder of Jews is just sickening. Yes, the 2001 Durban conference was marred by disgusting anti-Semitic rhetoric, and yes, some of the participants in its successor have tried and will try to peddle loathsome Holocaust-denying myths (which, it bears mentioning were soundly rejected in the Durban final outcome document, which explicitly recognizes and condemns the Holocaust). But please — a sense of proportion. Bloating this hateful language into mass murder gives it far more impact than it deserves, and it demeans both the cause of anti-racism and the actual experience of the Holocaust.

As ironic as Claudia Rosett’s good question yesterday is the fact that Pence and Ros-Lehtinen are actually quite unintentionally on the right track. “We must never eschew what is right in favor of what is easy” — except that what is easy here is, in fact, to sacrifice the Durban Review Conference to the wolves howling against it, and to leave the fight against racism painfully un-waged. Similarly, one might reasonably think that “our responsibility to address and reject bigotry wherever it lurks” would lead us to decry not only the excesses of the fringe elements of the Durban process, but also the powerful strains of racism that still haunt society, and which the Review Conference has the potential to deal with. That potential is vastly increased with the U.S. leadership that these two representatives would unfortunately have us abandon.