The United Nations-sponsored Durban III anti-racism conference opened in New York last week. The conference, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the first Durban event, is intended to fight intolerance; but it airs a noxious mixture of racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic views. Sadly, only nine of the 27 European Union member states chose to boycott it.
Unsurprisingly, Fidel Castro's Cuba and Iran's authoritarian regime joined Lebanon's government, which is dominated by Iran's terrorist subsidiary Hezbollah, to launch attacks against Israel, the only robust democracy in the Middle East.
Dubbed simply "Durban" after the South African city where the notorious 2001 event took place, the UN anti-racism process has achieved the opposite of its stated mission. Significant numbers of Durban I conference participants praised the genocide of European Jews during the Holocaust, carrying banners proclaiming "Hitler should have finished the job" and handouts with Hitler's face announcing "What if I had won? The good thing: there would be no Israel."
Explaining his government's decision to pull out of Durban III, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the 2001 conference in Durban "saw open displays of unpleasant and deplorable anti-Semitism."
The EU countries who pulled the plug on their participation in Durban III are: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
But the remaining EU countries -- Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden -- aired not a hint of criticism about Durban III.
No Turning Back?
At a counter-Durban III event in New York, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who resigned from the initial Durban committee in 2001, described the UN as a "great idea that has been perverted."
The Romanian-born Wiesel said that the institution "has become a forum far from the aspirations of its founders."
In the run-up to the conference, Belgian and Finnish officials argued that they would see to it that Durban III lived up to its stated purpose. Belgian's prime minister, Yves Leterme, said the voice of Belgium "will crush the hate-mongers."
Erik Lundberg, director of the Human Rights Policy Unit at the Finnish Foreign Ministry, said, "We support an outcome that gives strong political support for the continued work against racism and discrimination in all its forms."
Yet the EU members had only to recall the scene at the 2009 Durban II conference to know what was coming. There, Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad used the UN-sponsored state to deny the Holocaust and call once again for the world body to endorse the obliteration of Israel, one of its own member states. "Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights at eradicating this barbaric racism," he declared. "Efforts must be made to put an end to Zionism."
Last week, the 18 EU participants at Durban III stood shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian regime and ratified a political document tainted by anti-Semitism and racism. The participants green-lighted the original Durban Declaration document, which singles out one member of the United Nations, Israel, for condemnation.
Unsurprisingly, the waning Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi was originally a key supporter of the Durban process.
Canada, to its credit, was the first Western democracy to pull out of Durban II and Durban III and its leaders understand that the process should disappear into diplomatic and political oblivion.
Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism, said that the Durban process was "basically irredeemable" and the "UN should drop it." It has become a "sick joke and sullies the reputation of the UN," he added.
Yet under the direction of controversial Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, the UN might very well use its resources and member state monies to mount a Durban IV conference.
If and when Durban III gives way to Durban IV, the leaders of the 18 EU states that took part in last week's event have to ask themselves what good can become of allowing illiberal regimes to hijack the cause of human rights.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL