Sunday, April 19, 2009
Obama Boycotts Racisim Conference
President Obama has just indicated that he will not be attending the "Durban 2" conference on racism scheduled to be held this week in Geneva. I think that this could be a wise decision. The first "Durban Conference on Racism" held in South Africa 8 years ago was marked by huge anti-Israel demonstrations and the conference itself seemed to spend a inordinate amount of time attempting to link Zionism with racism.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who has called for the destruction of Israel, plans to attend the conference and that in itself should give all invited countries pause for reflection on whether their presence at the conference would help or hinder the problem of racism in the world.
Already some notable Western nations have pulled out including Canada, Italy, and Australia.
However, not all are happy with the President's boycott. "This decision is inconsistent with the administration's policy of engaging with those we agree with and those we disagree with. By boycotting Durban, the US is making it more difficult for it to play a leadership role on UN Human Rights Council as it states it plans to do. This is a missed opportunity, plain and simple." said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee who chairs the Black Caucus.
I disagree though. President Obama's absence will send a clear message that the problems between Palestinians and Israel are best handled through diplomatic negotiation and not through circus side shows. Had the Bush administration made this choice, the media would have made it a big story about how George W. was beholden to Christian evangelical ties to Israel.
Obama at this point in his presidency however, does not have baggage like that attributed to his decision. His boycott will carry powerful weight and leadership for other, particularly, Western nations.
In the end, the President may do more for ending racism by not attending.