Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Badges revoked. Durban delegitimized further.

Tuesday 4/21/09

Today we woke up alive with the momentum and media coverage of the first day to soon discover that our entire delegation of Jewish students had our UN accreditation revoked as what seemed to be a typical diplomatic response to the events of the prior day.

It was demobilizing, debilitating, and discriminatory.

The students responsible for the clown disruption were from the French Jewish student delegation not from our group. And while there were quite vocal members from our own group, this was by no means legitimate foundation to deny every civil and abiding student the right to enter and bear witness to the Durban Review Conference as well as all of the surrounding and contentious events.

On a lighter note, the YouTube video of the French clowns was nonetheless, simply awesome.

During our paralysis we were unable to leave the Jewish Welcome Center for security reasons. Eventually when the security was cleared, with covert bodyguards in the background, the two American students and I decided to see if the UN Watch would be able to accredit us, which because we were already in the UN system, was fruitless.

Several hours, numerous debates, and rolls and rolls of bureaucratic tape later, we finally regained our passes and hurried into the UN in order to make use of the few hours left in the day.

We then attended a panel titled “Racism: The Road to Genocide,” where a Pakistani man began by discussing the racial conflict between Bangladesh and Pakistan where the darker-skinned Bengali majority originating from eastern Pakistan were being ruled and subjugated to racist treatment by the lighter-skinned minority. According to this panelist, 10 million people had died in a period of ten months between 1970 and 1971 until India decided to militarily intervene. I knew of the conflict but had no idea of this bloody history.

He furthered his discussion to the Sudanese genocide where half a million Black-Muslim Darfurians have been ruthlessly raped and murdered as a result of the genocide by the Arab-Muslims since 2003. The UN has done little if anything while Black Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the Arab world are frequently referred to as “Ya’ Abdi,” or “black slave” which is yes in fact, a racial issue.

The panelists continued until a Q&A session where a brief but impassioned argument ensued about the Sri Lankan human rights conflict between the Tamil and the Sinhalese groups. According to these speakers, the violence has escalated where nearly 300 people were killed only yesterday and approximately 300,000 people have been displaced via state-sanctioned bombing. Please do not take my word on these statistics. I will be doing much more in-depth research on this issue about which I am embarrassed to say as a human rights activist, I know very little.

Lastly, Charles Small, Director of Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism Studies, who naturally discussed the growth and danger of anti-Semitism throughout the world courageously and thankfully called out the few individuals in the room, certain members of an Iranian delegation and once again the Neturei Karta, the Jewish extremist group who collectively refused to stand during a moment of silence to commemorate the Holocaust on the day of Yom HaShoah.

Having a dissenting opinion is one thing. Disrespecting a moment of silence for a horrific event such as the Holocaust is absolutely absurd. No moral relativistic argument can be justified here. This was one of the loudest, most appalling, and most offensive statements I have witnessed thus far. And a new line was crossed for me today.

On a side note, watch this video where one of Ahmadinejad’s entourage is calling Eli Wiesel a “Zio-Nazi.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV3rw_QOD7U


Thankfully the panel came to a close right when the temperature in the room had almost reached a boiling point. And thankfully again, we were about to attend one of the most meaningful experiences of my life—a rally with the Darfurians.

We assembled in the Place des Nations in front of the UN as an assembly of Jewish students from around the world and a handful of Darfurians speaking in a united voice.
“Stop genocide in Darfur!”
“Shame shame Al-Bashir!”
“Human rights in Darfur!”
“UN! Let’s go! Its not too late to save Darfur!”

Our voices hoarse from yelling and our feet sore from stomping—we were exhausted and smiling at this alliance. My new friends in particular, Yousef, a forty-three year old Darfurian who had immigrated to Canada wearing a jacket too large for his narrow shoulders and Ibrahim, a nurse who had immigrated to France, shared their stories with me which I will share in a future post.

For me it was not the honking that mattered. It was the sincere handshakes and smiles exchanged. It was the support pledged by the Darfurians that they stand with us and with Israel and our promise that we stand with them. It was the mutual commitment to fight until the genocide in Darfur ends and our devotion to preventing future genocides. So we can say, without cringing at our guilty consciences, “Never again.”


  1. Once again, an objective and insightful report of the events taking place at the Durban conference. While there is appropriate outrage expressed at the numerous injustices, it never ceases to dispassionately focus our attention on the real issues. This conference, purportedly created to address human suffering from racism, has once again been hijacked with the help of UN authorities, by the greatest perpetrators of these crimes-- for political gain. Against these odds, may we continue to tirelessly support those victims of genocides and confront their oppressors openly and without hesitation.

  2. Beyond ideological moralism, has the UN effectively prevented genocide? Or has it simply organized conferences to discuss genocide? For the most part, the UN and it member states lack the political will to intervene in regional conflicts. Darfur and Rwanda are poignant and recent examples. The slogan "Never Again" is founded on the hope that the world will not tolerant injustice and it will take action to stamp out acts of cruelty and persecution. Yet "Never Again" happens over and over again. A new slogan needs to be crafted to more accurately reflect the policy of appeasement and consent.