In a blog that is no longer accessible at Daily Kos, Jonathan Hutson (jhutson) wrote:
Re: "AIPAC’s accusatory press release (PDF) on Mary Robinson’s role misrepresents what she did and said in Durban. In a single sentence, AIPAC makes two incorrect statements, saying that the final conference text passed by participating states included a passage that Zionism equaled racism, and that she supported such a text. Neither is true. Thanks in part to her tireless work, and that of others, the final conference resolution of the participating states eliminated all references to such vicious sentiments. And after a forum of NGOs issued a declaration that equated Zionism with racism, Robinson stood resolutely before hundreds of people associated with the statement, and told them that their resolution was so unacceptable to her that she would not forward it to the conference of states."
This statement is NOT true itself and is very misleading itself. It's tendentious, and misrepresents what happened in Durban. I was there. As I've explained at length, it was more complicated than either the Jewish groups or now the human rights groups are portraying this.
AIPAC is *technically* incorrect in that they invoked the term "Zionism is racism" which indeed was not literally in the final document in Durban and was indeed removed --and not only by Mary Robinson's efforts -- leading up to the Durban conference in August 2001, 8 years ago.
But the concept and spirit of what "Zionist=Racism" *means* was brought in the back door, with Mary's consent and without her objection. And that was wrong on her part, even though she did other individually good things in and around Durban. This happened because she reached the limit of her political flexibility.
As I've explained repeatedly -- people need to become familiar with the line-by-line negotiations on these documents -- and I've parsed that here.
The Durban 1 document singles out only Israel for condemnation, as if only Israel alone among all horrible country situations in the world was worthy of international scrutiny and reaction. That was wrong.
The Durban 1 document then put in a rubric called "victims of racism" and stated "We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation" -- and thereby stuck the Palestinians under a topic making them appear a victim of state racism -- again, along among country situations mentioned. That fed the Israel-apartheid meme and that was wrong. That this paragraph also balances a rightful concern anyone should have about the plight of the Palestinian people under occupation with a nod to Israel's need for security (i.e. from terrorists, which is not explicitly stated) doesn't therefore sanitize the Durban document from vicious Z=R vestiges. In fact, they are still riddled into the document and more importantly, into the entire follow-up process which continues to spin out tendentious exercises like the "defamation of religions" gambit that the Islamic countries are using to prevent any criticizing of their theocratic states.
By Fisking on this and being literalist about what the Jewish groups are saying that is "technically wrong", I believe human rights defenders as well as those chosing leftist blogs for this defense of Mary Robinson are leaving themselves a wide-open, glaring vulnerability to themselves when someone -- as I will, and many others will -- say -- but why can't you condemn the singling out of Israel? But why are you incorrectly and tendentiously portraying Israel as guilty of apartheid-like state-sponsored racism? Israel shouldn't be singled out; more people have died in Chechnya or Sudan in the space of a year than ever have been killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Numerous conflicts around the world from the DRC to Afghanistan to Nigeria lead to hundreds of civilian deaths each month dwarfing the Gaza drama without 1/100th of Gaza's remedies for a solution.
Plenty of states have ugly state-sponsored policies against minorities -- the genocide in Sudan comes to mine -- or really well-documented cases of official neglect and complicity in racist movements -- like Russia. These types of situations were *not* mentioned in the Durban outcome documents and should have been listed -- or none mentioned at all -- or the countries that negotiated the document should have walked out. Which is what the U.S. and Israel did in Durban 1, and a number of other countries did for Durban 2 including Canada and Australia.
THAT is the problem and THAT is what Mary Robinson did not and does not grapple with. It would cost her nothing but the angry hate of a few extreme Palestinian groups that she already got for not taking the NGO document if she would condemn the Durban outcome. But she had too much politically at stake trying to portray it to Africans and the third world as a success of her career to take that simple step.
Many people have their own heavily blogged opinions about what they think Israel is guilty of, or their not-so-suppressed private opinions that rise to the surface with the energy and animus that this issue has incited among some. Yet even Mary Robinson doesn't accuse Israel of state-sponsored apartheid or racism as an institutional device.
I think the way to have handled this ideally would be not to enter the political fray. But if you do, you simply must say "Even though the right-wing Jewish groups technically got it wrong, there are some troublesome ways in which obsession with, and demonization of Israel did occur in the Durban documents and we sympathize with those concerns. Mary Robinson did what she could to mitigate some of this but did not go far enough. The document outcomes should be condemned, even if there are some useful aspects of Durban that can be invoked to fight racism." It would be a simple qualifying remark that would a) be true and b) not pit human rights groups so adamantly against Jewish groups which actually *do* have a point, even though some of them are hysterical about Mary.
A key reason they can get hysterical about Mary and Human Rights Watch -- and soon Physicians for Human Rights -- is that this simple accurate and truthful concession about the wrongfulness of Durban isn't being made. It can easily be made, and I hope it *will* be made before this is all through.
The final document did NOT remove all references to vicious sentiments. Far from it. It left them in, in the form of singling out Israel and putting Palestinians under the rubric of racism specifically. I've explained this in detail in my blog earlier this year.
The Daily Kos blog also completely misrepresents Mary Robinson's refusal to take the NGO document. Yes, she did refuse. But it's not accurate to say she "got up in front of hundreds of people" as if that implies she robustly condemned the contents of the statement to the public and the press -- which is what some of us did there and that's why we understand the difference. She merely refused to accept the document at the morning OHCHR briefing as a bureaucratic measure. That's great; that's grand. It is not a condemnation of the NGO forum, however, nor is it addressing the spirit of Z=R in the final document -- which then was all reiterated in Durban 2.
The Obama administration did not go to Durban 2, and did not re-engage, not because they were "under pressure from the Zionist/Israeli lobby/Jewish groups" of the U.S. They didn't go because the Durban 2 was still unacceptable as an international document, reaffirming 1 in 2 meant that Israel was singled out, and put in a bracket as state-sponsored racism.
Human rights groups should agree with the reasons why the Obama administration did not sign Durban 2. They could disagree that Obama should have gone anyway and tried to get a better document (my position). They could applaud the decision of Mary Robinson to get a medal of freedom, given all her work for freedom over the years in many difficult places. They should not condemn the opinion of Jewish groups who express their own disatisfaction with Mary Robinson's role in the Middle East citing many contentious incidents unless they are willing to get into a wrangle on each and every incident -- and certainly they have to concede to the Jewish groups that they have a point about the spirit of Z=R not being eliminated truly.
To start chiming in with the leftist blogs on hate of the conservative Jewish lobby in the U.S. is as wrong as their condemning Mary Robinson for the medal. That the Jewish lobbyists made a technically incorrect statement about Z=R doesn't make it more noble to bash them, and the malicious fury with which some are doing this is the very reason why people in the Jewish community feel that anti-Israel invective verges on antisemitism. Criticism of the Jewish lobbyists if it must be made must be tempered with a forthright acknowledgement that it is WRONG to single out Israel out of all the countries of the world in an international conference document like this and that the UN has proven time and again that it is a tendentious and malicious atmosphere to be trying to resolve the Middle East conflict precisely because it has institutionalized an imbalanced approach constantly singling out Israel, a democratic state under the rule of law, and ignoring Palestinian suicide bombers and the authoritarian Islamic states that support them.
There are a numbe of unhappy consequences that will come of this, and I will not get into all of them now, but I have to say one obvious consequence is that we can see it is correct to call human rights groups "lobbyists" and ask them to be registered as such and to make that an issue in examination of whether they are suitable for certain offices. There is nothing wrong with being a lobbyist. This is America. This is how our system works. But you can't hide the work of lobbying under the umbrella of more narrowly-constructed pure human rights work.