Everyone remembers the famous Durban conference, held in the city of the same name in South Africa under the aegis of the United Nations, which ended two days before the September 11 attacks.
We all have in our memories the terrible spectacle offered at Durban by the NGO representatives who ostensibly gathered to decry “intolerance” and “racism,” but who in reality agreed on the fact that there was only one racist state in the world—Israel.
It is hard to imagine the free world allowing the legitimate political debate on the conduct, not to say the principle, of the Gaza War to turn into the global, moral, and unique stigmatization of the Jewish state.
And I myself cannot, in any case, forget the stupor and the despair of the delegations of Rwandan genocide survivors, Zimbabwean militants for democracy, Indian Untouchables, Pygmies, survivors of the Sudan massacres, and many more, when they realized that their plight was of no interest in the eyes of the antiglobalist crusaders who had exploited the conference and only wanted to see, in matters of discrimination, just one face: that of the people whose misfortune could be imputed to the West in general, and to American Zionists in particular.
Eight years later, same story.
This April 20-24, a new conference in Geneva—a.k.a. Durban II—where, the organizers explain, they will evaluate the “progress” made since Durban I on matters dealing with the fight against racism.
Except that everything that we know about the organization of this new conference; everything that has been leaked about the intentions of the Office of the “Preparatory Committee,” presided over by Libya; everything that can be read, most of all, in the project of the “Final Declaration,” now edited by the Office with the help, in particular, of its Pakistani, Cuban, Indonesian and Iranian vice presidents—ah! the great democrats—portends the worst.
Israel more than ever stands accused of “apartheid,” they say…
Criticism of religions and, in particular, of Islam is defined as “racism”…
The inscription, in other words, of the “offense of blasphemy” among the major crimes that the international community should, as a matter of duty, stigmatize…
Without mentioning the fact that this declaration project still has not said a word about either Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, or about Darfur and the 300,000 dead, or about any of the great slaughters for which the world—and in particular Africa—is, even today, the theater, and in which it was hard to imagine the defenders of the Irano-Libyan axis becoming the adversaries of such tragedies…
Such is the spirit of Durban II.
Such is the letter of the text which, starting April 20, will be under discussion.
And such is the trap that is being set, where they would like to see the governments of democratic countries fall as well as antiracist militants from all over the world.
I know that a discussion is, by definition, an open space.
And I know that there is still a lot of time, from now until April 20, to try to modify a text that everyone has deemed unacceptable in its present state.
But that being the point of departure, the plinth of propositions at the base of the debate being this sum of prejudices, hates, and silences, the relationship of strengths, finally, being what one could presume will be the brainchild of a preparatory Committee dominated, I repeat, by representatives of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Moammar Gaddafi, it is hard to see how, even amended, the present declaration could serve as a charter for a global and concerted antiracist action.
And that’s why to the question posed to a group of intellectuals this morning, Monday, March 2, by the French human-rights minister, Rama Yade—(Do we have to go to Durban II? Must we, and until what point, fight so that the “red lines” drawn by French and European diplomacies are respected? Or should we, like Canada and perhaps the United States, resolve not to be there at all?)—I respond, personally, that it is the solution of boycott that seems, on that day, the most reasonable, the most dignified, and at the same time the most consistent with the founding values of democracies.
The most consistent with democratic values because it is inconceivable that the country of Voltaire, for example, enter the downward spiral of a debate where one would grant to representatives of churches the right to limit our liberty of expression and of conscience.
The most dignified because it is hard to imagine—34 years after the “ignominy” (to cite the philosopher Michel Foucault) of the UNESCO resolution equating “Zionism” with a form of “racism”—the free world allowing the legitimate political debate on the conduct, not to say the principle, of the Gaza War to turn into the global, moral, and unique stigmatization of the Jewish state.
And finally the most reasonable because the fight against racism is something much too serious for the initiative to be left to a handful of dictators whose main concern is to erase the memory of the discriminations, humiliations, and massive violations of the rights of men and women taking place in their own countries.
In the very interest of this fight, in consideration of the great and noble cause that is antiracism, in homage to all, from Frantz Fanon to Nelson Mandela, who have defined its spirit, we must refuse, very quickly, very firmly, and very clearly, the farce of Durban II.
Translated from the French by Sara Phenix.
Bernard-Henri Levy is one of France's most famed philosophers, a journalist, and a bestselling writer. He is considered a founder of the New Philosophy movement and is leading thinker on religious issues, genocide, and international affairs. His most recent book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism, discusses political and cultural affairs as an ongoing battle against the inhumane.