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United States was right in abandoning conference



Published: Fri, September 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



It turns out that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was right all along: the so-called world conference on racism and discrimination was in reality an anti-Israel -- and by extension an anti-American -- forum in which delegates from Arab nations and the Third World took control of the agenda. In so doing, they gave a free pass to long-standing human rights violators such as Af ghani stan, Iraq, Iran, China, Sudan and Congo.

By making Israel the target of their rhetorical assault, these delegates drew attention away from a United Nations report that talks about the millions of people around the world who are the victims of man's inhumanity to man. Slavery is alive and well in Sudan. Women are treated as lesser beings in Afghanistan. The Ayatollahs in Iran rule with an iron fist. Religious freedom in China is non-existent, while child labor is the norm. Saddam Hussein uses chemical weapons against the Kurds.

And starting tonight, "Nightline," the award-winning nightly television news magazine hosted by Ted Koppel on ABC, will air a series called "Heart of Darkness." It delves into civil and tribal wars that have devastated Central Africa, resulting in 2.5 million deaths in a three-year period.

Declaration: Yet, the Arab delegates to the U.N.-sponsored conference on racism and discrimination in South Africa were successful in pushing through a draft of the final declaration that talked about the "racist practices of Zionism" in Israel and charged that Zionism "is based on racial superiority."

In response, U.S. Secretary of State Powell instructed the American delegation to return home. It was the right decision. Israel also withdrew.

The fact that Israel was the only country mentioned by name in the draft document and was specifically accused of "practices of racial discrimination" suggests that the conference was captured by the Arab nations from day one. Norway and Canada had attempted to mediate a compromise between the Arabs and Israelis, but to no avail. The U.S. participated in those talks, but it was clear that a final declaration containing "very general language" regarding slavery and discrimination, as Norway had proposed, was not in the offing.

The American delegation's continued presence at the conference would have simply emboldened Israel's enemies.

If such an international conference is to succeed in the future, individual agendas must not be permitted to rule the day.




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