Mary Robinson gave hate a megaphone


New York Daily News
Wednesday, August 12th 2009

Mary Robinson gave hate a megaphone
By Rabbi Abraham Cooper

The SWC was the only Jewish group to serve on the Coordinating Committee of the Durban I Conference. Pictured, SWC officials presenting documentation to Mary Robinson.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, center, at Durban I press conference of Jewish leaders moments before 40 Iranian protesters burst in, physically attempting to stop the press conference. A typical scene outside the Durban conference. At one demonstration with 17,000 people in attendance, a banner was prominently displayed that said, "Hitler was right!"

Today, as President Obama bestows the Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, I will be thinking of my father, the late Isaac Cooper. He, unlike his son, was a saintly man who always strove to find the good in each person. As a youngster, I came to understand, however, that when my father couldn't find something good to say, he would murmur: "He means well."

Well, Mary Robinson is no anti-Semite. And as president of Ireland she achieved many important things. But her signature moment in history came when, as chairwoman of the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, she allowed the conference to be hijacked by extremist groups. The meeting devolved into an ugly anti-American and anti-Semitic debacle and gravely wounded the cause of human rights.

Durban was no big tent of tolerance. Rather, it was a launching pad for demonizing the United States, Israel and any Jews with the audacity to openly identify themselves as Zionists.

A few ugly incidents still cling to my psyche:

—Each nongovernmental organization, or NGO, was invited to set up a booth. In a presentation that would have brought tears of joy to the eyes of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, a Cairo-based lawyers group proudly displayed scores of political cartoons depicting Israelis as Nazis or subhumans.

—As a CNN reporter posed a question at our caucus' news conference, 40 Muslim women from Iran burst in and physically tried to stop our event.

—On Friday, Durban's chief of police gently but firmly urged us not to attempt to walk the 21/2 blocks from the conference to the Jewish Community Center. "I cannot guarantee your safety," he told me. Outside, there were 17,000 anti-Zionist protesters, some of whom held up the
banner: "Hitler Was Right!"

—The ill-fated "final NGO document" that Robinson was supposed to hand to then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, replete with anti-Israel invective, did have one reference condemning firebombing attacks against synagogues in France. But the reference was deleted when a delegate from the World Council of Churches rose at the closing plenary to ask, "What does an attack on a synagogue have to do with racism?"

We Jews left the big tent that night to the whistles and catcalls of some and the utter silence of too many of the human rights elites. Hate, not hope, had carried the day.

Sadly, the seeds of this debacle were planted by Robinson herself, when she approved a key conference preparatory meeting for Tehran. She assured the Jewish leaders and others attending the conference that we would be welcomed to participate. But visas for the Baha'i or members of the Wiesenthal Center did not arrive in time. While she protested the regime's double cross, she welcomed the "consensus" of a productive meeting between civilizations at the Tehran meeting. She urged delegates to continue their fight against racism. As for the abuse against Israel, all Robinson would say was that "the situation in the Palestinian-occupied territories was brought up at the meeting and it is reflected in the final declaration."

The internationally sanctioned Israel/apartheid ambush was ready to roll.

Robinson just doesn't get it. Global human rights dialogue has been debased on her watch. The late Holocaust survivor and human rights crusader Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) told me as much just before he announced that he and U.S. diplomats, who shlepped to Durban to try to forge a compromise, were leaving in protest.

Just days after we left Durban, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were launched. The Homeland Security Department is struggling to contain international terrorism. Global human rights have yet to recover from Robinson's Durban debacle. What would my dad say if he could see Obama bestow our nation's highest honor on Robinson? "I guess she meant well."

Rabbi Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He was a spokesman for the Jewish Caucus at the ill-fated Durban Conference.


The United Church of Canada would never have contemplated such one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions had there never been a Durban Conference
                                               — Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean

UPDATE: United Church of Canada (UCC) Israel Boycott Vote: 10,000 sign petition calling on the UCC to denounce Israel boycott resolutions.

At the General Council gathering currently underway in Kelowna, British Columbia, the reference to apartheid and some other anti-Israel language has been dropped. However, media and other reports indicate that the proposed boycott of the Jewish State is scheduled to be voted on tomorrow, Thursday, August 13th.

To those of you who have signed the petition, you have made an impact. If you haven't signed the petition, it is not too late.   Act now!


 

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