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April 22, 2009

Exclusive Coverage from DURBAN 2 - DAY 3: Bring Popcorn and a Tissue

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/exclusive_coverage_from_durban_2_-_day_3_bring_popcorn_and_a_tissuel_200904/

David Weiner is a guest blogger for JewishJournal.com.  He is currently in Geneva attending the Durban Review Conference (also referred to as Durban 2) as part of a delegation representing the American Jewish Committee, composed of roughly 15 young professionals.

Armed with his laptop, still camera, and flip video camera, David will be providing continuous updates and sharing his own thoughts and experiences from Durban 2.

Click Here to Read Day 1
Click Here to Read Day 2

If you like good theater, then you would like the Durban Review Conference.  But you should be prepared for a tragedy.

It’s a tragedy that this conference, convened to address all forms of racism and intolerance around the world, has become a grandstand for Ahmadinejad.  With so many people and groups affected by discrimination and intolerance, it’s too bad that this conference has become focused on Israel.  It’s not that Israel is free of human rights problems and should be removed from the human rights agenda, but does it really deserve to be the entire agenda?

This conference, at least for the first couple days, has been more about style than substance.  I was in several important meetings today, “Racism: The Road to Genocide,” and “Human Rights, Discrimination and Islamophobia” – however, both of these meetings featured delegates from Iran and Neturei Karta making disruptive comments, walking out, and repeatedly attempting to equate Zionism with racism.  Where was the conversation about genocide happening in Africa?  Where was the conversation about how Jews and Muslims could actually work together on issues like Islamophobia? 

And then came the clowns.  The French Student Union, breaking in strategy from the European Jewish Student Union, formed a disruptive protest in the UN building.  Outside the meeting rooms featuring panels on “Discrimination and Poverty” and “Double Odds: Women overcoming discrimination,” the French students donned wigs and started shouting “Masquerade, Masquerade.”  Security had a difficult time rounding up the protestors, so the show continued for around 20 minutes.  Television reporters interviewed the students who avoided security, and the focus shifted once more to Ahmadinejad.

It’s a tragedy that this conference has become so heavy on theatrics rather than the core issues of racism that require attention.  I felt uncomfortable watching the latest protest.  Are these tactics very different from the Iranian delegates hijacking the meetings I attended? 

Anyone can go to the store and buy a wig.  Anyone can shout in the meetings.  But the real challenge is to find areas where we can engage.  For Wednesday, I have set up a meeting with two Palestinian NGOs working on Palestinian human rights.  I think we are all hungry to actually talk with each other.  Who knows….?  We might even find some common ground.

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