The United States, the self-described leader of human rights, effectively decided to boycott the UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. could have made a strong, positive impression by sending its African-American Secretary of State, a descendent of slaves, and making a forceful stand against racism. Instead, it chose to send a low-level delegation.
On July 26, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns appeared before the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Death Squad Democrats By Stephen Zunes August 2001
The black and white-checked scarves, known as kafeeyyehs, symbolizing the Palestinian resistance, were everywhere among the 6,000 delegates to the UN Non-Governmental Forum that preceded the governmental portion of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Soon they were joined by white t-shirts exhorting participants to “fight racism, not Jews.” As predicted, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has loomed over both the NGO Forum and now the main event, given mega-prominence by the refusal of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to attend while statements equating Zionism with racism are anywhere on the table.
When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to Washington in June to meet President Bush, it was his second visit to the White House in less than six months. Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat has yet to meet with Bush; nor is he likely to do so. For all intents and purposes, Arafat has been effectively isolated as a credible party to the peace talks.
The extradition of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague could be seen as a triumph for the worldwide movement for human rights. Never before has a sitting head of state been indicted for war crimes–nor been subsequently put to trial before an international tribunal.
This past eight months of bloodletting between Israelis and Palestinians is no more than an additional, exhausting chapter in a decades old conflict that seems today more polarized than ever. When Israel invaded the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, the occupation of Palestine was born. With this birth came a second Palestinian Diaspora (the first was in 1948 when Israel was established) and the reality that an entire population–1.2 million Palestinians–would become totally controlled by the Israeli military. Over three decades later, no one expected to see the occupation enduring, or to see Palestinians still able to resist.
Walls; Electric Fences; Eliminations; Dogs; Closure; Collective Punishment; Tanks; Assault Helicopters; F-16s; Reciprocity; Retaliation; War. Welcome to the new Israeli lexicon concerning the Palestinians–the “new speak” of the post-Oslo period. And as with the Orwellian “new speak,” there is no longer any real discussion of issues and options, no plurality of opinions among the Israeli public, let alone the political leadership.
When a country violates fundamental principles of international law and when the UN Security Council demands that it cease its illegal behavior, one might expect that the world body would impose sanctions or other measures to foster compliance. This has been the case with Iraq, Libya, and other international outlaws in recent years.
Current U.S.-UN policy regarding Iraq has failed and has largely lost credibility. It is widely viewed internationally as reflecting U.S. (and, to a lesser degree, British) insistence on maintaining a punitive sanctions-based approach regardless of the humanitarian impact and it is increasingly regarded as having failed to bring about either democratic changes in Iraq or security for the Persian Gulf region. Numerous countries are challenging, if not directly violating, the sanctions regime, and international support has largely eroded.