Sunday, March 01, 2009


Arlene Kushner

Today's good news today is that the Obama administration has decided not to participate in the Durban Conference because of its anti-Israel, anti-Semitic tone. The news came via a conference call between White House aides and leaders of the Jewish community.

This must be celebrated. It would be unreasonable to say otherwise. But celebrated with a proviso. The conduct of the Obama administration -- most specifically with regard to decisions that impact Israel made by Obama himself -- has been exceedingly troublesome in several regards. And, in trying to understand what is going on, I have found myself fluctuating between various interpretations of what Obama's motivations are.

Is he, as I originally concluded, simply enormously naive? Is he willing to sell out Israel in order to court the Arab/Muslim world? Or, as I have come to think more recently, is he inherently and deeply anti-Israel?.

It is very difficult to swallow Obama's original reason for sending a delegation to participate in the planning sessions in Geneva for the Durban 2 conference: To try to improve the tone of the planning document. The evidence from knowledgeable persons close to the happenings at those planning sessions made it clear that the US could not have had an effect on the proceedings. The American delegation went to sit on a committee with the likes of Libya, Iran, Pakistan and Cuba; it was outnumbered seriously by Arab/Muslim and Third World nations that have an anti-Israel agenda.

What is more, the Durban 2 conference is being held "to foster the implementation of the [original] Durban Declaration and Program of Action." This means the focus of the upcoming conference was set in stone and not amenable to a shift in tone. That original declaration was viciously anti-Israel.

Could Obama really have believed that the group he sent to participate in Geneva had any chance of changing matters?

To further muddy the waters, we have the evidence of Anne Bayesfsky's report, that the US delegation sat quietly during anti-Israel proceedings. This cast serious doubt upon the claim that the delegation was there to try to improve the situation.


I tend to believe, along with others, that it is the fact that this whole Durban situation was being so closely watched and received so much publicity that ultimately made the difference. This is a lesson here, for Obama, and for all of us. The diligence I last wrote about is as necessary as ever.

For the Durban incident has to be considered in a broader context, which includes Obama appointments such as Chas Freeman, who actually blamed 9/11 on Israel, and Samantha Power, who came out at one point in favor of a major international force to protect the Palestinians from Israel.


Even if Obama's motivation was truly sincere, and he did send the delegation to try to change the tenor of the proceedings, I don't think what he did was OK. I don't have a "you have to give him credit for trying -- no harm done" attitude. Quite the contrary. I think innocent misjudgments can have serious consequences. In particular do I think of Iran, with whom Obama would like to "dialogue;" the problem is that the Iranians will take advantage of this as a stalling tactic. A US president who doesn't perceive this is a danger to the Western world.


I think it is highly appropriate to tell President Obama how pleased we are with this decision. We have to take in from there and continue to monitor.

There will be more to say on this and related issues...

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