The expression “the best defense is a good offense” is most often applied in the military and sporting competitions. It is now being used regarding antisemitism with greater frequency.
The World Conference Against Racism met from August 31 to September 7, 2001 in Durban, South Africa with a stated noble goal: to rid the world of racism and intolerance while promoting human rights. However, the forum was hijacked by several Muslim and Arab countries who pushed for particular attention on one country, Israel, even as the conference was conceived to address a global phenomenon without delving into any specific country.
Several western countries did their utmost to strip the Israel agenda item from the conference to no avail and were left with the choice of not attending an important event. The United States’ compromise was to send a mid-level representative rather than Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ultimately, the conference became so toxic with anti-Israel sentiment that many withdrew. Powell ultimately described the situation as “a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism’” at the United Nations.
The Durban Conference became the play-book for many Muslim and Arab countries as well as far-left progressives to attack Israel under the veil of fighting racism. Each held conferences and promoted peace centers to establish co-existence bona fides while simultaneously trampling human rights in their own countries and promoting a fictitious anti-Israel narrative.
Recent conferences and center openings include:
- Opening the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz (Saudi Arabia) International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna on November 26, 2012
- Forum on the Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Incitement that could Lead to Atrocity Crimes, held in Fez, Morocco, on April 23 and 24, 2015
- the International Institute for Tolerance and the Muslim Council of Elders in the United Arab Emirates, in 2017
- Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue, held in Qatar February 20-21, 2018
- the World Tolerance Summit, in Abu Dhabi on November 13-14, 2019
The notion of interreligious dialogue and peaceful coexistence sounds wonderful, but the hypocrisy of the situation doesn’t seem to enter the minds of the willing participants.
The KAICIID website states that “Our vision is a world where there is respect, understanding, and cooperation among people, justice, peace and reconciliation, and an end to the abuse of religion to justify oppression, violence, and conflict.” Yet this statement comes from an organization founded and named for the leader of Saudi Arabia which denies women basic rights and kills people for converting from Islam.
Apostasy is subject to capital punishment in many of the countries which hosted recent interfaith conferences, and include: Afghanistan; Brunei; Mauritania; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In 2013, the Supreme Council of Religious Scholars in Morocco issued a fatwa that Muslims who leave Islam should be sentenced to death.
Additionally, Qatar funds mosques around the world which host imams calling for people to kill Jews.
Yet these countries host conferences and centers promoting coexistence among faiths.
People would never attend a conference on the freedom of the press in Turkey as they comprehend the irrationality of discussing such topic in the country that jails the most journalists every year. They would similarly not attend a forum on Holocaust studies in Iran when its leaders actively deny the Holocaust.
But they show up for interfaith dialogue in countries that deny basic human rights.
When the Jewish Voice for Peace hosted a discussion in December 2020 to discuss antisemitism with panellists who want to destroy Israel, it employed that familiar twist of attempting to excuse the accused.
Genuine reform to combat bigotry and antisemitism is most welcome and should be encouraged but many of today’s conferences are only granting absolution to haters and sanctifying them as champions of a just cause. Beware of the Durban Conference coming to a forum near you.
Published at FirstOne Through. Israel Analysis