You’ve probably heard about the fiasco going on in Geneva this week, in which most of the U.N.’s member states are gathered to fight “racism and xenophobia” by indulging in anti-Semitism and attacking free speech. The conference got off to its expected start yesterday when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked a walkout by every European Union nation when he called Israel a “racist” nation. (In his prepared remarks, he was going to refer to the Holocaust as “ambiguous and dubious,” but dropped it for some unexplained reason.) The United States, along with Canada and more than a dozen other nations, refused to participate in this travesty, for which they find themselves excoriated by none other than the president of the United Church of Christ, John Thomas, who thinks they should have dignified the circus with their presence:
The United Church of Christ has repeatedly expressed its concern about the impact on the Palestinian community of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza – which includes discriminatory practices and policies. The UCC advocates an end to all violence and a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is regrettable, however, that Durban’s attention to the Occupation as a particularly negative manifestation of Zionism has become the rationale for some governments to recuse themselves from participation in the Durban process and Review Conference. In this regard it is profoundly disappointing to hear that the Obama Administration has chosen not to send representatives. It is deeply ironic and sad at this historic moment in our own nation’s political life for the United States to absent itself from the shared global responsibility to address enduring racism wherever and whenever it occurs. Failure to participate in this Conference not only diminishes the global gathering; it will diminish our nation as well.
It is my hope that this Conference will once again bring to public awareness the obligation of states and of individuals to protect the rights and dignity of all, to repudiate fear, and to transform attitudes and structures that sustain racial discrimination. May we all pray that this gathering, with all of its complexity and controversy, will become a prophetic moment calling us toward the moral responsibility and political courage these days demand.
The translation of this has several parts. 1) We in the UCC agree with Durban I that Israel should have been the only nation singled out for specific criticism of its policies and practices, and that no other nation should have been cited. 2) Because the United States has elected a black man as president, we are obligated to attend a conference where the world’s assorted dictators, xenophobes, and titled thugs will have five days for uninterrupted attacks on everything that the United States and its allies stand for. 3) Not participating in said assault on reason and human rights will make us look small and petty. 4) It doesn’t matter how dangerous the conference’s recommendations would be if actually put into practice [one of them is to outlaw all criticism of Islam or Islamic nations]; the assuagement of white liberal guilt is everything.
Despite some initial vacillation, I’m glad that President Obama eventually decided that lending the prestige and participation of the United States to such an odious enterprise would not only be contrary to our nation’s interests and those of our allies, but would impart an undeserved legitimacy to a worthless exercise. Too bad that John Thomas thinks that getting in bed and snuggling with the likes of Ahmadinejad (not to mention Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, and other notorious violators of human rights) is reflective of a Christian attitude on race.