Commentary Magazine


Re: The Durban Dilemma

Shmuel, I think we are heading toward an inevitable conflict, but not one that Israel has the power to avoid. You write that Israel’s objections to U.S. participation will have “unfortunate consequences — either because Obama will choose to take part and give credence to the conference or because the enemies of Israel will be able to argue that by lobbying against Durban it has damaged American interests.” But Israel cannot, of course, remain indifferent or mute in the face of a conference premised on the notion that it is a racist country. This is not an incidental matter. It goes to the core of Israel’s right of existence as a Jewish state.

Perhaps Obama will work his wonders and steer the conference in a totally different direction. Or maybe he will, as Colin Powell did in Durban I, recognize the U.S. has no place at an anti-Semitic hate-fest. Powell’s statement in September 2001 is worth recalling:

I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of “Zionism equals racism”; or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse.

Israel simply can’t pull its punches on this one. Perhaps Powell, who thought so highly of Obama that he crossed party lines in the election, might set him straight on this. If not, the chips will fall as they must.