US Boycotting the Durban Conference on Racism: Another irrational strategy

Isn’t the idea of a conference to get people with different opinions to TALK about the issues and come up with effective strategies to deal with them?

There are two issues making us fold our arms, slam the door and huff and puff in the corner: A call to equate zionism with racism and a push for slavery reparations.

Zionism is the ideology that led to the creation of Israel. It is based on the idea that Jews all over the world have the right to settle Palestine, in place of the indigenous Palestinians, be they Christian or Muslim. Today, in the State of Israel, non-Jews cannot buy or lease 93% of the land. Palestinians in the occupied territories are forced to live in apartheid-style bantustans surrounded by Jewish-only settlements and bisected by Jewish-only roads. They are discriminated against in just about every aspect of their lives. In Hebron, for example, 85% of the water resources are used to supply 400 Jewish settlers living in the heart of 120,000 Palestinians, who must make do with the remaining 15% of the water. The result is a cruel reality where Palestinians go without enough water for cooking while their Jewish neighbors swim in private swimming pools surrounded by green lawns. In Jerusalem the Christian and Muslim communities are pushed out of the city by deportation and home demolition, to name just two policies, which are part of the master plan of “Judaizing” Jerusalem.

Some people might not call this racism. They’re entitled to their opinions and the rest of us are open to hear their logic. But first, there has to be a discussion. This is the point of the conference-dialogue.

But there is another edge to that sword. The countries pressing for this discussion themselves are guilty of serious human rights violations. How many people were stoned to death this year in Saudia Arabia? How many hanged? How many political dissidents languish in Egyptian jails for speaking their mind? How many murderers got off scot-free for honor killings? How many women were raped and blamed for it in the courts? Those countries moving to condemn Israel themselves keep Palestinians living as second class citizens on their soil. Lets not be fooled by their political maneuver’s either. These ruthless dictatorships are looking to placate their increasingly restless masses by pretending to oppose the oppression of Palestinians. With the internet and a few satellite news stations like Al-Jazeera, Arab regimes are finding it increasingly difficult to censor the media. The result is that 1.2 billion Arabs are exposed to images of Israeli soldiers beating children and killing or maiming unarmed protestors (ironically something we don’t get to see from our ‘free press’). The ire of the masses is fueled by their sense of helplessness to do anything.

What about slavery reparations? The United States was built, literally, from the sweat, blood and tears of slaves on land we obtained by nearly obliterating the indigenous “Indians.” I don’t think we owe anything to the African nations looking to make some money from the conference, but we sure as heck owe the descendants of those slaves at least the courtesy of a dialogue. They are not Africans. They’re Americans who continue to suffer the ripple effects of slavery. They’ve never even received a formal apology from their government.

Boycotting an international dialogue because we can’t have our way is bad strategy that further isolates us from the international community and does nothing to address racism. There is little wisdom in shunning the world because they want to talk about something that makes us uncomfortable. Ask any teacher. She or he will tell you that one pouting because he can’t have his way is the one incapable of constructive problem-solving. Bush must have been absent from kindergarten the day that lesson was imparted.