Canada vindicated at Durban II

By Pierre Poilievre on May 6, 2009

We Canadians are often too polite to say, “I told you so.” But 16 months after we told the world that the Durban “anti-racism” conference was anything but, we have been vindicated. Canada was the first nation to pull out of the Durban II conference and to cut off funds for NGO participation. Countries like Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Israel and the United States of America followed us. Many other nations later walked out of the conference when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poured verbal acid all over Israel, the United States and Europe. 

As Ahmadinejad was speaking in Geneva, I too was giving a speech in the same city — at a true anti-racism conference organized to protest against the Iranian president and Durban II in general. UN Watch, the invaluable NGO, helped to host the event, which included presentations by Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz and legendary Soviet prison camp survivor Natan Sharansky. Everyone at the meeting praised Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper for leading the world in staying away from Durban II. 

As a prescient lead-up to the conference, I joined the International March of the Living Mission in Poland, where we visited the remains of Auschwitz and Birkenau, two of the most infamous Nazi death camps. Thousands of students marched through the camps commemorating victims of the Holocaust and celebrating its survivors.

As the tyrant from Tehran took to the stage at the United Nations, I was reminded of the importance of reading history so as not to repeat it. Our experience with Durban II can teach Canadians two lessons. 

First, the best way to support the UN is to insist that it live up to its own ideals. The world body’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights offers basic standards of liberty that all its member states should and must achieve. That’s what makes Durban II so completely tragic. Here is a UN institution reduced to little more than a soapbox for those who would demonize the one state in the Middle East that practises what the declaration preaches. 

As Professor Dershowitz told me in Geneva, millions have died because the obsession with Israel has distracted the world from real atrocities — Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur all come to mind. Imagine the lives we might have saved if the world had appropriated as much energy to these and other catastrophes as it has devoted to bashing Israel. 

The second lesson is that leading can be lonely. When Canada first pulled out of Durban II, we were alone. When Canada first cut off aid to Hamas, we were alone. But others later followed, because we were right. Now would be the worst time for Canada to return to the mushy middle, where we follow the pack, as we did all too often in the past. “You have enemies? Good,” said Winston Churchill. “That means you’ve stood up for something in your life.”

We should continue to march in the right direction, at the front of a growing parade.


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