Why Italy is Staying Away from Durban II


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The March 12th conference, organized by the Italian-Israeli friendship association at the Senate, represented the Italian way to say no to the “anti-Semite conference against democracy” that is Durban II. The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, was among the speakers and explained why our country is staying away from the preliminary works of the conference, while all the other European countries are participating.

Our foreign Minister has made clear that “Italy cannot negotiate what is not negotiable” and explained why. The first reason being anti-Semitism: “We believe in the dignity of the UN and we cannot contemplate a document headed ‘United Nations’ including a paragraph defining Israel as a threat to international peace.” The second main reason for the Italian forfàit is freedom of expression: we cannot support a document that states “the right to free expression cannot be extended to criticisms of any religious creed whatsoever” and therefore we are not going to collaborate at the preparation of this conference unless the a major shift in policy will take place, we are doing this “in the name of the credibility of the United Nations,” said Frattini.


Regarding the first reason, Frattini thinks that “like in 2001, also this time we see five paragraphs of the document dedicated to Israel. In this “abnormally long document” these five paragraphs are the only part of the document dedicated to a regional issue. “None of the other 245 paragraphs – Frattini went on saying – contain references to regional issues but only horizontal matters, as it should be”. The document speaks about Israel as an “actor of a racial discrimination policy”, a country “responsible for the apartheid, torture and criminal acts which constitute a threat to the international peace and security”. These expressions “go beyond the limit of legitimate criticism toward the State of Israel,” according to Frattini. They could easily become an incitement to racial hatred against the Jews.” This is really serious – said the Minister – because the UN is a member of the Quartet and should for this reason send reconciliatory messages in order to favor the peace process.”

Freedom of expression would be the second main reason why our country is pulling out from the preliminary work of the Durban II conference (which is due to take place in Geneva from April the 20th to the 24th). Frattini underlined that the paragraph dedicated to the “very-insidious-so-called religious defamation rule” was totally unacceptable. Various countries are trying to introduce “complementary standards” when it comes to every sort of criticism toward a whatsoever religious cult. “This is about the notorious incident of the Danish cartoons and would prevent freedom of expression…it is clear that Italy is opposing this,” explained Frattini.

So, Italy will not take part in the Durban II conference unless the conditions will change: Frattini hope for the “total cancellation of these paragraphs and the reduction of the entire document to just some chapters and few horizontal themes upon which we all agree on,” added Frattini who also said that “if today we bend over such an important issue as anti-Semitism or the freedom of expression, tomorrow we will have to bend over everything else and this is not acceptable”.

Our foreign Minister spoke for about fifteen minutes and was interrupted several times by the claps of his audience. The room was filled with some two hundred people, give or take. Among the other speakers, Professor Gerald Steinberg, the Executive Director of NGO Monitor, explained what he calls “the Durban strategy”: “The Durban speeches and resolutions largely ignored the issues for which this conference was ostensibly called – Steinberg said – focusing instead on branding Israeli anti-terror responses as ‘war crimes’ and ‘violations of international law.’ The Durban conference crystallized the strategy of delegitimizing Israel as “an apartheid regime through international isolation based on the South African model. This plan is driven by UN-based groups as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which exploit the funds, slogans and rhetoric of the human rights movement.”

“On this basis – Steinberg added – a series of political battles have been fought in the UN and in the media. These include the myth of the Jenin ‘massacre’, the separation barrier, the academic boycott, and, currently, the church-based anti-Israel divestment campaign.”

Also the notorious Italian journalist (and member of the Parliament for the PDL) Fiamma Nirenstein attended the conference and her words were the most applauded. She attended the first Durban conference and that she said that she remembers exactly how the people there, were manifesting against Israel just for the sake of doing it and that there was no rational criticism whatsoever. All she saw was people chanting against the Jewish State and gathering above Osama Bin Laden’s signs.

“During that conference I’ve even heard Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro talking about human rights,” said the Honorable Nirenstein, people laughed. “I heard people in Europe -after the first Durban conference – chanting ‘Hamas, Hamas the Jews to gas’. “I’m still not surprised though – said the MP – because we also heard people clapping hands while homosexuals were being hanged in Iran and women stoned to death”. “We must be careful cause anti-Semitism might have been more effective in the past but it was never such a broadly spread ideology as it is today…this is frightening.” “I also think that Italy has done an historical thing by not joining the preliminary works of this conference – continued Fiamma Nirenstein – but be careful! The situation here is messy and we must do something about it, if we don’t do anything we’ll soon face the consequences, we can’t let these people [the organizers of the Durban conference] switch from political dialogue to the incitement to genocide! It already happened in the past and that is what we talk about when we say never again.”

Andrea Loquenzi Holzer

The Hudson New York

Inside Italy/L’Occidentale

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Andrea Loquenzi Holzer

The truth will set you free

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