As feared, the United Nations summit on racism in Durban crumbled into a certain amount of disarray (Monday) night as both American and Israeli delegations walked out in protest over attempts to criticize "racist" attitudes towards Palestinians. It is a great shame that the conference -- which had such ambitious, bold and noble aims -- should have been thus diverted.
Making the most of this unique occasion meant not exacerbating its inherent confusions by opportunistically singling out Israel for particular criticism over Palestine. It meant not using the conference to settle scores. ... And it meant not allowing the horrific but basically historical injustices of yesteryear to divide and undermine consensus and thus obscure and deny the pressing needs of tomorrow's world. ...
If the summit is to be rescued from disappointment, the delegates must now concentrate their thinking. Is the summit, in fact, about racism or slavery, about 19th-century European and U.S. colonialism or present-day African good governance, about pecuniary compensation and concrete reparation or symbolic apologies, about globalization or development aid, about the past or the future? ...
By raising such fundamental issues, pushing them up the agenda, forcing the debate, and giving an international platform to those whose voices rarely carry far, the UN should be doing the global community a service. ... If this UN summit helps by raising individual consciousness, as well as by stirring collective conscience, all may not yet be lost.
-- The Guardian, London
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