WASHINGTON, DC — Green Party leaders called US participation in the Durban Review Conference an imperative and called on President Obama to drop earlier plans to avoid the antiracism conference.
The Durban Review Conference (‘Durban 2′), an international summit to review progress in the fight against racism since the first meeting in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, will take place from April 20 to 24, 2009, at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland (http://www.un.org/durbanreview2009/index.shtml).
2008 Green presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, who attended the first Durban meeting as a US Representative from Georgia, sent a message to President Obama expressing “great disappointment” over the Durban 2 pullout:
“Even the Bush Administration, under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, provided some funding for the United Nations effort and sent staff to support the Congressional delegation that attended the Conference…. I would encourage you to please reconsider this decision and not only attend the Conference, but also provide funding to ensure its success.” (“Ruminations on President Obama’s Tenure Thus Far and ‘Acceptable Punditry,'” March 2, 2009, http://www.gp.org/cynthia/index.shtml)
Rosa Clemente, Green Vice Presidential candidate in 2008, also attended the 2001 Durban conference and sat on the Reparations Committee. The Green Party protested the Bush Administration’s withdrawal from Durban 1 in 2001 (http://www.gp.org/press/pr_08_13_01.html).
“We are encouraged by recent reports that senior White House officials may be leaning in favor of participating in Durban 2,” said Ms. Clemente (http://www.gp.org/speakers/tour-rosa.shtml), who was present in Durban 1 and witnessed the US pullout. (“U.S. leaning toward taking part in Durban 2 summit,” Haaretz, April 12, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1078011.html)
“The election of an African American president has not erased racism within US borders. Enormous ethnic disparities remain in economics, opportunity, the justice and incarceration systems, the election system in many states, immigration policies, environmental policies such as the citing of toxic plants and dumps, and Native American land rights. We’ve also failed to address reparations for past injustices, from slavery to Jim Crow to mid 20th century Federal Housing Administration redlining that still suppresses the financial power of African Americans. President Obama can show he’s serious about eliminating racism in the US and around the world by sending representatives to Durban 2,” Ms. Clemente added.
Greens expressed concern over the removal of language addressing reparations, the transatlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity, as well as paragraphs strengthening the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (UN Commission on Human Rights), from documents by the Durban review committee.
The most publicly discussed reason for avoidance of Durban 2 by the US and European nations is expected criticism of Israel for its brutal treatment of Palestinians in over 40 years of occupation, including the recent invasion of Gaza, and apartheid-style denial of human rights to non-Jewish Israeli citizens.
“The US refuses to hold Israel — recipient of billions in US aid — responsible for legally mandated inequality and segregation within its own borders and conquest of Palestinian lands based on a claim of ethnic and religious rights,” said Justine McCabe, co-chair of the Green Party’s International Committee (Speakers Bureau page: http://www.gp.org/speakers/detail.php?ID=35). “Because Democratic and Republican leaders are reluctant to stand up to AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbies, American taxpayers’ dollars are backing Israel’s government and fueling its military operations. The same lobbies demand that the US boycott Durban 2. The Green Party rejects the idea that Israel possesses a special right never to be criticized or that such criticism is antisemitic.”
The Green Party of the United States has endorsed the international call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions as a nonviolent strategy to exert economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation and guarantee full human rights, calling reversal of Israel’s policies the only hope for peace and security for all Palestinians and Israelis (http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=192).