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Monday, January 16, 2006

King for a day

From Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, August 28, 1963:
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
This speech is also available on the State Department's website (where I also obtained the photo). It's a terrific speech, obviously.

Speaking of the U.S. State Department...American representatives walked out of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was held in Durban, South Africa during the first week of September, 2001.

Given the terror attacks of the following week, people may have forgotten about the conference and the U.S. walkout. If one searches the White House website using "World Conference" and "racism," the only mention is by Laura Bush at the International Lion of Judah Conference, October 2004:
When the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa became a theater for anti-Semitic expression, President Bush ordered the United States delegation to walk out in protest, and I'm glad he did.
Search for "Durban" on the official website and a handful of press conference references appear, but none since early September, 2001. It is basically forgotten.

This is what the 2001 conference actually said (pdf of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action) about Israel:
63. We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State and we recognize the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and call upon all States to support the peace process andbring it to an early conclusion;

64. We call for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region in which all peoples shall co-exist and enjoy equality, justice and internationally recognized human rights,and security;

65. We recognize the right of refugees to return voluntarily to their homes and properties in dignity and safety, and urge all States to facilitate such return;


151. As for the situation in the Middle East, calls for the end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations, respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, respect for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom;
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, claimed in advance of the meeting that the conference participants had already embraced the "Zionism is racism" theme from past debates -- but the Durban Declaration does not contain the word "Zionism" and I have noted the only two times Israel is noted in the text.

The ADL website plays up this charge as well, noting strong language by some protesters and NGO representatives, as well as anti-American and anti-Israeli banners and political cartoons -- but the real concern seems to have been that some official government speakers equated Israeli treatment of Palestinians to South African apartheid.

The Durban Declaration mentions the crime of apartheid half a dozen times, but at no time mentions it in the context of Israel or the Palestinians.

Israel does occupy land it took in war, which is contrary to international law, and is in violation of over 30 UN Security Council resolutions (by the count of Professor Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco). And the plight of the Palestinian people is a major international issue. Even President Bush says Palestinians deserve their own state...

Like Dr. King, I'll quote the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness..."
Enjoy the holiday.

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