The Magazine

Disgrace in Durban

The U.N. conference on racism was worse than just hot air.

Sep 17, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 01 • By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
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For the time being, the war consists of relentless terrorist attacks, against a background of running gun battles, drive-by shootings, and roadside bombs. But this is just the beginning. The ground is being prepared for two major possible escalations. One is the explosion of the conflict into a regional war in which Syria, Iraq, Iran, and possibly Egypt and Saudi Arabia join the fight against Israel, a replay of 1948-49 with the same objective, a judenrein Middle East. Were this to happen, the Arab states might be accused of border-crossing aggression. Armed with an overwhelming international consensus that Israel is colonialist, racist, and genocidal, however, the aggressors would be transformed into liberators.

But there is a second and even more ominous possibility. There is already discussion in the Arab press of the legitimacy of using weapons of mass destruction against Israel. "The Palestinian Resistance can obtain such weapons for its battle against the enemy at a minimal cost," writes Issam Al-Ghazi, editor of the Egyptian weekly Al-Maydan, speaking of "biological and chemical weapons—the atomic bomb of the poor." How? "One hundred mice with the ‘Super Plague’ virus . . . could be released in the streets of Tel Aviv. Likewise, a small bottle of Plague-infected mosquitoes can be used to destroy entire Israeli cities." Of course, the practical considerations against doing so—Israel’s retaliatory deterrent—have not changed. But the moral considerations are changing. The vicious international campaign to place a genocidal Israel outside the pale of humanity is establishing the psychological basis for genocidal attacks on Israel itself.

That such a program should draw legitimacy from a conference sponsored by the U.N., paid for by the West, and dedicated to combating racism is grotesque. Which is why the Bush administration was right to walk out of the conference. It should never have shown up in the first place. You do not show up at a Nuremberg rally.

Moreover, walking out is not enough. It is too passive a response to a frontal assault on decency. What can the United States do? There is one simple straightforward action it can take to shift the focus of debate from the delegitimation of Israel back to where it should be: the delegitimation of those conducting this cynical campaign. What to do? Put back on the State Department terrorism list those who are plainly and openly practicing terrorism—the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. That means cutting off all American aid to, and official recognition of, the Palestinian Authority.

It is not just what Arafat says in Durban. It is what he does on the ground in Israel. Almost weekly there is a mass murder of Jews (and many that are stopped by Israeli preventative measures) that occurs under the protection of the Palestinian Authority, with the encouragement of the official Palestinian media, and to the congratulations of Yasser Arafat. After a suicide bomber murdered 21 youngsters and horribly maimed dozens of others outside a Tel Aviv discothèque, Arafat sent the killer’s parents a letter thanking them for their son’s "heroic martyrdom operation, . . . the model of manhood and sacrifice for the sake of Allah and the homeland."

We Americans have our own forms of pariahhood. We rightly ostracize and isolate the likes of Syria, Libya, and the Usama bin Laden gang. The PLO was taken off this list in 1993 when Arafat signed the Oslo accords promising to make peace, renounce violence and terrorism, and accept Israel as a legitimate member of the Middle East community. With all of these promises betrayed—now publicly and openly in Durban—there is no possible excuse for the United States to keep the PLO and the Palestinian Authority off the terrorism list.

Arafat is preparing a war of extinction against a friend. It is time to put him beyond the pale.

Charles Krauthammer is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.