An Open Letter to President Obama: Your decision to not attend World Racism Conference is shameful and disgraceful

I simply could not believe my ears when I heard that the Obama Administration was not going to attend this year’s United Nations Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. I romantically thought that since the Bush Administration walked out on the Conference in 2001, you would actually attend yourself and even go meet with former South African President Mandela, make joint statements, etc. etc. I haven’t been this off on a whim in quite a long time.

Mr. President, I do not believe that you were obligated to attend the conference because you are the United States’ first African American President. That will never be a reason I would expect you to do anything. The reason your refusal to at least send a delegation to the conference is so disgraceful is because you claimed throughout the campaign that you wanted to engage the global community. Mr. President, engaging the global community doesn’t just mean going to meet world leaders and privileged college and high school students. When you’re traveling abroad, you have to also be engaged in speaking to issues that have served as the basis for many of the issues we face as a global community.

Mr. President, I am hard-pressed to find any other issues that have served to keep one group oppressed and the other in high esteem and privilege other than race and religion. These two words have been used to make slavery, the Holocaust, the Crusades, the Trail of Tears, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and many other global atrocities acceptable. This conference seeks to affirm the right of all global people to have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as everyone else, yet your loyalty to Israel prevents you from taking part in this event. In truth, your loyalty to Israel should be the reason why you should attend.

I actually went and read the statement on racism by the Conference. The statement clearly acknowledges that it wants an end to anti-Semitism and anti-Arabism. It fully acknowledges that the Holocaust occurred and says it should “never be forgotten.” As a matter of a fact, here are the statements from the 62-page document that your administration has been working to change for the past few months:

“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 and bring it to an early conclusion…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…”

What more can be said Mr. President? Do you want the statement to say: “We acknowledge that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is completely the fault of the Palestinians.”? The statement they provided above could not at least get you to send a delegation? Attending the Conference does not mean that you have to sign on to everything. Attending means you simply contribute to the dialogue on “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Mr. President, as you well know, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the only conflict in the world. The Conference also deals with issues such as child labor and sex trafficking.

Mr. President, as long as you continue to walk lockstep with (or behind) Israel, you will never be able to credibly engage the world community on issues of race and injustice. Though Israel has suffered tremendously during this conflict, you and I are smart enough to know that whenever there are adults engaged in a conflict, the only people who are 100% innocent are the children. As it has been said, when two elephants battle it’s the grass that gets trampled. Your administration needs to seriously reevaluate how you choose to engage the global community and you can start by recognizing the grievous mistake you made by boycotting this conference.

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3 Responses to “An Open Letter to President Obama: Your decision to not attend World Racism Conference is shameful and disgraceful”

  1. JC Mulemba Samujya Says:

    Mr. Omekongo,
    I cannot agree with you more!! I had a very long discussion about this with my wife and now she is also very unhappy over the Obama administration not to headline this conference. We are glad you’re out there with a watchful eye on not only minority issues but also on contemporary issues. Great post and thank you!!

  2. How I Lost Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days Says:

    Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for sharing. I will certainly be subscribing to your site.

  3. Lila Says:

    All minorities living within the Arab world are under siege. Tunisian human rights activist Muhammad Bechri has traced this to the “twin fascisms” – his term – that dominate the Arab world, Islamism and pan-Arabism. The first promotes murderous intolerance of religious minorities. It helps explain why Christians are under siege across the Arab world and why Sudan enjoyed broad Arab support as it killed some two million non-Muslim blacks in the south of the country. Pan-Arabism translates into endorsement of murderous policies toward Muslim but non-Arab groups and accounts for Arab support for Saddam Hussein as he slaughtered 200,000 Kurds in northern Iraq, as well as backing for Sudanese policies toward the Muslim but black population of Darfur.

    The Arab world is not about to make an exception for the Jews. This broad intolerance of minorities is further evidence of how unlikely it is the Arab world will accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in its midst any time soon.

    MEMRI: Special Dispatch – No. 835 ‘The Arab Silence Can Only Be Explained Once We Understand the True Nature of the Twin Fascisms of Islamism and Pan-Arabism’ …

    Israel as the result of the national liberation movement of the region’s aboriginal Jews. Liberation of the aboriginal Jews (and anyone else lucky enough to find refuge within Israel’s borders) from the twin fascisms of pan-Arabism and Islamism which have oppressed and even eliminated so many of the region’s aboriginal ethnic groups. Israel’s aboriginal Jews were not unique in accepting outside help (and even immigration) in their liberation struggle. Lebanon’s Maronites; Egypt’s Copts, Iraq and Turkey’s Kurds, and Iran’s Zoroastrians have all sought and received outside help in their liberation struggles, each group according to its own circumstances.

    Non-Arab and/or non-Muslims in the “Arab” world
    One key element missing from the discussion is the question of non-Arab and/or non-Muslims in the “Arab” world. The Arab nationalists have succeeded in establishing some 23 non-democratic, ethnically (Arab) and religiously (Islam) defined nation-states in over 1 million square miles of territory, often at the expense of non-Arabs, such as the Kurds (Muslims, non-Arabs), Assyrians (Christians, non-Arabs), Copts (Christians, non-Arabs), southern Sudanese (Christian and pagan non-Arabs), Maronite Lebanese (Christian and mostly identified with their Phoenician ancestors) and Mizrahi Jews. Arab nationalist ideology claims all this territory exclusively as “Arab” despite the legitimate claims of non-Arabs and/or non-Muslims to ancient homelands long ago arabized with the spread of Islam, often through conquest.

    I believe that the Arab opposition to the existence of non-Arab, non-Muslim Israel is based on the ideological motivations which led to the persecution of non-Arab minorities. The Assyrians suffered massacre and expulsion by the Arab nationalists of Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s. The Kurds have been persecuted and have suffered terribly for their struggle to establish an independent Kurdistan (at the hands of the Turks and Iranians as well, but that is another story.)

    Arab nationalist ideology, and its Islamicist couterpart, cannot and will not tolerate non-Arab and non-Islamic peoples organizing themselves into their own independent nation states. Indeed, I have seen on Islamicist web sites the goal of “regaining” Spain in the name of Islam.

    I believe that we need to place Israel’s struggle to survive into this context. Any non-Arab/non-Islamic state in the region must rely on strength (political, moral, spiritual and military) if it wants to survive in the Middle East. In this context can we thus place Israel’s demand for security. It is not security for the sake of security, not seucirty for the sake of oppressing another people, but security for the sake of survival against two racist and exclusivist ideologies (Arabism and Islamicism) which have succeeded in repressing the just struggles for national self-determination of most non-Arab peoples in the Middle East.

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