Monday, April 20, 2009
INFORMING the HIP-HOP COMMUNITY
U.S. Boycotts U.N. Conference on Racism
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will boycott "with regret" a U.N. conference on racism next week over objectionable language in the meeting's final document that could single out Israel for criticism and restrict free speech, the State Department said Saturday.
The decision follows weeks of furious internal debate and will likely please Israel and Jewish groups that lobbied against U.S. participation. But the move upset human rights advocates and some in the African-American community who had hoped that President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, would send an official delegation.
The administration had wanted to attend the April 20-25 meeting in Geneva, although it warned in late February it would not go unless significant changes were made to the draft text.
Some revisions _ including the removal of specific critical references to Israel and problematic passages about the defamation of religion _ were negotiated for which State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the administration was "deeply grateful."
But he said the text retains troubling elements that suggest support for restrictions on free speech and an affirmation of the findings of the first World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 that the U.S cannot endorse.
"Unfortunately, it now seems certain these remaining concerns will not be addressed in the document to be adopted by the conference next week," Wood said in a statement. "Therefore, with regret, the United States will not join the review conference."
Despite the decision, he stressed that the United States "is profoundly committed to ending racism and racial discrimination" and "will work with all people and nations to build greater resolve and enduring political will to halt racism and discrimination wherever it occurs."
Concern is high that the meeting may descend into heated debate over Israel that marred the last such gathering eight years ago, especially since Iran's hardline president _ who has called for Israel's destruction _ will attend.
The Durban meeting was dominated by quarrels over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.
The United States, under the Bush administration, and Israel walked out over attempts to liken Zionism _ the movement to establish a Jewish state in the Holy Land _ to racism. The reference was later dropped, but concerns about anti-Semitism remained in the final text.
Plans to reaffirm the 2001 document were of particular concern to the Obama administration.
"(It) singles out one particular conflict and prejudges key issues that can only be resolved in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians," Wood said.
Planning for the upcoming meeting, which is to review progress made in fighting racism since Durban, has been underway for months but was ignored by the Bush administration.
But once Obama took office, his team decided to engage in the process as part of its broader aim of reaching out to the international community. That has included overtures to Iran, Cuba and seeking a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body the Bush administration shunned.
After sending delegates to a preparatory meeting, the administration announced on Feb. 27 that it would not participate in further planning talks or the conference itself unless the changes were made.
In the weeks that followed, the U.S. pressed its European allies to lobby for an acceptable text and officials had held out hope until earlier this week that the negotiations would produce an acceptable document.
Possible participation by Washington remained on the table, pending the changes, even after it was learned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would go.
Pro-Israel groups in the United States vehemently opposed U.S. participation while human rights advocates and organizations like TransAfrica and members of the Congressional Black Caucus thought it was important to attend.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee applauded Obama's decision to boycott, saying it "underscores America's unstinting commitment to combating intolerance and racism in all its forms and in all settings."
But Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., the chair of the black caucus, said the group was "deeply dismayed."
"This decision is inconsistent with the administration's policy of engaging with those we agree with and those we disagree with," she said. "By boycotting Durban, the U.S. is making it more difficult for it to play a leadership role on U.N. Human Rights Council as it states it plans to do. This is a missed opportunity, plain and simple."
Hours earlier, Human Rights Watch appealed for the U.S. to go, saying it "should stand with the victims of racism."
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Filed by Nick Sabloff
It's NO LONGER Smart to be DUMB!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Poor Righteous Teachers: The Influence of Islam on Hip Hop (Full Video)
Rappers Wise Intelligent, NYOIL, JT the Bigga Figga, Bro J of X-Clan and Kam among others took part in a Saviours' Day 2009 forum hosted by LaTonja Styles Muhammad and moderated by Final Call News Asst. Editor Ashahed Muhammad.
Monday, April 13, 2009
INFORMING the HIP-HOP COMMUNITY
Do you think that Obama should go to the UN's International Conference on Racism or boycott it? Check out the article below... Get @ me and let me know what you think...
Will Obama be a no-go to racism conference?
By Marlene Nadle
April 13, 2009
THERE IS A bitter irony in America's first black president continuing to boycott the UN's international conference on racism scheduled for this month.
President Barack Obama's position on attending the conference translates roughly into: Do it our way or we won't play. He has already gotten all references to Israel, to reparations for slavery, and to a proposed ban on speech defaming any religion dropped from the conference's draft document. Yet, he is still unwilling to have the United States attend. Even if the administration bullies its way into getting its final points, it is not really a win for the United States.
Obama's foot dragging and threat of a boycott will begin to deplete whatever goodwill he has created for himself and America in the nations of color. People in those countries, like many Americans, hoped he would head up the fight for racial justice, not become one of the obstacles to it.
The president's decision to boycott will undercut his attempt in Turkey to reach out to the Muslim world. It has been reported that the boycott was urged by members of the Jewish community in both the United States and Israel. If he continues to cave to that pressure, it will be seen in the Muslim world as more proof that America cannot be counted on as an honest broker in any peace process.
Despite the harm his threat of a boycott is doing, his administration continues its power play. State Department Spokesman Robert A. Wood said the United States would reengage in the conference only if its document meets our criteria. The main remaining objection is to a section reaffirming the declaration of the 2001 UN conference on racism.
That 2001 declaration contains statements many Israelis consider hostile. Obama seems to be adopting a policy of killing the messenger rather than dealing with the message. He is reacting to the symptoms, not the cause. It is a narrow, ineffective response to Arab and world anger at Israel, some of it ugly, some of it anti-Semitic, but much of it rage over legitimate grievances. By limiting people's right to speak their feelings and be heard, President Obama will have neutered the conference even if the United States finally participates in it.
Whatever Obama's final decision on the boycott, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus are planning to attend the conference. Although Congress members don't usually travel when in session, the leadership of the House Foreign Relations Committee is said to be open to the idea.
Meanwhile, the Black Caucus is trying to persuade the administration to attend, but without great success so far. In a meeting with State Department officials, the Caucus asked the obvious question: Why not just reject the parts of the document Obama cannot support, and go to the conference anyway? There is nothing radical about that. It is standard UN procedure to place a reservation on a particular paragraph of a document and then go on to endorse the rest of the document.
Instead of dealing with the logic of the Caucus's question, the State Department staff just sputtered on about people trying to hijack the conference.
In the run-up to the conference, the Congressional Black Caucus will continue to speak to State Department officials. Its case will be strengthened by a national Call-Obama campaign organized by the TransAfrica Forum, which is working with the Caucus. In its statement announcing the campaign, the Forum said, "There is a widespread belief in the administration that our communities simply do not care about the upcoming conference. We know differently."
It was, perhaps, a way of saying Obama is taking America's black community for granted.
The chilling effect on the goodwill toward the States will only grow with Obama's continued silence and reluctance to commit to attending the conference. Hopefully, he is "flexible" enough and brave enough to reverse the boycott before it does more damage to America and his administration.
Marlene Nadle is a foreign affairs journalist and an associate of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the New School University in New York.
It's NO LONGER Smart to be DUMB!