The People's Republic of China, under the leadership of Mao Tse-dung, was established in 1949. The same year the newly formed regime ordered the invasion of Tibet.  The Dalai Lama, who at the time was only 15 year old, has assumed the leadership role. In 1959 he met with Mao who told him that "religion is poison". The Tibetan revolt erupted soon after but the poorly equipped rebels were easily overwhelmed by the Chinese army. The Dalai Lama was forced into the exile to India. During the 20 years following the uprising, hundreds of thousands Tibetans died with many more send to prisons and labor camps. During the Cultural Revolution the number of Buddhists monasteries was reduced from over 6000 to less then ten as Chinese authorities tried to eradicate the Tibetan culture. 




The Dalai Lama and an Upside Down World

As I was surfing the Internet, trying to find a worthy  piece of news amongst the debris of  the usual reports about the economic doomsday, suicide bombings and sports events, something caught my eye as being very odd. The report from a credible news source was saying that South Africa has barred the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Tibet's spiritual leader, from attending a PEACE conference in South Africa! First I thought it was a joke or a mistake but soon it became obvious that the report was correct.

I was still questioning it though. The Dalai Lama? Really? What did he do to offend the sensitivities of the South African government? First they said that the Dalai Lama's presence at the conference "would have distracted the attention from South Africa's hosting of the world cup" but soon after the government spokesmen provided a real reason: "Tibetan leader's presence would not be in South Africa's best interests". You see, the Chinese are one of South Africa's biggest trading partners and during the last decade they have dramatically increased their economic presence across the entire African continent. But that presence comes with a price tag as Chinese government warned foreign countries not to meddle in internal Chinese affairs, and particularly in Tibet.

Obviously the South African government took those warnings seriously as they confirmed that their decision not to let the Dalai Lama into the country was irreversible. As South Africa's own Nobel Peace Prize winner F.W. de Klerck noted that that decision "made a mockery of the whole purpose of the peace conference". If it was any other country that succumbed to Chinese pressure hardly anybody would have paid much attention, but it is the unique history of South Africa in it's struggle against apartheid that makes the decision of their current government so shocking.  

The director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Landestsd probably said it best: "It is disappointing that South Africa, which through the long fight against apartheid has received so much solidarity from the world doesn't want to give that solidarity to others".   Being ungrateful is not a crime but if you claim to be a leading democracy on the African continent you do have some moral responsibility to at least make an appearance of some fairness. How can you embrace a tyrant of Zimbabwe named Robert Mugabe, openly admit that you were bought out by Chinese government and then deny a voice to the Dalai Lama at the peace conference, the man who preached non violence all his life.  

Eight years earlier the South African government had no problem hosting a gathering in Durban called the U.N. World Conference Against Racism. Then president Thabo Mbeki even addressed the conference with the following:   "Our common humanity dictates that as we rose against apartheid and racism, so must we combine to defeat the consequences of slavery, colonialism and racism which, to this day, continue to define the lives of billions of people who are brown and black, as lives of hopelessness".   Obviously the Tibetans did not qualify on the strength of another color, green, that had the government of South Africa all shaken up.  

Back in 2001 a U.N. sponsored Durban conference that was supposed to unite the world against racism, xenophobia and intolerance quickly deteriorated into exactly that, the xenophobic, anti-Semitic forum that singled out Israel and tried to brand it as an apartheid state while linking Zionism to the form of racism. Interestingly enough it's countries with the worst records of human rights like Iran and then occupier of Lebanon Syria who were hell bent on pushing the agenda.   Inside the conference there was a tug of war over the final draft resolution.

The earlier prepared text had sentences like "emergence of movements based on racism" and "increase of racist practices of Zionism" that prompted Israeli and American delegations to withdraw from the conference. Then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, denounced the "hateful language that singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse".  

While the delegates inside the hall were fighting over words and sentences, most of the activity  was taking place outside, on the streets of Durban as thousands of anti-Israel activists from around the world had no problem expressing their feelings about the Jewish state. Just to get an idea where the state of mind of people in this "peace loving" crowd was, take a look at one of the many anti-Semitic pamphlets handed out to the demonstrators.

At the end the U.S. and Israel walked out of the Durban conference finding it's political climate unacceptable. None of the offensive sentences sought by Israel haters made it into the final resolution as most delegates voted to reject such language. The conference that was supposed to deal with real racism, real genocide, women's right and other important issues was a utter failure. If there was a lesson to be learned from the Durban gathering is how not to organize a conference.  

But oddly Durban has also created a new star attraction for many other international conferences, the state of Israel! There is hardly a major international gathering these days where Israel bashers do not use the conference platform to set their political agendas and boost their own personal standings back home. It does not really matter if its a peace conference, racism conference or even economic conference.   Just look at the of theatrics performed by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Davos World Economic Forum in January of 2009.

He stormed out of a televised debate with Israeli president Shimon Peres over Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip because he felt that he did not get an adequate time to respond to the Israeli president's arguments. Peres questioned what Erdogan would do if rockets were fired at Istanbul every night. Erdogan shot back at 84 year old Peres as he was walking out "When it comes to killing you know very well how to kill".

More then 5,000 people, many waving Palestinian and Turkish flags, greeted Erdogan back home were he was hailed as a new world leader and a hero. His credibility on the "Muslim street" has gone through the roof not to mention his popularity on the home front in Turkey.  

Lost in the wave of all this adulation is Turkey's history in dealings with their own minorities. Turkish prime-minister is yet to atone for the genocide committed by his country against the Armenians during and after the World War I when over a million and a half people were massacred or deported by the Turks. Recalling that part of history is taboo in Turkey where denial of dirty deeds performed by their recent ancestors has been a national policy.  

 Also, Mr. Erdogan has no problem sending the Turkish air force to bomb Kurdish villages in Iraq where the suspected PKK rebel positions are located. All that in response to the killing of the several Turkish soldiers in a border town. It's not to difficult to imagine what he would do if hundreds of rockets were to rain on Turkish cities.  

He advocates the creation of the Palestinian state while categorically denying the same right to the Kurds living in Iraq because it would create instability in Turkey where the Kurdish minority has been abused for decades. Only recently were the Kurds allowed to use their language as it was against the Turkish law to teach it or speak it publicly. That change did not come because the Turkish authorities suddenly saw the light but because it was a step toward meeting the European Union membership requirements they are so desperately seeking. Turkish authorities to this day try to prevent the use of Kurdish language on radio and TV through government censorship. So please forgive me if I do not see Mr. Erdogan as a champion of human rights.   

In March of 2009 many Arab leaders came to Doha, Qatar where the 21st Arab League summit took place. It was called the "Arab reconciliation summit" as on the agenda was the Arab unity in light of several regional conflicts. Egypt refused to attend because it was angry with host Qatar for their chummy relationship with Iran. Jordan was angry because the government of Qatar owned Al Jazeera claimed that the late Jordanian king Hussein was a CIA agent.  

Despite the best efforts of the attending dignitaries the summit was a disaster. The participants could not agree on anything. The conference went nowhere with reconciliation efforts between the feuding Palestinian fractions of Hamas and Fattah. It did not help the matters when during the opening session Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi grabbed the microphone and insulted the Saudi's King Abdullah, calling him a "liar" and a "British product and American ally" while pronouncing himself to be "an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims".  

Not everyone saw the Doha summit as a failure. Syrian president Bashar Assad called it a "grand success". Well, the conference did agree on couple of issues. For one they agreed to establish a legal committee to seek to prosecute the Israeli leaders over Israel's offensive in Gaza in January of 2009. They also urged all Arab countries to reconsider its economic and political relations with Israel. 

There was another issue that Arab leaders did agree upon. On the first day of the summit the leaders expressed total solidarity with Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir who was found criminally responsible for the atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Sudan by International Criminal Court. Mr. Bashir made a trip to Doha despite the over-hanging warrant for his arrest issued only a couple of weeks earlier. In Doha Mr. Bashir received a red carpet treatment and even a kiss on the cheek from the Qatar's emir.                                                                                      

Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan Arab leaders strongly disagreed with the ICC's decision believing that it could lead to a civil war. I hate to drop it it on them but the civil war in Sudan has been going on for years. It has already claimed over 300,000 lives, most of them elderly, women and children. Many more will die of the disease and starvation as kicked all humanitarian organizations out of Darfur as a reprisal for his conviction. At the Doha summit Mr. Bashir criticized the the U.N. security council and questioned their credibility.

He called it an "undemocratic institution" that "targeted the weak and gave a blind eye to criminals".   Mr. Bashir's dear friend and the current African Union president, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, has found the real culprits when he accused the foreign forces, including Israel, of being behind the Darfur conflict. Especially vocal in denouncing the arrest warrant against the Sudan's president was the above mentioned Syrian president Bashar Assad and for a good reason.

The UN backed court is currently investigating the role of high ranking Syrian officials in the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Harriri. I think enough said about this subject.   And of course it is only fitting that on the heels of the canceled peace conference in South Africa, the host of the 2001 Durban conference on racism, and the disastrous Arab summit in Doha the stage was moved to Geneva, Switzerland where the next installment of U.N. World Conference on Racism called Durban Review Conference or Durban II, took place in April of 2009. The Durban II conference did not disappoint. It turned out to be as contemptuous as the first one with Israel bashing again taking the center stage.  

You would have thought that the organizers of the conference would have taken the lessons of the Durban I to heart. But no such luck as the haggling over the wording of the final draft document again preceded the actual event. In question were sentences referring to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, equating Zionism to racism and so on.  Just the usual stuff that Israel haters try to push through every opportunity they get.  

Bur there were a couple of differences from the Durban I. It turns out some parties did learn lessons from 2001 conference as Canada, U.S., Netherlands, Italy, Australia and Israel decided not to attend at all. They did not again want to be part of the anti-Semitic orgy that Durban I turned out to be. President Obama said that he would love to participate in the conference that addressed racism and discrimination but not with the baggage of the previous gathering.  

The U.S. negotiators tried to resolve some sticking points prior to the conference but as Robert Wood, the State Department spokesman said:   "Unfortunately , it now seems certain that these remaining concerns will not be addressed in the document to be adapted by the conference. The document singles out one particular conflict and prejudges key issues that can only be resolved in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians" .  

The Americans were also uneasy about the efforts by the Arab states to criminalize any criticism of Islam under the umbrella of "defamation of religion" or "Islamofobia" in light of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons shown in Danish newspapers. Of course the same Arab states have no problem with Judophobia or any other phobia as long as its does not involve Islam and Muslims.   The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, expressed deep disappointment by U.S. and the other boycotting countries decision not to attend and allow the Middle East politics to intrude on the conference for discrimination.

But with all due respect to the high commissioner it's the U.N. and the conference organizers who created the controversy by allowing countries like Libya, Iran, Syria and Cuba to dominate the agenda.   If the countries that stayed away from Durban II had any regrets about not attending the conference I suspect that those regrets quickly disappeared after they listened to the headline speaker of the conference, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who made sure to leave the impression that this conference was only about Middle East and Israel in particular.  

In his rather lengthy diatribe he started out with prasing God and all the profits and asking Almighty to" hasten the appearance of the hidden imam and grant him health and victory". He proceeded by accusing the western countries in exploiting the holocaust and transferring thousands of Jews from America, Europe and other countries to Palestine. He accused the Security Council of endorsing the usurper regime (Israel) and defending it for 60 years. Without referring to it by name he called Israelis the "genocidal racists; a completely racist government and the most aggressive racist country" almost in succession.  

As the Iranian president spoke, the representatives of 30 European nations walked out of the conference hall in protest while others applauded. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was incensed with the walkouts and the speech saying that he "has not experienced this kind of destructive proceedings in the assembly by any one member state". While his disappointment is quite understandable, as Mahmoud Ahmedinejad drove a last nail in the Durban II coffin, what was the U.N. thinking? That the rabid anti-Semite and a holocaust denier will change his colors and speak of peace and brotherhood.

The pattern of these international conferences and summits has become pretty clear. It's like a scripted reality show where Israel always plays the role of the villain. Countries that seek Israel's downfall realized a while ago that they can not defeat it militarily so other strategies are utilized to demonize the Jewish state, isolate it from the rest of the world and legitimize ever growing anti-Semitism.  

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not a stupid man. He knows the history of anti-Semitism much better then he lets others to believe. There is a reason he keeps calling Israel an illegitimate entity, denies the  holocaust and scares the world with Zionist plots. He knows that there are a lot of willing listeners out there and reinforcing the negative Jewish stereotypes, that have been around for hundreds of years, will eventually make his claims a reality if he repeats them often enough. Just ask those people who applauded him at Durban II conference hall.  

So what kind of world is it were the most peaceful are banned from peace conferences and the worst oppressors are given a center stage to spew their hatred to an audience of billions? What kind a world is it where the conference that is supposed to fight hatred and racism actually ends up promoting it? What kind a world is it where a man responsible for the deaths of 300,000 people is sitting pretty at the regional summit embraced by his fellow dictators and complains how undemocratic the rest of the world is.  

It is the strange world indeed, where up is down, right is left, black is white and the lie is the truth. We'd better be very careful because we can find ourselves living in that strange universe permanently in the not so distant future. The history of the world is full of the terrible examples of what the hateful ambitions can lead to. The problem is we never seem to learn from them.