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The Daily Pennsylvanian‘s coverage of Wednesday’s Durban III protest might leave Quakers confused about the cause for our sit-in against Durban III. The article’s interviews with advocates from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggest that the primary issue at hand was the conference’s sharp critique of Israel. But we, participants in the protest, would like to more clearly articulate why 80 Penn students lined Locust Walk on Wednesday morning wearing matching black T-shirts.

To us, Durban III is not a Middle East issue; it is a world issue. Israel, like any other country, should be held accountable for her actions, and accurate criticism is legitimate. However, can the United Nations General Assembly, which in 2004 passed 19 resolutions condemning Israel and not a single resolution addressing Sudan and the genocide in Darfur, be the fair arbiter of such criticism?

The U.N. has committed itself “to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.” Durban III exemplifies the U.N. Human Rights Council’s failure to meet its lofty mandate. For a council created to promote awareness of racism around the world, a near-total focus on Israel is counterproductive. The world should be concerned about an internationally sanctioned conference that has welcomed notorious human rights violator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a keynote speaker. This is the backdrop of our protest against Durban III.

Durban III is not only an Israel issue. At least it shouldn’t be.

Josh Cooper, College sophomore
Hannah Dardashti, College freshman
Naomi Hachen, Engineering sophomore
Ariella Levine, Engineering freshman

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