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The United Nations and Israel

Since Durban: An Entrenchment of Hatred

By ANNE BAYEFSKY - September 12, 2002

This week marks the anniversary of another hate-filled event with broad international repercussions, the UN World Conference Against Racism.

A racist anti-racism spectacle, courtesy of the United Nations, it concluded in Durban, South Africa on September 8, 2001.

The streets carrying banners reading "the blood of the martyrs irrigates the tree of revolution in Palestine" and "George W. Bush: Palestinian blood is on your hands" presaged the glorification of violence that lay ahead.

The intervening year has not been one of exorcizing, lessons-learned reviews. On the contrary, the UN sponsor and the international human rights organizations that failed at the critical hour have engaged in a systematic cover-up and entrenchment of the Durban agenda. The UN calls it "follow-up." The follow-up campaign to Durban has been sweeping.

Durban had both a non-government and government component. Jewish NGOs from across the globe walked out of the NGO Forum after enduring a week of harassment, intimidation and hate-speech. They left at the moment the Forum voted to delete from its concluding agreement only the proposal of the Jewish caucus. The international human rights community, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, stood silently by. The Jewish proposal read:

"We are concerned with...attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel through wildly inaccurate charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as a virulent contemporary form of antisemitism, [We are concerned with the] armed assaults...and murder of...Jews for their support for the existence of the State of Israel, the assertion of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people, and the attempts, through the State of Israel, to preserve their cultural and religious identity."

Instead the NGO Forum declared: "Anti-Arab racism is another form of anti-Semitism...that has led to violence and hate crimes." And they added, Zionism is racism.

Similarly, Jewish youth from all over the world who attended the simultaneous International Youth Summit, were jeered, heckled and threatened when attempting to speak. They walked out of the Summit after their suggestion of an end to all violence between Palestinians and Israelis was rejected. The final document of the Summit speaks of "massive institutionalized human rights violations through the acts of...apartheid in the occupied territories of the Palestinians" and calls "on business worldwide to divest from the Israeli economy..."

After it became clear Israel was to be the only nation criticized in this global gathering, the United States and Israel left the government conference. The final Durban Declaration proclaims the Palestinian people to be victims of Israeli racism.

FOR THE UN, post-Durban was a time of no regrets. On December 10, 2001, Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva, declared that the occasion of international human rights day would be dedicated to stocktaking of the Durban Conference, which he described as "the most extensive and momentous expression of the global resolve to combat the scourge of racism and intolerance in all its forms and at all levels."

The hyperbole was the same from the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who told the opening session of the UN's Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights this past July: "The International Youth Summit prior to the World Conference was an inspiring event."

Spearheaded by the UN bureaucracy and High Commissioner Robinson, the UN has already produced two detailed reports on follow-up activities and a third is on the way for the General Assembly.

Follow-up reports are now expected from states, NGOs and UN institutions on a regular basis. In March, the General Assembly created a group of five "eminent experts," whose task is to ensure the implementation of Durban, with no end date in sight.

In April, the UN Commission on Human Rights created an intergovernmental working group for the purpose of "effective implementation" of Durban.

They also told the High Commissioner to appoint an unspecified number of "goodwill ambassadors" charged with "raising awareness of the need to implement Durban."

With the blessing of the Commission, the High Commissioner proceeded to turn the non-binding result of the world conference into the centerpiece of the UN's anti-racism agenda, instead of the 1966 treaty against racial discrimination binding on almost all of the world's states, including the United States and Israel.

Even the body charged with monitoring the implementation of the racial discrimination treaty the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination now directs states' parties to consider Durban when applying the treaty. The same body issued a statement in March "welcoming" "the contribution of non-governmental organizations during the Durban Conference."

The Commission resolution of April 2002, injects Durban into every pore of the UN system. In its words, it calls upon "all relevant organs, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system to become involved in the follow-up to the World Conference Against Racism...and invites specialized agencies and related organizations of the United Nations system to...adjust...their activities, programs and...strategies to implement and follow-up the Durban Declaration..."

In March, the High Commissioner hosted a panel discussion on "Young People against Racism: the Road from Durban." Anti-Semitism at the Youth Summit was not on the agenda. The High Commissioner created an anti-discrimination Unit in her Office that she described this past July as "devoted to the implementation of the anti-discrimination agenda adopted in Durban."

The human rights home page of the UN's Web site contains only five specific links, one of which is to the World Conference Against Racism alongside "The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights," "the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," and "Treaties."

One official UN Web page on Durban specifically directs the user to www.racism.org.za.
Carrying the official UN logo, the latter site boasts the Durban NGO Forum document and pictures of satisfied Durban participants carrying signs such as "Authentic rabbis have always opposed Zionism," and the old favorite about Bush and Palestinian blood.

WHERE DOES the money come from for all this?
The General Assembly in March approved $675,000 for Durban follow-up for two years. The end result went unopposed by American diplomats. At the end of July, the UN Economic and Social Council endorsed, over US objections, the additional budgetary implications of the Commission's April decisions.

In addition, the High Commissioner committed her Office to an appeal for voluntary funds to support the Durban agenda, funds that often provide wide latitude in their actual expenditure.

The post-Durban cheerleading and misinformation campaign has also been led by international human rights NGOs.

Immediately following the Conference, Human Rights Watch Advocacy Director Reed Brody exclaimed, "A great achievement of this process has been the unprecedented mobilization of victims of racism..."

The real problem, according to Human Rights Watch, was "the media focus on the dispute over the Middle East."

Six months later, Human Rights Watch was still covering its tracks, releasing a February update called "What really happened at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban? The conference we participated in was completely different from the one covered in American newspapers."

Mindful of its many Jewish funders, Human Rights Watch went so far as to claim they "played an important role in criticizing some of the inappropriate criticisms of Israel at the NGO Forum," neglecting to mention they watched in silence as Jewish NGO voices were stilled and "Zionism is racism" became the order of the day.

Amnesty International was less cagey. The Amnesty Report of 2002 speaks of the Conference success "in highlighting the extent of racism around the world" "such as...the plight of...Palestinians."

Describing its achievement, the Report says: "AI and other NGOs pledged that they would continue to campaign to ensure that governments do not forget their obligations to combat racism."

In fact, to be specific in the words of the NGO Declaration, AI and other NGOs pledged to "call for the reinstitution of UN resolution 3379 determining the practices of Zionism as racist practices," and to "call upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state."

The post-Durban concoctions of NGOs and the UN divulge two dangerous characteristics: highly selective compassion and willful amnesia.

They emphasize the sections on education as "a means of imbuing humanistic respect for others" but neglect to mention that the draft provisions on Holocaust education were deleted.

They stress the parts calling for legislation to punish acts of racial discrimination and prohibit racist organizations and their activities, and say nothing about the Conference removal of Holocaust denial from the draft list of prohibited or punishable acts.

As Durban apologists would have it, the trouble with Jews is their self-pitying myopia.

In the words of Gay McDougall, Executive Director of the Washington D.C.-based International Human Rights Law Group, in a paper appearing in the Fletcher Forum in the spring of 2002, "Some Jewish groups met unacceptable hatred. However, to overcome racism, victims must show solidarity with each other, and cannot let their own agendas undermine the advances gained by so many other groups."

Solidarity with those who equate Zionism with racism. The private agenda of ending anti-Semitism and the violence associated with it, McDougall said. The advances of deleting "effective legal and judicial cooperation in combating antisemitism" from the final result.

DURBAN HAS already been used as it was intended, to deny victimhood to Jews and to demonize the Jewish state. References to "anti-Semitism" in prior UN resolutions were immediately attacked when the Durban agenda item came to the General Assembly.

Led by the Group of 77, whose members include most developing nations, anti-Semitism was deleted as a specific concern of the UN's Third Decade to Combat Racism on March 27, 2002.

Government representatives used the General Assembly to repeat the Durban mantra of Israeli racism, or in the words of the Iranian Ambassador in February to object to Israel from its creation as "the most vivid manifestation of institutionalised racism...for half a century."

A UN-accredited NGO circulated a UN document at the 2002 Commission on Human Rights stating: "[t]he Zionist authorities, from the founding of the state of Israel (1948) until the end of 2001 in ideology and their constitution have done all they can with their racist behaviors to force the Palestinians to leave the occupied territories...to fulfill their ideals of the cleansing of the...so-called 'Promised Land,' as it was revealed in the Durban Conference Against Racism..."

In April, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People created on the same day as the UN Zionism is racism resolution and still going strong sponsored a meeting in Nicosia and invited the input of Mercia Andrews, the host of the Durban NGO Forum and President of the South African NGO Coalition. The result yet another UN report recounting the "obvious parallels between Israel and Apartheid South Africa."

The lessons learned from Durban?

Racists use the charge of racism for political gain. The description of Israel as an apartheid state, or Marwan Barghouti as Nelson Mandela, show no understanding of apartheid, or of the participation of Arabs in Israeli society (let alone the intolerance of Jews in Arab societies), or of the violence of Barghouti and his terrorist comrades. But it does show an appreciation of the politics of racism an accusation that Palestinians have used to fuel the violent, rally the na ve, and intimidate the weak.

The Durban phenomenon is one of substituting the voices of alleged victims, and the false consensus of UN mob-rule, for universal standards.
The disservice to the real cause of human rights could not be more fundamental.

For the system of international human rights protection is rooted in the equality of humankind, and it will founder on the exclusion of the Jew. Just as the system of international peace and security is premised on the equality of all nations large and small, and will founder on the exclusion of the Jewish state.

The writer is an international lawyer and Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada. She represented the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists at the Durban NGO Forum, and UN Watch at the World Conference.

©2002 - Jerusalem Post

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