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The United Nations and Israel

UN Closing Window on Freedom

August, 17 2001
A decade ago, the repeal of the United Nation's infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution marked what seemed to be the dawn of a new era. The Soviet Union had just collapsed, and a wave of freedom was sweeping Central Europe. That same year, the UN backed a United States-led coalition that physically reversed Iraq's obliteration of Kuwait. Though no one expected a change overnight, the repeal one of the ugliest stains on the United Nation's record seemed to signal that ideals of its charter might finally be on the way to realization.

The UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban is headed toward undoing what little remains of such hopes, and could tragically mark the plunging of the UN into another era of radicalism and irrelevance. Worse, since the UN is nothing more than its member nations, the conference could signal that what was thought to be a permanent victory for freedom in the world was actually a window that is now closing, a colossal opportunity missed.

The draft Durban declaration, though it repeatedly condemns anti-Semitism, is perhaps the most viciously anti-Semitic international declaration ever written - dwarfing even the original "Zionism is racism" declaration itself.

Incredibly, the draft document accuses the Jewish people's national liberation movement not only of "racism," but of "practices against Semites," "ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine," and of "a new kind of apartheid." As a final touch, the draft equates this "ethnic cleansing" with the Holocaust itself.

The Durban document attempts the old ruse of distinguishing between anti-Semitism, which it condemns, and anti-Zionism, which it practices with undisguised relish. Dr. Martin Luther King, at a 1968 speech at Harvard, ripped the mask off this canard, "You declare that you do not hate Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist. And I say, let the truth ring forth from high on the mountain tops... When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews... [W]hat is anti-Zionist? It is the denial of the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe." Our own Abba Eban explained that while anti-Semitism denies the rights of Jews within society, anti-Zionism does the same thing on the international level - denying the Jewish right to a place in the community of nations.

The attempt to saddle Zionism with every conceivable crime against humanity, including anti-Semitism itself, is almost laughable in its Orwellian contortions. But many countries, including African countries, are not laughing, and are bitter about the Arab world's attempt to hijack a conference designed to fight racism and transform it into a crass anti-Israel diatribe. At the recent preparatory conference in Geneva, a number of developing countries spoke out against the Arab states appropriation of the conference to sow hatred of Israel.

Anyone who cares about the real cause of combating racism, discrimination, and hatred should be upset. The accompanying NGO (non-governmental organization) statement prepared for Durban, for example, mentions Israel over 25 times. At the same time, the document politely devotes one paragraph to note that "the trans-Saharan slave trade continues unabated to this day, affecting detrimentally the lives of countless individuals and communities, particularly women and children." The United States was less discrete when it protested against a resolution in the UN Human Rights Commission this April that failed to single out "the continued practice of slavery in Sudan." US Ambassador George Moose Jr. continued, "Slavery occurs in areas under government control and is practiced by militias allied to the government." So not only does the draft statement spread anti-Semitism instead of combating it, but it fails to go after modern-day slavery that is staring it in the face.

The United States and Israel have commendably fought this perfidious resolution shoulder to shoulder and with great energy. Now they face the dilemma of whether to continue the good fight to the bitter end or boycott the travesty entirely.

The United States should clearly not send Secretary of State Colin Powell, since many other nations will take their cue from the US as to the level of delegation that they send. On the other hand, there is small chance that this time the Arab world has overplayed its hand, and can be forced to back down at the last minute.

What is clear is that no nation with a conscience should accept even a watered-down version of the Durban statement that sows hatred against Israel. If any of the hate language remains, no democracy has a place at the conference. Israel's response should take a page from Natan Sharansky's statement before the Soviet tribunal that sentenced him to 13 years in prison: "I say to my wife and my people, Next Year in Jerusalem. To this court, which has only read a sentence prepared long ago - to you I have nothing to say."

©2001 - Jerusalem Post

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