Service as usual at New York Durban conference

Durban III, the UN’s third “anti-racism” conference in New York last month proved to be the exercise in Israel-bashing that everyone had expected. It served as the podium for the Lebanese and Syrian foreign ministers to charge that the very concept of “a Jewish state” is “an act of racism”.

Delegates from Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Cuba and Ecuador weighed in with the calumnies, accusing Israel of “racist apartheid crimes” and attacking “its manipulation of the international community in forcing the Zionist-controlled United States to boycott this Durban conference”.

UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, when opening the gathering, listed all “victim groups of the anti-discrimination agenda” — except for one.

The litany of racism targets, from African migrants to indigenous peoples, from Roma to trafficked slaves, was read out by Sudan, as well as the chair of CERD (the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) and the Expert on the Implementation of the Durban Programme and Plan of Action (DDPA). Any reference to “antisemitism” was strikingly absent as, apparently for the UN, Jews are no longer among the vulnerable. Meanwhile, Sudan spoke for the African group without mentioning Rwandan Tutsis or the ethnic cleansing of Darfuris or Southern Sudanese by its own government.

The brotherhood of human rights violators provided a backdrop for Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s speech in the adjoining hall.

Minus the few Western democracies that absented themselves, the concluding Resolution A/66/L2 was endorsed.In reaffirming the 2001 DDPA, the UN has now revalidated its original clauses that cast Zionism as “racism” and Israel as an “apartheid state”.

Only ten non-governmental organisations were permitted to speak at two round-tables. Other groups grumbled at the arguably covert manner in which they had been selected — according to Geneva UN sources, by General Assembly President, the Ambassador of Qatar, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

The two Jewish organisations were accredited to the main hall for the conference opening and close, but were relegated to an overflow room to watch the round-tables on a TV screen. Thirteen major nations — the US, Australia, Canada, Britain, France, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria — boycotted the event. Sadly, however, Spain, Belgium, Sweden and Greece participated, providing the stance taken by Iran, Syria, North Korea, Burma, China, Zimbabwe and other dictatorships with a dose of legitimacy. For these countries, Israel remains a scapegoat to cover up continuing domestic oppression.

Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder are respectively Director for International Relations and Director for Latin America of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre


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