Durban Conference 2001

'Zionism is racism' - a Dead Issue

Jerusalem Post
September 2, 2001
Herb Keinon

The comparison of Zionism to racism is dead, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Saturday, adding that the UN made its decision on the matter in 1991 when it rescinded the 1975 resolution equating Zionism and racism.

Annan was speaking to journalists at the World Conference Against Racism in response to a question on the possibility of condemning Israel for racism.

Meanwhile, resolutions effectively calling for the dismantling of the State of Israel were voted upon by regional caucuses and adopted by the non-government organizations' forum at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban Saturday night, despite commitments by some major human-rights organizations to fight the resolutions.

According to Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and head of the Jewish Caucus in Durban, representatives of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group, and International Federation of Human Rights said that, although they are not in agreement with Israeli governmental policies, "they will not accept, and their constituents will not accept, a document that calls Israel genocidal, and equates Zionism with racism."

Samuels said that the document, which he termed a "diplomatic abomination" that is nothing less then "a plan of action for the dismantling of the Jewish sovereign state," will be presented to UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson, who will in turn present it as the spirit of the 3,900 NGOs represented at the conference, which opened on Friday.

The resolutions are divided into a declarative section and a section called a "plan of action." In the declarative section, Israel is referred to as a "racist, apartheid state" that is "colonial" and commits "racist crimes." The document also excoriates Israel for "inhumanity in denying food and water to the Palestinians," the "victimization of women and children," and "the discrimination of Palestinians in Israel."

The declarative section is "milder" than the section that deals with a plan of action.

For example:

* Article 160 calls for the enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which includes measures to be employed against apartheid, a "protection force," and the dismantling of "Jewish Israeli colonies."

* Article 161 calls for the right of return of all Palestinians.

* Article 162 calls for the reinstitution of UN Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism, the repeal of Israel's Law of Return granting citizenship to all Jewish immigrants, and the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to "try Israeli racists."

* Article 163 calls for the UN to prepare educational packets for schools and universities on the "Israeli racist apartheid system."

* Article 164 calls for the establishment of UN special committee on Israeli apartheid.

* Article 165 calls for UN programs and institutions to "combat the racist media distortion, stereotyping, and propaganda that demonizes and dehumanizes Palestinians as being violent terrorists."

* Article 166 calls for the launch of an international "anti-Israeli-apartheid" movement.

* Article 167 calls on the international community to impose a policy of "complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state, as was done in the case of South Africa... sanctions, embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, and military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel."

* Article 168 calls for "the condemnation of those states supporting , aiding, and abetting the Israeli apartheid state, and its preparation of racist crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, and acts of genocide."

Samuels said that the Jewish Caucus is now trying to get as many of the 3,900 NGOs there as possible to sign a document distancing themselves from these resolutions.

The Jewish Caucus at the conference, representing 11 Jewish NGOs such as the ADL, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah and the Wiesenthal Center, walked out of the conference after a resolution it introduced against anti-Semitism was not included in the document. "This forum is now Judenrein," Samuels said.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said that if this document reflects the spirit of the resolutions that will be adopted now by the governmental part of the conference, "we fully expect that the US will walk out of the conference."

On Friday, American diplomats in Durban were trying to eliminate anti-Israel provisions from the conference's final declaration. If they fail, the low-level US delegation will quit the conference before its windup this coming Friday, said officials from the Bush administration. "We have made very clear that elimination of the offensive language singling out Israel is critical for the United States to be able to participate fully in this conference," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Cooper said that the document "has moral influence on the proceedings of the governmental portion of the conference, and is supposed to set the stage for the governmental deliberation.

"This document certainly changes the vernacular of the human rights community. If this language is accepted by the international community, it means no possibility for a Jewish state. This is a maximalist language - a dream come true for the Palestinians."

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who on Friday had accused Israeli of ethnic cleansing by driving Palestinians from their homes in the occupied territories, repeated the charge Saturday.

"The ugliness of these Israeli racist policies and practices against the Palestinian people has become manifest and obvious during the intifada," he said.

Veteran Cuban leader Fidel Castro told the conference nobody has the right to dictate to a United Nations gathering. The 75-year-old president also charged Israel with "genocide" over the number of Palestinian deaths since the uprising began last September.

"[Nobody] has the right to set preconditions to the conference or urge it to avoid the discussion... [of] the way we decide to rate the dreadful genocide perpetrated, at this very moment, against our Palestinian brothers," Castro said.

The Arab League met Saturday morning to coordinate its position on the final declaration. Secretary-General Amr Mousa said the section condemning Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and the recognition of the Holocaust were both open to negotiation. "There are racist policies and practices by Israel and they have to be addressed [just] as Israel wants us to address the problem of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and so on, so it's a package."

Conference committees worked behind the scenes on the wording of a final declaration to be adopted at the end of the eight-day UN summit. Almost a year into the intifada, Arab nations have pushed to make Israel the main issue at the conference.

Arafat's harsh words undercut the Rev. Jesse Jackson's efforts to solve the symbolic and semantic nature of the dispute. Jackson said he had urged Arafat to drop his support for a summit declaration that would attack Israel as a racist state and equate Zionism with racism.

Palestinian officials later accused Jackson of being "overzealous" and said they would still seek condemnation of what they called Israel's "racist practices." "What we can hope for is that this conference will say what is bad, what is just in the face of this bloody tragedy that has befallen the Palestinian people," Arafat told a round-table of world leaders. "This brutality, this arrogance is moved by a supremacist mentality, a mentality of racial discrimination."

In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Noam Katz reiterated that Israel feels the racism conference is not the appropriate forum to discuss the Palestinian conflict.

"We are not here at the conference to discuss, to deal with specific political problems," Katz said. "We are here to create a united front against racism."