MID-EAST REALITIES © - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8/12: Well we weren't expecting United Nations officials to heed our advice about Durban and get on with things, with or without the constantly threatening and vetoing Americans (see Part 1 published yesterday). In recent years some of their colleagues at the very highest levels of today's U.N. have in fact resigned in moral disgust -- and even said so in public. The U.N. of Kofi Annan is not exactly a fully independent institution that can really be trusted by the people of the world. And in fact its not that difficult to remember just how Annan got his job in the first place as a U.S. replacement for the supposedly too independent (imagine that!) Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt; and how Annan has ever since held secret meetings with American officials both in and out of Washington to get his marching orders.
If the Jewish organizations that serve Israel so compliantly are so worried about what is likely to happen at the World Conference Against Racism, and if the Washington crowd that works so closely with the Israelis is so concerned that it keeps threatening to boycott even attending the conference, that would seem to indicate that something significant is afoot and needs to be vigorously pursued.
If indeed the Israelis and the Americans are so afraid of the condemning words that are hopefully going to be spoken and written in Durban, that means they realize that its not just who has the most money and guns that counts, it also matters who has the most principle and justice to speak of.II
"What we are all now focusing on is how to ensure that the United States ... will be at Durban.'' Mary Robinson U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
"Should the contestable language of these resolutions be adopted by the World Conference Against Racism, the result would be de-legitimization of Israel, and a major setback for the Jewish People." Memo prepared by Jewish organizations
As two weeks of preparatory talks ended Friday, the United Nations' top human rights official said she hoped the United States would find enough progress had been made to drop its threat to stay away from the meeting, starting Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa.
``What we are all now focusing on is how to ensure that the United States ... will be at Durban,'' said Mary Robinson, U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
Robinson has said that the conference could produce a ``magna carta'' for victims of discrimination, and everything from anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe to the plight of the world's indigenous peoples has been on the table during months of discussion. But several thorny issues have blocked agreement on a guiding document.
Specifically, references to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and African demands for reparations for slavery proved too much for negotiators to resolve. But Robinson said she thought a compromise could be reached when work resumes at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.
Robinson said ``there has been considerable progress'' on demands by several African states for compensation for slavery and colonialism.
``There is a genuine feeling that this is going to be one of the real breakthroughs in Durban, the kind of language that is now being brought together,'' she said.
The United States has opposed slavery compensation, and it wants language it regards as offensive toward Israel removed from draft statements.
A final decision on whether the United States will attend is expected only after the U.S. delegation returns to Washington and reports on the negotiations, officials said.
Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Levy said late Friday that the ``shameful language'' on the Middle East in the proposed document was forcing Israel to reconsider whether it will go to Durban.
One passage supported by Arabs lists both ``the Jewish holocaust in Europe'' and ``the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine and the Golan'' as atrocities that should never be forgotten.
It ignores Israel's demand that the Holocaust, with a capital ``H,'' was a unique, Jewish event and should stand alone in the document. However, the Islamic group did remove condemnation of Zionism, the movement that led to the founding of the modern state of Israel.
Ambassador Rajmah Hussain of Malaysia said the 57-country Organization of the Islamic Conference had shown ``a spirit of flexibility and compromise'' in trying to describe ``the plight of the Palestinian people'' under the ``racist practices of the occupying power.'' Hussain said negotiations were halted because the United States and Israel refused to continue.
``We are saddened by this development as we believe that the first step to finding consensus is to engage in dialogue,'' she said.
Michael Southwick, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, said his delegation had ``entered earnestly'' into the negotiations, but couldn't accept the branding of Israel as racist.
Robinson said efforts will continue to see whether it is possible to find ``appropriate text'' on the suffering of the Palestinian people.
``A lot remains to be done, but a framework has emerged,'' Robinson said.
U.N. member states and representatives of Non Governmental Organizations will convene in Durban, South Africa, from August 31st to September 7th, for the Third U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), under the aegis of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson. The first two conferences took place in 1978 and 1983.
The WCAR will be preceded by a Student Summit (August 24), an NGO Conference (August 29 and 30th) and the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) will convene parallel to the WCAR (on September 2nd). Some 12,000 delegates are expected to attend. The WCAR will produce two documents: a declaration and a plan of Action.
The call for the WCAR came in 1997 when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of such a conference. Four regional Preparatory Conferences (Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa) met in order to draft resolutions for the WCAR and NGO conferences. Inasmuch there were unresolved differences regarding the wording of many draft resolutions (many dealing with Israel, Zionism, and anti-Semitism), a Second Preparatory Conference, which met from May17th to June 1st , which could not resolve these differences, entrusted a committee of 21 regional representatives (five from each of the four regions, with Europe now split into Eastern and Western), the "Third Preparatory Conference", to revise the draft resolutions in the aim of arriving at an agreed-upon text. The Third Preparatory Conference has convened in Geneva on July 31st and will continue to hold meetings till August 10th . Israel has not participated in Preparatory Conferences as one of the regional representatives. However representatives of the Government (Deputy Minister Melchior and Ambassador Levy) are attending sessions. Likewise a number of Jewish NGOs are currently in Geneva. It is hoped that many of the differences will be resolved before the Durban conference.
The danger to Israel posed by the WCAR is that many of the draft resolutions contain clauses which Condemn Israel and Zionism for racist practices, crimes against humanity, Trivialize the Holocaust as a unique occurrence (by using it in the plural and with lower case), Debase the meaning of anti-Semitism (by either not referring to it, or by adding to it 'Zionist practices against Semitic peoples'), Condemn Israel's policy in the Territories.
While many manifestations of prejudice, discrimination, and social injustice are mentioned generically in the draft documents (racism, transatlantic slavery, discrimination against women, migrants, even against carriers of HIV), Israel is practically the only country singled out for censure, and special sections are devoted to the "suffering of the Palestinians."
These resolutions (though, so far, not specifically stating that Zionism equals Racism) recall the specter of the 1975 General Assembly "Zionism equals Racism" resolution, which was finally repealed in 1991, and which caused great damage to Israel.
Moreover, no mention is made of Palestinian and Arab human rights violations, the exploitation of women, children, terrorism, the liquidation of minorities, etc. that are rampant in Arab countries. Should the contestable language of these resolutions be adopted by the WCAR, the result would be de-legitimization of Israel, and a major setback for the Jewish People. [GLOBAL JEWISH AGENDA vol 2 no 29 9 August 2001]