Durban 2001 NGO Forum (archived articles and opeds):

AVERTING ANOTHER DURBAN (editorial Jerusalem Post)
By Mirek Prokes, UNITED for Intercultural Action (ISC member on behalve of Central and Eastern Europe)
Procedures, Manipulations, Prejudices and Misunderstandings

Prague, 22nd September 2001

Preparatory process
NGOs were invited for the preparations of the WCAR and its NGO Forum since the 1st PrepCom in May 2000 in Geneva. The first problems occurred already there: the UNO (Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) invited all anti-racist NGOs of the world but neither reimbursed their travel costs nor contributed to their accommodation cost in Geneva. By this, many NGOs were practically prevented from attending – especially those from the 2nd and 3rd world. From about 250 NGO delegates present there were some 50 US-based ones but only two from the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). African NGOs were almost exclusively represented by their people living and/or working in Geneva.

The UN-NGO Liaison Unit suggested to set up an NGO steering committee to manage the preparations on behalf of the NGOs (as was the case in Beijing 1995). This idea was outright rejected by the present NGOs. There were much more conflicting issues and mistrust among the NGOs than in the women’s or environmental movements. Anti-racist and human-rights NGOs did not want to be managed or steered. After a week of very tough and chaotic negotiations, a broad open structure was set up. This structure consisted of a larger global political decision-making body, the Co-ordinating Committee (CC). It has 63 seats representing all regions and constituencies, and a small Facilitating Team (FT) charged exclusively with technical tasks (therefore there was no need of representativity), consisting of 12 persons. Because everyone was aware that it would not be legitimate to elect the members of the two bodies, some posts were not filled and left open for those (sub)regions not properly represented at that meeting in Geneva. The other persons were elected in Geneva only ad interim. It was decided that all regions should elect or appoint their proper delegates by the 1st November 2000. No region did this in time. Europe was able to announce its delegates on the 21st December whilst some other constituencies elected only their representatives during the 2nd PrepCom in the end of May 2001.

This was the key argument for the Liaison Office and SANGOCO (charged with the task to form the Secretariat of the NGO Forum in January 2001) to refuse the whole NGO structure as too big to communicate with and inflexible. They rejected the idea of a big political body and insisted to transform the non-political Facilitating Team into a political decision-making body, the NGO International Steering Committee (ISC). They had a strong argument: funds were made available for two meetings of the ISC only, there were no funds for the CC. Some NGOs from the 3rd World rejected the whole structure – they did not consider it legitimate because it was set up at the 1st PrepCom in their (forced) absence.

Of course, all this meant that the ISC had to be set up from point zero because now it became THE political body and thus different constituencies insisted to be represented in it. The ISC membership increased to 20 while the only criterion was to be the delegate of a region or constituency – no organisational or political skills were required. The last seats in ISC were filled at the 3rd PrepCom only (at the end of July – one month before the start of the event!). Some members possessed organisational or political skills, some members followed only the issues important for their constituency. The only possibility left to keep the NGO structure broad and open was to convene the Co-ordinating Committee by the two European members of the ISC. At its first and last meeting (on the 27th of July), the CC was renamed ‘Joint Co-ordinating Council’ (JCC) but never reconvened, not even during the NGO Forum in Durban where the majority of its members were present.

The same happened with the drafters who had already done an enormous task, compiling the declarations from all regional NGO Forums during the preparatory process. Different constituencies insisted to set up an official drafting committee consisting of delegates of all different regions and constituencies. It was obvious that a big body would not be able to work properly and that there were no funds foreseen for the work of such a body. The whole drafting process started from zero and the European delegate resigned. Another Drafting Committee of 8 persons was set up in August.

Finally, SANGOCO deprived the ISC of all organisational competence when it took the role of Secretariat of the ISC – beside the tasks of the Secretariat of the NGO Forum. Two European delegates (from UNITED and ENAR) had a very difficult position in the ISC since they were its only white members. Some other members were extremely sensitive to us – we could be sure that every word that might have a double meaning was understood in its unwanted meaning and we were accused of racism. There was a barrier of different organisational methods and cultural habits. For example, I was making the minutes of all meetings since May 2000. When the new ISC met for the first time I proposed continuing doing so, despite the fact that my English was not perfect. Some delegates of SANGOCO felt this proposal was a white supremacist move, as if I did not have confidence in the ability of people of colour to do that job properly. So this task was transferred to SANGOCO/Secretariat of the NGO Forum.

The main problem occurred when the Secretariat presented a Programme of the NGO Forum to the ISC for approval. It was titled “Final Programme of the NGO Forum” and the Secretariat told us that it had already been sent to the print shop, that all chairpersons, rapporteurs and resource persons listed in it had already been invited and their flight tickets had been paid for (with UN funds)! The ISC noted that the mix of those “dignitaries” made by the Secretariat was arbitrary and did not contain the most dedicated and respected personalities of many groups targeted by racism and related intolerance. The Draft NGO Declaration by the Secretariat was of a similar kind – it took a one-sided position in some conflicts (Middle East) and some issues were (Roma/Sinti) distorted or missing. Since the delegates of SANGOCO and the Secretariat had already returned home, the ISC sent two members to South Africa to negotiate on the programme, in order to make room at least to those personalities known to be going to WCAR anyhow. The ISC delegates negotiated for two days with all local organisers present managed to come to a consensus on the programme, after which they went back to Geneva to report to the ISC. The final programme was made and immediately (on 4th of August) sent to the Secretariat by e-mail.

What a surprise! The Secretariat printed out and distributed its “Final Programme” version from July, not the one agreed upon together with ISC in the beginning of August. This time we decided not to subsequently (ex-post) approve this ‘ready-made reality’ the ISC was presented with. The ISC rewrote the programme overnight and distributed it the next morning with an apology to the participants of the NGO Forum. This evoked a hysterical reaction from some of the local organisers. One staff member distributed a pamphlet accusing the whole “reactionary ISC” of undermining the common fight against racism. At the same time, the participants were facing a chaotic situation with their accommodation, registration and repayment of scholarships. Instead of attending meetings they came for, they were forced to wait in long queues. Despite all that SANGOCO and the Secretariat did a huge amount of work and were quite successful in a lot of matters. The main reason of the problems seemed to be that they mixed up the organisational tasks they were charged with by the HCHR Office with their own political ambitions. They didn’t allow the ISC to take the political decisions and when they did they often did not respect those decisions.

For example, nobody consulted the ISC or even informed it in advance of the fact that Fidel Castro was to speak for two hours at the final ceremony. This was a political decision. Staff members pretended and demanded to be treated equally as the elected representatives of the global NGO community. The consequence was a series of organisational and political problems, since nobody would have been able to successfully fulfil the organisational and political tasks even if they were working for 25 hours a day. For the next (world) conference: since the UN also pays the organizing bureau, it should set rules and regulations for the organizing bureau or structure, eg. that it should not have any (political) agenda or just be a commercial bureau.

The majority of ISC members defended the interests of their own constituency but were not eager to solve the conflicts of other groups. When it became obvious that the NGO community would not reach consensus on the Middle East issue, the ISC should have resigned to its political decision-making role. For example by doing the same as the governments finally did: either reach a consensus or delete the contradictory issues completely, with the result of having a document with some “holes” in it but respected by the whole NGO community and perhaps by governments too. Instead, the ISC came up with a “Solomon’s solution”: Let all victims describe their situation as they see it, in their own language, without interference from others, not even when describing their situation would insult other groups of victims. It is obvious that you cannot come to a coherent and balanced result by that method.

Indeed, even this most important principle was abandoned during the final plenary session of the NGO Forum on the 1st of September: the Ecumenical Caucus raised a motion to delete a paragraph from the text drafted by the Thematic Commission on Anti-Semitism. That motion was carried in a shouting crowd. In protest, the Jewish NGOs left the meeting without any attempt by the South African chairperson to call them back and to have their voice heard. The Roma Caucus then refused to speak and vote. When I (as the “watch-dog” for the Rules of Procedure on behalf of ISC at that meeting) raised an objection as a point of order. The chairperson has not put it to vote, influenced by the same shouting crowd. Finally, he had not put the whole document to the final vote, explicitly requested by the Rules of Procedure. The procedure was quite strange because dozens of amendments to the draft were put to a vote and approved without having been read or tabled at all. By the way, the Secretariat together with some ISC member wrote and distributed to the participants another set of the Rules of Procedure then the ones approved immediately before that by the ISC. None of those were followed but for the rule of 5 minutes’ speaking time per caucus.

I sought a remedy at the next ISC meeting on the 2nd September. The ISC was in a position to decide on this point of order by undoing the illegal change (the deletion of § 14 on Anti-Semitism). This would have not been a purely procedural but a political decision so the ISC found another “Solomon’s solution”. Instead of a judging that the Rules of Procedures had been breached the ISC said that “for different reasons at that meeting, a different process emerged which has not been foreseen but it does not necessarily mean a violation of the Rules of Procedure. It considers the final NGO documents as adopted by the final plenary session but agrees to accompany it with a cover text explaining that the documents include the voice of victims and therefore they may reflect contradictory opinions.” I warned that this decision would probably cause great political damage to the whole document and movement. Despite that, some ISC members (without having informed the others) and even non-members entered the closed working session of the Drafting Committee and demanded not only to delete or change the aforementioned cover text but also to change the already adopted NGO document in the section on Anti-Semitism. After some attempts at discussion, the Drafting Committee felt so much intimidated that it left the workplace. The invaders then took the finalisation of the NGO document in their own hands.

The Eastern and Central Europe NGO Caucus reacted on this development by distancing itself from the whole NGO document containing hate language. Altogether 70 NGOs (also from Western Europe and Northern America) signed that protest declaration. The Secretary General of the WCAR, Ms. Mary Robinson, announced that for the first time in the history of the UN summits, she would not be able to commend the NGO document to the governments.

The NGO Declaration and Programme of Action
After having spoken with many activists, I believe that it would not be wise to refuse the whole document because of several paragraphs showing a clear intolerance and disrespect to others (including to UN resolutions). Too many groups of victims see their key issues (e.g. reparations for slave trade and colonialism) included after long years of fight for this kind of recognition (e.g. the Dalits). Refusing the Declaration would deepen the gaps in the anti-racist movement. Neither is it possible to accept the hate-mongers’ claims for respect of their language. It is not possible to change the document but it might be good to use its other parts (e.g. Education) when the opportunity is there. The contradictory parts concerning the Middle East cannot eventually be used in the conflict – its parties unfortunately use much “stronger” arguments than words. The world has seen it immediately after the WCAR.

Respecting the right of victims to be heard, I see the main problem in the language used in the paragraphs 162, 418, 419, 424 and 425 of the NGO Declaration and Programme of Action – sections Palestine and Palestinians:

§ 162: We declare Israel as a racist, apartheid state…
Generally, one can speak about a racist or apartheid government or regime. To declare a state as a racist entity could mean (and many participants of the NGO Forum are sure that this is the purpose of the language used) that this entity has no right to exist.
§ 418: … call for the reinstitution of UN resolution 3379 determining the practices of Zionism as racist practices…
This is a counterproductive demand for the whole anti-racist movement.
§ 419: Call for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to investigate and bring to justice those who may be guilty of war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing and the crime of Apartheid…
Genocide and ethnic cleansing are terms of the international law. Whoever visited Auschwitz or Rwanda knows that this was incomparable with what is happening in Palestine (not denying the crimes committed by the Israeli government but their quantity is incomparable). Everyone should agree with placing this paragraph as general, not singling out Israel.
§ 424: …Call upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, …
Practically the whole NGO community and many governments have recognised that blockades are not successful and that they cause suffering of ordinary people, not changing the minds of the governments.
§ 425: Condemnation of those states who are supporting, aiding and abetting the Israeli Apartheid state and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide.
The same as to § 419.

The globalisation of capital has social and environmental consequences – all anti-globalisation activists know that. Indeed, the NGO document speaks only about the social ones (as a source of racism). The environmental impacts (e.g. the refusal of the Kyoto protocol by the USA) are misinterpreted as isolated “environmental racism” which in fact has very little to do with real racism. This may divide us from our natural allies.

Follow up
I was afraid that the governments would not be able to produce a consented declaration and programme of action. My most important dream (besides to contribute to a consistent and balanced NGO document) was that a global network of anti-racist and human-rights NGOs would be set up in Durban – after the environmental NGOs had done so in Rio de Janeiro, social NGOs had done in Copenhagen and women’s NGOs in Beijing. None of the networks has a central secretariat as far as I know. The relations among those NGOs are not ideal but they feel the necessity to discuss the global issues instead of fighting each other. They fight for common goals while respecting the plurality of the movements as well as the different ways and strategies of other NGOs in order to achieve the common goals. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the anti-racist NGOs. There was lots of mistrust and disrespect from the first moment of the preparatory process. I strongly believed that relations would improve during the NGO Forum when people would come together, get to know each other and speak with each other. Instead, some people came to win over “the others” or to push forward their particular cause. In this atmosphere, no attempt to organize a broad discussion on the future of the movement was made. Many ISC members got frustrated, seeing the fights and worsening relations between people and groups during the NGO Forum.

All of us would probably agree that another conference (“Durban +5”) accompanied by an NGO Forum is needed to strengthen and deepen the fight against the scourge of racism as well as to fill the gaps between the governments and between the NGOs. I already asked the Czech government to offer Prague as its venue. The mandate of the ISC has expired. Nobody has been mandated to serve as a “central committee” of the movement (if it still is a movement). We have a very difficult task before us to build up mutual trust and respect among NGOs if we want to create a global network during the preparatory process of the next conference. To achieve this, we have to work on a regional basis. The regional representations should communicate and co-operate with each other frequently. Mutual support is very important while not imposing the Western culture or “US democracy” on the other regions but rather listening to their concerns.

If the United Nations want to see such a movement they have to support it financially not only from their budget but also by encouraging big donors to do so. Instead of founding an official structure with a strong center and paid staff which in this phase could hardly gain the trust of the whole movement, I would advise to have the necessary tasks decentralized. This means that some experienced NGO/network should keep the dissemination of information, another should update the databases, another one should organise fund raising for the necessary tasks, etc. There would be nobody entitled to speak on behalf of the whole movement and no secretariat to speak in the name of non-existing or non-operational bodies.

It would be good to concentrate on the National Action Plans in between, i.e. to lobby for their adoption by each and every government and for their implementation in co-operation with NGOs. By doing that, we could improve our positions in our societies as well as towards the governments and UNO.
Two Weeks in Durban
By Jeremy Jones

28/9/2001- The week when Big Brother debuted on South African television, an event with far more Orwellian overtones took place in the Indian Ocean port city of Durban. The UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), preceded by an international conference of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) on the same theme, provided eye-openers, not only on racism but on the moral bankruptcy of many so-called human rights organisations and the cynicism which dictates the course of so much of international relations. For Australians, particularly Jewish Australians, the two conferences had the redeeming feature of reinforcing just how lucky we are to live in an open, democratic society which, for all its blemishes, treats international human rights seriously.

The two main conferences were preceded by a Youth Summit, which in a sense set the scene for the following two weeks. Delegates were given free T-shirts which bore the official logo of the conference and a slogan identifying Israel as an evil regime which should be dismantled immediately. Youth Summit delegates, or more correctly the tiny minority of Youth Summit delegates allowed to have any say in the proceedings, rejected a proposal to support peace in the Middle East and Jewish students found themselves the targets of derision, insult and abuse. Non-Jewish members of the Australian contingent which participated in this conference told me repeatedly of their concern at the way in which the conference organisers had bullied, cajoled and even threatened any individuals who suggested that democracy had a place at the conference (or elsewhere).

The early registrants at the NGO Forum were given a booklet of “political” cartoons which included some of the most obscene antisemitic stereotypes ever printed, including one which pictured a caricature of a Jew which a large hooked nose, claws and fangs dripping blood. All around Kingsmead Stadium posters and banners comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and to Apartheid South Africa were prominently displayed. A large number of NGO delegates came from countries where there are no organisations able to legally function unless they do the government’s dirty work and these were supplemented by large and visible media contingents from countries which treat freedoms with complete contempt. During the opening ceremony, the conference chairperson railed against Israel but did not find time to refer to many, many victims of racism who had thought that this conference would provide a platform. On the first afternoon, as the business of the Forum commenced, parallel session after parallel session provided podiums for extreme anti-Israel propaganda, pointedly provided at the expense of any meaningful consideration of many different experiences by victims of racism. The session on Hate Crimes not only had a speaker whose thesis was that Israel’s existence is a “hate crime”, but witnessed the shocking scene of a person asking a question regarding the procedure during the session being greeted with shouts of “Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew” and another questioner, a woman with a South African accent, being heckled with the abuse “Israeli dog”.

By the second day of the Forum, participants were reporting that the notorious antisemitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was being sold in the exhibition tent, set up for the distribution of anti-racist materials. Regular reports of anti-Jewish intimidation, including assault, were streaming into the Jewish caucus and to the conference organisers, with the latter unwilling to take any action. After months of wrangling in the lead up to the conference, members of the Jewish caucus had secured the inclusion of a formal session on antisemitism, but by the third day of the conference, when it was scheduled to take place, there were genuine concerns for the safety of participants. When the scheduled session began it was clear that a large number of people present had come not to discuss antisemitism but to make sure that the Jewish caucus felt intimidated. It is probably worth noting that one of the few rules under which the conference seemed to operate was that victims of a particular form of racism were not to have their telling of their own experience altered by outsiders. This procedure meant that any individual could stand up and personally lie, without fear of contradiction – a method used in much of the anti-Israel propagandising.

In the session on antisemitism it became clear that those who had benefited from this policy elsewhere were planning on doing their utmost to overturn it should Jewish people not simply cave in to overt intimidation. After a series of papers given by experts from the US, Canada, Uruguay, Europe and Australia it became noticeable that the crowd at the only large entrance to the meeting tent was growing in its number and aggression. When the final resource person, a student leader from Israel, was speaking, the crowd started moving towards the area where most of the Jewish participants were sitting, yelling and threatening. Their hate, whipped up by individuals whose name tags identified them as coming from South Africa, Iran, Palestine and the US, was undisguised and virtually tactile. After the intervention of a few brave souls, including one prominent African National Congress figure, enough calm was restored for the meeting to reconvene, although the only way this could happen was through the formation of smaller working groups.

Throughout these first three days there were a series of instances where a small group of Jewish students distributing material critical of the anti Israel maximalism were confronted by a large group of noisy and aggressive protesters. Police had to intervene on a number of occasions and it is telling that, as all photographs and film footage reveal, all the offensive and threatening behaviour came from the anti-Israel side in the “confrontations”. In response to the hostility, which resulted in many of the Jewish delegates hiding their name tags and even to some of the kippa-wearing male delegates wearing caps out of fear, the Jewish caucus convened a media conference, inside the media tent, as this was regarded as the least likely place in which Jewish delegates would be physically attacked. However, before the opening statements could be completed, a group of shouting, jeering, fist-waving, shoving demonstrators, including a number wearing media badges, forced the abandonment of what had been hoped would be a rare opportunity for Jewish voices to be heard. The situation had deteriorated to such a degree that a workshop which comprised a formal part of the program, on the subject of Holocaust Denial, had to be cancelled on security advice, leaving the presenters from Canada, Belgium, Australia and South Africa free to soak in the atmosphere of a conference which had held out so many prospects.

While all this was going on, a group of Hamas activists were parading about the conference centre and its environs with three members of the eccentric Jewish sect, Neturei Karta, who purport to be the only “authentic” Jews and espouse the view that Israel’s existence is a sin. Their commitment to Judaism was well illustrated by their decision to demonstrate against Israel, carrying placards, on the Sabbath, while the Jews they describe as “unauthentic” were attending synagogue services. The fact that these street performers found no problem with the distribution of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” or doing the dirty work for organisations which speak not only of their dream of destroying Israel but also of subjugating Jews was unfortunately of no interest to the media throng excited by the prospect of “dissident” Jews. Not too dissimilar in their actions during the conference were a number of “anti-Zionist” Jews, from Israel and South Africa, who also seemed to have no problem with the overt antisemitism, as long as they were still given a platform at the conference to give their views on why Israel should cease to exist as a Jewish state, or as a state in any form. Given the conduct of the conference, it was hardly surprising that the final documents produced, as an alleged summary of the consensus views of the Forum, should be approved and adopted in a manner reflecting the corruption, dishonesty and racism of the conference organisers, supplemented by the cynicism and immoral pragmatism of conference participants who thought that as long as their special interests were looked after the antisemitism and complete intellectual dishonesty of both the process and the sections on the Middle East were not a problem.

It was hardly out of step with the way the conference had proceeded that the final Declaration was not adopted until many NGO participants had left Durban. To her credit, UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, refused to participate in a ceremony to accept the conference outcome documents. One of the saddest outcomes of the behaviour by the organisers and anti Israel/antisemitic bully brigade was that many issues of real concern received very little airing, if any. Many fine human rights activists and brave spokespeople for victims of racism had come to the Forum in the hope that others would learn of some of their pain and work towards alleviating contemporary racism and the scars inflicted by previous practices of racism. The Dalits, the lowest rung on the caste ladder, were probably the only group which made itself heard above the intensive propagandising of the anti-Israel lobby. There were no “winners” in the NGO Forum. The organisers were responsible for a corrupt process and breaking their own rules as the days went on and which set the stage for what many have described as the most antisemitic international event in the post-war period. The anti-Israel campaigners may have achieved an insertion of hateful language in the final documents but lost an enormous amount of credibility through their bullying and inability to respond to the arguments of a small and ill-prepared group of Jewish activists. The tirade of antisemitism which so much of the so-called human rights community either promoted or tolerated is of great concern to Jews and to all who genuinely oppose racism. Victims of racism around the world lost after their forum was so crudely hijacked by the most fanatic of single issue propagandists.

About the only people who left the conference with their dignity intact were the members of the Eastern and Central European caucus who showed a genuine concern for all victims of racism while lambasting the dishonesty and outrageous behaviour which marked so much of the Forum. As the NGO Forum was concluding, the UN conference was opening. With official delegations from over 150 countries, the formal atmosphere and the leadership from the secretariat was far different from that which prevailed in the NGO Forum, but the tension remained high. The Conference convened with only working drafts of the Declaration and Program of Action, which meant that a great deal of work had to be done at the conference itself. The issue of the participation by Israel and the US figured prominently in the minds of delegates, as did the issue of the way in which slavery and other “past” issues could be settled in any consensus manner.

The opening speeches were marked with appeals, desperate appeals, for participants to not waste time throwing invective at Israel or other parties, but to concentrate on producing a blueprint for combating racism. Nevertheless, formal speeches at the plenary by member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and their totalitarian allies were replete with hate-filled anti-Israel invective. Leaflets on the desk where delegates collected their daily program included some referring to “Nazi Israel Apartheid” but these paled into irrelevancy when compared to the formal speeches by some of the designated representatives of national governments. Two positive highlights of the plenary session were the dignified and thoughtful paper delivered by the Israeli representative Mordechai Yedid and the intervention by Australia in response to the Declaration of the NGO Forum. In the latter situation Australia’s Ambassador to the UN, John Dauth, used his Right-of-Reply (a procedure used only sparingly during the conference) to point out that the Declaration was unacceptable and a discredit to all identified with it, due to sections which were “deplorable”.

While speech after speech took place in the plenary hall, national delegations were going through hundreds of paragraphs in the
Declaration and the Program of Action, attempting to reach consensus on every sentence, word and punctuation mark. After a short time it became clear that Australia, Canada, the European Union, most Latin American and some Asian and African countries, were working to produce rational, positive and forward looking documents, while the Arab League, the other nations in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Cuba and a number of Caribbean and African states seemed hell bent on using the conference purely as a platform for promoting propaganda at the expense of any serious work against racism. As if the work in these sessions was not demanding and exhausting enough, slabs of paragraphs relating to the Middle East (and related subjects such as antisemitism, Islamaphobia and the Holocaust), the Past (slavery, colonialism and the like) or those containing lists of victims or grounds of victimisation were referred to small groups of designated states who had the job of producing wording which could be accepted by consensus.

The decision of Israel and the US to attend, at the very last moment, reminded serious delegations that the credibility of the Conference depended on it sticking to its aims, rather than being distracted or redirected by those who had come, as they were happy to tell anyone who would listen, to ensure that the Nazi Holocaust was not mentioned in the Conference documents, antisemitism was either excluded or had its meaning maliciously twisted and for Israel to be identified as the only country on this world which deserved to be singled out for alleged “racism”. At the half way point of the Conference, the US and Israel determined that the fight against racism was best served if they were to leave. One will never know if their timing was optimal, if it would have been better if they had never arrived or if the process would have been expedited had they stayed. What can be said is that, after they left, the democratic nations of the world with Australia, Guatemala, the European Union and Canada in the lead, were steadfast in their refusal to allow the Holocaust to be denigrated, “antisemitism” to be twisted and contorted by antisemites or Israel to be treated as a pariah. At the time the Conference was scheduled to end, nothing approaching final documentation had achieved agreement. As the Conference clock ticked into overtime, agreement was reached on the way in which the Conference would describe the victims of racism, the grounds for racism, the legacy of past practices such as slavery and colonialism and, well after all had seemed lost, an unhappy compromise regarding the Middle East was achieved. In the matters which were not so contentious it is worth placing on record the leading, constructive role played by Australia, with experts from Canberra being responsible for some of the more logical, progressive and achievable aims in fields such as education, potential for NGOs to participate in decision-making and in international cooperation against trans-national racist activity.

The outcome of the Conference was such that countries such as Israel and Australia were able to make it a far more successful exercise than seemed possible in the days, weeks and months leading to it. Although the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and their allies had been defeated in just about every one of their assaults on common decency, logic and truth, they still managed to distract attention from the many and numerous human rights abuses which they commit or promote. They also achieved an unhelpful mention of the Israel-Arab issue in documents on racism and even a pair of offensive paragraphs, which one can only hope are not allowed to undermine progress towards peace. In the Government Forum, Australia can hold its head high as a supporter of the highest democratic principles and for its willingness to often say things which needed to be said but which other countries may have chosen to leave alone. The European Union, Canada, Guatemala , Brazil and a number of other countries which may not have been as vocal but were similarly guided by a commitment to combat racism also showed dignity and strength. The host country, South Africa, was, to say the least, schizophrenic. Some of the South African delegates were part of that core working to try to achieve something valuable from the Conference while others seemed more attracted to the pseudo-Marxist rhetoric of the one-party dictatorships.

It is not possible at this point to assess whether the Conference will prove valuable or will have damaged the struggle against racism or, for that matter, resulted in something between these two poles – but we can say that, if they surprise us all and indulge in some honest
self-reflection, the anti-Israel claque will admit that they were, most deservedly, humiliated as a consequence of their disingenuity and transparent dishonesty.
The moment antiracists tolerate or even promote one kind of racism and only fight the other kinds they are no longer antiracists.
By Ronald Eissens

8/10/2001- As we are writing this, the shock about the terrible attack on the twin towers in New York is still very much with us. Even in the name of a just cause, people can do great evil. In the name of a just cause, people can set aside humanity and see people as objects to use. During the WCAR, which seems a hundred years ago, we have seen some of this. People can become so blinded by their own suffering that they deny others the reality of their suffering. People can set aside the suffering of others and proclaim that their own suffering is greater. People can be so caught up in their own issue that they don’t care what the consequences of their deeds might be. ICARE stands for openness and transparency. As a NGO news service we decided two years ago to help the process along that led up to the WCAR. We did this by facilitating communication and a fast and free flow of information for the NGO community, through mailinglists for the NGOs (un-discussion list), for regional Co-ordinating Committees (CCs), for the International Steering Committee (ISC), and through our website and through the use of all other new media like chat and realvideo. In Durban we did this with a multi-ethnic news team that brought daily reports. A lot of things happened during the WCAR, and in our tradition of openness and transparency we want to bring you information which up till now we did not. So here is our final issue, as we promised on the last day of the WCAR. It has a lot of negative and some positive things. Almost like real life.

There is a dark cloud of hate descending upon this world. If we want to keep the dark away, we need to see clear and get rid of the hate. Which means we have to be open and transparent about facts. We are an antiracism NGO, so it is our duty and our moral obligation to speak out against racism. Especially, I would say, when an antiracism conference becomes the scene of racism. The fact that racism was allowed to run rampant during the WCAR is astonishing. What is even more astonishing, shameful and harmful for the antiracism cause and for the victims of racism is that the majority of the organisers and participants let that happen, did nothing to stop it and did not speak out during or after the WCAR. The fight against racism and discrimination is a fight against all forms of racism and discrimination. The moment antiracists tolerate or even promote one kind of racism and only fight the other kinds they are no longer antiracists. What happened in Durban should never happen again. In my view, that is part of the mission of the ‘Durban survivors’, making sure that it will not happen again. The other part is to extract the many good paragraphs from the NGO Declaration and Plan of Action and work with those, each in our own region.

“Kill all the Jews”
All through the NGO Forum, there have been Antisemitic incidents. The Arab Lawyers Union had a stall in the NGO exhibition tents displaying gross Antisemitic cartoons. Copies of the infamous ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ were being sold. When the ISC was asked to do something against the Antisemitic cartoons they decided that the cartoons were not racist but ‘political’. After protests made to the secretariat the most extreme material was removed for a while; it was put under the table. Demands were made to the U.N. to nullify the accreditation of The Arab Lawyers Union but nothing came of it. Every day there were picket lines and demonstrations in front of the Kingsmead stadium showing two sides, the Palestinian Caucus and Jewish Students, arguing, screaming, and sometimes fighting. Bloodthirsty banners were displayed. When the NGO forum was officially opened by Mercia Andrews, president of Sangoco, wearing the traditional Khefiyah (Arab Head-dress), holding her fist into the air and shouting ‘Free Palestine’ the tone was set. Jews were actively discriminated, shouted down, meetings on Antisemitism were hijacked by Palestinian Caucus members and supporters, and people who protested against all this were branded ‘Zionist pigs lovers’ and ‘Jewlovers’. Some NGOs were intimidated into silence. There was fear to be branded as ‘Zionist’. There were NGOs and people who openly agreed with the antisemite slogans.

One day Palestinian Caucus members blocked a minibus full of Jewish students and tried to stop them from going into the stadium. Unseemly pushing and shoving developed because of the distribution of T-shirts with the slogan ” When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” Mercia Andrews was part of the Palestinian blockade and wanted to have the Jewish students who handed out the T-Shirts arrested. South African police broke up the skirmish and decided that since both sides were handing out material there was no problem.

The big September 1st demonstration had a lot of slogans, covered a lot of issues, but one was most dominant: Free Palestine. In the march, slogans were carried like “kill all the Jews” and “the good things Hitler did”. Pamphlets were handed out with a portrait of Hitler, displaying the text:
‘ What if I had won? The good things: There would be NO Israel and NO Palestinian’s blood shed – the rest is your guess. The bad things: I wouldn’t have allowed the making of the new beetle – the rest is your guess’
This march ended at the Durban Jewish Club, which was another sign that the organisers not only see the state of Israel as the enemy but all Jewish people. The Jewish club had been evacuated a few hours earlier and the South African police had the building screened-off with riot police and armoured cars. A big demonstration during a World Conference Against Racism that ends as an Antisemitic rally that the Nazis would have been proud of. Through all ‘incidents’ , neither Sangoco, nor the International Steering Committee nor the South African Authorities spoke out.

The adoption of the NGO Declaration and Program of Action
The adoption of the NGO declaration was hardly democratic. There was only voting over amendments and paragraphs based on the method of 1 vote per caucus. There was no vote on the complete Declaration and PoA, moreover, when the Declaration and Program of Action were ‘adopted by consensus’ it was in the middle of the night and there were only 14 of the 41 caucuses left at that time. The Jewish NGOs walked out of the meeting and later on the Roma and Sinti Caucus did the same because they did not want to be seen as a ‘caucus that supported hateful language’. There were numerous antisemitic incidents and slogans. People who did not agree with the hate-language in the Declaration and who wanted to say something about that were shouted down. People who tried to criticise anything were made suspect ‘You are a Jew, your body language betrays you! You are a GONGO!’ (Government Organised NGO). Lots of people left in tears or in disgust.

The following days a number of NGOs (100 up till now) undersigned a statement by The Eastern and Central European Caucus which spoke out against (parts of) the text of the Declaration and the Antisemitic incidents.

You could say that the Palestinian NGOs at the WCAR did their work, they pushed their cause as it is the mission of NGOs to do that. They were highly effective but went over the top. So much so that damage was done. Damage to their reputation, damage to the democratic process and damage to the NGO forum itself. Not to speak of the damage done to the antiracism community at large. Antisemitism against, -and intimidation of anyone who was thought to be Jewish, friendly to Jews or member of a Jewish organisation ran wild. It was a hijack and we all let ourselves be hijacked, some even fully assisted the hijackers. Some ISC and Sangoco members even did that. Lots of important issues did not get the attention they deserved or were just not heard at all. The great majority of the International Steering Committee did nothing to stop all this. Those who tried were overruled.

The raid on the Drafting Committee
In the evening of September 3, members of the Palestinian Caucus, together with a few members of the ISC and Sangoco invaded the office where the drafting committee was working hard to incorporate all amendments and new paragraphs that resulted from the Declaration adoption-meeting on September 1st. They demanded from the drafters that some paragraphs were changed and some put into another section (e.g. the paragraphs on Antisemitism should be moved to the section on Palestine since Antisemitism was in fact against ‘Semites’, which are Arab people). The drafters asked them to leave several times since their presence was illegal, no-one, not even ISC members, were allowed to enter the drafting room. This did not help, the invaders shouted, screamed and intimidated the drafters. Says one drafter: “They shouted that we were all jewlovers since we did not want to make any changes. We told them that they were trying to corrupt the process and that they should get out. They did not listen. The present ISC members gave them full support”. Drafters were personally threatened. Bizarre remarks were made. “You look Jewish! Now we understand why you do not want to change anything in the draft!”

In the end, one of the drafters and one of the ISC members just got out, taking a copy of the draft with them on a diskette. The rest of the drafters stayed and managed to hold out despite the pressure, not letting the raiders change anything, until the abuse and threats went too far, when they just handed a diskette with the declaration to the invaders and left. In the rush, some 20 pages were not copied onto that disk and the next morning two declarations saw the light, one published by (part of) the ISC and one published by the drafters. One had 20 pages missing, which gave fuel to the story that the drafters had done this on purpose. During the NGO briefing that morning the chairwoman of the Drafting committee spoke out passionately against the people who had raided the office and one ISC member who had been present at the raid and who also did not agree gave a short account of the happenings. Another ISC member who was on the side of the raiders denounced the story about the raid as being ‘an anti-Palestinian plot’. We have heard the accounts of the majority of the drafters and two ISC members who were present and the sad conclusion is that the above description of the raid is accurate.

Chaos reigns
What made it easier for some people to influence the democratic process during the NGO Forum and WCAR was the lack of information on the terrain itself. Caucus meetings were called and notices on that were sometimes posted, sometimes not. Word-of-mouth sometimes worked. Sometimes not. A caucus meeting taking place on a given day would attract 40 people and the next day there would be 30 different people, or 100 people of whom 60 did not go to the meeting on the previous day, since they did not know there was a meeting scheduled. This resulted in meetings being big fights about decisions which were taken the day before, decisions with which newcomers did not necessarily agree. Some people just showed up with 50 people the next day to take over a meeting and nullify the decisions from the day before. Very messy. Some caucuses were even taken over. For example the European Caucus was taken over by people who’s only aim it was to stop that caucus from making a statement against the hateful language in the NGO Declaration.

Of course there is hope. Hope begins in the dark. Hope is a thing with feathers that will fly. My hope is that people will stop bombing other people because of the deeds of individuals. My hope is that people will stop blaming other people for what a state does. My hope is that people will stop spreading hate under whatever guise. My hope is that there will be peace between Palestinians and Israeli’s, that violence stops, that terrorism stops, that Dalits will have their justice, their equity under the law, that the Western world recognises and repairs historical wrongs like slavery and colonialism. My hope is that racism ends. Lots of hopes, if I would not have them I would not even get out of bed in the morning. Some people did not see any problems in Durban, did not see any hate, racism or disrespect. Well, if that is their perception, so be it. We all have our own perception, even when facts hit us in the face like bullets. Or stones. Suzette and I were in Northern-Ireland to give a prejudice reduction workshop, a few days after coming back from Durban. In Northren-Ireland they have their very own perceptions. They even think that there is a physical difference between Catholics and Protestants. When asked what this difference exactly is they can’t tell. “But it is there!” they say. They see a thing which nobody else in the whole world sees. A thing which is in their minds, put there by hate. First we need to talk with each other about perceptions. See each other as we are, not what the hate lets us see. Then we can talk about equity and peace.
Speech by Erika Harriford, read during a Day of Reflection on Durban and Beyond in Paris, organized by C.L.E.F. and MAPP On December 7, 2001.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure as well as a sincere sadness that I am here today to speak to you on the demise of the European Caucus of NGOs during the third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The WCAR was to be a forum where integrity, candor and democratic principles would aid in the promotion of justice for all victims of racism and discrimination. However, as you will now hear, the very opposite of this occurred – dishonesty, manipulation and a blindness to an ability to be discriminatory and bigoted were rampant – thus enabling the dismantling of one of the strongest and most productive caucuses in Durban – the European Caucus.

History of the European Caucus
The European Caucus of NGOs was created in May of 2001 during the Second Prep. Com for the WCAR. The caucus was diverse – politically, culturally and racially- and consisted of national and international NGOs from all regions of Europe. The caucus’ original mandate was to develop a set of post-Durban guidelines for National Action Plans. These action plans were designed primarily to aid European States in implementing the measures adopted in the Governmental Declaration and Programme of Action for the WCAR. Although in many ways the guidelines were specific to Europe and European issues, they were also drafted so that States outside of Europe would have an initial framework to begin effective post-Durban follow-up.

As a founding member of the caucus, I am proud to say that the input gathered from the various members of European NGOs helped to develop a focused and articulate document that recognized and addressed a broad range of direct and intersectional issues concerning race and discrimination. Language concerning legislative actions, the media, education as well as the protection of women, the Roma, migrant workers, reparations, youth and children were all present in the guidelines. In addition, the issue of governmental follow-up on all levels – international, regional and national- were addressed as was the necessity of providing a budget to insure adequate follow-up.

In the areas of our document where the European Caucus felt there was not adequate member representation, we sought input from other caucuses to properly address those needs. For example, during Prep. Com II, we gave a copy of our guidelines to every caucus and asked for input and corrections. The suggestions were discussed among the caucus and voted upon for inclusion. Therefore, a greater emphasis was placed on immigration, gender issues, children and youth in our final document. Additionally, during Prep Com II, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, reviewed the document and stated that she believed the document was well-drafted and contained solid proposals for governments, both European and non-European, to use when implementing Durban follow-up.

During Prep. Com III, an alliance was formed between the European Caucus and the African and African Descendants Caucus to support the call for reparations for slavery and colonialism and recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity. A joint statement was drafted and presented to the plenary on behalf of both Caucuses. Throughout Prep. Com II and III, many members of the European Caucus dedicated hours of their time drafting and re-drafting language to produce a document that our caucus could be proud of. Each new development to the document was e-mailed to all listed members. And so it was through this process that the final European Caucus document was produced leaving only our work in Durban.

Durban, South Africa
Four months and numerous e-mails later, the members of the European Caucus from both Prep Coms met again in Durban to promote the previously drafted Action Plans as well as to update new members of the caucus who had not been able to attend meetings prior to Durban. During the NGO Forum, the caucus met daily in the tent provided for European NGO’s. The meetings were well attended and a solid rapport was established among all members – new and old. It should be noted that the caucus meetings were never formally chaired until later in the NGO Forum, when former Prep. Com caucus members were asked to facilitate the discussions to maximize time as well as to provide an informational framework for the meetings. The meetings ran smoothly and a larger and more representative caucus emerged. Combining our various perspectives and opinions, the caucus facilitated the Thematic Commission on Legal Measures, Policies and Procedures and was integral in getting language for Legal measures into the NGO Final Programme of Action. However our solidarity was not to last. Until the “adoption” of the NGO documents, the European Caucus was a well-organized and democratic unit. A noticeably smaller group met the morning after the adoption (most likely due to members staying home to recover from the horrible experience the evening before). The International press began to ask questions – “Do you support the NGO documents?” – “Do you believe the document is “Anti-Semitic?” “Will you renounce the Document?” The press wanted statements from a European perspective and thus we had decisions to make.

We discussed the approach that the caucus should take – Should we should support the NGO documents or renounce them, as other caucuses had already done. A majority of the members wanted to renounce the document, citing the undemocratic process involved (adoption by only 14 of 41 caucuses) as well as the language used. After approximately an hour of debate, it was decided that the document did contain good language and that as a caucus we could support that language, But that the process was undemocratic and that there was language present which could be deemed inciteful and discriminatory. Many caucus members felt that a statement should be released addressing these issues. I was given a mandate to prepare a “draft” press release to address these concerns. We scheduled a meeting later that evening so that more caucus members could attend and to discuss any further actions the caucus should take. In addition, we told caucus members who had already been approached by the press, to inform the press that the European Caucus had not yet come to a consensus.

Later that evening, we re-convened at the Durban Exhibition center. Approximately 20 members came. Our usual attendance was 35 or 40, however, considering that several NGO’s had already left Durban, twenty did not seem particularly low. I brought with me the copy of the “draft” statement. I emphasize the word “draft”, because several members of the European caucus were later accused of having circulated the document to the press. The statement read in part:
The European Caucus supports the rights of victims to define themselves, but cannot endorse language that incites hatred, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerances. Despite our objections to the process, we want to stress that the adopted documents contain strong language which the European caucus fully supports…”

We then listed various areas of the documents that had strong and useful language – such as the language on migrant workers and legal justice, and once again re-iterated our support for the African and African Descendants paragraphs on slavery and colonialism.

I read the statement and then it was translated into French. More members arrived and I was asked to re-read the statement. I did, and we translated the document again. I then handed the statement out for others to review. At this point, several new members of the caucus, who had not yet attended any caucus meetings while in Durban, began to get agitated and demanded that no actions be taken until they could take the draft statement to their NGO’s. We agreed, noting that the statement was only a draft and that we wanted to get consensus from the caucus as to the decision we needed to make. However, we did stress that time was of the essence and that we needed to make some sort of statement (be it that we had one or didn’t) soon. This did not appease these members, who then demanded that a copy of the draft be made for all caucus members (at my own monetary expense), and while looking directly at me demanded proof that everyone in the caucus was European or lived in Europe. I could not help but to take this personally. I am an American, who has lived in Europe but currently resides in the U.S. I joined the European caucus due to my interest in Roma discrimination. As a founding member of the caucus, I put in numerous hours drafting, held meetings and integrated various viewpoints into our action plans. Although I was not able to attend Prep. Com III, I communicated via e-mail daily and contributed language on the Roma as well as helped edit the document for final approval. My status as a non-European had not really been of issue to this point, so I was quite taken aback at the need to make it an issue now.

Fortunately, several members of the caucus came to my defense, and stated that the issue at hand was not a member’s citizenship, but whether as a caucus we needed to make a statement regarding the NGO documents. To eliminate the growing hostility, I agreed to make copies of the statement and to hand them out to members of the caucus the next morning so that they could review the statement before the caucus meeting the next day.

The day of the meeting, I posted several signs with the meeting location and time. In addition, I stood outside the exhibition hall to let caucus members know where to go for the meeting. When I went to the atrium where the meeting was being held, I was shocked. At no time had any European Caucus meeting had more than 40 people in attendance, however at this meeting there were at least 80 people present. Faces that had never been seen and voices that had never been heard in the caucus – at the Prep. Coms or the NGO forum – appeared out of nowhere. The new individuals starting yelling, stating that the use of English as the language of our meetings was discriminatory and that they wanted a French speaker. Suggestions were then taken from the audience, for a French speaking facilitator, but certain members of the caucus continuously vetoed those individuals. Finally, with the noise levels rising, it was agreed that I would chair the meeting, and that Malka would bravely translate between the French and English speakers.

Almost immediately, the new members began throwing out accusations. – The European Caucus only represented the voice of white Europeans! The European Caucus did not support the NGO document because it was run by the Jews or had been paid by the Jews! The European Caucus did not represent issues concerning Blacks! New members then began to criticize Malka’s translation – stating that she was only translating what she wanted to. Now my French is not the best, but even I could tell that Malka was doing her best to translate the paragraphs of sentences being thrown at her at once. The meeting became chaotic. Individuals began screaming at each other and not once did we get to address what actions to take regarding our support of the documents. The meeting was finally broken up when a member of the High Commissioner’s office made us disband, due to the noise from our meeting interrupting a scheduled seminar in a room below. The room emptied and within minutes several of the black members of the caucus – members who had never been involved until that very day – decided to secede and create a Black-European Caucus. This was devastating! Before my very eyes, I saw my caucus, split along the worst lines possible – racial lines. What happened? Who were these people and what was their agenda? I went to speak to several of the “Black caucus” members and got them to agree to meet the next morning, to decide on what actions we should take to 1) heal the European caucus and 2) to address the issue of the NGO documents.

We met the next day and the tension in the room was unbelievable. People actually made a point of segregating themselves, sitting with members of their own “race. With 45 members present (the numbers had noticeably dropped), we began our meeting. After only seconds I realized the futility of this effort. One of the facilitators began to recite a version of how the draft statement came into being – a version that was so dishonest and self-serving, that I could not sit there and let her continue. I went to the microphone and explained that the statement was a draft – as was conspicuously printed in large dark letters across the front of the document. I then explained, contrary to her statements, that we never distributed the draft to the press and that we as a caucus had always included people of all races, ethnicities, religions and other classifications – unlike many other caucuses which were almost discriminatory in their qualifications for membership. I did notice that some faces seem to take in the information I was giving, but that overall, many Black members of the caucus seemed skeptical, if not indifferent to my words.

The “members” voted (by consensus no less) not release any statements without the full-approval of the caucus. This was ridiculous. We were the only caucus that now needed full approval instead of the customary consensus to do anything in the caucus name. I can tell you this, that there is not an organization in existence where full unanimity occurs with a controversial issue. For example , recently, in my own country, one lone African-American member of Congress, Rep. Barbara Lee, stood up to George Bush and the entire Congress to vote against giving full war powers our president. Our caucus never stood a chance after that decision was made. We demanded a list of all European Caucus members, so that we could at least have an idea of who we were comprised of – considering our new growth in membership. Our demand was rejected by the new caucus without a vote. We demanded to know the number of members that needed to be present for any vote. This was also rejected. I left the meeting out of frustration.

By this time the international furor over the NGO documents was huge. Newspapers were stating that the NGOs had produced an Anti-Semitic document and that that we as NGO’s had allowed our conference to be “hijacked” by one cause. Various caucuses had made press statements rejecting the document and a member of one those Caucuses received threatening phone calls due to his caucuses denouncement of the documents. Many members of the original European Caucus (from the Prep. Coms and NGO Forum) decided to release statements from their individual NGOs – even though they realized such statements would not carry the same weight as a caucus statement. Our caucus was left with no voice. We could not issue any statements – in support of the documents or against -unless we had the full approval of an unknown number of unknown members of our caucus. The subsequent meetings of our caucus never had attendance above 15 people. Suddenly all of the angry and interested caucus members had no interest in solidarity among European NGOs. But then again, why should they? They succeeded in what the came to do – silence the European Caucus.

I do not know why this happened, but I have my theories. First, there were so many personal agendas at work at the WCAR that people could not separate their own goals from the goals of their NGO’s or their caucuses. Getting media coverage was key, and having to share it with a caucus was unacceptable for many. Second, I believe that personal bias, discrimination and bigotry played a huge part. I was appalled at the level of Anti-Semitism by the NGO community, and was even more appalled by the fact that the individuals most critical of Zionism and Judaism , never recognized their own Anti-Semitism. Accusations of the caucus being controlled by Jewish members were rampant. I was even asked – to my face- whether I had been paid to be a member of the caucus. In addition to Anti-Semitism, I believe that so many people were drawn into the “I am a victim” mentality that the conference produced – that a large distrust and even hatred began to develop against white Europeans and North Americans. I saw people who had been working together diligently until Durban – suddenly disassociate themselves from their white colleagues, and racialize situations that they themselves had been integral in creating.
What lesson is to be learned? I did not disagree with everything said by the “new” members of the European Caucus. I realize that the number of Black and Asian members was not as large as it could have been through the process. However, one cannot fault those members who were present at Prep.Com II or III for establishing a caucus. In addition to Prep. Com. membership, many new members – both black, white and Asian- joined the caucus at our first meeting in Durban. The caucus and its pre-Durban membership cannot be condemned for continuing their work while others chose to attend other caucus meetings. With 41 caucuses, it was impossible to have all members present at our meetings. But those meetings were scheduled and posted -and we refuse to take the blame for the lack of attendance of those who voluntarily chose to take part in other meetings. It is unfair and unprofessional.

I want to believe that Durban was an anomaly. That under other circumstances, our differences – be they racial, ethnic or religious – would make us stronger and more aware. Durban created an atmosphere of confrontation, which was key in the demise of our caucus. If individuals had just stated that they felt their voices were not truly represented, instead of yelling, intimidating, and manipulating the process, then I believe much more could have been accomplished. Certain people chose to play the “race card”, and as always when that is done – there are no winners. Everyone lost from these actions. We lost our dignity, integrity and sadly, our largest asset – our compassion.

Thank you.
Throughout 2002 and in the beginning of 2003 The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs published a series of articles about the WCAR in Durban. Because the articles are quite lengthy, we’re providing the links to the pdf version of them.

The Durban Debacle: An Insider’s View of the UN World Conference Against Racism

By Tom Lantos, U.S. Congressman from California, served as U.S. Delegate at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. He is the ranking Democratic Party member on the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and is a
founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

Tom Lantos passed away February 11, 2008. His last speech, he’d written for the United Nations’ annual commemoration of the Holocaust was delivered by Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett on behalf of her father on January 28, 2008 New York.
“As a youth in the late 1930s and early ’40s, I witnessed and experienced the deliberate de-legitimization of millions of Jews, proud and
patriotic citizens of countries such as Austria, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia. As momentum gained in the campaign to
demonize and de-legitimize these citizens, and later to strip them of their very humanity, the psychological climate of the Holocaust was being prepared – culminating in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, where I lost my mother.

Two generations after the Holocaust, I never thought – I could not even have imagined – that within the structure of the United Nations there would be some who would attempt to de-legitimatize the Jewish State, the State of Israel, founded and built by the remnants of European Jewry and by the hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Arab lands. Worse still, just as an earlier dictator pledged to destroy the Jews of Europe, so a new one is threatening to destroy the Jewish State. It is the responsibility of the entire world community, long-joined by Germany and its fellow former members of the Axis in the Second World War, to prevent another Holocaust, wherever it may occur, and to keep the memory of the killing of six million Jewish people alive as the State of Israel faces constant attacks, and must fight each day for its very survival. There are many engaged on the other side of that fight, and not only in the Middle East. The very chamber where this evening we commemorate humanity’s recovery from the horrors of the Holocaust is too often the setting for shameless invective against Israel. I am deeply grateful for the numerous principled statesmen of many lands who regularly stand up against this outrage. Their vigilance, like all of ours, must be unceasing.

This point was driven home to me in the bizarre setting of Durban, South Africa, the weekend before the September 11th attacks. The United Nations was holding a conference meant to put an end to racism, a noble goal if ever there was one, but the occasion was hijacked by hate-filled and venomous leaders who perverted the noble idea of ending racism, and turned the conference into a lynch mob against Israel . As the situation galloped toward the surreal and the gathering veered away from its intended topics of ethnic violence, racism or slavery in many countries and toward condemnation of the one democratic state in the Middle East, it was sadly evident to me that this potentially history-making conference was becoming a travesty. Having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand, this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period”.

The World Conference against Racism: Through a Wider Lens
By Gay McDougall, From 1998 until 2002, Gay McDougall served as the first American member of the United Nations treaty body that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. She participated in the World Conference against Racism and its Preparatory Committees in that capacity. Gay McDougall is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Law Group.

The World Conference against Racism: What Was Really Achieved
By Jerry V. Leaphart, active civil rights trial lawyer and a bar member in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. He has over 30 years of experience as a lawyer in both domestic and international practice areas.

A Response to Tom Lantos’ “The Durban Debacle”
By Michael H. Posner, Executive Director Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and Wade Henderson, Executive Director Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

© The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs
By Peleg Reshef

20/8/2007- When I first heard about the Durban Conference, I knew it as the World Conference against Racism (WCAR). As someone who cares deeply about human rights and who, at the time, had just been elected chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students, and as someone who believes that Jews should be at the forefront of the fight for human rights, I obviously thought it would be a good opportunity for Jews to speak out. We were prepared for there to be debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it seemed to us that the Jewish world was not so prepared for what the event became. We [WUJS] had a small delegation of about eight people, Europeans, Israelis and local South African Jewish students.

When we arrived at the Youth Conference (the first of the three conferences being held), we saw people in the hall leading to the meeting room wearing keffiyahs and holding posters of a map of Israel overlaid with a Palestinian flag. They were wearing T-shirts with the iconic image of Mohammed al-Durra and his father on the front and the words “IsReal Apartheid” on the back above the official logo of the conference. There it was, a perfect connection between Israel, apartheid and Mohammed al-Durra, and they were handing it out. We were quite amazed because we thought there would be other groups campaigning and protesting in that same area, but it was just that gimmick being handed out. The people handing out the shirts were not only Palestinians either, they were from Europe, America and elsewhere. The whole debate at that first conference for the students became focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We realized that we had no place there and we walked out.

We spoke to the secretariat, telling him about the T-shirts bearing a biased message with the official logo of the conference. Everything felt one-sided there, like there was no room for us. Then the NGO conference began. There were over 50,000 people there. We needed to decide what to do. We could either walk out and not participate, or we could speak out and make our stand as the Jewish students of the world. In the end, considering the fact that we had come from all over the world to represent Jewish students, we decided to attend The NGO conference was held in a network of tents emblazoned with images of Palestinian women crying. Books were on display showing anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli cartoons. The emphasis was on the Palestinians and no other issue or disenfranchised group mattered. We decided to set up a small stall near the media tent where we displayed some pamphlets, materials about Jews and the State of Israel and an Israeli flag. In less than five minutes, there was a mass of people charging at us and threatening violence, and the police had to interfere by standing between our little display and all those people. We were very intimidated and concerned for our safety as we encountered attempts at physical violence, as well as outright verbal violence.

Then someone from our group started singing “All We are Saying is Give Peace a Chance” by The Beatles. We just sang it and sang it and sang it, and the opposition kept charging at us. The next day we bought some yellow flowers from the markets and began to hand them out as we sang. The media picked up on this effort, which helped begin to balance the message being sent out from the conference. The pro-Palestinian lobby was well-organized, well-financed and very well prepared for this event. The Jewish and Israeli establishments were not.

The Durban Conference was a wake-up call for the Jewish and Israeli establishments. Today, any event-especially the 2009 follow-up to the Durban Conference- will be taken much more seriously. But we [the World Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations] are evaluating the situation at all times and if the follow-up conference is biased and not being led by objective parties, and if it becomes once again about Israel-bashing, we may decide to boycott it. The World Jewish Congress has been invited by the United Nations to take part in the Durban follow-up and is very seriously planning and preparing for its participation in the event. The important role of young people and new strategies for advocacy are being seriously considered.

The Durban Conference was traumatic for the Jewish establishment. I think the Jewish people were traumatized and did wake up. As a result of that experience, we can now better understand the potential impact of such events, and the Jewish establishment has learned the importance of preparing and coordinating our efforts involving these events.
© The Jerusalem Post
Jewish groups cast a watchful eye on the first preparatory meetings for what some are calling Durban II, the follow-up to the infamous U.N.-sponsored conference against racism in 2001.

28/8/2007- Jewish groups cast a watchful eye on this week’s first preparatory meetings for what some are calling Durban II, the follow-up to the infamous U.N.-sponsored conference against racism in 2001. The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa on the eve of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was a scandal of global proportions, according to Jewish officials who were present. Representatives of Jewish non-governmental organizations were harassed, sometimes physically, while anti-Semitic propaganda — including copies of “Mein Kampf” and the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” — were freely distributed. The Israeli and American delegations walked out in protest. On Monday, governments opened meetings in Geneva to begin preparations for a follow-up conference, due to be held in 2009, that has some groups worried that a repeat of the 2001 debacle is in the works. What emerged from the first Durban conference is “the script that the Jewish world is struggling with right now,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “Apartheid was consecrated there. Divestment, apartheid, sanctions — in some ways also the first sort of introduction of an approach in which it was no longer a matter of where Israel’s borders should be, it was an assault on Israel’s right to exist.”

Several decisions that were expected to be taken this week are considered key determinants of whether the 2009 conference will follow the lead of Durban I — among them, the conference’s size and location, the extent to which NGOs will participate, and whether the final document from the Durban conference, known as the plan of action, will be reconsidered. Already, some developments are worrying Jewish activists. On Monday, Libya was elected chair of the planning committee, which also includes Iran and Cuba. The U.N. Human Rights Council, the body deemed by many in the Jewish world to be even worse for Israel than its discredited predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, is overseeing the preparations. And the United States, which could potentially blunt the worst anti-Israel excesses, did not officially participate in the planning meeting. The first day of meetings seemed to confirm the worst. Egypt, speaking on behalf of the African Group, singled out Israel for its “continued occupation of Palestine and violations arising therefrom.” Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, urged the conference to “move the spotlight on the continued plight of Palestinian people” and accused watchdog groups of waging a “smear campaign” against the gathering. Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and editor of Eye on the U.N., called the opening session “a slap in the face to every state and non-governmental organization that really cares about equality and non-discrimination.”

Adding to the anti-Israel atmosphere is a second conference, due to open Aug. 30 in Brussels, organized by a U.N. committee on Palestinian rights that pro-Israel activists view as unfailingly hostile to the Jewish state. The United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace was to be held at the European Parliament, adding the imprimateur of the European Union to what some Jewish leaders say is certain to be two days of vilification and condemnation of Israel. “We’re very concerned,” said Sybil Kessler, director of U.N. affairs for B’nai B’rith International, of the preparatory conference. “The composition of the bureau is problematic. The legacy of Durban is hanging above us. This session is going to decide potentially whether this is going to be another fiasco or whether this is going to help redirect the U.N. agenda on racism and move beyond the problematic legacy of Durban.”
While Jewish observers widely agree that coordination among Jewish groups and outreach to sympathetic allies will be crucial, there is little evidence that such coordination is in the making. Groups already differ on how seriously to take next week’s conference. U.N. Watch, an American Jewish Committee-affiliated watchdog group, and the Wiesenthal Center had delegates on hand for the Geneva meetings, while the Anti-Defamation League chose not to attend. The World Jewish Congress sent a representative, Shai Franklin, only because he happened to have previous plans to be in Geneva. “We’re trying to keep a sense of proportion, which doesn’t mean downplaying things, it means seeing what’s going on and where this might head,” Franklin said.

Groups also differ on strategy. Some are calling for reaching out to NGOs, which were responsible for some of the fiercest anti-Israel language to emerge from Durban. Hillel Neuer, of U.N. Watch, says the Europeans are the key actors given the absence of the United States. Bayefsky says attention should be directed to Washington — not Geneva. “Congress holds the purse strings,” Bayefsky said. “Congress decides whether or not its foreign operations budget is used for the funding of U.N. meetings, and which U.N. meetings. We can’t do anything in Geneva.” Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based representative of the Wiesenthal Center who says he was thrown off an NGO steering committee related to the first Durban conference because he was Jewish, thinks little can be done to stop a repeat of 2001. “I don’t think we can avert a recurrence,” said Samuels, who intends to be in Geneva next week. “I think what we can do is be informed. We can this time reach out, because there are many, many frustrated NGOs who are brought in at their own cost to exotic places with money they don’t have to be window dressing. They are cheerleaders. We did not take advantage of them last time.”
© JTA News
31/8/2007- The seeds for more Israel bashing were sown in Geneva this week, during planning meetings ahead of the US’s 2009 anti-racism conference, Israeli officials said. Concerned that 2009’s meeting could go the way of 2001’s conference, held in Durban, South Africa, which focused exclusively on criticizing the Jewish state, Israel decided this week to keep a low profile at the planning conference. As of Thursday, Israeli officials said they felt that laying low was justified, as they saw no change in the tone of the conference, even as they held out hope that future planning meetings would take a different tack. Israel, along with the US, walked out of the 2001 to protest the extent to which anti-Israel nongovernmental groups had dominated the debate on Israel, with statements that equated Zionism with racism. Israel and UN watch dogs have stated their objection to Monday’s vote in the opening session to confirm Libya as chair of the preplanning committee, Cuba as assistant chair and Iran as one of the 20 participating states. Votes in the preplanning conference this week, which ends Friday, have been open to all 192 UN member countries. On Monday, Pakistan called for the 2009 conference, dubbed Durban II, to focus on the plight of Palestinians. A number of countries also spoke of expanding the definition of anti-Semitism to cover all Semitic people, i.e. Arabs. Still, the bulk of the discussions focused on sweeping human rights statements and procedural matters, such as the venue for the conference and the parameters for NGO participation.

“This week has not been comparable in any way to the hate fest we saw in September 2001,” said Hillel Neuer, who is the executive director of the Geneva-based group, UN Watch. “This is only the organizational session, and we shouldn’t compare an organizational session to the final events that happened in 2001,” he added. Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international liaison in Paris, said the absence of nongovernmental organizations from this week’s forum had helped. In Durban I, the most virulent anti-Israel language and proposals came from the NGO’s, he said. The formal declaration that emerged in 2001 was relatively mild in tone, and discussions by member states have stayed mostly on target, with talk of the larger issues of racism and xenophobia. Islamic countries have pushed to re-open the 2001 Durban declaration to include provisions for new forms of religious based racism that specifically targets Muslims, such as Islamophobia. They have also protested the racial profiling that some Western countries employ to combat terrorism. The UN General Assembly has mandated that the 2009 conference stay within the guidelines of the original Durban I declaration. In Jerusalem, Labor MK Michael Melchior, who was the deputy foreign minister in 2001, and in charge of Israel’s participation in Durban I, said he didn’t believe that the original Durban had been a total failure. “The official Durban conference was a turning point and a success for Israel and the Jewish people,” said Melchior. “While it’s true the sessions were dominated by anti- Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric, particularly from nongovernmental groups, most of those elements were absent from the final action plan that emerged from the conference.” In the final 61 page summary document and action plan, Israel and the Palestinians are only mentioned twice. The document called for a Palestinian state, but at the same time recognized Israel’s right to security.
© The Jerusalem Post
By Daniel Fink, coordinator of government affairs of NGO Monitor

19/12/2007- December 10th marked the commemoration of International Human Rights Day – a celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by members of the United Nations in 1948. So now is a good time to take stock of how institutions that are the beneficiaries of our tax and philanthropic largesse, promote human rights.

Start with the UN Human Rights Council which is propped up by the tax-payers of each and every UN member state. Three weeks ago, the UN Human Rights Council was given a stamp of approval by the General Assembly to convene a conference in 2009 modeled after the 2001 Durban “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Although the conference in 2001 was meant to focus on substantive issues pertaining to discrimination and racism, it degenerated into an abomination of diplomacy.

Led in large part by the conference’s parallel NGO Forum consisting of 3,900 NGOs, the focus on human rights was exchanged for an exercise in anti-Israel vitriol. Condemnations of state- sponsored discrimination in Burma and North Korea were replaced with a document that labeled Israel an apartheid state. Colin Powell, then US secretary of state announced the US delegation’s withdrawal from the conference saying, “I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism.'” The hi-jacking of the conference prevented minority groups from articulating real concerns regarding discrimination. Indigenous communities from Peru, Thailand, and Sudan, among others, were left voiceless. We must not allow Durban II, (a host city has yet to be named) to take our money and muzzle those committed to a real dialogue on discrimination.

Predicting whether the principles of human rights will be upheld at Durban II requires knowledge of who will be calling the shots. The focus of the 2009 conference will largely be determined by the Organization of Islamic States given their disproportional representation on the Human Rights Council. In this regard, anything the OIC believes to be a “contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” will top the agenda. Pakistani representatives said Islamophobia should receive special attention “to fight against racial profiling in the name of the fight against terrorism.” Libya, which was elected chair of the preparatory committee this past August, along with Cuba and Iran, the committee’s rapporteur and executive member respectively, will also have a major influence. Notwithstanding the abysmal human rights records of these countries, there is some scope for averting another Durban fiasco – governments (i.e. the public via tax revenues) and foundations are funding these activities and public pressure could influence the agenda for Durban II.

The following are three steps that can be taken to ensure that our funds are used in ways that genuinely reflect the principles of human rights.
Firstly, individuals should exert pressure on the foundations and NGOs, to which they donate. Donors must ask for commitments that neither the foundation, nor the NGOs they fund will participate in a conference if it degenerates into an assault on human rights. These include large-scale American foundations such as the Ford Foundation, which provided extensive funds to Durban I NGO participants. Foundations and NGOs need to be held accountable for how they spend our money.
Secondly, human rights defenders should pressure their governments to vote against the Durban II financing plan taking place within the next three weeks. According to Eye on the UN, a New York-based watchdog group, the costs of Durban II will be slightly lower than $7.2 million. Contributors to US presidential campaigns can also play a role. Candidates should be asked to withhold UN dues in proportion to the amount spent on facilitating another anti-human rights conference. If the leaders of the Human Rights Council want another Durban I, they can use their own money- not ours.
Thirdly, supporters of Israel should build coalitions with international groups that were sidelined during the first Durban conference. Averting a second Durban debacle is not an Israel issue. Building relationships with other groups committed to global human rights is a critical step in exposing the hypocrisy of the UN Human Rights Council.

If it becomes clear that a second Durban is in the works, these coalitions, along with the United States, Israel and other UN member states can organize a parallel conference. Funds that would have gone to Durban II participants can be used to support a real human rights conference. We shouldn’t relegate thinking about human rights to one day in December or even the entire month. All year long we should evaluate how foundations, NGOs and governments protect the principles of human rights. A repeat of Durban 2001 is not unavoidable. A proactive approach combining financial pressure and coalition- building can serve as the best way of averting another stain to the UN’s record on human rights.
© The Jerusalem Post
AVERTING ANOTHER DURBAN (editorial Jerusalem Post)
14/1/2008- Something good is happening in the world of human rights NGOs in Israel, and just maybe beyond Israel.A hint comes through the small but influential Rabbis for Human Rights organization, which last week signed on to an international petition calling for the prevention of another anti-Israel and anti-Semitic fiasco such as that witnessed at the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) at Durban, South Africa. The move might not seem dramatic. RHR is a small organization of some 100 generally left-leaning Israeli rabbis, mostly from the small (in Israel) liberal streams of Judaism. Its influence has been felt more in public activism on behalf of Palestinians, poor Israelis and foreign workers than in international affairs. It has also faced no small measure of criticism. Its executive director gained notoriety for blocking with his body a bulldozer set to demolish a Palestinian house in east Jerusalem. Significantly, in 2001 it was lambasted for its refusal to withdraw from the first Durban Conference, even as the notorious anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist fracas, particularly among the NGO assembly at Durban, reached an ugly peak, driving the US and Israel to walk out. The petition to which RHR has signed on, presented by the Jacob Blaustein Institute of the American Jewish Committee and the Magenta Foundation from Holland, does not mince words. In a key section, after describing what went on at the 2001 conference, it declares: “The global effort to eradicate racism cannot be advanced by branding whole peoples with the stigma of ultimate evil, fomenting hateful stereotyping in the name of human rights. The UN and its human rights forums must not serve as a vehicle for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, and must bar incitement to hatred against any group in the guise of criticism of a particular government. We pledge to prevent this from happening again.”

While partly initiated by an American Jewish organization with a decades-long record of Israel advocacy alongside its human rights work, the petition is signed by the Washington-based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an important American civil rights organization, and the European Network Against Racism, a coalition of hundreds of European anti-racism groups. For a UN anti-racism process to attract such deep- seated concern from groups at the heart of its activist constituency is profoundly important. These NGOs, alongside their Israeli counterparts, seem to be starting to appreciate the magnitude of what is at stake when the human rights agenda is prostituted to a narrow and specific bigotry. If the next WCAR – Durban II – tentatively slated to take place in 2009, is transformed into a grotesque of the anti-racism cause, it will be very hard to pick up the pieces. In 2001, we heard the excuse that it had never been done before. This time, everyone will be walking into this process with their eyes open.

The first steps toward the creation of the follow-up conference have not been encouraging. The project has been turned over to the Israel-obsessed Human Rights Council, which follows its predecessor in protecting Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and other dictatorial regimes while singling Israel out for abuse. The bureau established by the council to plan Durban II is itself chaired by Libya and vice-chaired by Cuba, hardly paragons of human rights. Last month, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, secretary- general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – an organization that championed human rights in the Soviet bloc for decades – speaking with The Jerusalem Post about the HRC’s Israel obsession would only say that “any procedure can be subverted.” Perhaps this is true, but it is disturbing to hear such resignation from so senior an international civil servant. After all, the obsession with vilifying Israel is more ruinous to the human rights agenda than to Israel. We in Israel rely on our self-correcting free society and our military to survive in a still- hostile world, not on UN procedures. But the world’s slaves – will Durban II remember there is still a planet-wide slave trade? – have no such protections. The Roma of Europe and elsewhere, the Christians of the Sudan, the Buddhist monks of Myanmar, the strangely disappearing opposition journalists in Russia, the allegedly non-existent homosexuals of Iran – these are the true victims of the anti-Israel crusade.

Evidently, Israeli NGOs, and some abroad, are slowly coming to the realization that a repeated hijacking of so central a human rights process as the WCAR would turn the phrase “human rights” into a synonym for the denial of Jewish rights, including the right to self-determination – a terrible bigotry that would suggest that the category of “human” need not apply to those who are merely Jewish.