For both supporters and detractors of the State of Israel, no single conference of the past fifteen years has had a more enduring impact on the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict than the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa.
The event, which took place in September 2001, was hijacked by many of the over 1,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in attendance, as well as by governments that reject Israel’s right to exist.
…the NGO Forum overwhelmingly adopted their own Final Declaration that depicted Israel as committing “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” and “genocide” against the Palestinians. The NGOs at Durban also called for “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.”
Likewise, Durban marked a turning point with the emergence of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns, which are rooted in the strategy set out in the NGO Forum’s Final Declaration. The situation has progressively worsened, as Israel is obsessively targeted for boycott, prosecution, and condemnation in the UN, European capitals, trade unions, media outlets, and on many college campuses.
Looking back fifteen years, the Durban conference ushered in an era of coordinated efforts to isolate Israel internationally and advance a strategy of demonization. Campaigns by NGOs, and counter-efforts to prevent the damage they cause, are now essential elements of the contemporary configuration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.