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Twenty years ago, in September 2001, the United Nations Human Rights Commission held a conference ostensibly to mark the end of the apartheid in South Africa and to adopt an auspicious plan to eliminate racism and discrimination worldwide. Instead, this mega-event, held in Durban, South Africa, launched a virulent wave of hate and antisemitism that continues to spread deadly poison.
Durban had three frameworks — diplomatic, youth and NGOs. At the diplomatic conference, when the proposed text — singling out Israel with accusations of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and similar language — was tabled, the American and Israel delegations walked out. The Europeans and Canadians stayed and brokered a revised text that greatly reduced but did not eliminate the anti-Israel focus. Whether or not this was the right decision continues to be debated — by staying and compromising, the officials gave legitimacy to an illegitimate process.
But the most damaging aspect of Durban was the NGO Forum, including 1500 participating organizations, with the primary aim of waging a deadly war of hate against Israel. This part of the event was irresponsibly funded by the UN, EU, Canada, and the Ford Foundation.
There were mass marches through the streets of Durban, hate material was distributed, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and signs with a Star of David alongside a swastika. NGO representatives led by Human Rights Watch blocked and threatened Jewish speakers who did not toe the anti-Israel line. The UN High Commissioner, former Irish President Mary Robinson, presided over these events, but failed to respond. Afterwards, she meekly declared that there was nothing she could have done.