NGO Monitor Event: 20 Years of Hijacking Human Rights - The Lasting Impact of Durban


Marking twenty years since the UN Durban Conference, Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor hosted an event titled “20 Years of Hijacking Human Rights – The Lasting Impact of Durban.” The event brought together experts who discussed the enduring influence of the original Durban conference and NGO campaign to delegitimize Israel.

As more NGOs join the campaign to ostracize Israel internationally, the lessons of Durban are increasingly important.

In September 2001, thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gathered at the NGO Forum of the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. As part of the virulently antisemitic proceedings, NGOs launched a strategy of isolating Israel through boycotts, legal attacks, and accusations of “apartheid.”

This strategy continues to be used throughout the world to spread antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism.

Recognizing this shameful legacy, the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK have announced they will not participate in the upcoming Durban IV conference in September.

President of NGO Monitor, Prof. Gerald Steinberg said at the opening of the event, “Durban became one of the most potent symbols of organized hate against Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“We are now 20 years later, and the Durban NGO plan of action is being implemented in every direction. Poisonous ‘Apartheid Weeks’ featuring the same NGOs and their anti-Israel slogans are annual events on university campuses, inciting attacks on Jewish students and institutions.”

Guest speaker Prof. Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General, who participated in the Canadian delegation to the 2001 Durban Conference and currently serves as Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, said: “What happened at Durban was truly Orwellian. That which was to be a world conference against racism, turned into a conference of racism against Israel and the Jewish people. That which was to be the first international human rights conference of the 21st century….turned into a conference which indicted Israel as the meta-human rights violator. A conference that was to commemorate the dismantling of South Africa as an apartheid state turned into a conference calling for the dismantling of Israel as an apartheid state.

“Durban became a festival of hate.”

NGO Monitor Legal Advisor Anne Herzberg, who moderated the panel, said, “From the very outset of the Durban planning process it was clear that antisemitism would be promoted rather than tackled and that demonization and delegitimization of Israel would be a central feature.”

Former Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aviva Raz-Schechter said, “We saw how the conference against racism was hijacked by an intentional campaign of delegitimization of Israel, and of twisting the whole concept of fighting racism.”

Also speaking was Ron Prosor, Israel’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2011 to 2015 and head of the Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy, who observed, “We see more and more countries who are beginning to move and see Israel in the region as part of the solution and not just part of the problem.

“People should know that under the radar screen there’s a lot of respect for what Israel does and we have to bring it more to the world’s attention…It’s a daily fight we have to deal with.”

To watch the full event, visit:

Co-sponsors of NGO Monitor’s event include: The International Legal Forum, Med Israel For Fred; My Truth; Stand With Us; Honestly Concerned; Belgian Friends of Israel; Sweden Israel Alliance; Audiatur Online; UKLFI; Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin; Palestinian Media Watch; Elnet; ILI; The Lawfare Project; Hetz; Ireland Israel Alliance and UN Watch.