- Using subterfuge, a number of radical NGOs — including European-funded Palestinian groups and North-South 21, which is linked to Libya — have announced a “civil society forum.” The objective is to emulate the infamous 2001 Durban NGO Forum, which was characterized by antisemitic violence, and the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.
- A “large public demonstration with activists” is planned for Saturday afternoon. In the 2001 Durban NGO Forum, similar marches led to violent attacks and gained the greatest media coverage.
- The “Civil Society Forum” is closely linked to the “Israel Review Conference,” to be held around the same time and in the same area in Geneva, to promote anti-Israel boycotts of the “Apartheid state”. The organizers of both events are promoting them together.
- In contrast to the Durban event, the 2009 “civil society forum” in Geneva does not have official UN support, and is expected involve far less than the 1500 NGOs (including HRW and Amnesty International) and 7000 activists that participated in 2001. In addition, over 100 NGOs have signed the Magenta/Blaustein statement opposing a repetition of the 2001 events.
- Discussions and planning for the DRC have overemphasized the governmental meetings, and point to the need to monitor the involvement of obsessive, radical, and antisemitic NGOs and the organizations and funders that support them.
- Letters to CONGO (Conference of NGOs) demanding that the leaders of the organization, including CONGO president Liberato Bautista based in New York and officials of the Geneva office, publicly withdraw all support and involvement in this event, and to remove officials who falsely claimed to represent CONGO members. (firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com)
- Calls for an end to European funding for participating NGOs, including Trocaire (Ireland), Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Oxfam, DanChurchAid (DCA), the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), NDC (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Holland).
- Calls for the resignation of Adrien Zoller, leader of Geneva For Human Rights;
- Calls on UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay to publicly and clearly denounce and disown any connection to the so-called “civil society” forum.
Background and detailed analysis:
In the infamous 2001 UN-sponsored Durban conference, the main assault against Israel and against the West took place in the NGO Forum. The combination of physical violence against Jewish delegates, distribution of crude antisemitic propaganda, and the systematic attacks against Israel led then UN Human Right Commissioner Mary Robinson to denounce and disregard the NGO declaration. NGO funders, including the Ford Foundation and the Canadian government, were embarrassed and shamed by their role in this blatant racism, and withdrew support for similar events. In the planning for the 2009 Durban Review Conference, scheduled to open in Geneva on April 20, UN officials including current High Commissioner Navi Pillay declared that they would not support a similar NGO Forum.
However, the recent emergence of a “civil society forum” under the supposed endorsement or sponsorship of CONGO – the Conference of NGOs – is a very disturbing development that may presage another destructive display of antisemitism and hatred directed at Israel and Western democracies. This event is scheduled to take place between Friday April 17 and Sunday April 19, with what is advertised as a “large public demonstration with activists” on Saturday afternoon. Based on the 2001 Durban precedent, this event is likely to be inflammatory, include offensive antisemitic slogans, and possibly violent.
The main force behind this revival appears to be a GONGO (government-funded NGO) known as North-South 21, which is closely linked to the Libyan regime (Libya is also the chair of the governmental Review Conference), and represented in Geneva by Curtis Doebbler. North-South 21 manages the “Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize” – with past recipients including French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, Fidel Castro, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – and has been lobbying for this DRC civil society forum for many months. Known in French as Nord-Sud XXI, it has offices in Geneva, New York and Beirut.
The official announcement for the “Civil Society Forum” event appeared about two weeks ago, on a website registered under the name of Jan Lonn, the Swedish-based head of an organization known as the World Against Racism Network, and is active in many of radical NGO activities. The UN funded Lonn to go to the African meeting in Nigeria, apparently in response to requests from unidentified African states (perhaps Libya).
Since both North-South 21 and Lonn are fringe actors, whose campaigns for an NGO Forum were offset by the concerted opposition of mainstream NGOs, these efforts were of little importance until they appeared to receive the support of CONGO, including its head — Rev. Liberato Bautista. (Bautista’s statements were publicized on a United Methodist Church website.) A CONGO staffer participated in the preparatory meetings for these events, which are held in the CONGO offices in Geneva. CONGO briefings have given extensive visibility to the “Civil Society Forum,” falsely portraying it as a serious human rights event. This participation provides significant additional visibility and the façade of legitimacy.
On this basis, Adrien Zoller, an oft-quoted commentator who heads Geneva For Human Rights, and formerly headed the International Service for Human Rights, sent an email saying that his trainers are “at the disposal of the organizers of the Civil Society Forum.” This further added to the visibility.
In combination, the involvement of these actors is a major warning sign of plans to reproduce the hatred and violence of the 2001 Durban NGO Forum. With the involvement of Libyan government officials, Nord-Sud XXI was closely linked to the 2001 catastrophe,1 and continues to be a leader and virulent force in the radical NGO community, supporting “the cause of groups that were forgotten by history and deprived of the right to have their States such as the Palestinian people, or those victims of historical genocides and war such as the Indian-Americans and Africans.” In UN statements, this NGO claims that Israel is engaged in a “policy intended to destroy the Palestinian people in whole or in part that constitutes . . . genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinian people,” and accused Israel of “apartheid” and “atrocities.”
The public NGO campaign to hold and gain legitimacy for this forum surfaced in April 2008, led by Charles Graves of Interfaith International. Graves and the organization he heads were also active in the 2001 Durban conference and made comments justifying suicide bombings in the context of the “occupation.” (Representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also attended this meeting.) During the October PrepCom, a number of NGO delegates met separately on three occasions to promote this agenda. On October 16th, “a group of NGOs, misleadingly presenting itself as the NGO Committee on Racism” (a subcommittee of CONGO), met again, claiming that the UN would provide them with facilities, a regional coordinating committee was formed.2
In May 2008, these NGOs (including the radical Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) published a letter expressing a “strong desire” for another NGO Forum at the Review Conference, and describing the NGO Forum at the Durban 2001 conference as “an important catalyst for many victim groups to come together, network, interact and build support for the work against racism and discrimination.” The antisemitic attacks and the incitement to hatred were ignored.
Among the Palestinians NGOs scheduled to participate are Badil (the main “right of return” NGO) and the Ittijah coalition. Badil’s funders include Trocaire (Irish Catholic “aid organization” funded by the government), Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Oxfam, DanChurchAid (DCA), the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), NDC (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Holland). Badil is a leading supporter of the Durban Strategy, promoting the anti-Israel BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaign, and frequently accuses Israel of “apartheid, colonization, occupation, institutionalized racism, ethnic cleansing, etc.”3 In these activities, Badil is the antithesis of a pro-peace NGO.
Ittijah, (The Union of Arab Community Based Associations), like Badil, is active in promoting BDS campaigns, and employs “apartheid,” Nazi, and “colonialism” demonization rhetoric. Its website proclaimed that “Ittijah’s international profile was brought under the spotlight at the Durban World Conference against Racism in 2001, where Ittijah gathered, facilitated and directed the vision and position of the Palestinian NGOs inside Israel on racism, particularly Israeli-state racism towards Palestinian citizens, and the apartheid the State practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
While the degree to which this “Civil Society Forum” façade will emulate the 2001 NGO Forum is uncertain, the involvement of many of the same organizations and plans for similar events provide the basis for concern. NGOs, governments, and UN officials who do not want to be associated with or held responsible for the outcome are advised to publically distance themselves from these events, and to insure that their resources are not exploited in this process.
- In June 26-28, 2001, Nord Sud XXI convened an African conference in Goree, Senegal, in advance of the Durban conference. A co-sponsor of the event was UIDH, which received $100,000 in funding from Libya after Nord Sud XXI recommended them for the Qaddafi Prize. Speaking on behalf of Nord Sud XXI was Libyan government official Nuri D. El Hamedi, who is listed in a October 2008 news report as secretary-general of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize Committee, and as secretary of the Libyan Popular General Committee of Culture and Information. http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=237
- Wiesenthal Centre’s Open Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding potential NGO Forum: “Deny UN facilities to Durban Repeat Agitation,” October 17, 2008.
- Badil Letter to Latin American PrepCom, June 2008, “The struggle against Israel’s colonial apartheid regime is one of the cornerstones of the struggle against state-sponsored racism and ongoing colonial policies worldwide…This regime is maintained by dozens of racist laws and military orders which deprive Palestinians of their fundamental rights to their homeland, and collective punishment is applied on a massive scale in order to oppress Palestinian resistance…Both strong popular mobilization and the NGO forum in Durban ensured that the truth about Israel’s apartheid regime was exposed and space was provided for many other just struggles for justice and equality around the world. Today, Israel puts all its efforts into reversing and delegitimizing the concerted struggle against racism.”; Badil Statement to PrepCom Session, October 2008: “The systematic ethnic cleansing for more than 750,000 indigenous Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of their villages and is still denied the human rights of self-determination, justice, equality by the State of Israel […] Institutionalized racism and discrimination on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion constitutes a root cause of consequence of the ongoing internal forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.”