A UN resolution began the process leading to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held at Durban in September 2001. Interested non-governmental organizations to be represented by observers, in accordance with UN Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 were also invited to attend as observers.
A regional conference in Tehran, intended to produce a composite Declaration against Racism and a Plan of Action, preceded the conference. Israel, along with Jewish NGOs, were excluded and, in their absence, Israel was accused of committing holocausts and being anti-Semitic. There was no public condemnation of the exclusion of Israel or the Jewish groups by any of the international NGOs. During the World Conference, large numbers of NGOs organized a parallel NGO Forum (sometimes confused with the Conference) that, in turn, succeeded in overshadowing the formal proceedings. This was due to the large amount of media attention the NGOs were able to generate. The NGO Forum produced what is known as “The NGO Declaration,” which, while not an official conference document, assumed a high international profile and was signed by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The NGO declaration at the Durban conference, written in highly politicized language, reflected a concerted effort to undermine Israel. Article 164 states targeted victims of Israel’s brand of apartheid and ethnic cleansing methods have been in particular children, women and refugees. Article 425 announces 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. Furthermore, Article 426 talks of 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 constant comparisons with South Africa and apartheid are fundamentally flawed. Israel grants full legal and civic equality to its Arab minority. The status of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is subject to a final settlement and the issue of a Palestinian state is a matter of intense diplomatic energy and sensitive negotiation. Moreover, the Israeli army has a clear policy of avoiding civilian casualties. A fact of the war on terror is the concentration of suicide bomb-making factories in densely-populated areas. Moreover, the Palestinians have also shown a willingness to put small children directly in the line of fire. These reasons help explain the tragic number of Palestinian children and women killed. In cases where Israeli soldiers have shown excesses, they have stood trial and were removed from their positions. The NGO Forum omitted to mention any of these facts, and this pattern is seen in the NGO community repeatedly.
Additional Sources, References, and Links
- Durban 2001 NGO Forum (archived articles and opeds)
- ICARE Internet Centre Anti-racism Europe: Documents & relevant links during and after the WCAR (Durban 2001 Conference)
- Richard Landes, “How French TV Fudged the Death of Mohammed Al Durah,” The New Republic Online, October 17, 2006.
“And every aspect of l’affaire Al Durah is emblematic of why: from the Palestinian forces that staged it; to the Western mainstream press and the NGOs that presented it as news without asking hard questions (and that believed any subsequent Palestinian claims of Israelis killing children and resisted efforts at correction); to the Muslim world that turned it into an icon of hatred and a call to genocidal holy war; to the “leftist”revolutionaries who jumped on the jihad bandwagon in Durban, South Africa; to a public distressingly eager for “dirt” on Israel and unaware of the forces empowered by diffusing such poisons.”
- Gerald Steinberg, “The Durban strategy”, The Jerusalem Post, September 11, 2005.
- Anne Bayefsky, “One Small Step: Is the U.N. Finally Ready to get Serious about Anti-Semitism?” Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2004.
- Simon Plosker, June letter from NGO Monitor on UNHCR in response to news feature in the Toronto Star, Toronto Star, June 16, 2004.
- “NGO Committee Suspends 2004 Session, Defers Action on Applications of Four Organizations for Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council,” UN Press Release, May 28, 2004.
- Anne Bayefsky, “Human Rights Watch Coverup,” Jerusalem Post, April 13, 2004.
- “Review of Congressional Investigation Against Ford Foundation,” NGO Monitor, December 5, 2003.
- Edwin Black, “Ford Foundation Aided Groups Behind Biased Durban Parley,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 17, 2003.
- “The Ford Foundation’s NGO-Related Middle East Activities,” NGO Monitor, July 15, 2003.
- “Commission on Human Rights Continues Review of Violation of Human Rights in any Part of World,” UN Commission on Human Rights, April 2, 2003.
- Andrew Surelevitch (UN Watch), “High Commissioner Spoke Half-Truths to Power” (Mary Robinson and Durban),” February 4, 2003.
- Irwin Cotler, “Durban’s Troubling Legacy One Year Later: Twisting the Cause of International Human Rights Against the Jewish People,” JCPA/ICA, Jerusalem Issue Brief, 2:5, August 2002.
- Michael Rubin,“Mary Robinson, War Criminal?” National Review On-Line, May 20, 2002.
- David Maas, “Durban Conference: Civil Society Smashes Up”, December 31, 2001
A Report on the NGO Forum against Racism, August 28 to September 1, 2001 and the World Conference Against Racism, August 31st to September 8th, 2001, Durban, South Africa.
- Anne Bayefsky, “Terrorism and Racism: The Aftermath of Durban,” JCPA, Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints, No. 468, December 16, 2001.
- “Addressing Racism Conference, Non-Governmental Organizations Call for Urgent Action by Member States to Combat Discrimination,” UNISPAL Press Release, September 6, 2001.
- Michael J. Jordan, “Jewish Activists Stunned by Hostility, Anti-Semitism at Durban Conference”, JTA, September 5 2001
- Herb Keinon, “US, Israel Quit Durban,” Jerusalem Post, September 3, 2001.
- Herb Keinon, “‘Zionism is Racism’ – a Dead Issue,” Jerusalem Post, September 2, 2001.
- John Fonte, “Boycott Durban,” Hudson Institute, August 31, 2001.
- Herb Keinon and Janine Zacharia “Robinson in Durban: I am a Jew,” Jerusalem Post, August 30, 2001.
- John Fonte, “Durban vs. America,” Hudson Institute, August 21, 2001.
- Shimon Samuels, “Antisemitism in the Anti-Racist Movement The Road to Durban,” Simon Wiesenthal Center, August 15, 2001.
- Tova Lazaroff, “Racism Conference Poses Dilemma for Jewish Groups,” Jerusalem Post, August 15, 2001.