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.


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