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On Eve of Fundamentally Flawed UN World Racism Conference Commemoration, Assessing the Last Decade

By Staff Writer

Ambassador Joseph Harari, B’nai B’rith Int’l Chair of UN Affairs and Dr. Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith Int’l Director of Latin America Affairs. Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

Ambassador Joseph Harari, B’nai B’rith Int’l Chair of UN Affairs and Dr. Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith Int’l Director of Latin America Affairs.
Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

On the eve of the United Nation’s official commemoration of the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, B’nai B’rith Int’l hosted a briefing entitled "Durban: A Ten-Year Assessment of the U.N. World Conference against Racism."

The initial goal of the 2001 conference, held in Durban, S. Africa, was to combat racism. it ended up devolving into an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hate fest.

B’nai B’rith Int’l President, Allan J. Jacobs, recognized the 14 countries that declared their decision not to attend the "fundamentally flawed" Sept. 22 Durban commemoration: Australia, Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Rep., France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and the U.S.

"These democracies deserve praise for their principled stand, and we will convey our thanks in consultations with numerous leaders throughout the week."

From left: Richard Heideman, B’nai B’rith Honorary Pres.; Al Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International Pres.; Hannah Rosenthal, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; and Daniel Mariaschin, Executive Vice Pres. B’nai B’rith International. Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

From left: Richard Heideman, B’nai B’rith Honorary Pres.; Al Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International Pres.; Hannah Rosenthal, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; and Daniel Mariaschin, Executive Vice Pres. B’nai B’rith International.
Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

B’nai B’rith, the only major Jewish agency with a dedicated Office of U.N. Affairs�in existence since the U.N.’s creation�mobilized the largest Jewish nongovernmental delegation to both the 2001 conference and 2009 review conference. B’nai B’rith delegates are monitoring developments this week at the United Nations.

B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who served as moderator, introduced the speakers.

"This third installment of the notorious Durban process has, like its predecessors, demonstrated that even a cause as noble as fighting racism and discrimination can be undermined by those whose primary purpose is not to safeguard the freedoms and human rights for which they hold little regard," Mariaschin said. "Rather, their purpose is to spread, in the name of the United Nations, the demonization and delegitimization of Israel."

Hannah Rosenthal discussed her work as the State Department’s U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Sharon Wilkes, Executive Director of American Jewish International Relations Institute and Ellen Fawer, Jewish Women International UN Rep. Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

Sharon Wilkes, Executive Director of American Jewish International Relations Institute and Ellen Fawer, Jewish Women International UN Rep.
Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

"I wish I had good news to report" she began, but indicated that old manifestations of anti-Semitism are "alive and well and disgustingly growing," referring to desecration of cemeteries, synagogues and blood libel claims. Holocaust denial, relativism and glorification are persistent. Equally disturbing is the confluence of legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, she said. "We must call hate speech what it is: disgusting." Among some of the specific instances of anti-Semitism she discussed were the Holocast glorification in Estonia and Latvia where Waffen SS veteran march in the streets in uniform and it is being echoed increasingly in Germany. Then there are the instances when Muslims show footage of Holocaust bodies being bulldozed into graves but now they add the comments indicating how wonderful that was and how now it is time to finish the job.

Referring to the Durban commemoration, Ambassador John R. Bolton, former U.S. undersecretary of state and permanent representative to the United Nations, said it was "only the latest in a long line of these efforts."

He also discussed the recurrence of the Zionism=Racism charge, established by U.N. Resolution 3379 in 1975, and reversed in 1991. "Durban was a throwback to Zionism=Racism, This commemoration has the effect of undermining Israel."

Malcolm Hoenlein  (left), Exec Vice Chair of Conference of Presidents & Irwin Cotler, Canadian Parliament member. Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

Malcolm Hoenlein (left), Exec Vice Chair of Conference of Presidents & Irwin Cotler, Canadian Parliament member.
Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

Canadian Parliament member Irwin Cotler, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, posited this commemoration in the context of a post-9/11 society. "We will never forget this festival of hate. If 9/11 was Kristallnacht, then Durban was its Mein Kampf." He also said that Durban was supposed to be a conference against racism but it became a conference to single out Israel as racist. It actually became a tippoing point for a new wave of anti-Semitism.

Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said the delegitimization of Israel is the most serious issue facing Jews. "It’s not about ’67, it’s about ’47," about Israel’s right to exist.

He also addressed the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement to delegitimize the Jewish state and on the safety of Jewish college students who have become targets for these anti-Israel campaigns and demonstrations.

Hoenlein invoked the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said that we will not be judged by the attacks of our enemies but by the silence of our friends. He also chillingly predicted that heaven forbid should Israel be labeled a terrorist nation by the U.N. then anyone supporting it with purchasews of trees or bonds or in any other way could be subject to arrest.

Former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, (left) with Jewish Post Publisher, Henry Lavy. Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

Former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, (left) with Jewish Post Publisher, Henry Lavy.
Photo: Gloria Starr Kins

B’nai B’rith Honorary President, Richard D. Heideman, who led the B’nai B’rith delegation to the 2001 conference and again in 2009, said the Durban-related efforts of the last 10 years don’t just hurt Israel. They have diverted attention from blatant violators of human rights like Libya, Syria and Iran.

"[The commemoration] is only the first step in an unfortunately long campaign that will continue long into the future," Heideman said.

Indeed, a recent letter sent by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to U.N. Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki Moon is a clear example of the vicious anti-Semitic discourse was so visible in Durban. Aimed at supporting the Palestinian request for statehood at the United Nations, the letter depicts Israelis as Nazi-like criminals, and refers to Zionism as racism. It states, "It is upsetting and painful that the same people who suffered one of the worst examples of genocide in history have become the executioners of the Palestinian people: It is upsetting and painful that the heritage of the Holocaust be the Nakba� We must spell it out: Zionism, as a world vision, is absolutely racist."

At the same time, Chavez has no problem defending the Libyan regime and its atrocious human rights violations, which underscores how absurd and malicious his obsession with Israel is.

Only by recognizing abusive countries who are human rights violators can the world body realize the conference’s intended goals: to combat racism and intolerance.

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