Monday, December 31, 2007

Israel seeks to crush another "Durban" conference against racism

Photo: "Anti-Zionist Jews and pro-Palestinian supporters participate in a protest march in Durban to coincide with the opening of the 2001 UN Racism Conference"

Updated December 31, 2007

Israeli diplomats are quietly working to convince the United States and the European Union to boycott - and defund - a possible follow-up to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism conference in Durban, South Africa.

The efforts call on the US, which funds over one-fifth of the UN budget, to pull 21 percent of its share of the $6.8 million budget for the Durban Review Conference (or some $1.4m.) out of its annual payment to the UN.

The conference is being planned by a UN bureau chaired by Libya that counts Iran and Pakistan among its members.

Israeli officials hope to convince the Europeans and "like-minded" countries, such as Australia and Canada, to do the same and thereby cause a funding shortfall for the conference, which looks set to repeat the displays of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that dominated much of the original conference.

The Israeli move comes after the December 22 passage of the $4.2 billion UN budget for 2008-2009, which includes the funding for "Durban II," as diplomats are styling the follow-up conference. The general budget passed 142 to one, with only the US voting against.

The 2001 conference, which ended just three days before the September 11 attacks in the US, saw the US and Israel withdraw their delegations halfway through the gathering due in part to language equating Zionism with racism. The language was advanced by Syria and Iran, but was rejected in the final Durban Declaration and Program of Action after African and Western states intervened in the deliberations to moderate the original language.

However, an international NGO forum meeting alongside the conference of governments issued a declaration of its own, which approved language equating Zionism with racism and apartheid. It was, according to some experts, the launch of the ongoing campaign that seeks to draw a comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

Though it still has no venue or date, Durban II is slated to take place sometime in 2009...