2009 World Conference Against Racism

In May 2007 the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution to convenethe Durban Review Conference. Since that time, and unknown to many, ormost, at least 17 Zionist organizations had been "monitoring andprotesting" the Durban Review Conference. With enormous planning andlobbying, Zionists and others who were committed to minimizing theimpact of NGOs were extremely successful in the following ways:

  • Major funders of NGO participation in 2001, such as the Ford Foundation and the Canadian government, were deterred from participating in the same way. Without funding or organizing support, NGO activity was a fraction of what it was in 2001.
  • There was no NGO Forum in Geneva and NGOs were only allowed to speak on the final days of the conference.
  • ‘Side events’ became the primary vehicle for formal NGO participation within the UN, thereby marginalizing them.
  • As a result of significant lobbying, the conference was boycotted by the US, Canada, Poland, who else????,
  • There was a significant Zionist presence both in terms of numbers and ‘side events’ that were organized. (Click here for a list of the major activities.)
  • Other activities that were not officially sponsored by organizations included, bring a clown onto the UN floor while the President of Iran spoke, a walk out of European and representatives of other Western nations that had not boycotted, and a Zionist rally on the UN compound.

One of the main coordinators for many of the activities organized to Zionize the Conference was UN Watch. Click here to read their articleproudly stating that: "…thanks to UN Watch and its many NGO partnersand supporters, Durban II was defeated." For a partial list oforganizations supporting and working with UN Watch, click here.

Click here for an excellent, succinct overview and analysis of the Conference.

Click here for IJAN’s statement from Geneva.

Click here to read the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference.

IJAN’s most direct participation in the World Conference was as aco-sponsor of the Israel Review Conference preceding the Durban ReviewConference (see Recent Activities). It was suggested to us by ourpartners that we would not be useful inside the Durban Review, and onlytried to intervene outside. At a counter-demonstration to the Zionistrally, our group consisted of local Arab activists, representativesfrom Palestinian organizations, EJJP, IJAN and Neturei Karta. In theshort time we had before being removed, we succeeded in letting peopleknow we were there and attracting their media. After interviews(including with an Israeli correspondent for CNN), we were escorted outof the area.

Observations from Geneva

  • Whether intentional or otherwise, the selection of Geneva as a location for the event, expensive and lacking broad liberation movements like there were in Durban, contributed to limiting participation of grassroots struggles and organizations.
  • Israel and other Zionist forces mocked the concept and practice of human rights by disrupting and attempting to prevent a platform designed to hold governments accountable for their racism and histories of colonialism. The way that defenders of Israel saw fit to engage in this conference displayed a wide range of the ways in which Zionism is racist:
    1. Zionists chose to disrupt and prevent conversations against racism as a tactic for deflecting conversations that would expose their own history, beliefs, policies and practices of racism.
    2. The presentation of their actions and messaging as Jewish rather than Zionist promotes anti-Jewish sentiment on an international scale. They argue that anti-Semitism is inevitable, and therefore a Jewish state is required; meanwhile, they require anti-Semitism to justify state building and fuel it through such actions.
    3. The comparison of the Nazi genocide to Rwanda and Darfur invisibilizes the history of colonialism and reinforces the racist apathy that is currently operating in both cases.
    4. Zionist ‘concern’ over the violence in Darfur is anti-Arab, divides Africans further from each other, exploits black racism and promotes Islamophobia
  • As anti-Zionist Jews, it is vital that we incorporate into our goals, strategic role and campaigns the importance of challenging these aspects of Zionist activity.
  • The role that UN Watch and its partner and supporting organizations played in this mockery of a UN conference on racism exposes the significant power held by this type of NGO – perhaps second to only our governments. We cannot rely on these organizations for accountability to human rights, nor can we rely on NGO funding.
  • As a delegate from the Malcom X Grassroots Movement assessed, the conference should not be defined or assessed based on who was not there. People from all over the world were able to address issues of race and racism in a UN forum despite not only who was absent, but also despite conscious efforts to derail it. Content from the 2001 document that people have been able to make use of over the last eight years has been maintained due to their efforts. Nothing was gained in this regard, but nothing was lost, either. The forum and the documents produced have been used and are valuable to many grassroots struggles against racism, xenophobia and colonialism as well as for arguments for restitution for histories of genocide, slavery and colonialism.
  • The most disturbing part of the Zionist presence was its exploitation of the Sudan and the Rwandan genocide. Our statement on the World Conference discusses this in more detail. Eli Wiesel took the position that "never again" was wrong and that the UN had failed. He compared the Nazi genocide, with the genocide in Rwanda and current violence in the Sudan and pointed to the failure of the international community to learn from the Nazi genocide.

Thisinvisibilizing of the colonial history and specificity of the racism ofthe international community in relationships to current conditions inmany parts of the Africa continent was racist enough, but more chillingwas his conclusion. The failure of the UN thereby confirmed therighteousness of the Israeli struggle to maintain safety for Jews-anexample other struggles against genocide could learn from. The Nazigenocide produced two things- Israel and the UN. We were watching one,Israel, dismantle the other, rather than the other way around.

TheUnited Nations bodies are diverse sites of struggle given their rootsin the shift of western power to the other side of the Atlantic andtheir role in the reconfiguration of western power over the globalsouth at the end of colonialism. Despite these structural limitations,popular struggles across the globe have continued to find strategicallyuseful ways to engage these institutions and make use of the platformsthey provide.

Not only were Israel andthe Zionist forces attempting, somewhat successfully, to dismantle anddelegitimize this institution and framework of international law andhuman rights, they were also fueling divisions between Arab and Islamicforces and those of continental Africa. They were attempting to preventa platform where many of the most vital struggles for justice andliberation of our time can have the ear of States and the internationalNGO network.
It was so clear, if it wasn’t before, that theself-centeredness of Zionism means that anything and everything can bedestroyed and made profane for the sake of maintaining the state ofIsrael.

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