PRESS RELEASE

Geneva, Feb. 5 —Geneva-based human rights organization UN Watch today called on UN rights chief Navi Pillay to protest the “outrageous and discriminatory” boycott by a Durban dockworkers union of an Israeli commercial ship scheduled to arrive this Sunday in the South African port city.

According to Randall Howard of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, if the ship is determined to be Israeli, union workers will refuse to unload the cargo, reported the Associated Press. “If it’s an Israeli product, we’re going to boycott it, plain and simple,” he said.

“The Durban boycotters aren’t claiming here that the goods are military or toxic — just that they’re Israeli. But discriminating against Israelis on the basis of nationality constitutes a violation of the equality principle enshrined in the UN Charter and guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

“The Durban boycott of Israel is also an express violation of the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, whose definition of racism prohibits any ‘exclusion or restriction’ based on national origin which has the purpose or effect of impairing the equal enjoyment of economic rights and freedoms,” said Neuer.

“That means the Durban boycott of Israeli merchants is racist, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is morally obliged to speak out, particularly given her policy of strongly opposing boycotts in favor of dialogue. Pillay’s voice would carry special weight with Durban workers and campaigners being herself born and raised in Durban.”

The boycott call by Durban dockworkers and pro-Palestinian campaigners was echoed by Durban activist Patrick Bond who, in an op-ed today in South Africa’s The Mercury, expressed hope the boycott would “prod more Durban citizens — including academics — to also raise concerns about institutional linkages that give the Israeli state legitimacy.”

The Durban boycott of Israel follows controversial remarks made on January 14th by South African deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig, who said “Jewish money” controlled America and “most Western countries.”  Following an international outcry, this week she offered an “unequivocal apology for the pain [my statement] may have caused to the people of our country and the Jewish community in particular.”

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