Geneva, April 30, 2008 — In advance of today’s scheduled debate, a series of aggressive and seemingly endless objections by the government of Iran led the umbrella advocacy organization of Canada’s Jewish community to officially withdraw its application to be accredited for the UN’s follow-up to the 2001 Durban conference on racism, reported UN Watch today.
“It is ironic that a UN gathering meant to combat racism became a platform for Tehran’s fundamentalist regime and its allies to single out and harass a mainstream NGO, for no apparent reason other than the inclusion in its name of the words Jewish and Israel,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent human rights monitoring organization in Geneva. “All of this from a Holocaust-denying government that was just censured by the UN General Assembly for its persecution of religious and racial minorities.”
Iran’s objections last month to accrediting the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy failed to cite any reason or grounds. Nevertheless, the first day of the Durban Review Conference’s preparatory meeting was devoted to attacks by Iran—supported by Algeria, Egypt, the Palestinian observer and others—accusing the group of failing to respond to the objections it never saw. “The committee’s entire treatment of this application was like something out of a Kafka novel,” said Neuer. “It trampled any sense of natural justice and due process.”
The European Union and other Western states had argued for accrediting the NGO, citing a recommendation by the UN’s professional staff.
“The persecution of this organization was not only a case of selective prosecution on racial and religious grounds, but also one where Iran and its allies were acting as prosecutor, judge and jury,” said Neuer.
The first debate on April 21 ended by the committee holding back its approval of the NGO, with the Libyan chair giving the group only 48 hours to provide detailed information requested by Iran. Although CIJA submitted a voluminous reply, when the debate resumed on April 28, Iran’s continued objections led the committee again to hold back accreditation, and to demand that the NGO provide still more detailed information requested by Iran in the form of 11 questions. This time the NGO was given only a day to respond.
“Iran was demonstrably acting in bad faith and applying a double standard by making invasive, repetitive and onerous demands of CIJA, of the kind made of no other NGO. By their actions, Iran and its allies effectively rejected CIJA’s application,” said Neuer.
Apart from anti-Jewish animus, Iran’s actions may also be partly motivated by Canada’s lead role in a UN General Assembly resolution that spoke out for victims of Iranian human rights violations, said Neuer. Adopted in December, the text censured the fundamentalist regime for its violations against Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis, Sunni Muslims and Baha’is.
However, in response to the conference questionnaire on states’ actions to combat discrimination, Iran’s submission, recently published online, dodges any questions of racism in that country, which it says is blessed with “the absence of any division based on race or ethnicity in any walk of life.”
Instead, Tehran pointed the finger at unnamed countries, accusing them of “defamation of religions” and “Islamophobia,” and devoted a large section to attacking Israel for “gross and systematic violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories.”
UN’s Racism Committee Grants Status to ‘Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Campaign’
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Geneva, Geneva, April 30, 2008 — After refusing to accredit a Canadian Jewish organization, the UN committee planning a 2009 global conference on racism, known as “Durban II,” today granted official status to a group that accuses Israel of being a racist entity, and whose declared goal is “the struggle against Israeli Colonization, Apartheid and Occupation.”
According to Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, “the committee’s decision to provide a global platform to the ‘Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign’ threatens to revive the dialect of demonization that so discredited the original 2001 conference in Durban. Characterizing an entire nation as racist and illegitimate is the same ugly rhetoric that UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson cited in 2001 as the grounds for her rejection of the Durban NGO declaration.”
A key plank of the anti-Israel coalition is its organization of a global campaign that “calls for international boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.”
“Even as the Libyan-led committee refused to accredit a mainstream Canadian Jewish NGO that promotes peace, interfaith and multicultural dialogue, it welcomed a group whose very name fosters the discourse of demonization and delegitimization, the kind that in 2001 deteriorated into raw anti-Semitic incitement.”