Issue 64: The Draft Declaration of the World Conference against Racism

The ‘Group of 21,’ a drafting committee for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), has released the latest draft Declaration and Programme of Action for the Conference next August in Durban, South Africa.

Analysis: The WCAR was meant to be a forward-looking, action-oriented conference on contemporary problems of racism. Racism is a scourge that persists in all corners of the globe, and all genuine attempts to combat it should be applauded. Unfortunately — and ironically — some states are promoting clearly racist language within the Conference texts to further their political campaign to de-legitimize Israel’s existence.

It is no coincidence that the noxious language attacks two of the founding principles of the State of Israel: Zionism — the expression of Jewish self-determination — and the necessity of a Jewish state in order to provide a refuge against persecution.  The political attacks target both aspects of Israel, the only country condemned by name in over seventy pages of draft text.

These states have re-introduced language equating Zionism and racism. Paragraph 63 of the draft Declaration notes “the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular, the Zionist movement which is based on racial superiority”. The previous UN resolution linking Zionism and racism was rescinded in 1991 and called “a low point” in UN history by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  Paragraph 64bis of the draft Programme of Action urges Israel — and only Israel — to revise its immigration laws, as well as to allow the return of Palestinian refugees.  The intent is clear — to make the Jews a minority in Israel.

These states also want to trivialize the Holocaust by putting the term in lowercase and/or the plural, or pairing it with an unrelated statement about Palestinian refugees. Paragraph 29 states that “The (holocausts/Holocaust) and the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine … must never be forgotten.” During  negotiations over the text in May, one European ambassador remarked to UN Watch that certain delegates made statements about the Holocaust which would be illegal in many European countries.

At the same time, these states object to the inclusion of anti-Semitism, an ancient cancer that should be a central point of the WCAR’s agenda, as a form of racism. They either demand that anti-Semitism be bracketed (indicating objection), or they pervert the accepted meaning of anti-Semitism by adding immediately afterwards: “and Zionist practices against Semitism.” Again, the intent is unambiguous — to deny that Jews are persecuted in order to refute the need for a Jewish state.

The WCAR negotiations are a clear moral test for Member States that are working against racism. They can tolerate openly racist language or they can strenuously object. Sadly, over the years too many countries have remained silent in the face of political abuse at UN institutions. This time, UN Member States must speak out.

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