Issue 65: The Third Prepatory Meeting of the World Conference on Racism

he Third Preparatory Committee for the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) ended in Geneva last week with reports that there was progress made toward a resolution of the contentious issue of placing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the agenda.

Analysis: Declaring itself ready to compromise, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) submitted an eleventh-hour ‘Non-Paper’ with alternative language on the Middle East for the draft Declaration and Programme of Action.

Contrary to many reports, the OIC proposal was not a compromise toward the Western position that Middle East politics have no legitimate place in a conference against racism.  The same objectionable ideas were merely re-stated with slightly different wording.  The ‘Non-Paper’ does not explicitly mention Zionism, but substitutes familiar code language that is specific to Israel at the United Nations.  For example, the OIC replaced “racist practices of Zionism” with “racist practices of the Occupying Power” in a transparent ploy to meet, only in the literal sense, the demand that “Zionism is racism” not be reintroduced.  From the outset, all of the parties understood the objection to that particular phrase to represent a rejection of all attacks against the State of Israel — and only Israel — in the texts.

The OIC argues that the Middle East references must be included to reflect the urgency of the Palestinian situation and the reality on the ground. This line of reasoning raises at least two important questions.

First, why has the OIC attempted to trivialize the Holocaust and distort the meaning of antisemitism?  Neither the attempt to annihilate the Jewish people nor the widespread and enduring hatred of Jews need to be diminished in order to make the case to include Palestinian suffering in the documents. Even if an agreement is reached, the appropriate treatment of the Holocaust and antisemitism should not be construed as a concession by the Islamic bloc.

Second, why scrutinize only a political conflict in the Middle East? Racially defined conflict rages on in the Balkans.  Race-based slavery continues unabated in Sudan.  Genocide occurred in Africa in the past decade.  Yet, the OIC disregards the global aspect of a World Conference and insists only that the Arab-Israeli conflict be included.  The disproportionate focus on condemning Israel not only undermines the universality of the WCAR, but also demeans other conflicts and victims.

The OIC’s baseless claim of compromise points clearly to one conclusion. Their intentions are not to reflect the reality of the Palestinian situation, but to advance their political agenda against Israel. The World Conference Against Racism — and the world’s victims of racism — will suffer most from such ‘compromise.’

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