Why We Must Be at "Durban II"



THIS OP-ED APPEARED IN THE PRINT EDITION, FRIDAY SUPPLEMENT "UPFRONT", OF THE JERUSALEM POST, 17 APRIL 2009

Why We Must Be at "Durban II"


Next Monday 20 April - perhaps appropriately coinciding with both Hitler’s birthday and Yom Ha Shoah – the 2001 Durban U.N. World Conference Against Racism will resume in Geneva.

Led by Iran, Libya and their allies, the gathering - despite Western blandishments - will again compulsively focus upon denigrating Israel.

Jewish organizations have long been debating the pros and cons of our participation. Most agreed that governments – wherever possible – be encouraged to demonstrate their disdain for the human rights violators and patrons of terror that have pulled the Durban strings.

There is, however, another battle to be fought in Geneva: the Durban behind Durban arena of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Several of these players control budgets greater than many UN member-states and boast celebrity-bedecked Boards. Their paramount agenda is Palestine, with a vested interest in perpetuation of the Middle East conflict.

These organizations had funded the 2001 radicalized NGO Forum held alongside the UN intergovernmental conference. Though somewhat embarrassed at the violent antisemitic expression they had patronized, these NGOs have, since then, continued to endorse implementation of an 8 point Plan conceived in Durban.

As the only Jewish member elected to the Forum Steering Committee, I was present at discussion of this blueprint for sustained assault on Israel.

Modelled on the campaigns against Apartheid South Africa, a series of legal, educational, commercial, cultural, academic and diplomatic measures were to demonize and isolate the Jewish State.

Thus was launched the "Durban module" with mantras extolling the 'Naqba' as the only Holocaust, promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and attacking 'the apartheid wall.'

The module was to be disseminated via the media (especially Internet), universities, trade unions, churches, NGOs and all United Nations agencies.

It took off in 2003 through the Brazilian-based World Social Forum anti-globalization movement and its satellites, especially in Europe.

"Durban behind Durban" persisted through the inter-Durban period, as the module has effectively blurred distinctions between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism:

-2001 Durban, marchers against racism carried banners revering Hitler;
-2003 Porto Allegre, they, proclaimed "Nazis, Yankees, Jews – No More Chosen Peoples";
-2006 Athens, neo-Nazis and Hizbollah acolytes distributed tracts calling for the rebirth of the Hitler-Mufti alliance.

Each of these forums corelated with spikes in antisemitic violence. Likewise, the spread of Gaza war demonstrations was not spontaneous nor copycat. The strategy was rehearsed in September 2008 at the Malmo European Social Forum.

Orchestrated on each continent by national Palestine support committees, in place to drive the Durban module, the same obsessively anti-Israel groups have hijacked the road to Durban II:

-at the Brasilia Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) last June, Afro-Latin groups claimed that "a Jewish campaign had stopped the funding that would have brought them to Geneva". At the same time, they acknowledged that their own grievances had been eclipsed by the Palestine issue.

-at an NGO Forum planning session, last October in Geneva, the Chair's response to my concern at a repeat of the 2001 violence was candid: "The Wiesenthal Centre asks me to guarantee that there will be no antisemitism in Geneva. There may be antisemitism or even Semitism, but we will hold the NGO Forum." To stress the point, threats from a Libyan-backed activist intimidated further intervention.

Though the UN has refused meeting halls to such agitators, "Durban behind Durban" is set to continue offsite in Geneva, with an even more focused NGO Forum than that of 2001,albeit smaller in number:

-"United against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation" will immediately precede Durban II with all the usual suspects.
-Yom HaShoah will be marked as "From Warsaw to Gaza: Memory and Responsibility", led by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
-"United Against Racism" is for a coalition of Palestinians, African-Americans, indigenous, migrants and renegade Jews to campaign for "an end to US aid to Israel, support to 'BDS',fight Islamophobia and against anti-Arab racism."

While the intergovernmental conference debates hostile resolutions, the "Durban behind Durban", NGO war is no less unrelenting.

It is there that the campaigns, vectors calendars and militants will further develop the Durban module even after the Geneva conference concludes. Their aim is to wreak maximum harm to Israel and the Jewish people.

Being in Geneva, we are part of the process of political mortgaging within the NGO community: endorsing other victims of racism whose agendas are hijacked by our enemies; championing freedom of expression and seeking common denominators for a true caucus against discrimination and intolerance.

Yes, we must be at "Durban II" on the NGO front, there demonstrating the defiant battle – cry of the ghetto-fighters: "mir seinen do/We Are Here!".


Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, based in Paris, and headed the Jewish Caucus at Durban I.