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Dateline Durban: U.N. World Conference Against Racism

ADL Call to Conscience for All Nations

Participants in the U.N. World Conference Against Racism are attempting to resurrect the "Zionism is racism" charge against the State of Israel. This offensive notion, which U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has denounced as a "low point" in relations with Israel, is a concept based on hatred and misunderstanding. Although rejected by the U.N. General Assembly in 1991, efforts to resurrect the unfounded racism canards continue to this day.

The Anti-Defamation League is issuing a Call to Conscience for all nations to:

  • Reject the misuse of the U.N. Conference to advance anti-Jewish hate and misunderstanding

The proposed declaration refers to "the Zionist movement which is based on racial superiority," and brands "Zionist practices against Semitism" as a form of racism.

Divisive and offensive efforts to criticize Israel and to resurrect the old, discredited "Zionism = racism" language have no place in the fight against racism and threaten to undermine the important work of this conference. Furthermore, the concept of "Zionism – the national self-determination movement of the Jewish people – as racism" was repudiated by the United Nations in 1991. Indeed, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described resolution 3379 as the "low point" in United Nations history whose negative effect on the organization is felt even today.

  • Oppose assaults on Israel’s legitimacy

The proposed declaration singles out Israel for unique criticism as "a foreign occupation founded on settlements, its laws based on racial discrimination…, whose policies "constitute a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity and a serious threat to international peace and security."

The document labels Israel as a racist state -- challenging the right of the Jewish people to a homeland. Regardless of differences about how to approach a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict, simple branding of Israel’s existence as a form of "racism" is misplaced and counterproductive to the cause of both Middle East peace and the fight against racism.

  • Unite against genocide without trivializing the Holocaust

Ironically, mention of the Holocaust has become a controversial matter in the proposed declaration. The term has been downgraded by spelling it with a lower-case "h" and pluralizing it as "holocaust(s)". This trivializes the Holocaust and the memory of its victims. Just as terms like genocide are used to describe specific events, the Holocaust was a unique example of anti-Semitism leading to a state-engineered extermination of an entire people.

The U.N. conference should recognize the atrocities perpetrated and the suffering inflicted on all victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance without diminishing and denying the uniqueness of the Holocaust.

  • Fight to preserve the integrity and mission of the U.N. Conference

References to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have no place in a conference on race. Furthermore, singling out Israel for attack and politicizing the U.N. Conference undermines its humanitarian mission, and deprives the most vulnerable victims of racism of an important opportunity. It would be tragic to squander the hope and promise of progress for the sake of a one-sided debate on just one of the world’s many political conflicts.

This conference can potentially provide an important opportunity to move beyond the past and toward a shared vision of equality and justice. This goal must not be diverted or influenced by external political agendas or situations specific to one country, either in a negative or positive manner. ADL has appealed to foreign ministers and President George W. Bush, urging them to engage vigorously to promote a positive agenda and reject hate rhetoric.

  • Let Israelis and Palestinians negotiate between themselves

Middle East peace will not be moved forward by using the U.N. Conference to criticize one side or another. Regardless of deeply held views on all sides, a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is beyond the purview of the conference. Linking this conference to any political conflict undermines the moral mission and could hamper negotiations on the ground.

Reports from Durban Conference
Durban Update: Final Declaration Recognizes Palestinian Right of Return; Omits Language Critical of Israel (09/8/01)
Durban Update: Parties Deadlocked on Mideast (09/07/01)
Conference Continues Without U.S. and Israel (09/05/01)
Anti-Jewish, Anti-Israel Language Prompts U.S., Israel to Leave U.N. Conference (09/04/01)
Opening Day of the UN World Conference On Racism (08/31/01)
Anti-Israel Hecklers Interrupt Press Conference (08/30/01)
Anti-Israel Rhetoric Prevalent at the U.N. World Conference Against Racism (08/29/01)
Background on
Durban Conference
About the UN World Conference Against Racism
ADL Call to Conscience for All Nations
Background on Anti-Zionism at the United Nations
What is Zionism?
World Figures Refute the Zionism=Racism Charge
The Draft Declaration: Unfair Charges of Racism Against Israel
ADL Statements on Durban
ADL Letters to Media about the U.N. World Conference
Durban Derailed into a Conference of Hate
Abraham H. Foxman on the Durban Conference
Press Releases:

ADL Commends U.S. Rejection of Anti-Jewish, Anti-Israel Bias of U.N. Conference Against Racism (8/27/01)

ADL Urges Congress To Reject Incendiary Language Against Jews, Israel At Upcoming U.N. Conference Against Racism (7/31/01)

ADL Urges Foreign Ministers to Reject Anti-Jewish Rhetoric at U.N. Conference on Racism (7/17/01)

ADL Urges U.N. Members to Reject Anti-Israel Focus at Forum Against Racism (5/18/01)

ADL to President George W.Bush

ADL to Foreign Ministers of U.N. Members

Related ADL Articles:
Israel and the UN

Related Web Sites:
UN World Conference Against Racism

The United Nations
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