Anti-Israel Rhetoric Prevalent
at the U.N. World Conference Against Racism
August 29, 2001, Durban — The anti-Israel rhetoric that threatens to undermine the U.N. World Conference
Against Racism, which officially begins on Friday, has already surfaced in
various meetings and forums being held here in the run-up to the formal
conference. Speakers and panel moderators at the opening of the Non-Governmental (NGO) Forum issued strongly
worded anti-Israel accusations and compared the Israeli treatment of
Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.
The rhetoric made clear that the plight of the Palestinians
was a defining theme of the early stages of the conference. A t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Occupation= Colonialism=Racism, End Israeli Apartheid" is one of the most popular shirts seen at the NGO
In her opening remarks, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
noted that the conference would deal with "particular victims of racism,"
putting Palestinians at the head of her list. As Mrs. Robinson was led from the stage, the audience joined in singing
refrains of the Bob Marley reggae hit “One Love, one heart, let’s get
together and feel alright,” as an enormous banner passed over the crowd saying
“President George W. Bush, Palestinian blood is on your hands.”
Charging that Israel Practices Apartheid
Equating Israel with apartheid in South Africa was the
focus of series of "thematic commissions" - presentations on issue areas
followed by drafting sessions of the NGO Declaration. A session on Hate Crime and Hate Groups, Ethnic Cleansing/
conflict/genocide featured victims from Sudan, India and the Palestinian
Authority. Another session devoted to "Palestinians - New Forms of Apartheid" featured Israeli-Arab Knesset
member Azmi Bishara, who railed against Israel’s "apartheid" policy.
Pro-Palestinian activists disrupted the only panel on the
four-day program to deal with anti-Semitism. Arab activists spread out to join each subgroup of the
drafting session arguing that the Holocaust be equated with Israel’s treatment
of Palestinians and that anti-Semitism be defined as "anti-Arab sentiment"
since Arabs are Semites.
Holocaust Terminology Turned on Israel
In a speech delivered through an emissary, Palestinian
spokesperson Hannan Ashrawi accused Israel of "demographic engineering to maintain purity of Israeli society."