September 4, 2001, Durban —
U.S., Israel Walk out of U.N. Conference
After four days of deadlocked negotiations, the US and Israel made a decision that efforts to negotiate a compromise on anti-Jewish and anti-Israel language in the Conference Draft declaration had hit a wall.
ADL commended the Bush Administration's decision to pull out of the conference, which had become mired in efforts to introduce anti-Israel rhetoric.
Neutral language drafted by the government of Norway garnered some support by delegates, but after Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian and other delegations continued to demand new anti-Israel language and sought to remove language on anti-Semitism, it became clear that diplomatic efforts were going nowhere.
In announcing Israel's decision to pull out of the conference in Durban, Israeli ambassador Mordechai Yedid delivered a statement on behalf of Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchoir.
The Israeli delegation said that the continuing efforts to use the U.N. conference as a forum to unfairly criticize Israel made its participation impossible. "Can there be a greater irony than the fact that a conference convened to combat the scourge of racism should give rise to the most racist declaration in a major international organization since the Second World War?" said the statement.
Following the Israeli and American pullout, the Jewish Caucus in Durban formally withdrew from the conference. ADL has maintained one representative on the ground to monitor developments through the conclusion of the conference.
Jewish Caucus Walks Out of NGO Forum
At the concluding plenary of the NGO Forum, a key paragraph on anti-Semitism was stripped from the document by a unanimous vote. The ADL delegation led Jewish delegates in a chant of "shame, shame, shame" and the caucus walked out. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called the accusations of Israel inappropriate but did not reject the document outright.
The paragraph removed by the vote, which prompted the walkout, was as follows:
We are concerned with the prevalence of anti-Zionism and attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel through wildly inaccurate charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as a virulent contemporary form of anti-Semitism leading to firebombing of synagogues, armed assaults against Jews, incitements to killing, and the murder of innocent Jews, for their support for the existence of the State of Israel, the assertion of the right to self determination of the Jewish people and the attempts, through the State of Israel, to preserve their cultural and religious identity.
Human Rights Community Criticizes NGO Process, Language on Jewish Issues
Representatives from human-rights organizations including the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch held a news conference criticizing the NGO conference process including the treatment of Jewish issues in
the document. Unfortunately, these concerns were raised only two days after the conclusion of the NGO forum.
Civil Rights Community Expresses Support
A coalition of groups let by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium plan a news conference on Wednesday to express outrage at the anti-Jewish language and the targeting of Jewish participants at the WCAR. At least one U.S. civil rights leader on the 8-member NGO drafting committee planned to resign over the inciteful and inappropriate language put forward by the forum.