Thank you Madame Chairwoman for the opportunity to address you
for a few moments. My name is Michael Salberg, and I am the ADL National
Commissioner responsible for the League’s international educational projects.
Building on the success of our anti-bias education and diversity awareness
initiatives widely used in the US, ADL has developed programs now being
implemented abroad in countries such as Germany, Austria, Russia, Israel, and
On behalf of a coalition of leading American Jewish
organizations dealing with issues of racism and anti-Semitism, we are grateful
to the Members of this Subcommittee, where all religious minorities have always
received a fair hearing. We are pleased you are examining preparations for the
UN World Conference Against Racism, a forum where, sadly, Jews being denied a
Because the history of the Jewish people stands as testament to
the need for all peoples to work against all forms of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, we first embarked on
participation in this conference to share our own experience and to present best
practices in the fight against racism.
As our world has become increasingly interdependent and as
individual countries have grown more and more diverse, issues of racism and
other kinds of intolerance have become more relevant to every society on earth
and to the global community as a whole. Practical programs, using the expertise
and experience of governments and non-governmental organizations, can be put to
better use if the international community at Durban agrees on principles to
support and implement such programs.
Fifty-three years after the establishment of the State of Israel
and ten years into serious Arab-Israeli negotiations, the legitimacy of Jewish
aspirations for a homeland and of Israel's right to exist should no longer be a
subject for dispute. Since the end of the Cold War, events seemed to point to a
future of constructive action by the international community, of facilitating
reconciliation, rather than exacerbating conflict . The infamous "Zionism =
racism" resolution was rescinded and the UN was able to agree on issues
such as the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic.
But we are addressing you today because, despite that progress,
despite the laudable goals on which the World Conference was initially
conceived, and despite the good faith efforts of many, the process is being
commandeered by forces cynically promoting efforts to turn back the clock, to
endorse hateful anti-Jewish canards such as "Zionism is racism" in an
effort to delegitimize Israel.
You have heard much about language that is divisive, language
that is offensive, language that many groups oppose. For your information, I
have attached excerpts of the current Draft Declaration which point to the
kind of hurtful and counterproductive tone we are talking about,
along with a "white paper" outlining key concerns and principles which
the leading Jewish organizations have prepared. The League has also launched a
website – www.adl.org/durban
-- which explains these concerns and serves as an online resource for
developments relating to the conference.
The members of this Subcommittee are well aware of the
pernicious nature of the "Zionism is racism" charge. The shame it
brought on the entire UN and the resulting decline in Americans’ belief in the
integrity of that institution are only now beginning to fade. Congress and the
Administration have been active in fighting the anti-Israel bias which has
pervaded the UN and know well how these forums have been used to isolate and
And so, beyond identifying the problem, we join with you today
in the effort to chart a course which will enable leaders from different groups
-- each with different vital concerns -- to learn from each other and unify
around a positive agenda for the Durban conference. This agenda should exemplify
the conference goals and not single out any religion or nation for vilification.
All of us here are united in our deep commitment to the goals of
a UN World Conference Against Racism in which all of the participants can move
forward together in the fight against racism. We have heard much about the fears
for what Durban might become; I would like to focus on our hopes for what
Durban could and should be.
We hope that, at the upcoming preparatory conference in Geneva,
the process of addressing problems with the language that has been proposed can
be a model for embracing mutual respect in addressing the issues of all
minorities. This would be a much more valuable contribution to this global
discussion than squandering the opportunity to forge a global commitment to
combating racism for the sake of a one-sided discussion of the Middle East
The delicate and vital task of advancing peace in the Middle
East and each of the troubled regions of the world will depend on governments,
NGOs and religious leaders working to foster a climate of trust, respect and
tolerance in which negotiations can succeed.
We look forward to a conference that can renew our commitment to
fighting racism and forge a shared vision of tolerance. We hope its aim and
integrity will not be diverted, diluted, or degraded by the influence of
external political agendas or situations specific to one country. These efforts
have no place in the fight against racism and threaten to undermine the
important work of this conference. Any examination of the scourge of racism
which maligns ethnic movements like Zionism as inherently racist is a sham. The
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Co-Chair of the Conference, Mary
Robinson, has warned against using the conference to revive this charge.
At a time when there is potential for reemerging conflict
between developed and developing countries -- seen in environmental and global
economic issues -- all nations have a stake in seeing the conference succeed.
Building on this success will help foster greater trust on other issues.
Rather than isolate any country or people, the aim of this
conference must be to reach out to end the isolation of those victims of racism
who still suffer and to offer them hope. We agree with the recent observation of
Secretary General Kofi Annan in accepting an honorary degree from Berlin’s
Freie Universitat, that
"We cannot simply shrug off discrimination as an aspect
of human nature. We know that people are taught to hate -- and they can also
learn to overcome it, through better understanding."
It is this vision that drives us in the work that we do, and
which we hope will shape the World Conference. We have shared with each member
of the subcommittee a copy of a recent ADL publication aimed at helping the
youngest victims of racism. This book, Hate Hurts, helps parents,
teachers, and those who touch the lives of children to turn the fear and pain of
prejudice into the courage to understand that differences in people are
something to be embraced, and not rejected.
For the sake of those who live remote from such tools, we commit
to working together with partners in the US and abroad to make this conference a
credit to the humanity of those united in the fight against intolerance of all