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International Affairs  
Testimony of The Anti-Defamation League on The United Nations World Conference Against Racism
July 31, 2001
To The International Relations Subcommittee on
International Operations and Human Rights
of the House of Representatives

On Behalf of
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs,
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
World Jewish Congress

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 Japan.

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 fair hearing.

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 – -- 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 exclude Israel.

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 conflict.

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 kinds.

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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