US diplomats have been working hard to ensure that Zionism does not appear on the agenda of the World Conference Against Racism, to be held in Durban, South Africa. US secretary of state Colin Powell has said that “serious work needed to be done to eliminate such issues as the ‘Zionism is racism’ proposition or getting into slavery and compensation and things of that nature which would detract from the purpose of the conference.” Israel is backing the US in its campaign to remove Zionism and other issues connected with the Middle-East from the conference-agenda, calling them political, not racial, matters. The US-Israeli positions are the main obstacle to finalising an agenda.
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances comprise the main theme of the conference. Non-discrimination on grounds of race was one of the UN’s founding principles when it came into being in 1945. The conference aims to focus on practical steps to eradicate racism and to provide effective remedies for the victims of racism and racial discrimination.
In 1975 the UN declared Zionism to be “a threat to world peace and security” and “a form of racism and racial discrimination”. This resolution stood until 1991, when, as the price for US ‘protection’ against Iraq, most Arab countries revoked it. Muslim and ant-Zionist Jewish groups have condemned the US-Israeli moves.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy that a country which is pursuing the perpetrators of the Holocaust – a racist enterprise — to the ends of the earth should itself seek to foreclose discussion of its own racist ideology,” the Islamic Human Rights Commission says. “In any ideology when you create nationalism based on a racial group, for example the Jewish nation, and give them more rights over others, then you are creating a racist ideology.
“Powell must be blind ... going to Israel several times and not seeing apartheid in action, the supremacy of Jews over non-Jews. Water, national income, housing, education, every single aspect of well-being within the zonist state proves a very apparent racism ... in which trespassers have more rights than the landowners themselves.”
Anti-zionist Jews have also joined the chorus of criticism. Rabbi Yosef Goldstein of the international anti-zionist Jewish movement, Neturei Karta (Aramaic for “guardians of the city”) has called the move another attempt to hide a global scandal. “Zionists have taken a people who lived in a place, and instead of trying to settle as peaceful neighbours, decided they must be the rulers. Not in the sense of giving everyone equal rights, but saying we are the rulers and you are the underdog. That is a racist situation.”
However, the US appears to have dug in its heels. “The world conference has to do with a worldwide phenomenon, not with individual country situations, and we will resist with all of the strength and diplomacy and all the parliamentary abilities we have, the injecting of a country-specific situation,” said a state department spokesman. “There have been two previous world conferences on racism [in 1978 and 1983] and we didn’t go to those because they were about Zionism being a form of racism and about the apartheid regime in South Africa, exclusively. They were country-specific polemic-fests, that’s what they were foreseen to be and what they turned out to be.”
Diplomats from 21 countries will begin another two weeks of talks in late July to try again to reach an agreement. The conference’s participants are also making contingency plans to hold fringe meetings to deal with the subject if the US and Israel get their way. The conference is expected to draw senior officials from most of the world’s governments, as well as hundreds of representatives of NGOs, who will attend parallel meetings.