As I wrote in 2006, I support Israel’s right to exist and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and I am a critic of unbalanced, inflammatory and obsessive criticism of Israel. However, I am also critical of unbalanced, inflammatory and obsessive idealisation of Israel, of the kind that is rife in the polities of various Western countries including Australia and the United States.
In this light I must register my disappointment that the Australian and United States governments, amongst others, have heeded the current Israeli government’s call to boycott the United Nations Durban Review Conference on the purported grounds, generally that the conference could become a forum for anti-Israel rhetoric, and specifically that the proposed Conference Declaration will reaffirm the 2001 Durban Conference Declaration, which was objected to by the US and Israel.
As things stand, the boycott call has been taken up by the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, and according to Wikipedia by Sweden. The European Union and several of the EU’s member states are still considering their position. At any event it appears that the boycott of a UN conference on racism wll be confined almost exclusively to countries of the wealthy white West, including several former colonial powers who arguably have unfinished business in relation to their former colonies and the peoples thereof, and four products of British colonialism who certainly have unfinished business with their indigenous peoples. This is not a good look, and the more thoughtful supporters of Israel must wonder whether it is to Israel’s credit, or in its long-term interest, that lobbying by Israel and its supporters has produced such an outcome.
One wonders how the countries participating in the Conference (including all of Africa, Russia, Asia (except for Israel), South and Central America and the Vatican) will interpret a boycott confined exclusively to the wealthy white men’s club. How might they respond to the fact that nations such as the US and Australia consider a purported slight on Israel’s good name to be of greater moment than many other issues on which agreement and cooperation is possible with countries of the global South and global East, and sufficient grounds to refuse to attend a forum to discuss such cooperation?
I have studied both the Durban Declaration and the proposed Durban Review Conference Outcome Document, and I stand to be enlightened as to what the objections are to the text of these documents as they relate to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
The Durban Declaration states, inter alia:
58. We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten…
61. We recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities…
63. We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State and we recognize the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and call upon all States to support the peace process and bring it to an early conclusion;
64. We call for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region in which all peoples shall co-exist and enjoy equality, justice and internationally recognized human rights, and security…
150. Calls upon States, in opposing all forms of racism, to recognize the need to counter anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism and Islamophobia world-wide, and urges all States to take effective measures to prevent the emergence of movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas concerning these communities;
151. As for the situation in the Middle East, calls for the end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations, respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, respect
for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom;
As for the draft Durban Review Conference Declaration, its relevant passages read as follows:
12. Deplores the global rise and number of incidents of racial or religious intolerance and violence, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and anti-Arabism manifested in particular by the derogatory stereotyping and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief; and in this regard urges all the UN Member States to implement paragraph 150 of the DDPA…
66. Recalls that the Holocaust must never be forgotten, and in this context urges all Member States to implement General Assembly resolutions 60/7 and 61/255;
I am ready to have my attention drawn to elements of the Durban Declaration which could reasonably be considered offensive or unjust to Israel, Israeli Jews or Jews in general, and to condemn them accordingly, but on an admittedly quick inspection I couldn’t find any.
There are undoubtedly other issues on which fault could be found of the Durban Review Conference and its possible outcomes, but could any of these be more damaging for relations between peoples of difference races, religions and cultures than a white flight from a global anti-racism forum?