Euro Parliament Criticized for Hosting UN 'Israel-Bashing' Forum

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is unhappy that the European Parliament will play host to a meeting next week of a United Nations committee known for taking strong anti-Israel positions. By agreeing to host the conference next week at its Brussels headquarters, the EP is legitimizing what is sure to be an "Israel-bashing" exercise, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

The U.N.'s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is holding a conference of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others "in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace."

The committee says on its Web site that the theme of the conference is "civil society and parliamentarians working together for peace in the Middle East."

For critics such as Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, however, the committee's track record gives little hope that the meeting will be as innocuous as it sounds.

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established by a General Assembly resolution on the same day in 1975 that the world body passed the resolution equating Zionism with racism. That resolution was revoked in 1991.

Regev told Cybercast News Service that in the three decades of the committee's existence, it had done nothing to help the cause of peace. It was, rather, an "old-fashioned, Israel-bashing" body, he added.

He criticized the EP for allowing its facilities to be used as a venue for the two-day conference, which begins next Thursday.

"It's a pity that the European Parliament is giving legitimacy to a committee that deserves no legitimacy," he said.

EP spokeswoman Marjory Van Den Broeke said the U.N. committee meeting was not being convened by the EP and was not official EP business. The parliament had only permitted the event to take place on its premises, she said.

Speaking by phone from Brussels, she said this was standard practice. Events were sometimes held there, with the approval of the heads of the various political parties represented in the parliament, and on condition that the organization holding the function covers the costs.

Some parliamentarians may have been invited to the conference but that did not mean they would necessarily attend, Van Den Broeke said. She added that the EP backed efforts by the Quartet -- the European Union, United States, the U.N. and Russia -- to resolve the Mideast conflict.

The U.N. committee has issued a statement denying that next week's event will be "anti-Israeli," and saying that some people appear to have misunderstood the committee's role and mandate.

The committee "has a consistent record of support for the Middle East peace process," it said.

However, a delegation of Polish Euro-lawmakers already has pulled out of the event, after getting a look at material prepared by the organizers for use during the meeting.

Bronislaw Geremek, a member of the EP who is also president emeritus of the Polish national parliament, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying the material made it clear the meeting would be "a biased, conflict-generating conference."

Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based organization that monitors the U.N., said nothing constructive ever comes out of the committee's frequent meetings.

They are usually a platform for those who want to delegitimize Israel by pushing the "Soviet-era" line that Zionism is racism, he said.

Neuer said the outcome of the conference is pre-determined since no Israeli government representatives have been invited, and the only Israelis who are to attend are "specially-approved" because they hold radical pro-Palestinian views.

It would be like "holding a conference on U.S.-Islamic rapprochement and inviting John Walker Lindh -- the American who joined the Taliban -- to represent America's position," he said.

Neuer said the U.N. should take the $5 million it gives annually to the Palestinian rights division and use it instead in ways that actually help the Palestinians, such as building hospitals, health clinics and schools for them.

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