Israel Enlists Diplomatic Support Against Anti-Semitism at Int'l Conference

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel and a major American Jewish organization sought to enlist the support of the diplomatic community Wednesday ahead of an international conference against racism, which is expected to blast Israel and the Jewish people for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Arab and Muslim nations have drafted a resolution critical of Israel to present at the landmark U.N. conference against "racism, xenophobia and related intolerance" to be held in Durban, South Africa in September.

The resolution, prepared in Tehran last February, revives the controversial "Zionism is racism" resolution that was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1975 at the urging of Arab States, and then finally repealed in 1991.

Zionism is the national self-determination movement on which the existence of the State of Israel is based. But Arab states argue that Israel's very existence is racist because Jews from around the world are permitted to become citizens by virtue of their Jewishness while others aren't.

Draft texts prepared ahead of the conference also refer to "holocausts" rather than the Holocaust, while anti-Semitism has been left off a list of forms of racism.

Calling anti-Semitism the "oldest" and "most vicious" prejudice, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior said there had been a "tornado" of hatred, incitement and anti-Jewish propaganda in the Arab world since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising 10 months ago.

According to Melchior, this upsurge in propaganda utilized old lies as well as new ones, bolstered by modern media technology.

Medieval accusations that Jews were poisoning drinking wells had been revived and modernized in claims that accused Israel of spreading drugs, using poisonous gases, enticing Arabs to gamble and dropping poisoned chocolates from helicopters over the Palestinian areas.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, for instance, accuses Israel of using depleted uranium bullets against Palestinians, he said.

The Holocaust is trivialized by saying there have been many "holocausts," while the real racist threat is said to be against the Palestinian people. Melchior said the reasoning was that if the Jews could do this against the Palestinians, they probably deserved what befell them during World War II.

Speaking in Jerusalem to about 70 diplomats, Melchior said he feared that if left unchecked, these ideas could turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a territorial struggle, which can be resolved, into an existential battle between two religions to which there is no solution.

If the resolution succeeds, he said, there would be four main victims at the racism conference - the Jewish people, who would survive anyway; the fight against racism, which would be turned into an Israel/Jew-bashing event; the U.N.'s work, which would be turned into a farce by sidelining such issues as child slavery; and the Mideast peace process.

A Jordanian diplomat, who attended the briefing but did not want to be named, rejected the notion that anti-Semitism was playing a major role in the current trouble in the region.

"Both parties have crossed the limits of reason," he said. The only hope is for confidence to be rebuilt and for the sides to return to talks. Israel must not deny the right of the Palestinian people to exist, he added.

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, challenged the world community to speak out against the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the Arab world.

There were some people who stood against the Nazis and saved Jewish lives during World War II, he said, but many more could have been saved if more people had taken a stand.

"Wherever people said 'no' [to the Nazis] people lived," Foxman said. "We are gathered here so future generations don't ask, what if?"

Treatment of the Jewish people, Foxman said, was like a barometer of society. Like canaries miners used to send into the mines to test if the air was healthy to breath, Jews were treated in society in a way that tested civility, decency and democracy in the world.

Foxman has met several times with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and has pleaded with him to speak out against the virulent anti-Semitism in Egyptian media. Mubarak has nevertheless remained silent on the issue.

Until the U.S. and Western nations impose consequences on countries like Egypt for endorsing anti-Semitism by keeping silent, Foxman said, there would be no change.

See also:
Slavery Reparations, Mideast Politics Dog Preparations For U.N. Racism Conference (June 29, 2001)
'Israel-Bashing' Campaign Planned For U.N. Racism Conference (July 2, 2001)