by Hugh Fitzgerald
In 2001, the UN held a “World Conference Against Racism,” known as the Durban Conference after the city in South Africa where it was held. Contrary to its stated purpose, the 2001 Durban Conference was marked by displays of intolerance, antisemitism, and baseless claims against the Jewish state, including the first appearance of the charge, by now spread worldwide, that Israel is an “apartheid” state. Israel was singled out in the conference’s concluding declaration, and at the NGO Forum held in parallel. In 2001 and thereafter, the Durban process has been used to promote racism, intolerance, antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and to erode freedom of speech and Israel’s right to exist.
A preliminary resolution at Durban I contained the charge that “Zionism is racism,” which led Israel and the United States to pull out of the conference altogether. Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General of the Durban Conference, refused to accept the Declaration adopted by the Conference, claiming that the language of the resolution was intolerable; she said that “there was horrible antisemitism present.”
Durban IV, which will be held this September, will endorse this perversion of the principles of anti-racism. As world leaders gather for the General Assembly’s annual opening, this one-day event plans to adopt a “political declaration” calling for the “full and effective implementation” of the Durban Declaration. That means adopting all sorts of anti-Israel measures, beginning with attempts to damage Israel’s economy through BDS — boycotts, disinvestment, and sanctions. Attempts will again be made to further delegitimize the Jewish state, to blacken its image by charging it with cruelly mistreating the Palestinians, to ignore both the provisions of the Palestine Mandate and U.N. Resolution 242, in order to pressure Israel into yielding the territory — formulaically and wrongly described as “occupied” – that it won in the Six-Day War in 1967, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, in order that the Jewish state be squeezed back within the 1949 Armistice Lines, with a nine-mile-wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea.
Now the one-day Durban IV event is to be held this September, and decent countries, one by one, are declaring their intention not to attend an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of that swamp of antisemitism, Durban I. A report on some states that so far have chosen not to take part, so, is here: “Hungary takes EU lead in announcing boycott of upcoming Durban conference,” by Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2021:
Hungary has become the first EU country to announce it will not attend this year’s UN event marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, which featured antisemitic messages….
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, is also known as Durban I, after the South African city in which it was held. It was a hotbed of antisemitic and anti-Israel messages and was where the accusation of apartheid against Israel was first popularized.
An early draft of the resolution adopted at the Governmental Conference at Durban [in 2001] equated Zionism with racism, leading the US and Israel to withdraw from the conference. The final draft did not condemn Zionism as racist, but the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the only one listed specifically under the section on “victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
The NGO Forum at Durban approved a resolution calling Israel a “racist apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide. Antisemitic materials, including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, were distributed at the event.
Durban conference secretary-general Mary Robinson refused to accept the document over the language, saying that “there was horrible antisemitism present.”
“The US did not participate in the Durban II and III follow-up conferences in 2009 and 2011, respectively, because the original conference “became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive,” president Barack Obama said in 2009.
Israel, Canada, Italy, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland also boycotted the conference. In 2011, for Durban III, the number of countries boycotting rose to 14.
Last week, the UK said it was joining the US, Canada and Australia in boycotting Durban IV this September, “following historic concerns regarding antisemitism.”
France is also expected to pull out, a diplomatic source said last month, but it has not yet issued an official statement. A German Foreign Ministry official said Berlin had yet to decide on the matter….
If France and Germany follow the U.K. and Hungary, that will mean the three most important European countries will have refused to take part in the Durban IV conference. The Netherlands, Italy, and Poland also boycotted both Durban II and Durban III, which suggests they will do so this year as well. There is reason to believe that Romania (which has been on the short list of countries that might move their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem) would also join such a boycott. Greece and Cyprus, two states which in the past took part in the Durban conferences, have in the last year greatly improved their ties with Israel, both in agreements to collaborate in gas exploration projects, an to resist Erdogan’s aggressive moves in the eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Israel have engaged in joint military exercises; and have entered into a $1.65bn contract with Israel for the establishment and operation of a training center, run by Israel, for the Greek air force. Given all that, it is unthinkable that Greece would take part in Durban IV.
All fourteen of the countries that boycotted Durban III should be expected to boycott Durban IV, for nothing has changed since then in the text of the original, violently antisemitic declaration adopted at Durban I, and which will be grotesquely celebrated at Durban IV as it was at Durbans II and III. Those fourteen countries — Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States — all boycotted Durban III.
So far Australia, Canada, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S. have all announced they will not be taking part in Durban IV.
Hungary, which did take part in Durban III, has just announced that it, too, will boycott Durban IV, the first EU country to do so.
Greece and Cyprus, which also took part in Durban III, have become allies of Israel, economically and militarily, and are sure to boycott Durban IV.
Austria (with its philo-Israel Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz, who during the Gaza War flew the Israeli flag over his chancellery) will certainly boycott Durban IV; so will Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, as they all did with Durban III.
There may be other surprises. Kosovo, which has moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, is now unlikely to take part in Durban IV. Azerbaijan has close military ties to Israel, and relied on its Israeli weapons in its recent victorious war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. India under Narendra Modi and the BJP has become friendly to Israel; Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, in 2017. During the Gaza War, T.S. Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations, in a tweet said that India condemned “all acts of violence, especially rocket attacks from #Gaza.” In other words, he was prepared to condemn by name the Hamas rocket barrages from Gaza, without mentioning Israel’s retaliatory attacks. This was taken as a clear sign that India favored the Jewish state. Israel and India have both been victims historically of Muslim aggression and of Islamic terrorism. By boycotting Durban IV, India can take another step — long overdue — toward finally embracing Israel.
In Central America, two countries – Guatemala and Honduras – have moved their embassies to Jerusalem. Both took part in Durban III, but it is likely that with these embassy moves, and the promise to both countries of Israeli aid in developing their economies, especially in the agricultural sector, that neither will want to attend the Hate-Israel Fest at Durban IV. Brazil, which is led by the pro-Israel Jair Bolsonaro, has not come through as yet with a promise he made during his presidential election campaign to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. In fact, he appears to have walked back the promise, under pressure from Brazil’s cattle raisers, who have a thriving business selling halal meat in Arab countries, but the mere fact that such a move was being seriously contemplated shows where Bolsonaro’s affections lie. Brazil has opened a trade office in Jerusalem, which for several countries has preceded their moving the embassy itself; perhaps Brazil will in the end pleasantly surprise both the U.S. and Israel, and join the boycott of Durban IV.
A list of other countries that have recently talked about moving their embassies include Romania (the Prime Minister is for it, the President is against), Malawi, and Equatorial Africa. But let’s not count those diplomatic chickens before they are hatched.
Instead, here is the list of the 19 countries almost certain to boycott Durban IV:
Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
And here are eleven plausible possibilities among those countries that did not boycott Durban III but have recently been improving their economic or military and political ties with Israel, and might well boycott Durban IV:
Azerbaijan, Brazil, Equatorial Africa, Ethiopia, India, Kosovo, Malawi, Rumania, Southern Sudan
I think that when the dust settles in September, at least twenty-one countries will have boycotted Durban IV. That’s a 50% increase over the 14 states that boycotted Durban III in 2011. That’s very encouraging. Note to Israeli Foreign Ministry: Keep up the good work. You have nowhere to go but up.
First published in Jihad Watch.