ICEJ NEWS – 08/27/2001
US Secretary of State Colin Powell will not attend the upcoming anti-racism conference in Durban, forcing Israel to reassess the level of its own representation at the UN forum where Arab/Islamic elements plan to bash the Jewish State and people.
The US State Department confirmed today a Washington Post report that Powell will boycott the Durban event, with the US still considering a low-level team instead. The step is being taken, in part, in response to plans by Arab/Islamic delegations to equate Zionism with racism and charge Israel with “ethnic cleansing” and “crimes against humanity.” The US also has objected to attempts by some delegates to demand reparations for the enslavement of blacks as part of the debate in Durban.
Powell’s decision came after US President George W. Bush stated on Friday that the US will not take part in the upcoming anti-racism conference in Durban “if it tries to isolate Israel and denigrates Israel.”
Bush assured, “We will have no representative there so long as they pick on Israel, so long as they continue to say that Zionism is racism. If they use the forum as a way to isolate our friend and strong ally, we will not participate.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is now reevaluating its original plan to send a 17-member team to the conference, led by deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior. A ministry official involved in preparations for the conference said the chances are now greater that Israel will stay home rather than attend.
Another ministry official involved in the conference said Bush’s remarks were a last-ditch attempt to get the conference organizers to water down the anti-Israel proposals, or face turning the conference – without US participation – into an insignificant parley.
Israel is also talking with other countries, including Australia and Britain, trying to get them either to follow the US and possibly boycott the conference or to walk out when it turns viciously anti-Israel.
The conference is to open with five days of NGO symposiums beginning on Friday, followed by the official UN event next week. In addition, the Inter-Parliamentary Union – which has routinely issued strong anti-Israel statements in the past – will be convening on the side of the Durban event.
Some Jewish organizations – including the Jewish Agency, the World Jewish Congress, and the ADL – have decided to boycott the conference so as not to lend it any legitimacy. They suggest that the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist proposals at Durban are being offer as part of a plan to internationally sanction the murder of Jews under the guise of fighting for human rights.
But the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has been involved in the extensive preparatory conferences leading up to Durban, has sent Dr. Shimon Samuels to head up the Jewish NGO effort. He cautioned that, “If Israel is not going to show any backbone and not attend, then a lot of those friends who may be prepared to help will no longer be interested.”
Local Jewish community leaders are concerned about the radical Islamic elements converging on Durban, and in consultations with pro-Israel Christian groups like the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem have opted not to conduct street protests. Instead, Jewish and Christian organizations will be placing paid advertisements in South African newspapers to get their message across, while Christians are organizing a prayer vigil near the conference site.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.