Posted Friday, July 6, 2001

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Jerusalem, July 5, 2001

UN draft: Zionism 'a movement based on racial superiority'

By Janine Zacharia

WASHINGTON (July 4) -- Despite the threat of an American boycott, the latest draft of a declaration up for adoption at a UN conference on racism next month includes references to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians as a "crime against humanity" and revives the classification of Zionism as a "movement which is based on racial superiority."

A copy of the latest version of the text -- which also refers to Arabs who suffered as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war as victims of "ethnic cleansing" -- was obtained yesterday by The Jerusalem Post. The document is slated for final approval by the conference's preparatory committee when it convenes in Geneva on July 30 for the last time ahead of the late August "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance" to be held in the South African port city of Durban.

Following are clauses that relate to Israel and Zionism:

  • Clause 25, listed in a section entitled "Ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, and similar crimes," reads:

    "We affirm that a foreign occupation founded on settlements, its laws based on racial discrimination, with the aim of continuing domination on the occupied territory, as well as its practices, which consist of reinforcing a total military blockade, isolating towns, cities, and villages under occupation from each other, totally contradict the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and constitute a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity and a serious threat to international peace and security."

  • Clause 29, in a section entitled "Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance," begins: "We salute and acknowledge the memory of all victims of racism, and racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, slavery, and slave trade, colonialism.

Items where there is still disagreement among delegates refer both to the Holocaust and to "ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine."

There are also references to "racial discrimination against the Palestinians as well as other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories" and a call for the cessation of such practices.

  • Clause 54 speaks of the need to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as intrinsic to opposing all forms of racism, while the draft of Clause 55, on which there are also conflicting opinions, reflects deep concern at the worldwide increase in anti-Semitism and "the increase of racist practices of Zionism... as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular, the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority."

The ADL's taaskIsraeli and American diplomats, as well as Jewish groups such the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have been lobbying delegates to the conference to try to make sure the resolution does not include the clauses hostile to Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior, who will be representing Israel at the event and who is spearheading Israel's fight against the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist proposals, convened a conference in London yesterday of some 60 Jewish leaders from around the world to discuss the proposals and how best to lobby against them.

The proposals, said Melchior, undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel and even the existence of Judaism. By using words like genocide in relation to settlements, and by criticizing the Law of Return as an absolute evil, the proposals cheapen what is truly evil," he added.

"If to build an apartment in Gilo is genocide, if the Law of Return is racism and apartheid, the expressions of absolute evil are watered down. If all is genocide, then nothing is genocide," Melchior said.

In addition to delegitimizing Israel and Zionism, Melchior said, "the proposals also attempt to delegitimize Jewish death and suffering of the past," by lumping anti-Semitism with a variety of other "phobias."

"I don't mind condemning Islamophobia, but you can't compare it with anti-Semitism -- they are two different phenomena," he said.

"It resurrects the Zionism-Racism issue in a way that brings back the bad old days, suggests that the deep hostility and hatred toward Israel is an ongoing feature of the international landscape," said Jess Hordes [sic], director of the ADL's Washington office. "And it really hijacks a conference that should be devoted to addressing the real and serious problems of racism and xenophobia."

The US is also opposed to parts of the resolution that would reinforce claims by African Americans and African nations demanding reparations from countries that were involved in the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell met last month with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who will chair the week-long conference, which opens August 31.

Powell, who has not yet decided whether he will attend, informed senators at a committee hearing that he told Robinson he is anxious to see strong US participation in the conference, but some serious work had to be done to eliminate such issues as a Zionism-is-racism proposition, or dealing with slavery and compensation and other matters which would detract from the purpose of the conference.

The dispute is the latest rough spot in US-UN relations. Earlier this year, the US was voted off a UN human rights body and America has in the past withheld its payment of UN dues. Diplomatic sources in Washington say if the resolution passes in its current form, Congress could move again to deny those payments.

(Herb Keinon contributed to this report.)

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