BADIL Resource Center
5 September 2001
For Immediate Release
MA'AN (Together) Arab NGO Bulletin No. 5, WCAR Durban
RIGHT OF RETURN IN THE TABA NEGOTIATIONS (important documents)
Forwarded from Palestinian NGO Media Team, WCAR (Durban)
RIGHT OF RETURN/TABA NEGOTIATIONS: Le Monde Diplomatique's special magazine entitled "Middle East: the faultline" includes two documents (one Palestinian position paper on the right of return, one Israeli response called "non paper") which probably provide the most accurate picture of where the discussion over a solution of the Palestinian refugee question had reached in the Taba negotiations, and which are the issues of controversy (i.e. mainly the issues of Israeli responsibility; quota on refugee return to Israel proper; the link between return and restitution of real property; and the role of UNRWA).
Le Monde Diplomatique's special magazine and the documents, are available in both English and French. (Note: the English language documents must be accessed through the French-language version.) Please check:
MA'AN ("Together") - DURBAN ARAB DAILY, World Conference Against Racism, 4 August 2001 - Issue 5
(Forwarded from Arab NGO Caucus)
This is the fifth bulletin from the Media Team of the Arab Caucus consisting of Arab NGOs attending the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance. We welcome your feedback. Please send comments to Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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2. DEVELOPMENTS IN DURBAN
International civil society: "Israel is a racist, apartheid state" On Saturday night, more than 3,000 NGOs in 44 regional and interest-based caucuses, represented in the NGO Forum, adopted the NGO Forum declaration in which Israel is described as a racist apartheid state that is colonial and commits racist crimes. The declaration also condemned Israel for inhumanity in denying food and water to the Palestinians and for the victimization of women and children, and the discrimination of Palestinians in Israel.
Some groups, organised in the (Zionist) Jewish Caucus, headed by Shimon Samuels, representing eleven Zionist NGOs such as the ADL, B'nai 'rith, Hadassah and the Wiesenthal Center, tried to add a paragraph (number 14) which described "charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as a virulent contemporary form of antisemitism".
This paragraph, if adopted, would have meant that any human rights critique on the State of Israel could be labeled as "antisemitism". During the vote on this particular paragraph, in an all or nothing vote for the Israeli delegation, all various caucuses, except the (Zionist) Jewish Caucus, voted to delete this paragraph.
Realising that there was a general consensus on the part of the overwhelming majority of NGOs in opposing Israel's institutionalised system of racism, apartheid and colonialism, members of the (Zionist) Jewish Caucus walked out. Crowds in the main meeting hall started chanting "Free Palestine".
Later, the program of action from the NGO Forum was adopted, which called for the enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which includes measures to be employed against apartheid, a protection force, and the dismantling of Israeli colonies.
The program included the right of return of all Palestinian refugees; the reinstitution of UN Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism, the repeal of Israel's Law of Return granting citizenship to all Jewish immigrants, and the establishment of a war crimes tribunal and called for the UN to prepare educational packets for schools and universities on the Israeli racist apartheid system; the establishment of UN special committee on Israeli apartheid; UN programs and institutions to combat the racist media distortion, stereotyping, and propaganda that demonizes and dehumanizes Palestinians as being violent terrorists, and the launch of an international anti-Israeli-apartheid movement.
Other actions adopted include calls on the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state, as was done in the case of South Africa, including sanctions, embargoes, and the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, and military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel; and the condemnation of those states supporting , aiding, and abetting the Israeli apartheid state, and its preparation of racist crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, and acts of genocide.
Earlier that day, Cuban President Fidel Castro criticised the United States for its boycott of the World Conference Against racism stating: "[Nobody] has the right to set preconditions to the conference or urge it to avoid the discussion ... [of] the way we decide to rate the dreadful genocide perpetrated, at this very moment, against our Palestinian brothers." He called on industrialised countries to pay compensation for the ills of colonialism and slavery and said that Europe and the United States should pay compensation for sins of the past. "The developed countries ... have been the main beneficiaries of the conquest and colonisation, of slavery, of ruthless exploitation ... of countries that constitute the Third World."
On Friday, August 31, South African President Thabo Mbeki and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan failed to arrive at the Speaker's Corner about 100 meter from the International Convention Centre to receive a "People's Manifesto" from a massive march organised by the Durban Social Forum, including the South African Palestine Solidarity Committee and other organisations grouped around the South African National NGO Coalition. The march consisted 60.000 people, carrying signs such as "Amandla Intifada", "Sharon, War Criminal", and "Hector Peterson, Mohammad Dura, twin victims of apartheid". The crowd, mainly South Africans, chanted old South African anti-apartheid songs and chanted "Down with Israel's apartheid, Down!" and "Viva Palestine, Viva".
The march started at Natal Technikon and marched to the UN Conference and ended with a rally in Hoy Park where South Africans launched the international anti-Israeli apartheid movement. The crowd was addressed by various speakers including Manar from Ibdaa', who promised that she and all refugees will return to their homes and lands of origin.
Yesterday, the low level delegation the U.S. administration had sent to Durban has walked out of the World Conference Against Racism. At an impromptu press conference at the ICC media centre, Jesse Jackson, a civil rights activist said the US decision based on one issue was unnecessary and unfortunate. He said that firstly, the US decision to send a low level delegation to the conference was an insult to the South African government.
3. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Today, we answer the following question: What is the significance of the American and Israeli boycott of the World Conference Against Racism?
First, one must know that this is not the first time the United States has boycotted an anti-racism conference. Also the two previous conferences were boycotted by the United States. At the 1978 World Conference Against Racism, the United States led a boycott of the WCAR, and was followed by a number of EU States, because the document of that conference referring to apartheid-South Africa also included a condemnation of Israel's systematic violations of Palestinian rights.
In 1983, the same states again voted against any measures being taken against South Africa. The position of the United States is clear. To date, within the United Nations Security Council, the United States has used its veto 73 times. The vast majority of US vetoes were cast in support of Israel and apartheid-South Africa.
The United States and Israel's allies are trying to prevent any criticism on Israel's human rights record. American and European Jewish Zionist organisations have been so pre-occupied with defending Israel's apartheid regime, that Palestinian youth had to submit language on anti-semitism at the Youth Summit, in which these organisations walked out twice. The same happened at the NGO Forum. Instead of submitting language to combat anti-semitism, organisations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center have turned into state-sponsored Israeli lobby centers.
With this boycott of the first international conference in ten years aiming at combating racism around the globe, the United States and Israel are sending the world a dangerous message: that their desire to silence criticism of Israel's appalling human rights record is considered a higher priority than international efforts to combat racism and protect universal human rights.
The majority of NGOs participating in the WCAR strongly believe that, as in the case of South African apartheid, the Israeli discriminatory regime must be tackled by the international community both because of the implications of its actions for regional and world peace and security reasons, and because of the abhorrent nature of the racist system itself.
Editors Note: If you have any questions you would like addressed in the 'Frequently Asked Questions' section of this bulletin, please let us know.
This bulletin is prepared by the Media Team of the Arab Caucus on behalf of Arab human rights NGOs attending the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance.
The Arab Caucus secretariat consists of Nazar Abdelgadir, Said Bakri, Shawqi Issa, Ameer Makhoul, and Yousri Mustafa.
The Media Team: Arjan El Fassed; Victoria Metcalfe; Nadira Bayat; Christina Ruiz; Annet Meeuws.
Contact: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org