How the UN food forum served up an Israel boycott campaign

By Shimon Samuels, March 15, 2013
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A session at the UN Food and Agriculture  HQ in Rome (Photo: AP)

A session at the UN Food and Agriculture HQ in Rome (Photo: AP)

While “Apartheid Weeks” on campuses, BDS drives, flotillas and demonstrations amount to a loud, if shrill and clapped-out campaign against Jews and Israel, it is easy to forget that, in global corridors of power, their message is alive and well.

The fact that the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism turned out to be an antisemitic hatefest came as a surprise to most Jews, although the UN bloc system used at such events, passed down from the Soviet period, provided a ready-made podium for such propaganda. Meanwhile, the leaders of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), made up of 77 states, mostly undemocratic violators of human rights, are the prime sources of anti-Israel campaigning at the UN.

The UN Division for Palestinian Rights works through Unispal — the UN Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. This is composed of 25 member states — mostly NAM — and observers that comprise Palestine-desk officers of the EU, OECD, UNRWA and other UN agencies. Pet NGOs, including anti-Zionist Jews, are invited by Unispal to co-ordinate campaigns to pressure and harm Israeli interests.

The Wiesenthal Centre is the only Zionist Jewish organisation to attend these meetings — and also those of Unispal’s NGO-umbrella counterpart, the World Social Forum, and its European Social Forum satellites.

A few days ago, Unispal convened a meeting at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome, where, once again, a litany of initiatives was discussed: boycotts, the expulsion of Israel from the OECD and suspending its trade agreement with the EU, and the cancellation of the JNF’s charitable tax exemption status.

An Israeli delegate argued that the JNF was the arm of Zionist colonialism. Also discussed was the feasibility of bringing legal suits against IDF reserve officers and settlers to the International Criminal Court — possible since last November when the UN General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a “non-member State”.

An Italian law professor stressed that “the real issue is achieving Palestinian membership of other UN agencies”, while an Arab delegate said that “the implicit intent of this conference is to follow the November 2011 Unesco precedent, and get Palestinian admission into FAO.” Indeed, the Unesco vote in Paris was preceded by a similar Unispal meeting on its premises.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre wrote to the FAO Director General, asking how “the pursuit of Judaism” is related to food and agriculture and citing the Moroccan ambassador’s curious statement that “we are here to stop ‘the pursuit of Judaism’ in Palestine.” So far, it has not received an answer.

Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre

Last updated: 11:45am, March 15 2013