Fears over Israel-hate at UN race conference

Jewish representatives remain concerned that a United Nations anti-racism conference next spring may be used to promote an anti-Israel agenda.

A follow-up to the Durban human rights conference of 2001 - where Jewish organisations were shocked at the level of aggressive anti-Zionism - is due to take place in Geneva next April.

But representatives of the Jewish Human Rights Coalition UK, set up to participate in the event, expressed worries after attending a UN pre-conference meeting to discuss the agenda earlier this month.

"We remained concerned that the conference may produce a document that will be unacceptable to the Jewish community," said Elizabeth Harris, co-ordinator of JHRC UK and public affairs director at the Board of Deputies, who attended the meeting with Sam Cohen of the Jewish Leadership Council.

Their fears stem, in particular, from a document presented on behalf of the Asian region.

It refers to the "plight of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons who were forced to leave their homes because of war and racial policies of the occupying power, and who are prevented from returning to their homes and properties because of a racially- based law of return".

The document also calls on the international community to protect the Palestinians "under occupation" against aggression, acts of racism and a denial of their human rights including their right to self-determination.

A declaration on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (an umbrella body for Muslim countries) also calls for action in response to the "non-recognition" of the Palestinians' "inalienable right to self-determination".

JHRC UK representatives are waiting to see a draft text combining the presentations of the regional groups, although they fear that the anti-Israel references are likely to remain.

But they expressed satisfaction at the position of the European Union - and particularly the British government - which stated that it "would find unacceptable any attempt to trivialise or deny the Holocaust, or to renegotiate agreements on the fight against antisemitism".

 

    Last updated: 10:38am, October 23 2008