Israel delivers key statement to Durban conference
Israel's key statement at the United Nation's World Conference against Racism today in Durban, South Africa, is being delivered at this time (14:30, Monday the 3rd September)) by Ambassador Mordechai Yedid on behalf of Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior. The entire text of Melchior's speech, obtained by The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition, is presented below:
"Why, when the world was created, did God create just one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve? The Rabbis answered: so that all humankind would come from a single union, to teach us that we are all brothers and sisters.
"This Conference was dedicated to that simple proposition. We, all of us, have a common lineage, and are all, irrespective of race, religion or gender, created in the divine image. Indeed, this single idea, unknown to all other ancient civilizations, may be the greatest gift that the Jewish people has given to the world, the recognition of the equality and dignity of every human being.
"The foremost right that follows from this principle is the right to be free, not to be a slave. It is imperative that international community address and duly acknowledge, already far, far too late, the magnitude of the tragedy of slavery.
"The horror of slavery is profoundly engraved in the experience of the Jewish people - a people formed in slavery. For hundreds of years the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt until, as the Book of Exodus recounts, the call: 'Let my people go' heralded the first national liberation movement in history, and the model for every liberation, which was to follow.
"The Jewish response to slavery was remarkable. Rather than forget or sublimate the suffering of slavery, Jewish tradition insisted that every Jew must remember and relive it. And to this day, on Passover, every Jewish family reenacts the experience of slavery, eats the bread of affliction, and appreciates once again the taste of freedom. Through the ages of our exile this psychodrama has had a profound impact on the Jewish psyche: making sure that every child born into comfort knows the pains of oppression, and every child born into oppression knows the hope of redemption.
"But remembrance of our suffering as slaves has a more important function - to remind ourselves of our moral obligations. The experience of oppression brings no privilege, but rather responsibility. We have a responsibility to protect the weak, the widow and the orphan and the stranger, because as the Bible says: "You yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt." Even God, in the first and most fundamental of the 10 commandments, identifies Himself not as 'Creator of the World' or 'Splitter of the Red Sea', but as 'the One who freed you from slavery'.
"And indeed in every country in which they have lived, Jews have been in the forefront of the battle for human rights and freedom from oppression. The same urge for national liberation, that led to the Exodus, and that led to the Zionist dream that Jews could live in freedom in their land, was intrinsically bound up with the belief that not just one people, but all peoples must be free. It was this conviction that Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, expressed in his book Altneuland, as early as 1902:
'There is still one problem of racial misfortune unsolved. The depths of that problem only a Jew can comprehend. I refer to the problem of the Blacks. Just call to mind all those terrible episodes of the slave trade, of human beings who merely because they were black were stolen like cattle, taken prisoners, captured and sold. Their children grew up in strange lands, the objects of contempt and hostility because their complexions were different. I am not ashamed to say, though I may expose myself to ridicule for saying so, that once I have witnessed the redemption of Israel, my people, I wish to assist the redemption of the Black people.'
"As Herzl understood, remembrance of slavery is integral to the Jewish experience. A Jew cannot be truly free if he or she does not have compassion on those who are enslaved.
"If slavery is one form of racist atrocity, anti-Semitism is another. And by anti-Semitism, let us be clear, we mean the hatred of Jews. The word 'anti-Semitism' was deliberately coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, an anti-Jewish racist in Germany, to replace the term judenhass, Jew-hatred, which had gone out of favor. It has always, and only, been used to describe hatred and discrimination directed at Jews. Attempts to eradicate the plain meaning of the word are not only anti-Semitic, indeed they are anti-semantic.
"Those uncomfortable recognizing the existence of anti-Semitism not only try to redefine the term, they try to deny that it is different from any other form of discrimination. But it is a unique form of hatred. It is directed at those of particular birth, irrespective of their faith, and those of particular faith, irrespective of their birth. It is the oldest and most persistent form of group hatred; in our century this ultimate hatred has led to the ultimate crime, the Holocaust.
"But anti-Semitism goes far beyond hatred of Jews. It has arisen where Jews have never lived, and survives where only Jewish cemeteries remain. And while Jews may be the first to suffer from its influence, they have rarely been the last.
"Anti-Semitism reveals the inner corruption of a society, because at its root it is fueled by a rejection of the humane and moral values the Jewish people bequeathed to the world. As Anne Frank, the Jewish schoolgirl in hiding from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam, wrote in her Diary:
'If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason only do we now suffer.'
"Anne Frank was murdered by the Nazis in Bergen-Belsen for being a Jew, just one of over one million Jewish children to be killed in the Holocaust.
"Those who cannot bring themselves to recognize the unique evil of anti-Semitism, similarly cannot accept the stark fact of the Holocaust, the first systematic attempt to destroy an entire people. The past decade has witnessed an alarming increase in attempts to deny the simple fact of this atrocity, at the very time that the Holocaust is passing from living memory to history. After wiping out 6 million Jewish lives, there are those who would wipe out their deaths. At this Conference too, we have witnessed a vile attempt to generalize and pluralize the word 'Holocaust', and to empty it of its meaning as a reference to a specific historic event with a clear and vital message for all humanity.
"Could there be anything worse than to brutally, systematically annihilate a people; to take the proud Jews of Vilna, Warsaw, Minsk, Lodz; to burn their holy books, to steal their dignity, their freedom, their hair, their teeth; to turn them into numbers, to slaves, to the ashes of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek and Dachau? Could anything be worse that this? And the answer is yes, there is something even worse: to do such a thing, and then to deny it, to trivialize it, to take from the mourners, the children and the grandchildren, the legitimacy of their grief, and from all humanity the urgent lesson that might stop it happening again.
"The 20th century which witnessed the atrocities of the Holocaust also witnessed the fulfillment of the Zionist dream, the reestablishment of a Jewish state in Israel's historic land. For Zionism is quite simply that - the national movement of the Jewish people, based on an unbroken connection, going back some 4000 years, between the People of the Book and the Land of the Bible. It is like the liberation movements of Africa and Asia, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.
"And it is a movement of which other national liberation movements can be justly proud. It has strived continually to establish a society which reflects highest ideals of democracy and justice for all its inhabitants, in which Jew and Arab can live together, in which women and men have equal rights, in which there is freedom of thought of expression, and in which all have access to the judicial process to ensure these rights are protected.
"The aspiration to build such a society was enshrined from the outset in Israel's Declaration of Independence:
'The State of Israel... Will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of creed, race or gender; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.'
"It is a tall task. It is a constant struggle. And we do not always succeed. But, even in the face of the open hostility of its neighbors and continued threats to its existence, there are few countries that have made such efforts to realize such a vision. Few countries of Israel's age and size have welcomed immigrants from over one hundred countries, of all colors and tongues, sent medical aid and disaster relief to alleviate human tragedy wherever it strikes, maintained a free press, including the freest Arabic press anywhere in the Middle East.
"And yet those who cannot bring themselves to say the words 'the Holocaust', or to recognize anti-Semitism for the evil that it is, would have us condemn the 'racist practices of Zionism'. Did any one of those Arab states which conceived this obscenity stop for one moment to consider their own record? Or to think, for that matter, of the situation of the Jews and other minorities their own countries?
"These states would have us believe that they are anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic, but again and again this lie is disproved. What are the despicable caricatures of Jews that fill the Arab press and are being circulated at this Conference: what are the vicious libels so freely invented and disseminated by our enemies - about the use of poison gas, or depleted uranium bullets, or injecting babies with the Aids virus - if not the reincarnation of age-old anti-Semitic canards?
"To criticize policies of the Government of Israel - or of any country - is legitimate, even vital; indeed as a democratic state many Israelis do just that. But there is profound difference between criticizing a country, and denying it's right to exist. Anti-Zionism, the denial of Jews the basic right to a home, is nothing but anti-Semitism, pure and simple. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:
'You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist'. And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops. Let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism they mean Jews... Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land... And what is anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jew of the fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord to all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against Jews because they are Jews. In short it is anti-Semitism.'
"The venal hatred of Jews that has taken the form of anti-Zionism, and which has surfaced at this Conference is, however, different in one crucial way from the anti-Semitism of the past. Today it is being deliberately propagated and manipulated for political ends. Children are not born as racists, racism is a result of lack of education and political manipulation. And today generations of Palestinian children are being deliberately and systematically indoctrinated, with textbooks stained with blood libels, and children's television programs dripping with hatred. This high risk strategy is bound to fail, but it will exact a heavy price.
"The conflict between us and our Palestinian neighbors is not racial, and has no place at this Conference. It is political and territorial, and as such can and should be resolved to end the suffering and bring peace and security to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The path towards such a resolution is clear: an immediate cessation of violence and terror and a return to negotiations as recommended by the Mitchell Committee Report which both parties have accepted. The outrageous and manic accusations we have heard here are attempts to turn a political issue into a racial one, with almost no hope of resolution.
"Barely a year ago, at Camp David, the Israeli Government demonstrated its deep commitment to peace by offering our Palestinian neighbors far-reaching compromises. These compromises, you will recall, were applauded by the entire international community. But, the Palestinians did not accept these proposals, nor did they put forward any compromise proposals of their own. To our deep dismay they responded with a wave of violence. Over the past year this violence has escalated into protracted and inhuman attacks on the Israeli civilian population, forcing Israel to assume a role we abhor, defending our citizens by military means which we had hoped and prayed would be relegated to the past.
"I will not refer here to the disappointing statement we have heard from the head of the Palestinian Authority. Rather than utilize this vital forum to inspire his own people, and the people of the world, to seek peace, honor and harmony, he chose to use this podium to incite to bitterness and hatred. Another missed opportunity by the leader of the Palestinian people.
"My own cousins, two little daughters and their brother, lost their legs only a few weeks ago in a terrorist attack on a bus carrying children to school. Many Palestinian children have likewise been wounded for life. The vicious libels, the delegitimization and dehumanization we have heard at this Conference will do nothing to prevent more Israeli and Palestinian mothers and fathers bringing their young ones to their graves.
"But here today, something greater even than peace in the Middle East is being sacrificed - the highest values of humanity. Racism, in all its forms, is one of the most widespread and pernicious evils, depriving millions of hope and fundamental rights. It might have been hoped that this first Conference of the 21st century would have taken up the challenge of, if not eradicating racism, at least disarming it: But instead humanity is being sacrificed to a political agenda. Barely a decade after the UN repealed the infamous 'Zionism is Racism' resolution, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan described, with characteristic understatement, as a "low point" in the history of the United Nations, a group of states for whom the terms 'racism', 'discrimination', and even 'human rights' simply do not appear in their domestic lexicon, have hijacked this Conference and plunged us to even greater depths.
"Can there be a greater irony than the fact that a conference convened to combat the scourge of racism should give rise to the most racist declaration in a major international organization since the Second World War?
"Despite the vicious anti-Semitism we have heard here, I do not fear for the Jewish people, which has learned to be resilient and to hold fast to its faith.
"Despite the virulent incitement against my country, I do not fear for Israel, which has the strength not just of courage, but also of conviction.
"But I do fear, deeply, for the victims of racism. For the slaves, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the inexplicably hated, the impoverished, the despised, the millions who turn their eyes to this hall, in the frail hope that it may address their suffering. Who see instead that a blind and venal hatred of the Jews has turned their hopes into a farce. For them I fear.
"We are here as representatives of states, and states of their nature have political interests and agendas. But we are also human beings, all of us brothers and sisters created in the divine image. And in those quiet moments when we recognize our common humanity, and look into our soul, let us consider what we came here to do - and what we have in fact done:
"We came to learn from our history, but we find it being buried to hide its lessons.
"We came to communicate in the language of humanity, but we hear its vocabulary twisted beyond all comprehension.
"We came out of respect for the sacred values entrusted to us, but see them here perverted for political ends.
"And ultimately, we came to serve the victims of racism, but have witnessed yet another atrocity, committed in their name.
I would suggest you now go online and find IS ZIONISM RACISM? by Joseph Farrah - © 2001 WorldNetDaily.com - July 13, 2001
DURBAN CONFERENCE HEADED FOR SHAME AS US, ISRAEL EXIT
After the Arab/Islamic world marshaled an intimidating array of anti-Zionist forces at the UN conference on racism in Durban, the US and Israel finally decided on Monday to stage an official walkout in protest of the event's festering antisemitic agenda. The dramatic exit comes after Arab states rejected a last-minute "compromise" proposal that still would have allowed them to single out Israel for universal condemnation.
Tensions mounted in Durban over the weekend, as Arab/Islamic elements manipulated the opening forum for non-governmental organizations into adopting a ruthless attack on the Jewish State ahead of the start of the formal gathering for official delegations representing UN member states. Although UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson both tried to assure the final UN communiqué would be much more palatable, it now appears Durban will conclude with a shameful document that will elevate blatant anti-Semitic views to the status of "international legitimacy."
This dreadful outcome of the Durban conference was in many ways predictable, as the Arab/Islamic bloc is routinely able to command a majority of votes in most UN proceedings. The NGO forum reflected the stacked deck against Israel, as the declaration adopted over the weekend by some 3,900 registered NGOs accuses Israel of "systematic perpetration of racist crimes, including war crimes, acts of genocide, and ethnic cleansing."
The document sets forth a recommended "plan of action" for the UN to follow that effectively calls for the dismantling of the "racist, apartheid state" of Israel. It urges enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to include a "protection force" for Palestinians and the dismantling of "Jewish Israeli colonies." It also endorses the "right of return" for all Palestinians, and calls on the world body to revive UN Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism, to force repeal of Israel's Law of Return granting citizenship to Jewish immigrants, and to establish of a war crimes tribunal to "try Israeli racists."
In other calls to action, the NGO statement demands that the UN prepare educational packets for schools and universities on the "Israeli racist apartheid system"; develop programs to "combat the racist media distortion, stereotyping, and propaganda that demonizes and dehumanizes Palestinians as being violent terrorists"; and impose a policy of "complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state, as was done in the case of South Africa... sanctions, embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, and military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel."
Dr. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who headed the Jewish NGO caucus in Durban, described the NGO declaration as a "diplomatic abomination." He noted that such human rights advocacy groups as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, although they oppose Israeli policies, have rejected the charges labeling Israel as "genocidal" and "racist."
The Jewish caucus left the NGO conference after being denied the right to table a draft resolution condemning anti-Semitism. "This forum is now Judenrein," Samuels proclaimed. Some Christian groups departed as well when it became clear paragraphs condemning Israel for genocide against the Palestinians would be adopted.
But Shawqi Issa, spokesman for the Arab caucus at the forum, said he thought the document was "a very good one... It's just facts," he said. "The Israeli government is a racist government... and the Israeli government is an apartheid government. These are facts, and we can prove it," he insisted.
The UN's Robinson criticized the declaration, saying she regretted the language equating Zionism with racism. Palestinians have the right to protest their victimization, but "it is not appropriate that text emerged that re-victimizes and is hurtful in itself," said Robinson, who chairs the conference.
Faced with the blistering NGO indictment, Israeli officials began suggesting over recent days that the pro-Palestinian forces may have overplayed their hands, especially after anti-Semitic flyers and booklets began showing up everywhere - including the classic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which is banned in South Africa..
One leaflet being distributed features a picture of Hitler, with the caption, "If I had won, there would be no Israel and no Palestinian bloodshed." Numerous others depict Jews with fangs, crooked noses and bleeding hands. Jewish attendees have been harassed at every turn. "In terms of security, we don't walk alone," noted one Jewish leader in Durban.
PLO chief Yasser Arafat also seemed to step out of bounds in his speech to the gathering on Friday. He again accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" by driving Palestinians from their homes and of using "uranium weapons" against the Palestinians. "The ugliness of these Israeli racist policies and practices against the Palestinian people has become manifest and obvious during the intifada," he said.
"What we can hope for is that this conference will say what is bad, what is just in the face of this bloody tragedy that has befallen the Palestinian people," Arafat later told a round-table of world leaders. "This brutality, this arrogance is moved by a supremacist mentality, a mentality of racial discrimination."
Arafat's harsh comments ran counter to his signed pledge elicited earlier Friday by US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, in which the PLO leader promised to drop his campaign to brand Israel a "racist state."
Like Jackson, Kofi Annan felt he also had a firm enough commitment from the Arab states to declare on Saturday that "Zionism is racism" was a "dead issue" at Durban.
But still the Arab/Islamic participants have been unrelenting. In response, Israeli leaders have since alternated their comments between dismissing the Durban event as a "farce" and reciting all the nations who have taken Israel's side in this dispute.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres today called the conference a "festival of hate... that has neither understanding nor tolerance nor a message for the future. I regret it very much."
His deputy foreign minister, Rabbi Michael Melchior lamented that, "The whole time we wanted to make this a conference to focus on the evils of racism and xenophobia. The kidnapping of this conference by Arab regimes that don't know the first thing about human rights has created an enormous backlash."
"It is true that the pictures from Durban are terrible and that the streets are filled with anti-Semitic filth," Melchior said. "We can't compete on the streets, but in the halls, we have tremendous support." Melchior said that Israel has succeeded in gaining the support of most of the world, including the US, the European Union, Eastern Europe, and much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
A diplomatic showdown took shape by this morning, when a compromise proposal offered by Norway and Canada found US acceptance and awaited a response from the Arab League delegations. The trade-off would have meant dropping any condemnation of Israel by name for being a "racist" or "apartheid" state, but would have specifically highlighted injustices done to the suffering Palestinian people. If rejected, the US threatened to lead Israel and several other nations in an official walk-out.
Facing a mid-day deadline for delivering an answer, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said he supported a compromise that would prevent the American and Israeli exits, but in the end the Arabs decided the Conference's final resolution "must relate to the Israeli policy." He rejected Israeli statements that the Arab countries had hijacked the conference by focusing on the Middle East. "There are practices of racial nature pertaining to the conflict now and therefore this also has to be addressed," said Moussa. "[Israel] should register that everybody is angry."
Sharon and Peres deferred to Washington's lead before announcing Israel's withdrawal of its low-level delegation from Durban, and Canada and a few other states my leave as well. But this comes only after the head of the Israeli team, Ambassador Mordechai Yedid, took to the podium to deliver a message to the conference drafted by Melchior.
In his proxy address, Melchior quotes the Bible, Israel's Declaration of Independence, Zionist pioneer Theodor Herzl, young Holocaust victim Anne Frank, as well as noted black American leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who once wrote: "You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist'. And I say, let the truth ring forth... When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews."
Melchior's statement adds: "Barely a decade after the UN repealed the infamous 'Zionism is Racism' resolution, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan described, with characteristic understatement, as a "low point" in the history of the United Nations, a group of states for whom the terms 'racism', 'discrimination', and even 'human rights' simply do not appear in their domestic lexicon, have hijacked this Conference and plunged us to even greater depths."
"Can there be a greater irony than the fact that a conference convened to combat the scourge of racism should give rise to the most racist declaration in a major international organization since the Second World War?"
Melchior also decried Arafat's decision "to incite to bitterness and hatred" in his Durban speech, calling it "another missed opportunity by the leader of the Palestinian people."
To view the entire official statement by Rabbi Michael Melchior, please go to:
United Nations resolutions on Israel
Statement by US Ambassador
An open letter to the Palestinians
Mourning the dove of peace
Israel’s peculiar position
It’s those Jews again!