Israel threatens to boycott 4th UN Conference Against Racism

Israel Materials 4 April 2008 15:07 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Israel said Friday it will boycott the fourth United Nations World Conference Against Racism, if this again focusses excessively on the Jewish state to the exclusion of human rights violations elsewhere in the world.

The conference is expected to be held in Durban, South Africa in 2009. Three previous UN anti-racism conferences were held in Durban in 2001, and in Geneva in 1983 and 1978.

The last conference in the South African port city in September 2001 was widely seen as a failure, and was slammed for having singled out Israel at the expense of a host of other countries with contentious human rights records.

Arab and Muslim states had demanded the closing statement of the conference equate Zionism with racism, said Israel's policies in the occupied territories amounted to "ethnic cleansing" and used the term "holocaust" to describe the killing of almost 4,900 Palestinians in nearly eight years of mutual violence.

Pro-Palestinian activists had also staged protests outside the conference, in which they held up signs equating the Jewish Star of David to the Nazi Swastika, chanted "kill the Jews" and sold copies of the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a forged, early 20th century anti-Semitic document.

The United States, followed by Israel, had walked angrily out the conference.

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official confirmed Israel would boycott the next conference if indications that it would become a "Durban II" were to prove true.

"We are examining this option together with the United States," Arieh Mekel told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"If we see that they want to turn it into something like the previous time, then we and the US will have no interest in being there."

Criticism of the next conference has already started, partly because of countries such as Iran and Libya being named to its planning committee.

Mekel said there were "many indications" the conference was heading for a repetition of 2001.

"First of all, we know how the UN Human Rights Council, which is pretty much the organizer, treats Israel all the time," he said, referring to the council's agenda, which has focused obsessively on Israel, to the virtual exclusion of all other countries.

Since its creation in June 2006, the council has passed 19 resolutions criticizing Israel, while issuing almost no other resolution condemning any other of the 192 UN member states. Israel is also the only country listed on the council's permanent agenda.

Israelis have often complained of a strong anti-Israel bias in many UN and other international forums, where it is outvoted by pro-Palestinian, Arab and Muslim blocs.