When the United Nations sits down later this month to debate unilateral Palestinian statehood, a 10-year anniversary will weigh heavily on the minds of Jewish observers and other supporters of Israel. It was 10 years ago, in September 2001, that the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance convened in Durban, South Africa and quickly devolved into what one delegate called a “fiesta” of Israel bashing.
Resolutions passed by the UN-sponsored body singled out Israel for criticism. Racism and intolerance in developing and developed countries were ignored. A delegate from Australia was threatened and spat upon because he was Jewish.
The hate fest prompted a boycott by Australia, Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, and Germany of a follow-up conference in 2009, during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his calls for Israel’s eradication.
Despite this dismal history, the UN will hold a one-day conference on Sept. 22 to mark the 10th anniversary. Israel, Canada, and the United States have said they will boycott.
Daniel S. Mariaschin of B’nai B’rith International argues in an op-ed this week that the world body has an opportunity to redeem itself. “The United Nations must return to the crucial business that the original conference never ended up addressing — focusing on how to end racism and intolerance, and making the world better for the truly oppressed and for those who truly have no voice,” he writes.
If not, Durban I will be remembered only for inaugurating a decade in which the isolation of Israel became a global obsession.