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(photo credit: Courtesy ICARE)
Creating a European "resistance model" based on Hizbullah and blaming Israeli swimming pools for guzzling water from Palestinian olive groves. These are just two ideas brought up at the pre-Durban II Israel Review Conference hosted by anti-Israeli NGOs Sunday in Geneva.
A parallel meeting to Durban II, held in a Geneva hotel, which was organized by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the International Coordinating Network on Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Committee, kicked off Sunday, one day ahead of the UN's conference on racism.
Entitled the Israel Review Conference: "United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation, Dignity & Justice for the Palestinian People," it was attended by some 160 participants.
The Palestinian NGO Badil, accredited to Durban I and II, presented a 300-page report on "Israel's Practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the International Legal Prohibition on Apartheid."
According to a report by Jewish activists on the scene, several lawyers spoke about bringing Israel to the ICC (International Criminal Court) and the European Court of Justice for war crimes. Workshops were held on an "International campaign against the Jewish National Fund;" "State responsibility and arms trade with Israel"; "Legal BDS - Popular Tribunals and Public Petitions."
A debate entitled "Israeli apartheid" paid credit to former US president Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid and political experience in the trade union movement in the combat against South Africa. The concept was vaunted as a valuable tool for political mobilization and solidarity.
Campaigns were proposed to launch international legal measures to reclaim Palestinian property. An initiative was proposed regarding water; to highlight the supposed distinction between Israeli swimming pools and the "meager amount available for Palestinian olive trees."
Countermeasures were discussed against those attempting to criminalize the boycott. Concrete examples reportedly mentioned an attack in Ireland on commercial/military suppliers to Israel: demonstrators apparently damaged Israel-bound computers at the Raytheon factory.
There was debate on construction of a European resistance movement, based on the idea that "we are all Hizbullah, we are all Hamas... The world stopped Nazism, the world stopped apartheid, we will stop Zionism."
According to a report by the Wiesenthal Center, PR experts analyzed language for campaigns, recommending focus on "population transfer," and cautioning against using the Nazi analogy as this opened the campaign to charges of anti-Semitism.
Badil suggested that South Africa and Israel not be presented as analogies, but that the apartheid experience was applicable as this identified "a program of racial engineering."
"Race, color, family, descent, are related concepts. The Jew, by virtue of descent, has taken rights over the land that non-Jews do not share... Jewish supremacy or Zionism through nationality or peoplehood has been the basis for ethnic cleansing."
It was noted that the participants were eager to find ways to impact upon the proceedings of the UN Durban Review Conference (Durban II), and to structure shared campaigns and resources after the conference concluded.
Wiesenthal Center officials presently in Geneva, Dr. Shimon Samuels (Director for International Relations) and Sergio Widder (Latin American Representative), commented on "the tragedy that so much hate was concentrated on maximizing harm to the Jewish State rather than focusing on issues of racism and discrimination in the Middle East... Where were the women, trade unionists, writers, homosexuals and indeed Christians and other religious minorities to lament the violation of their counterparts' fundamental rights in Palestine and Iran?
"How come this gathering did not condemn the scheduled visit of Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad in view of his genocidal statements, his patronage of terrorism, his denial of the Holocaust and his country's nuclear designs?"
"This event was yet another example of Durban II's bankruptcy and it's kowtowing to tyrants," concluded the Center.
A related initiative was the NGO Civil Society Forum March against Racism. Groups of Tamils, Kurdish victims of the Iraqi Halabja gassing and sexual diversity activists clustered at the demonstration's edges. Dalits (Indian 'untouchables') were segregated across a busy intersection. At the Wiesenthal Center's suggestion they moved their banners under the main podium.
Nevertheless, the event was clearly monopolized by the Palestine issue and by spokesmen of other groups that addressed that cause.
A main speaker was MK Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli MK, who presented himself as a Palestinian victim of "Israeli racist apartheid." He ended his speech proclaiming: "No peace without justice."
Samuels noted "the absurdity of Zahalka's contention, in that as an Israeli-Arab, he enjoys a total freedom of expression denied to all other Middle East legislatures, the Libyan-chaired Durban II preparatory process and, above all, apartheid South Africa."
Zahalka was followed by former UN Human Rights Council Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diene. He endorsed the legitimacy of the gathering and Durban II as a political process - that Zionism was not racism, but a political ideology, which must be confronted politically.
At another alternative event, the Civil Society Forum for the Durban Review Conference, Diene laid out measures for a reparations campaign on behalf of trans-Atlantic slave trade victims.
Widder commented on "the narrow attention to only the Western slave trade, thus excluding African victims of Arab slavers and those targeted by the contemporary traffic in women and children."
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