(photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
Winston Churchill once said that the further backward one looks, the further
forward one can see. His advice should be heeded as September’s UN events
approach. The questions of General Assembly recognition of Palestinian
independence and the Durban III conference are an opportunity to examine the
events of the past decade that foreshadowed these moments.
Ten years ago,
the delegitimization campaign against Israel was boosted by the UN World
Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. Some 1,500 NGOs united to
adopt a political war plan against Israel. They produced a document that
“declare[d] Israel as a racist, apartheid state in which Israel’s brand of
apartheid [is] a crime against humanity” and “call[ed] upon the international
community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an
apartheid state.” They also attempted to reinstitute the “Zionism=racism”
resolution, which had rightly been repealed in 1991.
rhetoric and inflammatory call to action were surprising. But equally as
shocking – particularly at a conference meant to fight racism – was what the
There was no call to build mutual understanding between
Israelis and Palestinians, no charge to take steps to foster coexistence, and no
implementation of programs – business, cultural or other – that would lead to
practical changes in how Israelis and Palestinians perceive one another.
Similarly there was no call to build Palestinian society and infrastructure, or
to take tangible steps to achieve a state living in peace with Israel. No, the
sole focus was on strategies to delegitimize Israel.
events will continue this Durban legacy. Now, as then, it is driven by
For example, Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based organization, has admitted
that the goals are increased political attacks against Israel, not recognition
of a Palestinian state. In a “legal brief” about the forthcoming initiatives,
Al-Haq writes: “The issue at stake in the context of the ‘September initiatives’
is not statehood as such, but a strategy to strengthen Palestine’s position in
the international legal order... by bringing international claims
In his anti-Israel (as opposed to pro-Palestinian) May 16 New
op-ed, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas echoed this
approach: “Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for
the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter. It would also pave
the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human
rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.”
strategy defined the tactics and goals that Abbas and Al-Haq are pursuing this
September. They are primarily concerned with isolating Israel and
perpetuating the conflict.
Along with Al-Haq, other anti-Israel advocacy
NGOs, such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), perfected this
strategy. They devoted extensive funding from foreign governments to promote
bogus legal cases against Israeli officials. At the same time, the most vocal
proponents of the Durban strategy, including BADIL and PCHR, support a
“onestate” solution and reject two-state proposals such as the Road Map for
Peace and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The various elements of the Durban
strategy are linked by the nefarious goal of destroying Israel – from the NGOs
that promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), to those that invoke the
false claims of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.” To reverse this trend, the
Durban strategy must give way to a new era. Instead of flotillas, the
Goldstone Report, lawfare cases and calls for BDS – none of which would exist
without NGOs – NGOs should hold international conferences that promote a
two-state solution. A core component of these efforts would be recognition of
Israel’s right to exist.
Ten years ago, NGOs abused a United Nations
framework and squandered an opportunity to promote peace and universal human
rights. A declaration based on those principles would have fostered an
environment conducive to eliminating demonetization. But, of course, that did not
occur. As a result, September 2011 will see two events that, if anything, make a
negotiated, two-state solution seem farther away now than it was in
2001.The writer is managing editor for NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based
research institution dedicated to promoting universal human rights and
encouraging civil discussion on the reports and activities of nongovernmental
organizations, particularly in the Middle East.