'Declare suicide attacks crimes against mankind'

Wiesenthal Center to urge UN to make declaration on suicide bombings, also calls to cancel 'Durban II'.

Ban Ki-Moon 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ban Ki-Moon 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center will hold a private meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday to urge the international body to address suicide bombing and declare it a "crime against humanity." They will also call on Ban to cancel the "Durban II" conference slated for 2009, and address the "world's amnesia" about rocket attacks on Sderot. In a private meeting Tuesday, representatives from the Wiesenthal Center are expected to ask Ban to advocate for a special session of the General Assembly on suicide bombing and terrorism and reverse the Assembly's longstanding refusal to raise the issue in its halls. "The GA has had many special sessions on issues such as apartheid, drugs smuggling, disarmament, but the greatest scourge - suicide terror - is being blocked," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. "We know that 57 Muslim countries don't want a meeting on it. But if you look at the world, it's not only global warming threatening the fabric of civilization, but suicide terrorism." The center began campaigning to designate suicide bombings a "crime against humanity" six months after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, but progress has been slow. Following the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the center ran full-page advertisements in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune reading: "Suicide terror. What more will it take for the world to act?" Attempts to get the ad placed in four Arab newspapers failed. "The special sessions are supposed to deal with looming problems, but this is the one subject that's never touched," said Hier, who will be among the delegation to meet Ban. "To allow a virtual veto power to 57 Muslim countries does not benefit the world." "We want the secretary general to force it on the agenda of the international community," said Hier, who will also present the Ban with a petition to designate suicide bombs a crime against humanity signed by over 10,000 people worldwide. "The truth is, if you want to take world back from extremists, this is the best way to do it, not by hiding." The Wiesenthal Center will also urge the secretary-general to cancel the Durban II conference scheduled for 2009, which many Jewish organizations fear will be a recap of the first conference held in South Africa in 2001 under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. That conference was titled "The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance," but dealt mostly with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Both Israel and the US eventually quit the conference. "When will we see a Durban conference on the treatment of women in the Arab world, or the religious police in Saudi Arabia and Iran?" asked Hier. "To have a conference that focuses myopically on one country under the globe, that is a hate fest targeting the same people as the Holocaust, is unacceptable." On Sunday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that Israel would not participate in the Durban II Conference in 2009 unless it received proof that the venue would not serve as another platform for anti-Semitic or anti-Israel activity. The decision followed an assessment by the Foreign Ministry and other Western governments that it would be impossible to prevent the conference from turning into an anti-Israeli gathering. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who is also expected to participate in Tuesday's meeting, compared the Durban conference to a train on a "specific schedule." "There is no one to put a brake on it, unless changes are instituted at the top." It remains unclear whether the US will participate in the conference. Several US senators have claimed that Washington will boycott the conference. However, State Department Spokesman Tom Casey recently said the decision would be up to the next US administration because the conference is scheduled to take place after President George W. Bush leaves office. Lastly, delegates from the Wiesenthal Center will raise the issue of "the world's amnesia" regarding rocket attacks on Sderot. "We want him [Ban] to clamp down on Hamas, and say 'when you are elected, you have responsibilities to secure the borders,' but instead they are giving tacit approval," said Hier. "This is hypocrisy that the world has to expose and the UN has to say to Hamas - 'you are responsible.'"