Are the Palestinians getting a hearing at the UN racism conference?

April 22, 2009

Although the U.N.’s racism conference in Geneva has been dominated by Middle East politics, Palestinian rights groups say Palestinians have effectively been silenced.On the one hand tough rules by the conference organisers prevented Palestinian NGOs from holding “side events”, they say. On the other hand Monday’s controversial speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, slamming Israel as a “totally racist government” founded “on the pretext of Jewish suffering”, has distracted attention from the issues that actually affect Palestinians.


  “One thing that we have noticed in this conference is that there has been a concerted effort to silence the voices of the Palestinian presence and raising the Palestinian issue,” said Wisam Ahmad of Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based advocacy group.

 Ahmad says that Ahmadinejad’s speech became the symbol of the conference, as intended by “those that wanted this conference to fail”.

 “We as Palestinians want to be heard and it is unfortunate that the press attributes the statements of the president of Iran to all of the Palestinian people,” he said.


Ingrid Jaradat, director of the Badil Resource Center in Bethlehem, agrees.

 “We all knew he was going to come, we all knew that the European governments were going to wait until they just hear the key word and then they will all stand up and leave the hall and then the press comes in, they all would write about what he said or did not say and everybody would forget what is really written in the documents and what the conference is really about,” she said.

  “From my point of view I do not think that this was helpful for the Palestinian people in general and not for our organisation.”

 Diplomatic manoeuvering in the run-up to the conference, known as Durban II, resulted in references to the Palestinian question being dropped from the draft declaration, in an effort to get all U.N. members to take part.


In the event the United States, Israel and half a dozen other countries decided to stay away. European states walked out of Ahmadinejad’s speech but most came back for the rest of the conference, which agreed a final declaration on Tuesday.

 That document “reaffirms” the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) agreed in 2001, which does refer to Israel and the Palestine territories.

 It was that reaffirmation that prompted the United States to stay away this time. The U.S. and Israel walked out of the 2001 meeting following attempts, subsequently dropped, to equate Zionism with racism in the final document.


The 2001 meeting was marred by anti-Semitic demonstrations and activities by some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that led Jewish groups to warn that Durban II – the review meeting in Geneva – could be another “hatefest”.

 This time conference organisers put strict limits on what NGOs could organise on the sidelines of the meeting. Such side events had to deal with “thematic” questions such as the treatment of immigrants, not individual countries.


As a result Palestinian rights groups found their requests to hold events dealing with Palestine issues were rejected.

 (A pro-Israel group did manage to hold an event at the U.N. during the conference, apparently by circumventing the conference organisers and booking a room directly through the U.N. offices.)


Critics of the U.N. human rights process say it spends a disproportionate amount of time on the Israel/Palestine issue.

 For example, since its creation three years ago, the U.N. Human Rights Council has devoted five of its 10 special sessions to Israel and its alleged human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon. (One each examined the financial crisis, Congo, the food crisis, Myanmar and Darfur.)

 “The real victims of the hijacking of the human rights agenda to focus on Israel are not Israel. Israel is a strong country. It can defend itself, it has articulate spokespeople to defend it,” said civil rights activist and Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz.

 “While the people of Rwanda were being murdered the U.N. was debating Israel. While the people of Darfur were being murdered the U.N. was debating Israel. While the people of Cambodia were being murdered the U.N. was debating Israel,” he said.


And Palestinians acknowledge that they have little to show for all the diplomatic focus on their problems. Even though the 2001 document refers to the plight of the Palestinians under occupation, little has changed.

 “So far the Durban declaration and programme of action has not really succeeded to bring about any major change or improvement in the situation of the Palestinian people but in fact our situation has very much deteriorated since 2001,” said Jaradat.







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“Israel is a strong country. It can defend itself, it has articulate spokespeople to defend it”
Alan Dershowitz

Does this mean the law professor’s self congratulatory remarks and smear campaigns are nearing an end? I doubt it. He’ll continue his witch hunt against critics of Israel’s occupation, and use his position to defend and applaud the murder of Palestinians in cold-blood.

Posted by Nu’man El-Bakri | Report as abusive

As one of the worst victims of racism in the last 50 years one would expect Palistinians to be well represented at a racism conference.
Unfortunately despite the people of the world supporting the plight of the palistinian peoples fight to retain their homeland, many governments in the west are still strangely (strategically?) alligned with and even actively financing the perpetrators despite the immense suffering of the palistinian people..
I can understand why these western nations would not want to take this conference seriously, they are themselves some of the worlds worst offenders. Next time rather than give them opportunity to destroy the purpose of the summit, they should simply not be invited.
Instead the conference should be hosted by the victims of racism, like the palistinians, so that we in the west can observe what its like to be in their position.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

The facts speak for themselves. Arab citizens in Israel have more rights and a stronger voice in their government than in any Arab country, while hundreds of thousands of Jews who had lived for thousands of years throughout the mid-east were killed and persecuted until they were forced to leave their ancestral homelands. Of course the Arabs want to divert attention from their wanton genocide of black Africans in Darfur

Posted by Richard Scott | Report as abusive

The Palestinians are not the victims of racism. They are a victim of their own hate. For every action they take for viewed wrongs, the Israelis must defend.

They civilians were not murdered. They were caught in the crossfire.

Gaza is not starved. They just don’t have control over Israel’s border, because they sent suicide bombs.

Their land was not stolen, but lost in war. A war they began. So long ago, the UN no longer cares.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

It is difficult to keep faith in the sincerity of the anti-racist and pro-peace processes when select delegates feel they can boycott and walk out of the relevant conferences at their convenience over a specific issue. What kind of representation is this? What is a conference if not an arena for debate? All participants should be permitted their say whether or not all participants agree with each other. All participants should be required to sit through the entire proceedings. And all parties with influence and stake in the issues should be required to be represented. Otherwise, what is the point? To reaffirm preconceived ideas? Why does the merest hint of criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians have this world shattering effect? When Israelis and Palestinians are both Semitic peoples, how can criticism of either be considered anti-Semitic to the other? There must be some way to break this illogical tabboo, but denial and refusal to hear all opinions is not the way. Perhaps the issue of Palestine and Israel should be excluded from these talks in order to solve the other problems. Perhaps the Palestine and Israel impasse needs to be considered in isolation so that some progress can be made elsewhere.

Posted by Ken Green | Report as abusive

Quoted from Jhon “They civilians were not murdered. They were caught in the crossfire.”
Dear Sir Please make some sence cross fire! do you think childern “firing” at israelies and being shot in crossfire? (what is the wepon used by the childern?)
do you think that is a person is throwing stones at you which never reach you you fire hum with deadmy M16 and that is crossfire! a prisoner with his handes tied up fired in the head by israeli millitary unarmed killed in cross fire! please at least think rationally I dont know why Europeans and especially Americans lose common sence when defending israel I mean people prefer to be called as idiot and stupid than criticisinf israel.

Posted by Investment Analyst | Report as abusive

The palestinians instead of accusing Israel for all their problems should maybe look closer at home to Fatah and Hamas. Both these groups abuse their own people, send out suicide bombers in the name of the cause, spend millions mean’t for their citizens on their own families and weapons. The palestinians receive more money per person in humanitarian aid than any other country on earth – but if you were to look at them you wouldn’t think so. The other arab countries with palestinian refugees also misttreat them and yet not one word isd mentioned against them – why is it forbidden for one arab country to accuse another ?

Posted by martin kay | Report as abusive

martin, where do you come up with such absolute BS?? What is this aid money theft conspiracy youre talking about, I want to know where you heard this??
Youve got to be absolutely crazy if you think the problem of poverty is caused by the palistinians.
Israel kills every day, steals more land every day, demolishes and bombs houses every day, humiliates them and restricts their movements every day and controls all their vital infrastructure and even their governments movements.
Their is much said about Hamas and Iran in that they refuse to recognise the state of israel.. But what about israels refusal to recognise the state of Palistine?? Why the double standard? Think about this:
If the US and Briton changed their minds tomorrow and handed “Israel” over to a fundamentalist christian population with a supposed fanatical religious claim from before the jews, what do you think the jews would do when they started taking over??

Palistine was the land of the Palistinians.
Immigrating jews were guests in another peoples land.
Jews behave extremely badly, betray the wishes of their host.
Jews need to leave palistine.

Jews stay, and commit racist atrocities, crimes against humanity, wars against outraged neighbors.
Supported by foreign superpowers with an interest in the region.
Palistinians now live in poverty and absolute repression in a fraction of their homeland.

It was never complicated to understand the problem, but to try and remove the jews now is just unrealistic, especially with so many illegal weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the support of the US..

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

[…] The truth is, the Palestinians, victims of racism since the creation of the State of Israel had no civil representation at the conference. […]

Posted by Durban II – The Last Colonial Battle « En-Nahda – ?????? | Report as abusive

It took Egyptians and Jordanians years in order to sign
a peace treaty with Israel but they did it.
As long as the goal of Palestinians terrorist organizations is to destroy Israel they will get the adequate response.
Unfortunately Hamas and the other terrorists put deliberately the life of their civilians in danger only
to “show” how rutless and cruel Israel is when it replies.
The only ones to blame are those terrorists.
They don’t understand that will achieve NOTHING BY
VIOLENCE but ONLY BY DISCUTING with Israel ,that means
recognizing it.


Posted by RALPH | Report as abusive