[Google translation from French original]
"The conference became an opportunity to attack Israel and invoke the infamous claim that Zionism is a form of racism." Wikimedia Commons
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen is director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for Europe.
"Yesterday, the Czech Republic was the 9th country to announce that it would not participate in the 20th anniversary of the infamous United Nations World Conference against Racism in 2001 in Durban (South Africa). The event is scheduled to take place on September 22 of this year, in accordance with a United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted on December 31, 2020.
How come countries such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Australia, Canada, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have decided not to participate at a conference supposed to unite around the noble cause of the fight against racism?
The reason was expressed in spectacular fashion by Canadian professor and former justice minister Irwin Cotler at the first lecture: "If September 11 was the Crystal Night of terror, then Durban would have been the Mein Kampf", he wrote.
The first Durban conference in 2001, which was held a few days before the terrorist attacks of September 11, indeed constituted a terrible setback for the universalist struggle against racism, perverting and instrumentalizing this cause against Zionism, Israel and the Jews.
Jewish human rights activists in Durban have been physically intimidated and threatened, with crowds shouting at them, "'You do not belong to the human race!'
The conference became an opportunity to attack Israel and invoke the infamous claim that Zionism is a form of racism. Even worse than the conference itself was the NGO Forum, in which many participants openly expressed their hatred towards Israel and towards the representatives of Jewish NGOs who attended the event. "We don't even go to the bar or the toilet alone anymore," wrote Joëlle Fiss, President of the Union of European Jewish Students (EUJS) at the time, in her "Durban newspaper" published by AJC at the era. "Some of the group no longer wear their badges. Others traded in their kippahs for caps. "Jewish human rights activists in Durban were physically intimidated and threatened, with crowds shouting at them," You do not belong to the human race!"
During the march led by “pro-Palestinian militants,” which had gathered thousands of participants, a sign read: “Hitler should have finished the job.” Nearby, some were selling the most famous anti-Palestinian leaflets. Jews, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". Most of those present were shocked and scared.
The head of the American delegation, the late Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), Declared: “For me, who lived the horrors of the Holocaust, it was the most sickening hatred of the Jews that I have seen since the Holocaust. Nazi period."
The reality is that Durban marked a turning point or even a starting point in the way anti-Semitism manifests itself today.
Over the past twenty years, despite the incomprehensible perseverance of the United Nations and some of its member states to follow up on the first edition, the most important states of the "western bloc" have rightly refused to participate in the 2009 conference in Geneva and Durban III in 2011.
The reality is that Durban marked a turning point or even a starting point in the way anti-Semitism manifests itself today. Jews are no longer hated in the name of racism but in the name of anti-racism, embodying for these new militants the dominant and oppressive white par excellence.
During the last war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, followers of “woke” or decolonial concepts, notably in the United States, were the first to condemn Israel in the name of “racial justice”, the deviation of the anti-racism being felt more than ever.
The anti-Semites have always placed the Jews at the center of their imagination by projecting on them all that is hateful and bad in the world. Today, it is Israel and Zionism which is for these ideologues at the heart of the main evils of the planet. To condemn the State of Israel as a "racist", "colonial" or "genocidal" state by assimilating it to the South African or sometimes Nazi apartheid regime is to ostracize it, even to condemn it to destruction. We do not argue with the absolute enemy, we eliminate it.
70% of French Jews have already experienced an anti-Semitic aggression and (...) this reality is even more important among the youngest.
It is no wonder that over the past twenty years Jews have been attacked and even killed in the name of "defending the Palestinians". This was the motive of Mohamed Merah to kill Jewish students in Toulouse in 2012, it was the leitmotif of those who marched in the streets of several cities two years later shouting "Death to the Jews". For the past two decades, the question of the very existence of the State of Israel has been used as one of the ideological backbones of Islamists and the far left. As a result, anti-Semitism has grown across Europe and studies published over time have shown that Jews are not only increasingly worried, but that many have fallen victim to anti-Semitism. The latest study by AJC in partnership with the Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol) on the perceptions of Jews in France, published in 2020, revealed that 70% of French Jews have already experienced anti-Semitic aggression and that this reality is even more important among the youngest.
On numerous occasions over the past two decades, European leaders have pledged not only to combat anti-Semitism, but also to recognize the anti-Semitic nature of hatred linked to Israel.
When France adopted the IHRA's Working Definition on anti-Semitism, President Macron even went one step further by specifying that "anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism". In Germany, Chancellor Merkel, who had denounced anti-Semitism on numerous occasions, called anti-Zionism "not legitimate".
If these leaders, if the European nations are seriously determined to fight this "new anti-Semitism", if they are committed to the universalist fight against racism, then they have no choice but to follow the example of other European countries and boycott Durban 20."