Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: Anti-Israel Durban III Conference Opens Major Democracies Boycott — Arab Nations Bash Israel

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Iran, Lebanon others bash Israel at Durban III

Source: JTA, 9-22-11

Representatives of Iran, Cuba and Lebanon blasted Israel at the Durban Review Conference at the United Nations.

While some speakers in the Thursday morning session made reference to what Iran’s representative called “the stonewalling behavior” of a few nations — the more than a dozen countries that are boycotting Durban III out of concern for anti-Israel bias — most speakers used the session as an opportunity to herald the progress of their own countries in combating racism. That included, for example, the representative from Zimbabwe, who called his nation “a tolerant and peace-loving country.”

In his own remarks at the session, Amnesty International’s representative, Jose Luis Diaz, accused many participating countries of being in a “state of denial” about human rights abuses and racism in their countries, saying nations were using the conference to “score political points.”

“We find it striking that while virtually everyone agrees that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance affect all parts of the world, rare are the governments that admit that these phenomena are a real problem in their countries,” he said. “We believe that if there has not been more progress in the struggle against racism, this is in good part due to the tendency of states to play politics with the issue — using it to score points against other states — coupled with the readiness of many governments to bury their heads in the sand about the extent of the problem at home.”

Thursday’s conference was called to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The ostensible purpose of that gathering a decade ago was to talk about racism, but it quickly turned into an Israel-bashing extravaganza.

Israel, the United States, Jewish groups and some European countries have denigrated the Durban process since, skipping the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva as well as this week’s gathering in New York.

As an alternative, Jewish groups organized a counter-conference nearby on Thursday to spotlight the hypocrisy of the Durban process.

Durban III opens amid boycott by major democracies

Controversial UN anti-racism event missing key European nations, US, Australia; Ban Ki-moon condemns use of platform for anti-Semitism

Source: Jerusalem Post, 9-22-11

The absence of the world’s leading democracies at the  UN-sponsored Durban III anti-racism ten-year commemoration event, which opened in New York on Thursday, sparked controversy at the UN General Assembly meeting and served as a setback for the Durban process.

Dubbed Durban after the city in South Africa where the first conference took place in 2001, the anti-racism process has become, according to many of the 14 countries that pulled out of Durban III, a political event to gut the advancement of human rights and foment hatred of the Jewish state.

Anne Bayefsky, a leading human rights scholar, who organized a counter-conference on Thursday to challenge the misguided notion of  the UN event, sees no reason to honor an anti-racism conference that has become infected with racism. Bayefsky cites the example from Durban I where a  sizable number  of conference participants openly championed the Hitler movement’s elimination of European Jewry and advocated a Nazi solution for Israel’s Jews.  Scores of banners in massive street demonstrations in Durban  stated  “Hitler should have finished the job,” and handouts with Hitler’s face read, “What if I had won? The good things: there would be no Israel.”

The world leaders from the 179 countries who participated in Durban III  adopted a political declaration ,which purports to renew “ their commitment for real action to prevent and combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to focus on the concerns of the victims.” According to critics, the Durban political declaration, which was reaffirmed at the commemoration event, singles out and attacks only Israel for criticism and alleged violations of human rights.

Ambassador Isabelle Pico from Monaco, who represented Western Europe’s countries, alluded to the noticeable lack of their member countries at the event. “While a number of countries from our group are not participating and in spite of the fact that some countries do not participate in this process,” Western European countries will continue to promote  equality.

France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Germany skipped the Durban III event because those countries’ foreign ministries viewed the Durban III planning process and Thursday’s commemoration event to be contaminated with anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred of foreigners. The Eastern Europe nations of  Poland ,Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic boycotted the commemoration event for similar reasons. The United States, Israel, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand pulled the plug on their participation in the event as well .

While no country or individual leader was cited during the speeches, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indirectly referenced the second Durban 2009 conference and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tirades against Israel.

Ban Ki-moon said “we should condemn anyone who uses this platform to subvert with inflammatory speech.” He added that “we are aware that the Durban conference caused immense controversy, “ and alluded to the year 2009.

Ban Ki-moon was the only speaker to tell the General Assembly to take a stand against “anti-Semitism” He also called on the member states to fight Islamophobia and persecution against Christians and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

The other diplomatic speakers were from Sudan, Indonesia, and Jamaica.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “the lead up to this commemoration has been undoubtedly challenging, in no small part because the issues are complex and sensitive. No country can claim to be free of racism but we must be resolute in finding the courage to unite and move ahead together.”

In a New York Daily News opinion piece in August titled  “Meet the UN’s anti-Israel ‘anti-discrimination’ czar, Navi Pillay”, Anne Bayefsky, the expert on the UN, wrote that Pillay has “ been distracted by her anti-Israel and anti-American agenda since taking office in 2008. Pillay is perhaps best known for her unremitting defense of the notorious Goldstone report and for having questioned the legality of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.”

The UN-sponsored Goldstone report accused Israel of war crimes in 2008/2009 during operation cast lead in the Gaza Strip. The report’s main author, lawyer Richard Goldstone, has retracted the finding of war crimes against Israel and shifted the blame to Hamas,  the terror entity that controls Gaza, as the responsible party for transgressions of human rights and international law.

 

Durban III conference opens in New York amid allegations of anti-Israel bias

Counter-convention draws Jewish leaders and prominent supporters of Israel; 13 countries refuse to take part in Durban III

Source: Ha’aertz, 9-22-11

As the Palestinian statehood bid draws increasing support at the United Nations convention in New York, key member states have distanced themselves from a conference marking the ten-year anniversary of the Durban anti-racism conference in South Africa, in which both the United States as well as Israel stepped out due its alleged anti-Israel agenda.

Israel has asked friendly nations to stay away from this year’s event.

The 2001 anti-racism conference was criticized for its harsh language against Zionism’s “racist practices,” calling the Zionist movement one that is “based on racial superiority.” The draft document containing these statements prompted the U.S. and Israel to withdraw their delegations.

In 2009, the “Durban II” conference was held in Geneva, and made headlines after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech in which he attacked Israel and denied the Holocaust.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the conference Thursday, and urged all countries to “stand firmly” against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and reject discrimination against Christians.

Thus far, 13 countries have announced that they will not attend the conference, dubbed “Durban III.” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement on Thursday that “the British Government has decided that the U.K. will not attend the UN meeting.”

He added that the 2001 conference,” and the anti-Semitic atmosphere in which it was held, was a particularly unpleasant and divisive chapter in the UN’s history. It is not an event that should be celebrated.”

The countries who pledged not to attend the conference include nine EU countries, as well as Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Iran’s Ahmedinejad, however, is expected to take part once more.

A counter conference was held at the Millennium Plaza hotel in New York on Thursday to protest the Durban III convention and its allegedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda.

High profile speakers included Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder, Israeli Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, actor Jon Voight, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, and others.

Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, recalled the original Durban conference, saying, “I almost became part of Durban I. Kofi Annan was the Secretary General. He called me and I said, of course.”

However, once Wiesel saw the program, he realized he could not participate. He told the former UN chief, “Durban I is supposed to be conference against anti-Semitism, but it became conference of anti-Semitism. I resigned in protests and told Kofi I am sure it will become an embarrassment to the UN.”

After the conference, Annan sent the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate a message saying “Elie, you were right.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, spoke as well, saying “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to speak to the General Assembly today, Abbas speaks tomorrow. This is not an aberration that can be corrected, this is not a minute flaw – this is every day (at the UN).”

Bolton warned that “the pervasiveness of this anti-Israeli feeling, anti-Americanism, is there every day. Don’t be shocked about what’s happening. The Durban III declaration that will be adopted today – it’s part of the initiative that is going on for some time, the central objective of which is delegitmization of the state of Israel.”

Alan Dershowitz addressed the crowd as well, saying “the reason there is still no peace in the Middle East can be summarized in two letters: UN.”

The Harvard professor continued his attack on the UN, saying “rights of women, children, gays, were ignored, because the UN was too busy debating whether Zionism is racism. The UN has encouraged anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry.”

The American Civil Liberties Union slammed the Obama administration for refusing to participate in the Durban III conference, saying in a statement on Thursday that “the absence of the United States in today’s proceedings is disappointing; it contradicts the administration’s stated position to push for positive models to advance human rights, and sends the wrong message to the global community regarding the U.S. commitment to fight racial injustice everywhere.”

The statement called on the United States to “lead by example and translate their stated commitment to end racial discrimination into concrete laws and policies.”

Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: US.Consulate in Jerusalem warns travelers of violence in Old City on Friday

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U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem warns travelers of violence

Source: JTA, 9-22-11

The U.S. Consulate has banned its personnel from visiting the Old City of Jerusalem due to fears of violence.

In an emergency message sent to Americans registered with the consulate who are visiting or living in Israel, the consulate also urged U.S. citizens to avoid “areas of traditional conflict during this time.”

The letter, dated Sept. 21, said that the consulate would prohibit its official mission personnel from visiting the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday.

“This prohibition is due to the potential for demonstrations and large gatherings inside the Old City that day,” the letter says.

While it does not specify why there is this potential, it is likely because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on that day is due to speak before the United Nations General Assembly and present a request to make Palestine the 194th member of the United Nations to the U.N. Security Council.

“The U.S. Consulate General reminds U.S. citizens that even peaceful marches and demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning,” the letter warns.

“U.S. citizens in Jerusalem are encouraged to exercise caution and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and security, and to report any suspicious or unusual activity immediately to Israeli authorities. U.S. citizens should, as always, maintain a low profile in public.”

Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: Reactions — US Jews give Obama mixed reviews for ‘pro-Israel’ UN speech

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U.S. Jews give Obama mixed reviews for ‘pro-Israel’ UN speech

AIPAC lauds U.S. President for seeing Israelis deserve ‘normal relations with their neighbors'; Americans for Peace Now: U.S. position as defender of rights cannot stand as Israeli-Palestinians conflict ‘left to fester’

Source: Ha’aertz, 9-22-11
It was quite clear that U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech, which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he “would sign with both hands,” would draw mixed reactions. Its failure to go into details about the Israeli-Palestinian issue was assumed to be due to a combination of re-election concerns and those of slipping Jewish support.

But the U.S. Jewish organizations provided varying – in some cases even polar – responses to the speech.

Obama at UN - Reuters - September 21, 2011 U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 21, 2011.
Photo by: Reuters

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), which recently launched a new website explaining Obama’s support for Israel, took the speech as an opportunity to claim that all the “political chatter” doubting the president’s support for Israel should be “put to bed once and for all.”

“As he has proven throughout his presidency, President Obama supports Israel and its people instinctively. Israel truly has no better friend in the world today,” NJDC leaders Marc Stanley and David Harris said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s Board of Directors and leadership, we wish to express our thanks to President Barack Obama for passionately and eloquently standing up for Israel and the Jewish State’s security needs at the United Nations today,” they said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) welcomed the speech. “AIPAC appreciates the President’s “unshakeable” commitment to Israel’s security and his clear statements outlining the daily dangers and strategic threats facing Israel. President Obama demonstrated his understanding of Israel’s legitimate requirements when he stated that the Jewish people – in their historic homeland – deserve recognition and normal relations with their neighbors,” the Jewish lobby said.

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Executive Director David Harris said “President Obama’s message was crystal clear that the only path to sustainable peace is direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, not what goes on in the corridors of the UN.”

The Conference of Presidents Chairman Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein welcomed Obama’s comments at the opening session of the UN General Assembly in support of direct negotiations, and his rejection of solutions imposed by outside parties, unilateral moves, or one sided declarations at the United Nations.

“The President correctly and clearly identified Israel’s security needs and challenges,” said the Conference of Presidents heads.

“The President said that “the Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland” and that “Israel deserves recognition.” We specially note this formulation not only because it reaffirmed a historic truth but also because many in the hall he was addressing have sought to deny Israel’s ancient and constant connection to the land and others have refuse to recognize it as the Jewish State,” their statement continued.

“We hope that other leaders will listen to President Obama’s words and heed his warnings,” they said, adding, “Most of all, we hope that the automatic majority against Israel at the UN will come to consider the danger to that institution and to the cause of peace that results from a blanket acceptance of anti-Israel measures no matter how unjustified they may be.”

Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow praised Obama for saying the United States is dedicated to achieving peace through bilateral negotiations.

“He (Obama) understands that peace is a cooperative venture. It needs leaders, partners, supporters, witnesses, and principled advocates. No sustainable peace can be achieved alone,” said the Rabbi. “The path to peace is paved with compromise and cooperation, not unilateralism.”

But on the left side of the map, the disappointment was palpable.

Americans for Peace Now President and CEO Debra DeLee said Obama’s speech, while saying the Americans support peace, offered little hope to Israelis and Palestinians.

“Israelis want and deserve peace and security as much as anyone in the region. Palestinians want and deserve freedom and self-determination as much as Egyptians, Tunisians, or Libyans. The United States cannot maintain credibility as the standard-bearer of rights and freedoms while the Israeli-Palestinians conflict is left to fester,” said DeLee.

DeLee called upon the U.S. President to use his time at the United Nations this week as an opportunity to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. “Only this can re-establish and re-assert U.S. credibility and re-inject hope for an end to this conflict,” she said.

The Jewish Voice for Peace issued a statement calling the speech “profoundly disappointing”, claiming that “his desire to get re-elected in 2012 has trumped not only his good sense, but his ability to act on behalf of U.S.– and in the long run– Israel’s best interests.”

The group accused Obama of catering to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demands, seen in his refusal “to even mention the words settlement or occupation”. The statement said Obama is “actively opposing Palestinian moves for statehood that are consistent with stated U.S. policy.”

J Street has rejected the Palestinian UN bid, and its President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement that Obama was right to say there is “no shortcut” to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Obama must turn this “crisis” into “an opportunity to jumpstart meaningful diplomacy that yields results.”

In a statement, Orthodox Union president Dr. Simcha Katz and director of public policy Nathan Diament congratulated Obama “for his clear statement of opposition to the Palestinians’ effort to unilaterally seek recognition at the United Nations instead of at the negotiating table with Israel. We also commend President Obama’s strong statements of support for Israel and his Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.”

 

 

Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Pro-Israel Support at UN Delights Israeli Government

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Obama Backing Delights Israeli Government

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 9-22-11

When Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman praises US President Barack Obama, it is no wonder that the Palestinians and their supporters are upset. In yesterday’s speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama was actually directing his remarks at one of his most important domestic audiences – Jewish voters in the US, whose traditional support for the Democrats has been wavering in the run up for next year’s US elections.

Obama spoke at length on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, but his message to the Palestinians could be summed up in one phrase: there are no shortcuts to peace.

Barack said, “One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, obama at the unand I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.”

Obama added, “Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal that we seek — the question is how do we reach that goal.”

Obama’s message to US Jews was, “But understand this as well: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.”

The Palestinians did not have high hopes, as the US has been lobbying heavily on UN Security Council members to vote against giving Palestine UN membership. But they had hoped that Obama would reiterate his May structure for ending the conflict, specifically that the 1967 border would be the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The Palestinians also hoped to hear criticism of Israel’s settlements, which every US government since the Johnson administration has considered illegal.

Instead, Obama’s remarks were fully pro-Israel, as if written by parameters set by the Netanyahu government. The remark “there is no short cut to the end of a conflict” -i.e. forget about a UN vote – grabbed the listeners attention.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is celebrating. So is AIPAC. The Palestinians are furious. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) put his hands to his head in a gesture of despair.

For the full text of the speech, click here.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

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