Twentieth anniversary of anti-Israel hate fest a spectacular flop
Twenty years ago in September 2001, a week before what became known as “9/11”, the United Nations (UN) hosted what it called the “World Conference on Racism” in Durban.
Non-governmental organisations, human-rights activists, and representatives of scores of countries gathered in Durban for this auspicious event.
It soon became apparent, however, that an Orwellian cloud had passed over the sunny skies of Durban. The conference against racism turned out to be an antisemitic hate fest against the Jewish state.
At the turn of the 21st century, five decades after the Holocaust, the infamous Durban conference became the latest hotbed of antisemitism against the Jewish people.
Some “human rights” activists in attendance distributed the crude antisemitic polemic of a century earlier known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Some Jewish human-rights activists who attended were intimidated, abused, and taunted with the insult that they “don’t belong to the human race”.
A Pro-Palestinian march where thousands rallied in the streets of Durban included pro-Nazi flyers with the text, “Hitler Should Have Finished the Job” and proclaimed that if Hitler had only won the war, Israel wouldn’t exist.
The outcome of Durban was the launch of a global, organised, and funded antisemitic machine, mouthing the language of human rights and masquerading in the guise of anti-apartheid activism. We know it as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and various activist organisations affiliated to it. These include university chapters that target impressionable university students and future leaders with the annual hate fest known as “Israel Apartheid Week”, academic boycott campaigns, Palestinian “solidarity” organisations, and factions within mainstream political parties.
BDS falsely characterises Israel as the current manifestation of evil in the world that needs to be eliminated.
It’s no coincidence that South Africa was chosen as ground zero for promulgating the apartheid smear on Israel in order to give an air of respectability to the crude prejudice underneath. The BDS movement hijacks South Africa’s painful history as the heart of its hateful agenda because it’s symbolically strategic to use damnation of apartheid to stain and ultimately eradicate the Jewish state.
It’s a grotesque travesty that certain political, media, and intellectual elites in South Africa, where apartheid was real and perpetrated, are misled by this blatant propaganda and actively work to mislead others.
Their goal is to vilify the Jewish state as an evil pariah that must be obliterated through political and economic warfare, and their weapons are the tools of mass deception and propaganda.
Indeed, Israel is everything that BDS claims it isn’t: a beacon of democracy and human rights in contrast to the rest of the Middle East and much of Africa. No less than 14 members of the current Israeli government are Arabs, and Israel’s world-renowned judiciary includes an Arab Supreme Court judge. Israel offers affirmative-action policies, remarkable opportunities (obviously including the right to vote) for Arab women that aren’t available anywhere else in the Middle East, and redress for discrimination where it occurs. That’s not to mention decades of attempted peace-making with the Palestinians.
If Israel was able to make peace with Egypt, Jordan, and now a very warm peace with much of the Arab world, then perhaps she isn’t the one to blame for lack of a resolution with the Palestinians.
But facts shouldn’t get in the way of the big lie (a propaganda technique gleaned from Hitler’s Mein Kampf) that the haters have learned to use with alacrity. Israel isn’t perfect nor does she proclaim to be, but simply expects to be treated fairly among the nations of the world. BDS is an anti-peace movement with no real interest in bettering the lives of Palestinians besides exploiting and weaponising them against Israel.
Last month in New York, the UN commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban conference. An international body that claims to be serious about combating prejudice and racism should surely have banished the conference as an embarrassing memory, but the UN is best known for failing to uphold the values it proclaims in its charter.
As it turns out, the event was a spectacular flop. Thirty-eight of the most important countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Poland, France, Italy, Sweden, Australia, and of course, Israel, declined to participate due to its antisemitic undertones.
It’s not surprising but still shocking that South Africa remained one of the few participants in the conference, making vainglorious statements to almost nobody, further undermining our country’s credibility and influence in international affairs.
South Africa’s participation, besides aligning itself with the anti-Western bloc, also implicated it in an international campaign of hatred against the Jewish people.
Fortunately, there are many South Africans citizens who are supportive of Israel, represented by members of South African Friends of Israel who recently protested in Durban against the conference.
The legacy of Durban is a global and systematic effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist as an indigenous and self-determined Jewish state.
Like the commemoration event last month, this effort is destined to be a spectacular failure. History will place the current variant of the antisemitism virus on the scrap heap. And the Jewish people will outlive and overcome their self-declared adversaries. Twenty years on from Durban, Israel is stronger, securer, richer, more loved, and more respected than ever before.
- Rowan Polovin is the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation.