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Human rights activists and their selective condemnations

By Manny Waks and Geoffrey Winn - posted Monday, 9 March 2009

Australia should follow the United States and Canadian lead in withdrawing from the dubiously named United Nations Durban II “anti-racism” conference to be held in April in Geneva.

The conference is the successor to the notorious 2001 gathering in the South African city of Durban that produced a draft resolution that likened Zionism to racism and singled out Israel for criticism. The conference was rife with base anti-Semitism, Jewish attendees were subjected to verbal and physical assaults, and sickening racist material was widely distributed, including the notorious racist hoax and forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the prototype of conspiracy theorist literature. Bizarrely, Libya is the current Preparatory Committee’s chair, while the co-chairs are Iran and Cuba, each hardly a human rights luminary.

While the murder of 6 million Jews in Europe goes unmentioned in the conference's final draft, remarkably it includes a passage rendering any criticism against Islam a criminal act. Unsurprisingly, condemnation and delegitimisation of the Jewish State is included in the final draft as it currently stands.


According to UN International Conventions, racial discrimination relates to “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”. Why the emphasis on Israel at the expense of global racist abuses? Since 1983, a civil war has raged in Sudan between the Islamic north and the Christian and animist south, essentially a jihad by the Khartoum regime against non-Muslims. The ethnic militias in the Congo have killed and displaced millions in the last decade. Elsewhere in the Africa regions, Chad, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia add to that continent’s deadly tally.

Despite the overt suffering, loss of life and casualties, not a single public international protest has been lodged in response to recent events in Sri Lanka, where a quarter of a million Tamils have been embroiled in an intense battle between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tiger rebels. The Sri Lankan Government is not held accountable, nor is the proportionality of its military response subjected to any sustained media analysis. The same human rights activists so recently intent to criticise Israel in its operations against Hamas terrorists now choose not to apply the same standards to the Government of Sri Lanka. Not a single allegation of "war crimes", "genocide" or a "holocaust".

And at the UN Human Rights Council Israel is the only country to have its own permanent agenda item, and grotesquely has been consistently singled out for condemnation. Obsessed with condemning Israel, the Council in its first year (2006-2007) failed to condemn human rights violations occurring in any of the world’s 191 other countries. In its second year, the Council finally criticised one other country when it “deplored” the situation in Burma, but only after it censored out initial language containing the word “condemn.” This Council was designed as an improvement over the discredited Commission on Human Rights, but has tragically repeated and even intensified the same biases.

The UN is not alone in its selective condemnations. In the six months following then US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s declaration that there were significant and credible eyewitness accounts of genocide in Darfur, Amnesty International released 39 reports on alleged Israeli human rights abuses, mentioning the horrors of Sudan in only seven reports.

Similarly on the far Left there is a strange infatuation with the Jewish State, so much so that Israel is routinely demonised. Perversely the silence of the Left with regard to unequivocally racist regimes is odious. Slobodan Milosevic's genocidal attacks in Bosnia and Kosovo hardly raised a murmur in this country and the plight of Muslim separatists in Chechnya is rarely mentioned. How many Australians can identify the causes of perhaps the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster in Northern Uganda? Where are the mass protests against the reappearance of enslavement in Africa, or the plight of the slum children of Mauritania, or the human rights of the Tibetans now that the Olympics have faded and we rely even more on the Chinese to save us from recession?

Why are attacks against Israel tolerated in circumstances that would be dismissed with regard to any other country? Partly it is the convenient bulwark that anti-Zionism is not racism because it is directed at Israel and not all Jews. Nevertheless any reasonable definition of anti-Semitism might anticipate that Israel would be held selectively responsible for human rights abuses. British sociologist Dr Paul Iganski wrote that for some, Israel has become the new cause célèbre. "It used to be anti-apartheid, now it's anti-Israel.” The global threat of anti-Semitism is now as great as the darkest days that preceded World War II, perhaps greater because about 40 per cent of the Jewish people are centred in one tiny geographic location.


Fair minded Australians should resent the language of these attacks against Israel, and the disreputable comparisons to other countries. In truth Australian Jews do not fear dispassionate comparisons of Israel with other countries, but the fact that Israel can be labelled the most virulent abuser of human rights at an international UN conference confirms that it is not being judged on a level playing field. We must follow the US and Canada to boycott this disreputable conference.

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About the Authors

Manny Waks is the founder of the Capital Jewish Forum.

Geoffrey Winn is a Melbourne-based lawyer & author.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Manny Waks
All articles by Geoffrey Winn

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