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U.N. Symposium on Palestine Becomes Israel-bashing Round

An opposition leader in the Canadian Parliament has urged the suspension of U.S. financial support for Israel until Israel shows “respect for international law.”

Svend Robinson, shadow external affairs minister of the New Democratic Party, told a symposium of non-governmental organizations held here this past weekend that Israel’s “illegal settlements” in the administered territories are a major impediment to peace and insisted that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

His view is not shared by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney or External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougal, who say the PLO delegitimized itself by supporting Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

Robinson drew standing ovations from some 250 people attending the eighth United Nations North American Regional NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held here June 28 to 30.

The gathering was organized by the North American Regional Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine, which has held seven past symposia on the Palestinian situation since 1980, all in the United States.

Mainstream Jewish organizations, not invited unless they subscribed to anti-Israel U.N. resolutions, dismissed the weekend conference as a forum for “Israel-bashing.”

Robinson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution denigrating Zionism as a form of racism was “obviously one of the barriers to a comprehensive settlement in the region.”

He said he would back a review of the resolution but only “in an overall context. We cannot have selective respect for U.N. resolutions.”

CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL

A speech written by PLO chief Yasir Arafat in Tunis on June 24 was read to the audience by Nasser al-Kidwa, permanent observer of the PLO to the United Nations.

Arafat complained that the current U.S. peace initiative “helps the Israeli government to maintain a more obdurate position” and paves “the way for the implementation of the transfer scheme,” meaning the expulsion of Palestinians from the administered territories.

Speakers at the symposium were mainly officers of various pro-Palestinian committees who charged Israel was engaging in “brutal oppression” and “human rights violations.”

Several Jewish NGOs participated, such as the New York-based International Jewish Peace Union; Jews for a Just Peace, which is headquartered in Vancouver; and Le Regroupement Pour un Dialogue Israel-Palestine of Montreal.

Canadian Friends of Peace Now, which is represented on the national executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, did not attend.

Thomas Hecht, chairman of the Canada-Israel Committee’s Quebec Region, said the conference was imbalanced because it focused on human rights abuses in Israel while ignoring them in neighboring Arab states. “This is a kangaroo court where the enemies of Israel decide that Israel must be condemned,” he said.

The symposium closed with a secret ballot on a resolution to boycott Israeli goods and services. It passed overwhelmingly.

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