The British Zionist Federation canceled a London appearance by Ha’aretz columnist Danny Rubinstein the day after he called Israel an “apartheid state” at a United Nations conference on Palestinians.
Rubinstein, the Israeli newspaper’s Arab affairs editor and a member of its editorial board, told an audience of some 350 people that “today Israel is an apartheid state with different status for different communities,” according to sources at the event, held at the European Parliament in Brussels. He went on to say that Palestinians living in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel each had “a different status,” according to a summary of his speech by a United Nations web site.
Rubinstein also said “Hamas won the election of the international community and Israel cannot ignore that” and argued that the security fence Israel was building could not be justified, sources said.
The British Zionist Federation issued a statement Friday saying that it had read about Rubinstein’s quotes in a JTA news report Thursday and verified them with him the next day. According to the Zionist federation, the result was a “mutual decision” to cancel Rubinstein’s event.
“Criticism of Israeli policy is acceptable,” the Zionist federation’s chairman, Andrew Balcombe, said in a prepared statement. “However, by using the word ‘apartheid’ in a U.N. conference held at the European Parliament, Danny Rubinstein encourages the demonisation of Israel and the Jewish people. I believe he was naïve to attend the UN conference. Indeed his own newspaper Ha’aretz had earlier reported that Israeli and EU lawmakers had attacked the UN meeting for having a completely one-sided, anti-Israeli agenda.”
The Zionist federation’s conference, titled “Israel at 60,” is being held from August 31-September 2 in London.
Rubinstein, who did not return a call seeking comment, made his remarks during a forum that pro-Israel non-governmental organizations – including B’nai B’rith, U.N. Watch and NGO Monitor – have described as Israel-bashing sessions run by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The pro-Israel groups say that the U.N. committee has a long history of opposing Israeli interests.