Diplomats spar preparing for ‘Durban II

Diplomats preparing for a U.N. conference on racism sparred over definitions of anti-Semitism.

The 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, was marred by vehement anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Jewish groups are concerned that organizers of the 2009 conference in Durban again will use the parley to demonize Israel.

On the third day of a two-week preparatory forum this week in Geneva, Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy said the definition of anti-Semitism should include bias toward Arabs because they are a Semitic people. Jewish groups see such statements as attempts to cover up hatred of Jews.

Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the director of Touro College’s Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, responded that the greatest source of anti-Semitism today operates “under the guise of anti-Zionism and anti-racism activities.” She said that was epitomized by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s disproportionate focus on criticizing Israel.

Jazairy called on the forum’s chairwoman, Najat Al-Hajjaji of Libya, to cut off Bayefsky to enable his response. Bayefsky was allowed to resume, but was interrupted twice more by Jazairy’s interjections.

After the session, Bayefsky said the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic States are mindful of the tarnished 2001 event and now are “feigning an interest in anti-Semitism only to pervert and emasculate the meaning, which is why they have no problem condemning it.”

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