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Israel-bashing Overshadows U.N. Conference on the Elderly

April 15, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

It may be getting old, but Israel-bashing at U.N. meetings doesn’t let up even when the topic is as innocuous as aging.

One Arab speaker after another took the podium this week at the World Assembly on Aging in Madrid to accuse Israel of nearly every imaginable crime, under the pretense that elderly Palestinians were among the main victims of Israeli “aggression.”

The broadsides drew applause from delegates and even sympathy from the meeting’s chairpersons, despite a plea by the Israeli delegate not to allow a repeat of last year’s U.N. World Conference Against Racism in South Africa, when Israel and Jews were vilified and Israel was accused of “racist practices.”

“We must not permit this gathering — like so many other international conferences before it that sought to further important goals for all mankind — to be hijacked by those with a narrow and hostile political agenda,” Herzl Inbar, Israel’s ambassador to Spain, told the assembly in vain.

“Those who use this podium to attack Israel,” he said, “should ask themselves what have their own countries done to further the needs of their aging populations as well as other parts of their society, instead of wasting their resources and energies on policies that are based on hatred and violence against Israel.”

The Arab charge was led by the “moderate” Arab countries. Fayza Aboulnaga, Egypt’s minister of state for foreign affairs, accused Israel of “attempts at genocide,” and asked delegates to “to condemn what the elderly suffer at the hands of the Israeli army.”

Hussein Majed, Jordan’s ambassador to Spain, claimed elderly Palestinians “are subjected to the most horrendous forms of abuse” and called Israel’s anti-terrorist military operations “unjustified genocide” and “a liquidation of human beings.”

Palestinian speaker Soraia Barghouti maintained that elderly Palestinians suffer the most from Israeli attacks, and often die because military roadblocks prevent them from reaching hospitals.

She condemned what she called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “savage practices,” and accused Israel of practicing “the worst kinds of war crimes and state terrorism.”

“History has taught us that victory is inevitable, however long it takes,” she said. “We will prevail!” she added, to loud applause.

In response to the Arabs’ rhetorical attacks, Inbar pointed out that more than 50 of the 400 Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists during the intifada have been older than 60.

In the last month alone, 25 elderly Israelis, including several Holocaust survivors, were murdered. Inbar named Ernest and Eva Weiss and Marrianne Lehmann Zaoui, who lost their lives in the late March “Passover Massacre” suicide bombing “instead of enjoying their golden years with their families.

“How can anyone even begin to justify that?” Inbar asked.

Despite the Israel-bashing, Israeli delegation members said they did not consider walking out during the five-day conference, as the Israelis and Americans did at last summer’s racism conference.

The “International Plan of Action on Aging,” finalized by representatives from 160 nations as the meeting ended Friday, contained no explicit mention of Israel.

Arab countries agreed to drop one of the references to “foreign occupation,” though two others remained.

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