PCHR is concerned about possible politicization of the discussion about Zionism at the World Conference Against Racism
At the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, asserted that the WCAR would not be the appropriate forum for a discussion about the racist nature of Zionism and that participants wishing to raise the issue in Durban would compromise the success of the Conference. Mary Robinsonís statement came shortly after the United States expressed its intention to boycott the Conference should issues of Zionism and slavery reparation appear on the agenda. PCHR has communicated its concern to the High Commissioner that discussion about an essentially racist doctrine would be subordinated for political considerations. PCHR has also called upon the international community to recognize the racist nature of Zionism and to treat Israel in the same manner as other states which violate international legal norms on racism and human rights.
What follows is:
? the High Commissionerís statement made at the Opening Session of the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting of the WCAR,
? PCHRís letter to the High Commissioner expressing its grave concern about the High Commissionerís statement, and
? the High Commissionerís letter to PCHR responding to its concerns.
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
29 Omar el Mukhtar Street
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and
Secretary-General of the World Conference Against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
1 August 2001
Dear High Commissioner,
On behalf of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights I wish to express my sincere disappointment in the statement which you gave at the Opening Session of the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on 30 July 2001.
I appreciate your concern at the ongoing violence perpetrated against Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, I was shocked and dismayed at your assertion that discussions regarding Zionism as a form of racism were inappropriate at the World Conference Against Racism and that anyone wishing to raise this issue at Durban would compromise the success of the Conference.
Whilst I too am greatly concerned that the Conference achieve its aim of producing an effective Declaration and Plan of Action which will continue to work towards the elimination of racism from all states in the world, I am extremely concerned that discussion of what is essentially a racist doctrine will be subordinated for political considerations. The aim of the WCAR is to combat racism and as such, I strongly believe that political interests have no place at the Conference. As you also mentioned in your Opening Remarks, no country has entirely eradicated racism and in this regard, we ask that Israel be treated with the same level of scrutiny in its violations of human rights and humanitarian norms as any other state.
You further asserted in your Opening Remarks that whilst the past must be faced and reconciled, the world community must now move forward in order to create a future free from racial intolerance. PCHR is equally concerned that the problems of the past be addressed and used in creating a peaceful future. However, I believe that Zionism as a racist doctrine is not a problem of the past, rather it continues to prevail today as a major obstacle to the creation of an equal, tolerant and peaceful society in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in which the human rights of all citizens are respected and protected.
As High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Commissionerís duty is to monitor the implementation of international human rights law. As Secretary General of the World Conference Against Racism the Commissioner has a responsibility to ensure that an environment of transparent discussion prevails and that no intervention regarding pertinent issues to be discussed at the Conference is permitted.
I am concerned that your statement came on the same day as United Statesí statements regarding their intention to boycott the Conference should issues of Zionism and slavery reparation appear on the agenda. In light of the consistent lack of international political will in addressing racism as a major obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I feel that it is imperative that the World Conference Against Racism can be used as an international forum for addressing this injustice. Racism and the fight for its elimination cannot be held to ransom by the political interests of some members of the international community. PCHR calls upon the international community to recognise the inherently racist nature of Zionism and to treat Israel in the same manner as other states which violate international legal norms on racism and human rights. In attempting to prevent discussion of this racist doctrine the Commissioner is placing Israel above international law and encourages further violations.
I sincerely hope that the World Conference is successful and you may rest assured that my personal commitment to the achievements of the Conference remains as strong as ever. However, I do not consider that there can be any success in combating racism as a global evil whilst sidelining some forms of racism for political interests. In her years in office, the Commissioner has brought inspiration to and great developments in the field of human rights. In particular, through her visit to the area earlier this year, the Commissioner gave hope to the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories that the daily violations perpetrated against them would not be overlooked by the international community. As a symbol of human rights protection, I trust and hope that the Commissioner will continue to utilise her influence and her position to ensure that all variations of racism and intolerance are addressed without regard to politics.
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights