Israel In Semantic Struggle

Argentina's Jorgelina Cravero serves to Belgium's Justine Henin, during their women's singles first round match on the Number One Court at Wimbledon, Monday, June 25, 2007. Henin won 6-3, 6-0.
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Negotiations on the wording of a U.N. anti-racism document have made no progress toward removing anti-Zionist phrases strongly opposed by the United States and Israel, the Israeli ambassador said.

"On certain issues very close to our heart in Israel and to the Jewish people there's been no movement at all in a positive direction," said Ambassador Yaakov Levy.

This includes the attempt to have the main declaration of the World Conference Against Racism starting Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa, revive a 1975 U.N. resolution that equated Zionism — the movement behind the creation of the modern state of Israel — with racism. The resolution was rescinded in 1991.

The White House warned last week that the U.S. will boycott the conference if the meeting takes up discussions that equate Zionism with racism and the idea of reparations for slavery, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said it is important to send a signal that the United States will not allow the conference planners to "hijack their own meeting into anti-Semitism."

Zionism And Racism

  • The 1975 United Nations resolution.
  • "Why Zionism Is Racism" by Rabee' Sahyoun
  • "What is Zionism?" by the Anti Defamation League

  • A U.S. snub would be a major blow for the conference. The White House has made clear for months that it doesn't like the proposed agenda, which is still being set.

    Negotiators are going painstakingly through the 30-page draft declaration this week, trying to agree on wording. Many of the disputed passages stemmed from regional meetings like the Middle East session in Iran from which Israel was excluded.

    One of the most offensive passages to the United States and Israel in the draft text would say, "The World Conference recognizes with deep concern the increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement which is based on racial superiority."

    Unlike many U.N. battle where Israel's only ally is the United States, Levy said he has been "getting support from many other countries and I would hope sympathy and understanding from many others who for their own reasons might not say it publicly."

    Israeli-Palestinian fighting has led to proposals to revive the Zionism issue. Arab delegations have insisted that the document criticize Israel's treatment of Palestinians even if the Zionism declaration is dropped.

    One paragraph, without mentioning Israel or Zionism, says Palestinians in the occupied territories face "practices of racial discrimination … which have an impact on all aspects of their daily existence."

    Levy said he is also working to remove "improper mentioning of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism."

    Israel maintains that "Holocaust" should refer specifically to Nazi atrocities against the Jews, not genocide in general.

    One such disputed reference in the 30-page draft declaration says, "The holocausts/Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine and in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo must never be forgotten."

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    Arab ambassadors suggested after a strategy session Monday that they would offer to support Africans in their demands for compensation from the West for slavery and colonialism in exchange for African support for Arab positions.

    The draft declaration will condemn the horrors of slavery, which flourished between Africa and the Americas for over 200 years until the early 1800s.

    Fleischer said last week that the United States also opposes including demands for compensation from countries that benefited in the past from slavery and colonialism.

    The United States fears that any such link could open the floodgates to litigation in U.S. courts by groups representing the country's large African-American population.

    Other issues still proving troublesome include a bid by African states to rank victims of racism by degree of suffering, with slaves being those they consider to have fared worst.

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