September Summit Will Mark 20th Anniversary of Racism Conference Tarred by Anti-Semitism
(Washington, D.C., July 29, 2021)--As part of its global efforts to heighten awareness of the 2001 World Conference against Racism—a United Nations event in Durban, South Africa, that was hijacked by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bigots—B’nai B’rith Latin America yesterday held an online program in Spanish addressed by Marina Rosenberg, Israel’s ambassador to Chile. The world body plans to mark the 20th anniversary of the Durban conference with a summit on Sept. 22.
B’nai B’rith—which brought the largest multinational Jewish delegation to Durban, led by the organization’s then-President (and current Honorary President) Richard D. Heideman, and has been in the forefront of Jewish communal engagement with the U.N. since 1945—is urging countries to decline to participate in the commemoration. Already, the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Canada, Hungary, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Germany have indicated that they will not take part.
In her presentation to Spanish-speakers across the Western Hemisphere, Rosenberg noted that while the U.N. celebrates the Durban fiasco, Israel celebrates its deepening ties with both important regional neighbors and key democracies abroad.
Yesterday’s virtual program was opened by B’nai B’rith International U.N. Affairs Chair Millie Magid, who recounted the organization’s long history of leadership on the issue of Durban and Israel’s record as a singularly humane and diverse democracy. She declared, “Zionism most certainly is not racism, but anti-Zionism absolutely is anti-Semitism.”
The 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action singled out Israel alone for implied characterization as racist. The 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva—at which B’nai B’rith also mobilized the largest Jewish contingent—was addressed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust-denier who openly and frequently promoted Israel’s destruction.
Offering first-hand testimony from Durban on yesterday’s program were Ram Tapia, a former executive vice president of B’nai B’rith Chile who was a member of the B’nai B’rith delegation at Durban, and Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith International Latin American affairs director and B’nai B’rith Latin America executive vice president, who was also a member of the delegation in 2001.
In his remarks, Tapia described the successful efforts by B'nai B'rith prior to Durban to have anti-Semitism referenced in the Durban Declaration—but also the shocking reality of violent hatred faced by Jewish delegates at Durban. He decried the complicity of the U.N. in allowing the conference to be derailed by enemies of Israel.
B’nai B’rith held a high-level counter-conference on Durban’s 10th anniversary in New York in 2011 and is taking action in advance of the 20th anniversary summit this September. Through published op-eds, interventions at the U.N. Human Rights Council, letters to world leaders, meetings with ambassadors globally and virtual programming in multiple languages, B’nai B’rith is committed to confronting the toxic legacy of Durban.
In addition to yesterday’s program, a B’nai B’rith event for the French-speaking world was held earlier this month featuring Yehuda Lancry, a former Israeli ambassador to France who was his country’s permanent representative to the U.N. at the time of Durban. More major programming will be held as the actual anniversary approaches in late August and September.
The July 28 program may be watched here. For additional resources, visit https://www.bnaibrith.org/durban-at-20.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit bnaibrith.org.