Yehuda Lancry, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador During Durban Conference, Addresses French-Language B’nai B’rith Program
September Summit Will Mark 20th Anniversary of Racism Conference Tarred by Anti-Semitism
(Washington, D.C., July 8, 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 International held on July 7 an online program in French addressed by Yehuda Lancry, Israel’s permanent representative to the U.N. at the time of the Durban conference. The world body plans to mark the 20th anniversary of Durban with a summit on Sept. 22.
B’nai B’rith—which brought the largest multinational Jewish delegation to Durban and has led 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 and the Netherlands have indicated that they will not take part.
In a wide-ranging presentation to French-speakers on multiple continents, Lancry, a former Israeli ambassador to France, described how non-governmental organizations worked to weaponize Durban against Israel, and the context in which South Africa served as a setting for animosity toward the Jewish state and its supporters. He noted that the discriminatory BDS movement—promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel—took shape at Durban.
Yesterday’s virtual program—held in cooperation with B’nai B’rith Europe (BBE) and B’nai B’rith France (BBF)—was opened by BBF President Philippe Meyer and by Stéphane Teicher, the Paris-based B’nai B’rith senior vice president and main representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Also offering testimony were David Lévy Bentolila, a former BBE president who was a member of the B’nai B’rith delegation to Durban in 2001, and Haim Musicant, a BBF vice president who attended the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2009. B’nai B’rith also mobilized the largest Jewish contingent on that occasion.
In his remarks, Lévy Bentolila recounted the toxic atmosphere confronting Jewish delegates to Durban in 2001, including virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist posters, fliers and t-shirts; hostile protests; and a decision by civil-society representatives to accuse Israel of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and even “genocide.” As a result, members of the Jewish caucus, chaired by B’nai B’rith International then-President (and current Honorary President) Richard Heideman, ultimately withdrew from the conference.
Musicant added that the 2009 follow-up meetings in Geneva were dominated by anti-Israel regimes including that of Libya, with preparatory meetings held on Jewish holidays and an inflammatory in-person address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, notorious for his Holocaust-denial and calls for Israel to be wiped “off the map.” Nonetheless, Musicant noted the strong, coordinated Jewish response—which helped result in an array of key democracies boycotting the proceedings.
As the U.N. has continued to reaffirm and promote the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action—which deplorably singled out Israel, the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy, for implied characterization as racist—B’nai B’rith has pledged to continue speaking out in support of genuine efforts against bigotry, including anti-Semitism and its most prevalent strain today, anti-Zionism.
The organization 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 tarnished legacy of Durban.
More major programming will be held as the actual anniversary approaches in late August and September. The July 7 program may be watched at https://youtu.be/PCXcfhCrGGo. For additional resources, please 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.
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the announcement by the European Commission that it will name a coordinator for combating anti-Semitism. The new official will report to Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, who will serve as special envoy for countering anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
B’nai B’rith and other civil society groups had urged the European Union to appoint an official to oversee the effort to fight anti-Semitism.
The continued growth of anti-Semitism across Europe requires an EU-wide approach to dealing with the problem. The appointment of a special envoy and coordinator on anti-Semitism is an important step in this direction.
We pledge to work closely with EU officials to ensure that the work of the Commission and the European Parliament yields positive results in tackling anti-Semitism.
B’nai B’rith International is disappointed the European Parliament has passed a resolution that will allow European governments to label products made in the West Bank, a policy that will cause great economic and political harm to the Jewish state.
The resolution, which passed by a vote of 525-70, is an affirmation of the discriminatory goals of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Such a misguided policy is destructive to the peace process and gives momentum to opponents of Israel who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state by weakening its economy and isolating it politically.
We call on European governments to reject this biased and counterproductive resolution.
B’nai B’rith International commends Romania for legislation punishing anyone who denies the Holocaust.
Parliament had earlier voted for the legislation and President Klaus Iohannis signed the amendments into law this week.
We specifically commend the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the prime minister, the president and all those in the opposition who supported the measure and voted for moving this landmark legislation forward.
In a further recognition of human rights, the law also prohibits fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations and symbols.
The war-time Ion Antonescu regime was allied with Nazi Germany. The new law characterizes Holocaust denial as rejecting Romania’s role in the murders of some 400,000 Jews in Romania and Romanian-controlled territory.
Holocaust denial is an odious effort to undermine the unique, horrific genocide against the Jewish people. Punishing Holocaust denial recognizes that this calculated, systematic effort to wipe out the Jewish people must never be forgotten.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith welcomes a new Spanish law that would allow descendants of Sephardic Jews to apply for citizenship.
This is an important gesture acknowledging not only the expulsion of Jews from 15th Century Spain, but also the importance of Jewish heritage to the country’s history.
In recent years, the Spanish foreign ministry has established Casa Sefarad to promote Sephardic Jewish culture worldwide. The organization describes itself as “a bridge between Spain and the Jewish world,” and has run important cross-cultural programs.
Citizenship will not be awarded automatically. Applicants will have to certify their Sephardic ancestry during the online application process, and will have to pass language and history proficiency tests. The law will allow applicants to retain their current country of citizenship.
We are pleased that Spain’s Jewish community will be involved in the process of vetting applications, as their participation can be helpful in optimizing the law’s implementation.
Click here to read B’nai B’rith’s analysis of this topic from May:
Click here to read “The Jews of Spain” from the winter 2014 issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine: http://www.bnaibrith.org/magazine-articles/the-jews-of-spain-once-many-now-few-and-under-the-radar
Company Position Echoes BDS Movement’s
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
French telecommunication company Orange CEO Stephane Richard’s statement that “[o]ur intention is to withdraw from Israel,” is deplorable and suggests corporate acquiescence to the pernicious Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that aims to single out Israel for unjust discrimination and harm.
In Cairo, Richard said that, if it were financially feasible, he would terminate his company’s relationship “tomorrow” with Partner, the Israeli company that licenses the Orange name in Israel.
Orange does substantial business in Israel, where it is a top mobile service provider.
This is not the first time Orange has demonstrated a lack of corporate responsibility in the Middle East. In 2012, B’nai B’rith revealed that Orange was one of the companies, along with multiple U.N. agencies, to hire Emad Hajjaj, a Jordan-based Palestinian cartoonist with a long record of virulently anti-Semitic imagery in his work. B’nai B’rith wrote to the groups patronizing Hajjaj, but Orange failed to reply.
We urge the French government, which has a stake in Orange, to deplore Richard’s comments and firmly oppose BDS campaigns against the Middle East’s only democracy.
Click below to read B’nai B’rith’s letter of concern to the French prime minister:
The B'nai B'rith Europe Lifetime Award of Merit is conferred upon outstanding individuals who have dedicated at least 40 years of service to the wellbeing of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and who have accomplished the following:
Peres received a gold medal and a certificate that read, in part, "You are the face of Israel and of the Jewish people and you bring together the highest Jewish values of ethics, morality, tolerance, culture and the national unity of the Jewish people. The B’nai B'rith fraternity is also committed to these principles."
”In my view every Jew deserves a medal of merit because to be a Jew is to be committed to the spirit of humanity,” Peres responded. “It is not simple and it never was simple to be a Jew. For me being a Jew means keeping the moral foundations of the Ten Commandments, continuous learning and pursuing peace. A Jew today is a person who ensures that his grandchildren are Jewish. That is what B'nai B'rith does, and it does it very well."
B’nai B’rith Europe is represented in 29 countries throughout Europe, with more than 5,000 members. With an office based in Brussels it is represented at the European Parliament, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the United Nations in Geneva and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris.
Also participating in the award ceremony were Simone Hofmann (Germany); Erika van Gelder (Holland), B'nai B'rith Europe senior vice president; Jolle Perelberg (France), former B’nai B’rith International senior vice president; Michael Nathan, president, B'nai B'rith Israel; Robert Levy, B'nai B'rith Europe Committee for Central and Eastern Europe (France/Israel); and Alan Schneider, B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem director.