The U.N.’s 2001 World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, otherwise known as the Durban conference was a seminal moment for the pro-Israel community.
The event, which turned out to be a venue for Israel-bashing, kicked off a decade of activity in the Jewish community and galvanized the notion of the struggle against the de-legitimization of Israel.
One of the first to pick up on the issue was a group called U.N. Watch, led by Hillel Neuer. The group has since followed closely the role played by the United Nations and non-government organizations in attacking Israel and is one of the loudest and harshest critics of the Durban process.
It was only natural, therefore, that U.N. Watch would seek to obtain an observer status for Thursday’s gathering at the U.N. headquarters commemorating the tenth anniversary of the first Durban conference.
But the organization is not welcome at the event. The request to participate was denied, although dozens of other groups were allowed to attend.
In a letter to Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Neuer protested the decision and called for its reversal. “The rejection of our application was carried out without any notice or semblance of due process, and is an act of discrimination,” he wrote.
But a response from Pillay did little to explain the reason for rejecting U.N. Watch’s request. In a September 16 letter she wrote that all U.N. member states were invited to review the list of NGO’s requestin to participate and as a result “nine NGO’s were excluded, including U.N. Watch.” No reason was provided.
U.N. Watch is still waiting to hear why it was not allowed in. The issue was also taken up by the Jewish community. The Metrowest federation’s Community Relations Council turned to the U.N. and the State Department asking to allow the group to participate.
But while U.N. Watch will remain outside the conference room, the group found a way to get their message out. A YouTube video posted shows exactly what Neuer thinks about the Durban conference.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.