End Apartheid, Slavery, Caste & Racism – Support WCAR 2009

From Open Anthropology – The 5th Annual Israel Apartheid Week is Now On.

The US, Canada, France and Israel have stuck their noses in the air and are planning to boycott the UN World Conference Against Racism to be held in Geneva on the 24th April.

Reportedly, the American delegation in attendance at the conference’s preparatory talks concluded that “the anti-Israel and anti-Western tendencies were too deeply entrenched to excise.

Cynthia McKinney, Presidential candidate for the Greens in the last US elections, attended the last conference in Durban which she saw as a triumph and landmark for marginalised people.

In order to prevail in Durban, I had to go toe to toe with the Anti-Defamation League and Members of Congress Tom Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who, among many other Members of Congress, vociferously denounced Durban. This was something that I did because I felt it was the right thing to do. Given Israel’s recent actions in Gaza that have brought upon it the world’s opprobrium, I can imagine that this is the last point in time that Israel might want to revisit Durban. Israel has said that it will not attend the Conference in Geneva.

To Obama on his shunning of the forthcoming Geneva sessions she says:

This morning, I sent the following message to the White House:

‘Mr. President, it was with great disappointment that I read of your decision to pull out of Durban II. Even the Bush Administration, under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, provided some funding for the United Nations effort and sent staff to support the Congressional delegation that attended the Conference. I was there. I was head of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force that negotiated Congressional and Administration engagement on this issue. There is still time for the U.S. to participate. Your decision is not irrevocable. I would encourage you to please reconsider this decision and not only attend the Conference, but also provide funding to ensure its success.”

I implore the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus to spearhead the participation of the United States in the United Nation’s World Conference Against Racism: to boldly go where we have gone before. Dr. King reminded us that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” On this issue, President Obama has shown us his measure. I hope that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus and the Democratic Caucus can show us, oh, so much more.

Will Australia choose to attend or bow to the Zionist Lobby? As Antoun Issa aptly illustrates, an Australian presence is vital. Australia is a nation which has said sorry to our indigenous people – along with our anti-discrimination legislation, it’s a start, and a positive example of a country addressing its historical crimes against humanity.

Israel’s bid to equate criticism of its policies to anti-Semitism is merely an attempt to deflect attention from its handling of the Palestinian question. No country likes to admit that its policies have traces of racism or they are committing fault. It took Australia seven decades to abolish the White Australia Policy, and it took years for us to even acknowledge that stealing Indigenous children from their parents was wrong.

Contrary to Dan Gillerman’s idea that strong democratic nations like Australia should steer clear of the anti-racism conference in Geneva, countries like Australia and Israel both have a lot to gain from attending a forum dedicated to addressing the persistent issue of racism across the world. Within such a forum, and after it, Australia can make a valuable contribution by helping Israel to move away from policies that inevitably cause racial hate, violence and failure. As a friend to Israel, Canberra must make it clear that the country’s pursuit of the racist path will not result in a peaceful solution for either side.

Attending Durban II will send Israel the message it needs to hear from its closest friends in the world: Tel Aviv must abandon its racist approach to the Palestinian conflict. And we, with recent experience in taking a pivotal step in racial reconciliation, are in a good position to help Israel accept its own indigenous population.

The Geneva Conference has the below objectives:

1. To review progress and implementation by all stakeholders of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Through an inclusive, transparent and collaborative process the Review Conference will assess contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, while identifying concrete counter measures to eliminate these manifestations of intolerance.
2. To assess the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and their effectiveness, as well as other relevant United Nations mechanisms dealing with the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
3. To promote the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination;
4. To identify and share good practices in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Until past wrongs are acknowledged and responsibility taken for better, more just future strategies, as with South African apartheid, boycotts, divestment and sanctions are appropriate responses – and these are proving effective.

As McKinney says:

“… dignity will not come without first an acknowledgment of the truth: with truth we can have justice; and with justice we can have peace; and it is only with peace that we can truly have dignity.”

For more Israel Apartheid Week 2009 links, visit Open Anthropology.