One of the accusations which the various Arab countries (including Egypt and Jordan which have peace treaties with Israel) often make against Israel is that “Zionism is racism”. Defining Zionism, the national liberation movement of jews, the victims of racism, as racism is particularly cynical, yet it seems that the Arabs have succeeded to convince the leaders of some nations, themselves victims of racism, to support this vicious accusation.
The latest attempt to define Zionism as racism was at the 2001 UNESCO conference which was held in Durban, South Africa. The resolution which was initiated by Arab countries enjoyed the support of most participants. Especially painful was the support of such African leaders as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Some Western countries, however, notably Australia and Canada, objected and accused the conference of hypocrisy. The Canadian delegation, for example, issued the following statement:
“Canada is still here today only because we wanted to have our voice decry the attempts at this Conference to de-legitimize the State of Israel and to dishonor the history and suffering of the Jewish people. We believe, and we have said in the clearest possible terms, that it was inappropriate – wrong – to address the Palestinian-Israel conflict in this forum. We have said, and will continue to say, that anything – any process, any declaration, any language – presented in any forum that does not serve to advance a negotiated peace that will bring security, dignity and respect to the people of the region is – and will be – unacceptable to Canada.”
It was for that reason that both Israel and the United States under the leadership of Secretary Colin Powell, himself no stranger to racism, pulled their delegations from the conference. The final text adopted by the conference drops all direct criticism of Israel, but does recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and expresses concern at their plight under foreigh occupation.
That was only the latest attempt to define Zionism as racism. In November 1975, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 declared that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination” In December 1991, the General Assembly rescinded this resolution through Resolution 4686.
All those years the Arab countries continued to promote this false notion. It is therefore of interest to check how different things are on the other side of the fence, namely in the Arab countries. Even though there are many blacks who live in those countries the question whether they are subject to racism was academic for a long time and one had to resort to circumstantial evidence in order to answer it. One well-known fact is that most Arabs refer to blacks as “Abed” which means “slave” in Arabic. This seems to say something about the situation of racism in the Arab world. Today, due to the recent events in Darfur and the active role that the Arab Janjaweed play in the slaughter of black Africans there, this question has become more urgent and relevant than ever before. It is time for the UN and the whole world to fight it NOW