You can talk about everything, except Palestine

After all the hype, propaganda and dis-information over the upcoming Durban II anti-racism conference in Geneva (see here, here and here), a more measured understanding of the politics is required; it’s not pretty:

As the wreckage from Israel’s recent siege on Gaza continues to smoulder, international civil society organisations are assembling this week in Switzerland to address Israel’s crimes of military occupation and racism.

But any discussion on Israel’s actions in Palestine will be excluded from the formal framework at the Durban Anti-Racism Review Conference in Geneva Monday. Israel-Palestine has been deliberately eliminated from the official programme, structured by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR). Civil society groups believe that the United States, countries within the European Union and Israel pressured the UN to omit a review of Israel’s racial discrimination against Palestinians.

Hundreds of delegations from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights organisations will converge in Geneva for the Durban Review Conference on Racism. The conference is a follow-up to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, that outlined an international legal and political concept to deal with global issues of race and human rights.

Immediately following that conference, the WCAR NGO forum recommended an international campaign of isolation towards Israel’s institutionalised “brand of apartheid and other racist crimes against humanity.”

The Durban Review Conference website states that the 2009 Geneva symposium is designed to “review progress and assess the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA).” Adopted by general consensus at the 2001 WCAR in Durban, “the DDPA is a comprehensive, action-oriented document that proposes concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It is holistic in its vision, addresses a wide range of issues, and contains far- reaching recommendations and practical measures.”

In order to assess and review any progress made since the 2001 WCAR in Durban, Palestinian human rights organisations planned several side events that were to take place within the schedule of the conference.

However, two weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner’s office unilaterally cancelled all side-events pertaining to Palestine issues. Ingrid Jarradat- Gassner, director of the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem, one of several Palestine-based organisations attending the Durban Review conference, tells IPS that BADIL and the other NGOs had organised a side-event specifically about how and why they see Israel as a “regime of institutionalised racial discrimination on both sides of the Green Line.”

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