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Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2001 / 22 Elul, 5761

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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Mort Zuckerman

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Running the asylum -- A GREAT evil stalks the world-again. Who would have believed, after the Nazi Holocaust and the free world's triumphant Declaration of Human Rights, that anyone would openly again foment hatred of Jews? But that's just what happened at the Durban conference against racism last week. The criticisms of the United States for walking out of the U.N. conference are, in a word, perverted. Durban degenerated into such vileness and hypocrisy, the troubling question is why so many stayed when the mask of "anti-Zionism" slipped to reveal the hideous face of antisemitism.

Martin Luther King Jr. saw through the whole repellent stunt decades ago. "When people criticize Zionism," he said, "they mean Jews . . . . Anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic and ever will it be so . . . . And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism."

We have come to expect antisemitism of the Arab world and the Muslim world and the so-called nonaligned world. Still, it is shameful that well-meaning American activists who belong to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International virtually stood by while Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization hijacked the Durban conference and its ideals.

Propaganda. Durban reflects a three-pronged antisemitic campaign. The first is to trivialize the Holocaust by adding after all references to it the words "and the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine." As if the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are morally comparable. The campaign is a barefaced effort to delegitimize the historical specificity of the Nazi killings as the cornerstone of the moral argument for Israel's existence as a haven from antisemitic persecution. The second prong is to insist that references to antisemitism be linked with the "racist practices of Zionism" or, even more absurdly, "Zionist practices against Semitism."

Finally, Israel is caricatured as practicing a new kind of apartheid, with Zionism portrayed as a movement based on racist supremacy. To characterize Judaism as a race instead of a religion is racist propaganda. Israel, of course, provides a special place for Jews, but that's because of their history of persecution. The first President Bush had it right: "Zionism is not a policy. It is an ideal that led to the creation of a home for the Jewish people."

The claim that Israel is responsible for ethnic cleansing of the Arab population turns truth squarely on its head. Anyone visiting Israel is immediately struck by the fact that it is one of the world's most multiethnic societies. Not only are there over a million Israeli Arabs with the right to vote, but even an Arab-sponsored study recognized that the Arabs who left during the 1948 war did so overwhelmingly at the urging of Arab governments pending the Arab armies' "purging" of Jews from the land.

The same Arab countries have actively sought to deny Palestinian refugees the chance to reintegrate into the economic life of the region, rendering them dispossessed and unemployed. And the Arabs have cast out more than 800,000 Jews since 1948, men and women who now make up a very sizable portion of Israel's population. Now that's ethnic cleansing.

Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, called on conferees in Durban to admit that "all countries have issues of racism and discrimination." Fat chance. It was too much to ask of the masters of hypocrisy who singled out Israel. The double standard is not just latent. It is blatant. Who dared mention Afghanistan's vengeful Taliban extremists? Or Russia's destruction of Chechnya? Or China's assault on Buddhism in Tibet? And what of the murder of thousands of Africans by rival tribes? Or the racist campaign of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the long history of oppression against minorities in Arab countries, the slaughter of the Kurds, and the Iranian clerics who jail or beat women if they walk unescorted or appear without being fully covered? The list goes on.

At Durban, the inmates, finally, took over the asylum. They supported a definition of human rights that, incredibly, appears to make no reference to the right to vote, the right to assemble, the right to protest, freedom of religion, or equality under the law. Instead, they oppose the only democratic country in the Middle East, Israel, which has an independent press, an independent judiciary, freedom of religion and speech, and genuine political opposition.

No wonder the United Nations has been morally compromised. The United States has lived up to its long and honorable history of rejecting the equation of Zionism and racism. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell (who surely would have liked to confront racism in the former cradle of apartheid) are to be commended for refusing to have truck with such naked hatred.

JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman