Jewish solidarity group urges Canadian gov't to reverse decision to boycott Durban Review Conference

    GENEVA, Switzerland, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Appearing before the
Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference (Durban II),
Independent Jewish Voices' Coordinator Diana Ralph expressed her group's
strong support for the Durban process.
    "Our organization, which represents 18 Jewish groups across Canada,
unconditionally endorses the World Conference Against Racism Review and urges
the government of Canada to reverse its decision to boycott these crucial
proceedings," Ralph declared.
    In her statement before the Committee, Ralph explained that
"Historically, Jews have actively participated in struggles against Apartheid
and other forms of discrimination. Because we take anti-Semitism seriously, we
object to those who characterize legitimate criticism of Israel's
discriminatory policies as anti-Semitic."
    The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban I, focused on a
racist policies and practices around the world, including the plight of
Aboriginal people, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, slavery, human
trafficking, and more. It called for action against the underlying causes of
racism: poverty, war, and global inequality.
    "The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action that was issued after
Durban I devoted fewer than 250 words to issues specifically addressing
matters involving Jews and Palestinians. It carefully balanced recognition of
the rights of Jews and Israel with those of Palestinians. There was no
anti-Semitic content in that report," Ralph emphasized.
    "The fact is that a handful of participants at the NGO conference held in
conjunction with Durban I engaged in a few, isolated instances of anti-Semitic
behaviour," Ralph stressed. "We unconditionally condemn these and all other
manifestations of bigotry, which was also overwhelmingly rejected by the other
NGOs and delegations that participated in Durban I," she underscored.
    "Unfortunately, there has a systematic attempt to portray Durban I was an
'anti-Semitic hate-fest'," Ralph pointed out. "This stems from the fact that
at Durban some NGO participants and governments challenged Israel's racist
policies. Instead of addressing the substance of these charges, the government
of Israel and those who back it unconditionally chose to brand those who
levelled criticism of Israel at Durban as 'anti-Semitic'," she noted.
    "As Jews, we assert that it is entirely legitimate, not anti-Semitic, to
criticize Israeli policies that discriminate against Palestinians - not to
mention occupying, torturing, assassinating, and collectively punishing them.
Those who have been so critical of the Review appear intent upon discrediting
criticism of racist Israeli policies and practices - and to prevent the
governments of the US, Canada, and EU countries from being pressured to
redress historic and ongoing racist practices," Ralph continued.
    "It is our position that Jews of conscience must stand in solidarity with
all victims of racism. Our Basis of Unity states that there is no
justification for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab
racism, or Islamophobia, under any circumstances and that the vital battle
against anti-Semitism is threatened whenever opposition to Israeli government
policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic," Ralph concluded.

For further information:

For further information: Sid Shniad, Independent Jewish Voices, (604)
314-5589 (cell),,

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