Sunday 24 February 2008

Israel on trial in Brussels - a prelude to Durban II?

The latest in a long list of initiatives in Europe to demonise Israel

A so-called peoples' tribunal is convening in Brussels this weekend to put Israel on trial for crimes purportedly committed by the Israeli army during the 2006 Lebanon war.

The name of Pierre Galand, President of the French-speaking Belgian Secularist association (Centre d'Action Laïque, a member of the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU), the world union of Humanist organisations), features on the tribunal committee sponsorship list. He is a long-time rabid critic and demoniser of Israel.

This is how NGO Monitor described Pierre Galand in 2004:

"There are very few radical NGO activities in the United Nations or in Europe in which Pierre Galand does not actively participate. His rhetoric of hatred, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism (disguised, as in the case of many other members of the political NGO community, in the language of human rights and sympathy for Palestinian victimization), includes references to Israeli "aggression", "war crimes", "colonization", "apartheid", etc. while referring to Palestinian terror as "heroic" and in need of international protection."

In 2001, Pierre Galand attended the UN anti-racist conference in Durban in his capacity as European Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP), a Brussels based association of NGOs cooperating with the UN Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. At the conference, he called for the reactivation a peoples' tribunal to judge Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, and announced that he had the support of the Rossel and Danièle Mitterrand (the widow of French President François Mitterrand) Foundations, and that Nobel Prize winners would be associated with the tribunal. He had Desmond Tutu in mind.

The peoples' tribunal has finally come into being seven years later in Brussels this weekend. But the sponsorship committee list falls short of Mr. Galand's grandiose expectations. There is no trace of any foundation or Nobel prize winner. No religious leaders, no scholars, no universities either. And no trace of his fellow secularists, free thinkers, humanists, rationalists, atheists either. The media have kept mum about the event.

Altough the pseudo-tribunal is a farce, it would be unwise not to denounce it. It is a dire warning of what Durban II is likely to turn into - another exercise in the demonisation of Israel, with some Europeans taking the leading role. It proves that a small group of single-minded individuals and NGOs (Amnesty International and HRW will, according to the programme, participate) with a anti-Israel agenda are capable of collecting substantial funds and resources to put together an event like the one taking place in Brussels.

For them, the only rogue state in the world is Israel. They are not intent on bringing the Sudanese government on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or worse: genocide, committed in Darfur.

"Inside the Durban debacle", by Michael J. Jordan, Salon:

"During one street rally, they saw a placard that read "Hitler Should Have Finished the Job" and heard someone yell "Kill the Jews." Nearby, a man was reportedly spotted selling the most notorious and conspiratorial of anti-Semitic tracts, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Inside the U.N. conference grounds and within its tents, the rhetoric and agitprop were also white hot. Fliers were found with Hitler's photo above the question: "What if I had won? There would be no Israel, and no Palestinian bloodshed." A press conference held by the Jewish caucus was cut short by a rowdy group of Iranian women, one of whom screamed, "Six million dead and you're holding the world hostage!"

Israel's supporters, it should be noted, usually hold their own in the media and intellectual debate. But at the Durban conference, the Jewish side came armed with little more than position papers, books and other workshop materials, and was overmatched. Thrown on the defensive, they responded by quickly printing and handing out T-shirts of their own, one with a peace sign inside the Jewish Star of David under the slogan "Fight Racism, Not Jews" and a second with Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote: "When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews."

And certainly they had their high-profile defenders. When U.N. officials appeared ready to tolerate inflammatory anti-Israel language making its way into a final conference report, U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the top Democrat in the U.S. delegation, said sharply, "What you have here is the paradox of an anti-racism conference that is itself racist." Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor sitting in Congress and a co-founder of its human rights caucus, blasted delegates from Western nations who he said were privately disgusted with the proceedings but refused to speak out."

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