Herzog says upcoming UN Durban conference on racism promotes hate

Speaking at global forum on antisemitism, president calls for democracies to band together against Durban IV; diaspora minister says IDF action affects Jews globally

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog speaks to the Global Forum on Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem, on July 13, 2021 (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog speaks to the Global Forum on Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem, on July 13, 2021 (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The upcoming United Nations conference on racism is “a gathering of hatred and slander, an antisemitic event in the worst sense,” President Isaac Herzog said Tuesday at the opening of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism in Jerusalem.

Herzog called for countries and organizations to join together by acting “decisively, unanimously, and fearlessly” against September’s Durban IV conference to ensure it does not take place.

The conference, named after the South African city where the first meeting took place in 2001, is slated to be held at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The US, Britain, Canada and several other countries have announced they will not attend the event. It marks the 20th anniversary of the notorious World Conference on Racism in the same city, and a separate NGO Forum, at which Israel was singled out for racism and some participants sought to equate Zionism with racism, prompting an Israeli and American walkout. Subsequent Durban conferences have also prompted boycotts by nations concerned at their antisemitic character.

Herzog pointed to recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic and May’s 11-day conflict in Gaza as contributors to the recent wave of attacks on Jews.

“The costs of antisemitism were always horrific,” Herzog said.

This year’s two-day Global Forum, organized by the Foreign Ministry in collaboration with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, is held under the slogan “collective efforts for collective impact.”

Speaking after Herzog, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said the government must recognize how events within Israel, like conflicts in Gaza, affect world Jewry.

Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai attends a meeting of the lobby for strengthening ties with the Jewish world, held at the Knesset, on June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Our military decisions impact Jewish communities globally,” said Shai, calling the Gaza conflict a “turning point” on antisemitism.

“Violence in Israel immediately turns Jewish communities into global targets,” he added.

Men from the CST and Shomrim security units detain the alleged attacker of a Jewish man in his car in London, on May 21, 2021. (Eye on Antisemitism via JTA)

Shai also expressed serious concern over the way in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being linked to other liberal causes around the world.

Left-wing groups, including Black Lives Matter, are increasingly linking the Palestinian cause to their own issues, arguing they are all victims of the same oppressive system, of which Israel is a part.

The minister compared antisemitism to a global pandemic that demands a global approach.

“Antisemitism not a Jewish or Israeli problem,” Shai emphasized. “It’s a global problem, and it must be treated as such.”

The Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism was established in 2003 by deputy prime minister and diaspora minister Natan Sharansky to bring together those involved in the fight against antisemitism around the globe. The event moved over to the  Foreign Ministry in 2007.

Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with a group of Israel supporters and police in a violent clash in Times Square in New York City, on May 20, 2021. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

This year’s forum was attended by 180 guests from around the world, joined by hundreds who attended virtually.

The conference is focusing on social media and the rise in antisemitism after Operation Guardian of the Walls in May. It seeks to create an action plan for fighting hatred of Jews.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is giving the keynote address Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.

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