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Year 2001 No. 152, September 5, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

UN World Conference Against Racism:

US and Israel Withdrawal: Impotence and Isolation in the Face of Just Demands

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

UN World Conference Against Racism:
US and Israel Withdrawal: Impotence and Isolation in the Face of Just Demands

Britain Blocks EU Apology For Slave Trade

For Your Information:
The WCAR Draft Programme of Action

Address by Yasser Arafat to the WCAR

Inquest Opened into Death of West Midlands Workers

Teacher Shortage Stops School Opening

Labour Cut Education Spending to 40-Year Low

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UN World Conference Against Racism:

US and Israel Withdrawal: Impotence and Isolation in the Face of Just Demands

On September 3, the US and Israeli delegations withdrew from the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, citing their failure to eliminate denunciations of the Zionist Israeli state policies against the Palestinian people from conference documents. The European Union (EU) has announced that a "completely new text" will now be drawn up by an "informal group" chaired by South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The group will include EU, Arab and African nations.

The US and Israeli actions come on the heels of the September 2 release of the final declaration of the NGO Forum taking place alongside the WCAR. The document denounced Zionism as racism and stated that Israel has a racist, apartheid state. Among its demands, the Forum called for an end to the "ongoing, Israeli systematic perpetration of racist crimes, including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing". The declaration was a strong blow to the attempts by the US imperialists, the Israeli state and their supporters to portray the widespread opposition to Zionism and the past and present crimes of the Israeli state as the work of "extremists" using the WCAR to wage a "propaganda campaign". The overwhelming majority of the some 6,000 non-governmental organisations registered for the event endorsed the final declaration. Just 12 organisations, or 0.2 per cent, mostly from Israel, North America and Europe, refused to participate in the voting and walked out of the NGO Forum to shouts of "freedom for Palestine!".

The final decision by the US and Israel to withdraw came when a "compromise" proposal for the Declaration and Plan of Action of the WCAR was rejected. The proposal, presented by Norway, was reportedly supported by the US. The attempted "compromise" mentioned the conflict in the Middle East and the suffering of the Palestinian people, but removed all condemnation of the practices of the Israeli state and any mention of the racists and segregationist basis for Israel's policies. Referring to the proposal,
Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League and a senior Egyptian diplomat at the conference, said, "We tried to be accommodating and make the conference a success, but not at the expense of our principles."

Following the US and Israeli walk-out, officials of both countries made statements repeating the disinformation which has filled the monopoly-controlled media in the weeks leading up to the conference. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of 'Zionism equals racism'; or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world – Israel – for censure and abuse."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the WCAR "has become a source of hatred and unfounded accusation, a reverse of every responsibility of the international community". Alan Baker, a legal adviser to the Israeli delegation, said, "This conference has been hijacked by countries and groups that pay lip service to the fight against racism, but who are following their own sinister agenda." Mordechai Yadid, head of the Israeli delegation even suggested Israel might withdraw from the United Nations. Israel, he said, is "very concerned" about its relationship with the UN and had voiced its concerns to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. "We made it quite clear to them that we are at a critical junction in our relationship with the UN and its different institutions, including the Human Rights Commission," Yadid said.

The WCAR comes at a time when the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people and the criminal acts of terrorism by the Israeli state are encouraging more and more peoples and governments the world over to come forward to denounce Zionism and US imperialism, the crimes against the people of Palestine, and the criminal "no war, no peace" plot of the imperialist powers. In the lead up to the WCAR, the US and Israel went all out to block the growing international sentiment in support of the Palestinian people and against Israeli aggression from finding its expression in Durban.

The US and Israeli actions in Durban shows their isolation in the face of world opinion. Their withdrawal is the mark of impotence. Unable to actually present concrete arguments to refute the charges against Israel and the just demands of the peoples of the world reflected in the WCAR documents, the US and Israel and their supporters are left with nothing but threats and other hooligan activity. This hooliganism is accompanied by a massive disinformation campaign on the part of the capitalist media, all of this for purposes from diverting attention away from the substantive issues.

The events of the past decades as well as the devastating aggression being carried out today by the Israeli military against the Palestinian people continue to demonstrate the denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. The Israeli state has refused to grant any group of Palestinians equal legal right, whether they are citizens of Israel, the three million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation or the millions of Palestinian refugees the world over.

For the US imperialists, their machinations in Durban serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, they seek to cover up their own criminal role in the Middle East, including their full support and financial and military backing for the policies and aggression of the Israeli state. At the same time, they have manipulated the issue of Israel in Durban in order to side-step every other substantive issue raised there.

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Britain Blocks EU Apology For Slave Trade

According to news reports, the British government delegation at the WCAR are being accused of blocking the European Union from issuing a straightforward apology for the transatlantic trade in slavery.

The British delegation is pushing for an expression of "regret". Other EU states fear that British resistance to African demands for a frank admission of guilt could leave the Europeans blamed for the failure to make a break with the colonialist past.

It is reported that eleven EU countries are prepared to offer an outright apology for slavery, led by Belgium, which currently holds the presidency of the EU and is conducting the official negotiations with the African bloc. But four others - Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal - are prepared only to express "regret" about the slave trade, without any specific recognition of responsibility.

"Britain is the stickiest on this," said a European source close to the talks. "The Belgians are pushing hard to apologise. The majority of EU delegations are willing to make a compromise on an apology, but some are still unable to accept this."

EU delegates agree that they are not prepared to call slavery a crime against humanity, using the argument that it could have legal implications and force them to pay reparations. Britain says that even an apology could have damaging consequences.

This stand of the British government is totally unjust and shows the continuity of Britain's colonialist and imperialist past with its present outlook of racism and its demand that all countries adopt the political system which it labels "good government".

Article Index

For Your Information:

The WCAR Draft Programme of Action

WDIE is reproducing below items from the most recent publicly released draft of the Programme of Action for the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), meeting in Durban, South Africa. The WCAR draft texts were drawn up by government delegations at three preparatory meetings, known as "PrepComs," in Geneva, Switzerland. Those items and phrases in brackets were not agreed upon at the PrepComs, while those without brackets were approved and are expected to be part of the final Plan of Action.

* * *

3. [Recognises that foreign occupation, especially when grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 are committed, is among the forms and sources of racial and discriminatory practices, and urges the international community to take effective measures to protect peoples under foreign occupation from such practices;] [ONGOING 3rd PrepCom]

41. [Urges Israel to revise its legislation based on racial or religious discrimination such as the law of return and all the policies of the occupying Power which prevent the Palestinian refugees and displaced persons from returning to their homes and properties, in violation of their right to return];

220. Expressing its deep concern over the severity of humanitarian sufferings of affected civilian populations, the World Conference requests the relevant international institutions to continue rendering urgent financial and humanitarian assistance to populations expelled from their homes and calls for enabling refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes voluntarily, in safety and dignity;

221. [Calls upon all relevant United Nations organs to endeavour to bring the foreign occupation of Jerusalem by Israel, together with all its racist practices, to an end and to ensure the recognition of Jerusalem as a city of reverence and religious sanctity for the three major religions of the world which should serve as a focal point of historical and cultural inspiration, a symbol of civilisation and religious dialogue and an epitome of tolerance and equality];

222. [Urges all States to refrain from taking any measure leading to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or of any measures aimed at altering its geographic, demographic and institutional characteristics in violation of the norms of international humanitarian law and relevant repeated United Nations resolutions];

223. [Calls upon the international community to assume its responsibilities to provide international protection for the Palestinian people under occupation against any acts of racism, racial discrimination and denial of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty and self-determination];

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Address by Yasser Arafat to the WCAR

Following is the address by Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, President of the Palestine National Authority

HE President Thabo Mbeki,
HE President Mary Robinson,
Excellencies, HE Mr. Kofi Annan,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure and delight to be with you, side by side with my friend President Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, which has once and forever liberated itself from the detested racism and the policies of racial discrimination.

It is my sincerest hope that this Third World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination will be a decisive historical turning point on the international level in doing away with all forms of racial discrimination and racism.

I come to you from my homeland, Palestine, which is tormented by racial discrimination, occupation, aggression and settlements. It is my hope that this esteemed conference will make the final word, the word of right, history and justice, on this bloody tragedy to which our people have been subjected. It is a racist colonialist conspiracy of aggression, forced eviction, usurpation of land and infringement upon the Christian and Islamic holy places, in Al-Quds Ash-Shareef, Bethlehm, Beit Jala, Beit Sahoor, Hebron and others.

The conspiracy against our people thwarted all international resolutions, which provide the only basis for peace and justice. As a result of this colonialist challenge against international legitimacy, the governments of Israel usurped our rights, land and natural resources. They destroyed many Christian and Islamic holy places. They robbed our water. They turned a majority of our people into refugees in the region and the world, deprived of return to their homeland and to their homes even after the adoption of Resolution 194, which guaranteed their right of return. Indeed the Government of Israel is now undertaking military escalation and imposing an economic, financial, provisions-supply and medical siege against our people and against all of our towns and villages as well as against our farms and industrial establishments, which they are destroying by all kinds of the American war machine, including those internationally prohibited. Our people have condemned equally all the racist practices and crimes and racist practices directed against the Jews in modern history.

Our Palestinian people face today the severest military campaign run by the Government of Israel headed by Sharon. She declares to the world, in a challenging and insolent manner, her rejection of political solutions and agreements as well as her insistence on a military solution that has brought disasters and destruction to our land and people, and the liquidation and assassination of their leaders, the last of whom was the heroic martyred leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, the Secretary General of the Popular Front. This brutality and arrogance are moved by a mentality of superiority that practices racial discrimination, that adopts ethnic cleansing and transfer, and that protects the daily attacks carried out by the settlers against our people.

Our Palestinian people who are suffering as a result of this severe occupation, these settlements and racial discrimination look forward towards this conference to stand on their side, with right, justice and international legitimacy which are trampled upon by Israel. The aim of this Government is to force our people to their knees and to make them surrender in order to continue her occupation, settlements and racist practices, so as to liquidate our people by carrying out the Orainim (i.e. Hell) plan which were declared by Sharon, the head of the Government of Israel, before the Israeli Knesset and by the Chief of staff of his army.

The ongoing Israeli aggression against our people does not aim, as the Government of Israel claims, at ensuring the security of Israel and that of her citizens. This savage aggression aims at maintaining occupation and settlements, and continuing the aggression against our land and our Christian and Islamic holy places. It should be known that the security of Israel and the Israelis, and that the just and comprehensive peace in the region, the peace of the brave, which I and my late partner Rabin signed, can be achieved through the Israeli withdrawal, the removal of the settlements from our land and the implementation of the signed agreements and the resolutions of international legality.

Condemnation of the Israeli occupation and its racist practices and laws, which are based on racism and superiority, is considered today an urgent demand by our people. It also represents a strong support for their just and legitimate struggle to liberate their land from the Israeli occupation, to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination and to establish their independent state, with Holy Jerusalem as its capital, and to the right of the refugees to return to their land. We continue to look forward to the return of the path of peace to achieve these legitimate goals within a just, comprehensive and lasting peace for all the people of our area.

This historical conference represents a decisive historical turning point in the position of all humanity vis-à-vis discrimination and racist practices which are all incorporated in the Israeli occupation of and settlements in our homeland, Palestine. The decisions of this historical conference cannot but be a start for a universal international as well as popular move to do away with the last vestiges of colonialism in our contemporary world, namely the Israeli settler occupation of our homeland, Palestine, and to enable our people get their right of freedom, independence and sovereignty, like other peoples in the world.

Thank you for your attention and I wish this historical conference success.

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Inquest Opened into Death of West Midlands Workers

An inquest has been opened, more than two years after two men died whilst working on an industrial estate in the Black Country, West Midlands.

Ghulam Sarwar, 22 and 40 year old Mumtaz Hussein, both died after they were overcome by chemical fumes.The men had been working a night shift on the Black Lake Industrial Estate.

The inquest heard how one of the two fans at the chemical unit failed to work and only some of the chemical vats had covers on them.

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Teacher Shortage Stops School Opening

As schools across much of England and Wales went back, teacher shortages are exacerbating the crisis in education.

At Oriel High School in Great Yarmouth, its headmaster said that there are simply not enough teachers. The pupils are getting a longer holiday and will go back to just a four-day week.

It has been a struggle for thousands of schools to find enough teachers to fill vacant posts before the start of term. Despite this, just last week, Estelle Morris, the Education Minister said that all schools should start the term at full strength and on a full timetable, saying that she hoped that not one of them would go on a four day week. The headmaster of Oriel High says the Department for Education and Skills has been involved in his attempts to hire enough staff before the start of the school year.

Teaching unions have said that parents should demand answers on the government's handling of the problem. John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers, said: "They should ask their MP, why hasn't the Government acted? Why hasn't it admitted there is a teaching supply crisis? Why isn't it sorting out the reasons why teachers are leaving and why they're not being recruited?"

A report last week highlighted the scale of the problem. It said there were as many as 5,000 teacher vacancies in England and Wales. One of the worst hit areas is Derby. It has 1,650 teaching posts but 130 are vacant. And Norfolk, where Oriel High is situated, has 5,500 posts and 125 vacancies.

One school in Peckham, south London, has had to go overseas to find the staff it needed to start the school year on time.

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Labour Cut Education Spending to 40-Year Low

Despite its "education, education, education" pledge, Labour spent less on education during the critical years of last parliament than any government since the early 1960s. The claims come in a study by Howard Glennerster, professor of social administration at the London School of Economics, which finds that during the period 1998/99 Labour cut expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP to a lower level than seen under Margaret Thatcher, and the lowest level since 1962.

According to the study, spending on education fell to just 4.5% of GDP in 1998 and 1999, the lowest since Harold Macmillan was prime minister. Although Tony Blair promised to focus on "education, education, education," after the electoral coup in 1997, by sticking to Conservative budget limits in its first two years in power the government reduced education spending as a share of GDP to a lower level than that under Margaret Thatcher's government, when it fell to 4.7%.

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