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Several thousand words before the demand that Israel be declared a racist, apartheid state, and before the sections devoted to children and gay rights, the environment and the need to compensate the descendants of the slaves in America, the report prepared by the non-government organizations which met in Durban contains a section on the Jewish people. This is a fair, laudable and correct section. Its main thrust is a call to extinguish anti-Semitism that remains widespread in many countries and (according to the NGO paper) is expressed via Holocaust denial, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and arson attacks against synagogues.

Many justifiable things were written at Durban, and it would be wrong to treat the World Conference Against Racism with disdain. That is because the human rights of most inhabitants of the globe aren't suitably safeguarded. The most potent way of defending them is to apply international pressure. History teaches that even the most loathsome, malicious regimes, including Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, did not ignore international opinion - and it sometimes happened that they restrained, albeit superficially, their oppressive, genocidal policies in response to such pressure. In this vein, South Africa is the right country to host such a conference: World opinion played a large role in the overthrow of its apartheid regime.

The rub, of course, was that this was a conference attended by official state delegates, and there are only a handful of states with a clean track record worthy of participation in a discussion of human rights. Cuban President Fidel Castro was there, as was Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and other, comparable, dictators. Some of the state regimes represented at the conference allow child slaves to be bought and sold. Thus, the first reflexive response to what was said at Durban was: Look who's talking.

Two global organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, public annual reports that catalogue countries around the world, rating them as offensive, or a little less offensive. These annual rosters of ratings and marks, particularly those posted by Amnesty, generally reflect serious work. Thus, it was interesting to note this week that the two organizations took exception to the anti-Israel denunciations that were incorporated in the Durban declaration.

By the same token, what the two organizations have to say about Israel is important: Some states, including Arab ones, are worse, yet Israel's record is very bad.

Zionism is not more racist than other nationalist movements. Its aim of concentrating in one land a Jewish people whose members belong to numerous races renders Zionism one of the less racist nationalist movements. Genocide, as in the case of Rwanda, has yet to occur on account of Zionism.

Yet, in a constant, systematic fashion, Israel violates many of the most fundamental human rights belonging to Palestinians from the territories. Regrettably, not all of these violations, perhaps not even the majority of them, are necessitated in operations to wipe out terror. Most are required in order to ensure the continuation of the conquest. Both on a general policy level, and in terms of concrete contacts with residents, a large portion of what occurs in the territories reflects ultra-nationalism, economic interests, blunt insensitivity, spiteful vindictiveness, and also hatred that is not devoid of malice and prejudice. Every roadblock thrown up in the territories encapsulates this reality.

There are several Israeli organizations, along with a few politicians and some journalists, that try to campaign against the violation of Palestinians' human rights. So long as Palestinian terror continues unchecked, this effort grows more difficult; caught in the maelstrom, the human rights organizations are often compelled to defend themselves against the charge that they are doing something which is somehow "anti-Israeli" and unpatriotic.

The anti-Israeli hysteria in Durban reinforces this allegation; this week it has been as though those who promote the fight for human rights in Israel have been pushed into bed with Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The outcome could be that still fewer Israelis will call attention to the continuing violation of the human rights of residents of the territories, and a growing number of Israelis will associate the struggle for these Palestinians' rights with "hatred of Israel." That is the real damage wrought this week in Durban.