Representing over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) launches its Israel Review Conference under the title: “United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Racism: Justice and Dignity for the Palestinian People.” The conference takes place in Geneva between the 17th and 18th of April 2009 on the eve of the United Nation’s Durban Review Conference.
At the conference, internationally renowned legal experts, researchers, academics, and activists from five continents will discuss legal strategies to hold Israel accountable for its illegal policies and practices of racial discrimination. Participants at the conference are also scheduled to discuss strategies for linking global struggles against racism, and concrete steps to challenge Israeli apartheid within the framework of the rapidly growing global movement calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.
“The Israel Review Conference has received added importance in recent weeks since the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) banned side events examining the Israeli regime at the official Durban Review Conference” explains Rania Madi, one of the Israel Review Conference organizers based in Geneva. “Despite the fact that Israel’s racism against Palestinians has been one of the most highlighted issues in the lead-up to the Durban Review, the BNC’s Israel Review Conference has become the only place where this issue will actually be discussed”
“The only justification for preventing side-events discussing racism faced by Palestinians is that UN officials want to avoid offending Israeli sensibilities and those of its allies, such as the US and Canada,” states Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, Director of the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, a member-organization of the BNC. “This is especially troubling because Palestinians were identified as victims of racism at the original Durban Conference in 2001, and the effects of Israel’s racist regime against Palestinian have only worsened since then” says Ms. Jaradat Gassner.
Despite the OHCHR’s complete ban on any mention of Palestine and Palestinians at the Conference and at side-events, those parties who are boycotting the Conference have maintained their boycott. Ms. Jaradat Gassner commented that “it would seem that by trying to appease Israel and its allies, the UN diluted its message against racism without the added benefit of the presence of those parties.”