Israel’s construction in smaller settlements has steadily decreased; not so, Washington’s obsessive and misplaced demands for a total freeze.
In 2001, the United Nations held a “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance” in Durban, South Africa. Both it and a simultaneous UN-sponsored gathering of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) sought to revive the old “Zionism is racism” formula, adding special condemnations of Israel into the text of their resolutions. To Gerald Steinberg, no single event of the past fifteen years has had a more enduring impact on the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict:
While some of the anti-Israel rhetoric was ultimately removed from the conference’s final declaration, the NGO forum overwhelmingly adopted its own final declaration that depicted Israel as committing “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” and “genocide” against the Palestinians. The NGOs at Durban also called for “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state, . . . the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, [and] the full cessation of all links between all states and Israel.”
Since 2001, this declaration has served as a blueprint for the well-financed NGO network that aims to demonize and isolate Israel internationally. The declaration’s grossly unfounded accusations have been repeated exhaustively by anti-Israel groups, which lobby to influence the foreign policies of Israel’s allies (especially in Europe) and pursue investigations of supposed Israeli “war crimes” by UN bodies, the International Criminal Court, and national justice systems.
Likewise, Durban marked a turning point with the emergence of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, which are rooted in the strategy set out in the NGO forum’s final declaration. The situation has progressively worsened, as Israel is obsessively targeted for boycott, prosecution, and condemnation in the UN, European capitals, trade unions, media outlets, and on many college campuses.
For many observers, the “Durban strategy” marked the coming-out party for a “new anti-Semitism.” Unlike more traditional forms of anti-Semitism, which were by nature more overtly religious or racial, . . . the new anti-Semitism conceals the millennia-old hatred in a contemporary package, one better suited for a 21st-century audience. This anti-Semitism exploits the language of universal human rights and civil society, with NGOs publishing false and distorted allegations regarding Israel, and creating and maintaining double standards that apply only to a single country. New anti-Semitism goes well beyond any notion of legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies, and instead promulgates hateful vilification of the country, its people, and its Jewish character.