WCAR, the morning after - October 2001


'I just hope that the NGOs will use all the good paragraphs'

Martin Jansen

***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***


Editorial · The process that led up to the formation of CC& FT, ISC and JCC · "Kill all the Jews" · The adoption of the NGO Declaration and Program of Action · Videobites: Martin Jansen, Arlington Trotman, David Matas, Mary-Woo Sims, Renate Bloem, Erika Harriford · The raid on the Drafting Committee · Chaos reigns · Contributions by others, documents & relevant links · So what are the good things? · Hope?


Editorial

The moment antiracists tolerate or even promote one kind of racism and only fight the other kinds they are no longer antiracists.

As we are writing this, the shock about the terrible attack on the twin towers in New York is still very much with us. Even in the name of a just cause, people can do great evil. In the name of a just cause, people can set aside humanity and see people as objects to use. During the WCAR, which seems a hundred years ago, we have seen some of this. People can become so blinded by their own suffering that they deny others the reality of their suffering. People can set aside the suffering of others and proclaim that their own suffering is greater. People can be so caught up in their own issue that they don't care what the consequences of their deeds might be. ICARE stands for openness and transparency. As a NGO news service we decided two years ago to help the process along that led up to the WCAR. We did this by facilitating communication and a fast and free flow of information for the NGO community, through mailinglists for the NGOs (un-discussion list), for regional Co-ordinating Committees (CCs), for the International Steering Committee (ISC), and through our website and through the use of all other new media like chat and realvideo. In Durban we did this with a multi-ethnic news team that brought daily reports. A lot of things happened during the WCAR, and in our tradition of openness and transparency we want to bring you information which up till now we did not. So here is our final issue, as we promised on the last day of the WCAR. It has a lot of negative and some positive things. Almost like real life.

There is a dark cloud of hate descending upon this world. If we want to keep the dark away, we need to see clear and get rid of the hate. Which means we have to be open and transparent about facts. We are an antiracism NGO, so it is our duty and our moral obligation to speak out against racism. Especially, I would say, when an antiracism conference becomes the scene of racism. The fact that racism was allowed to run rampant during the WCAR is astonishing. What is even more astonishing, shameful and harmful for the antiracism cause and for the victims of racism is that the majority of the organisers and participants let that happen, did nothing to stop it and did not speak out during or after the WCAR. The fight against racism and discrimination is a fight against all forms of racism and discrimination. The moment antiracists tolerate or even promote one kind of racism and only fight the other kinds they are no longer antiracists. What happened in Durban should never happen again. In my view, that is part of the mission of the 'Durban survivors', making sure that it will not happen again. The other part is to extract the many good paragraphs from the NGO Declaration and Plan of Action and work with those, each in our own region.

Ronald Eissens


The process that led up to the formation of CC& FT, ISC and JCC

First read : http://www.icare.to/structure.html

In the above document it was proposed that every region would have 2 facilitators to disseminate information and to work closely with the secretariat for the WCAR. This never happened since people did not have time or the inclination. During PrepCom 2, where Sangoco was present, all of a sudden the necessity to actually start doing the preparatory work for the NGO Forum became apparent. During meetings where some representatives of some Regional CC's were present, each regional CC supposedly elected two representatives to be a member of a International Steering Committee (ISC). Added to that were special representatives for Sangoco, the Roma & Sinti, the Indigenous Peoples and the International NGOs, bringing the total number of ISC members to 20. It was decided that the ISC would be a body that would deal with content and would consult with the CCs. After another meeting it was decided (by consensus) that the CCs would be renamed to JCC (Joint Co-ordinating Council). After Durban, the ISC decided that they would do an evaluation. Some ISC members do want to talk about a follow-up, since this was suggested in a meeting with High Commissioner Mary Robinson. Other ISC members think it is time to end the ISC mandate and that an evaluation of the process should not be done by the ISC itself but by the body that is responsible, namely the Regional Co-ordinating Committees or by an independent body.



Videobite:

What did you think about this conference?

Martin Jansen - 'I just hope that the NGOs will use all the good paragraphs'

click here to play the RealVideo file.

If you don´t have RealPlayer:


"Kill all the Jews"

All through the NGO Forum, there have been Antisemitic incidents. The Arab Lawyers Union had a stall in the NGO exhibition tents displaying gross Antisemitic cartoons. Copies of the infamous 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' were being sold. When the ISC was asked to do something against the Antisemitic cartoons they decided that the cartoons were not racist but 'political'.

After protests made to the secretariat the most extreme material was removed for a while; it was put under the table. Demands were made to the U.N. to nullify the accreditation of The Arab Lawyers Union but nothing came of it. Every day there were picket lines and demonstrations in front of the Kingsmead stadium showing two sides, the Palestinian Caucus and Jewish Students, arguing, screaming, and sometimes fighting. Bloodthirsty banners were displayed. When the NGO forum was officially opened by Mercia Andrews, president of Sangoco, wearing the traditional Khefiyah (Arab Head-dress), holding her fist into the air and shouting 'Free Palestine' the tone was set. Jews were actively discriminated, shouted down, meetings on Antisemitism were hijacked by Palestinian Caucus members and supporters, and people who protested against all this were branded 'Zionist pigs lovers' and 'Jewlovers'. Some NGOs were intimidated into silence. There was fear to be branded as 'Zionist'. There were NGOs and people who openly agreed with the antisemite slogans.

One day Palestinian Caucus members blocked a minibus full of Jewish students and tried to stop them from going into the stadium. Unseemly pushing and shoving developed because of the distribution of T-shirts with the slogan " When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews Rev. Martin Luther King Jr." Mercia Andrews was part of the Palestinian blockade and wanted to have the Jewish students who handed out the T-Shirts arrested. South African police broke up the skirmish and decided that since both sides were handing out material there was no problem.

The big September 1st demonstration had a lot of slogans, covered a lot of issues, but one was most dominant: Free Palestine. In the march, slogans were carried like "kill all the Jews" and "the good things Hitler did". Pamphlets were handed out with a portrait of Hitler, displaying the text:
' What if I had won? The good things: There would be NO Israel and NO Palestinian's blood shed - the rest is your guess. The bad things: I wouldn't have allowed the making of the new beetle - the rest is your guess'
This march ended at the Durban Jewish Club, which was another sign that the organisers not only see the state of Israel as the enemy but all Jewish people. The Jewish club had been evacuated a few hours earlier and the South African police had the building screened-off with riot police and armoured cars. A big demonstration during a World Conference Against Racism that ends as an Antisemitic rally that the Nazis would have been proud of. Through all 'incidents' , neither Sangoco, nor the International Steering Committee nor the South African Authorities spoke out.



Videobite:

What did you think about this conference?

Arlington Trotman -
'a marvellous opportunity for the world community'

click here to play the RealVideo file.

If you don´t have RealPlayer:

The adoption of the NGO Declaration and Program of Action

The adoption of the NGO declaration was hardly democratic. There was only voting over amendments and paragraphs based on the method of 1 vote per caucus. There was no vote on the complete Declaration and PoA, moreover, when the Declaration and Program of Action were 'adopted by consensus' it was in the middle of the night and there were only 14 of the 41 caucuses left at that time. The Jewish NGOs walked out of the meeting and later on the Roma and Sinti Caucus did the same because they did not want to be seen as a 'caucus that supported hateful language'. There were numerous antisemitic incidents and slogans. People who did not agree with the hate-language in the Declaration and who wanted to say something about that were shouted down. People who tried to criticise anything were made suspect 'You are a Jew, your body language betrays you! You are a GONGO!' (Government Organised NGO). Lots of people left in tears or in disgust.

The following days a number of NGOs (100 up till now) undersigned a statement by The Eastern and Central European Caucus which spoke out against (parts of) the text of the Declaration and the Antisemitic incidents.

You could say that the Palestinian NGOs at the WCAR did their work, they pushed their cause as it is the mission of NGOs to do that. They were highly effective but went over the top. So much so that damage was done. Damage to their reputation, damage to the democratic process and damage to the NGO forum itself. Not to speak of the damage done to the antiracism community at large. Antisemitism against, -and intimidation of anyone who was thought to be Jewish, friendly to Jews or member of a Jewish organisation ran wild. It was a hijack and we all let ourselves be hijacked, some even fully assisted the hijackers. Some ISC and Sangoco members even did that. Lots of important issues did not get the attention they deserved or were just not heard at all. The great majority of the International Steering Committee did nothing to stop all this. Those who tried were overruled.



Documents & Contributions by others:



Videobite:

What did you think about this conference?

David Matas - 'a disaster for the NGO Community'

click here to play the RealVideo file.

If you don´t have RealPlayer:


The raid on the Drafting Committee

In the evening of September 3, members of the Palestinian Caucus, together with a few members of the ISC and Sangoco invaded the office where the drafting committee was working hard to incorporate all amendments and new paragraphs that resulted from the Declaration adoption-meeting on September 1st. They demanded from the drafters that some paragraphs were changed and some put into another section (e.g. the paragraphs on Antisemitism should be moved to the section on Palestine since Antisemitism was in fact against 'Semites', which are Arab people). The drafters asked them to leave several times since their presence was illegal, no-one, not even ISC members, were allowed to enter the drafting room. This did not help, the invaders shouted, screamed and intimidated the drafters. Says one drafter: "They shouted that we were all jewlovers since we did not want to make any changes. We told them that they were trying to corrupt the process and that they should get out. They did not listen. The present ISC members gave them full support". Drafters were personally threatened. Bizarre remarks were made. "You look Jewish! Now we understand why you do not want to change anything in the draft!"

In the end, one of the drafters and one of the ISC members just got out, taking a copy of the draft with them on a diskette. The rest of the drafters stayed and managed to hold out despite the pressure, not letting the raiders change anything, until the abuse and threats went too far, when they just handed a diskette with the declaration to the invaders and left. In the rush, some 20 pages were not copied onto that disk and the next morning two declarations saw the light, one published by (part of) the ISC and one published by the drafters. One had 20 pages missing, which gave fuel to the story that the drafters had done this on purpose. During the NGO briefing that morning the chairwoman of the Drafting committee spoke out passionately against the people who had raided the office and one ISC member who had been present at the raid and who also did not agree gave a short account of the happenings. Another ISC member who was on the side of the raiders denounced the story about the raid as being 'an anti-Palestinian plot'. We have heard the accounts of the majority of the drafters and two ISC members who were present and the sad conclusion is that the above description of the raid is accurate.

Documents & Contributions by others:





Videobite:

What did you think about this conference?

Mary-Woo Sims - 'exchanging ideas and building coalitions was probably more important than the Declaration and PoA'

click here to play the RealVideo file.

If you don´t have RealPlayer:

Chaos reigns

What made it easier for some people to influence the democratic process during the NGO Forum and WCAR was the lack of information on the terrain itself. Caucus meetings were called and notices on that were sometimes posted, sometimes not. Word-of-mouth sometimes worked. Sometimes not. A caucus meeting taking place on a given day would attract 40 people and the next day there would be 30 different people, or 100 people of whom 60 did not go to the meeting on the previous day, since they did not know there was a meeting scheduled. This resulted in meetings being big fights about decisions which were taken the day before, decisions with which newcomers did not necessarily agree. Some people just showed up with 50 people the next day to take over a meeting and nullify the decisions from the day before. Very messy. Some caucuses were even taken over. For example the European Caucus was taken over by people who's only aim it was to stop that caucus from making a statement against the hateful language in the NGO Declaration.




Videobite:

What did you think about this conference?

Renate Bloem - 'promote the spirit to go forward'

click here to play the RealVideo file.

If you don´t have RealPlayer:

Contributions by others, documents & relevant links:


So what are the good things?

There are some, of course. Contacts between people. The start of new networks and caucuses. The positive things we learned from each other. The issue of Slavery and reparations is now firmly on the agenda and will not go away until something has been done. Same goes for the Dalit/Caste matter, although it did not make it into the Governmental Declaration. Paragraphs on trafficking, state racism, anti-Black racism, Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, Hate crime, Indigenous Peoples, Anti-Tziganism, all valuable paragraphs. And there are more. While not all accept the NGO Declaration and PoA, lots of paragraphs will be extracted and used, for example in National Action plans, the buzzword that is on everybody's tongue these days.




The last Videobite

What did you think about this conference?

Erika Harriford - 'we need a lot more planning before we have another one'

click here to play the high quality RealVideo file.
click here to play a low quality RealVideo file.
Also read the Statement she made to the ISC during the last NGO Briefing.

If you don´t have RealPlayer:



Hope?

Of course there is hope. Hope begins in the dark. Hope is a thing with feathers that will fly. My hope is that people will stop bombing other people because of the deeds of individuals. My hope is that people will stop blaming other people for what a state does. My hope is that people will stop spreading hate under whatever guise. My hope is that there will be peace between Palestinians and Israeli's, that violence stops, that terrorism stops, that Dalits will have their justice, their equity under the law, that the Western world recognises and repairs historical wrongs like slavery and colonialism. My hope is that racism ends. Lots of hopes, if I would not have them I would not even get out of bed in the morning. Some people did not see any problems in Durban, did not see any hate, racism or disrespect. Well, if that is their perception, so be it. We all have our own perception, even when facts hit us in the face like bullets. Or stones. Suzette and I were in Northern-Ireland to give a prejudice reduction workshop, a few days after coming back from Durban. In Northren-Ireland they have their very own perceptions. They even think that there is a physical difference between Catholics and Protestants. When asked what this difference exactly is they can't tell. "But it is there!" they say. They see a thing which nobody else in the whole world sees. A thing which is in their minds, put there by hate. First we need to talk with each other about perceptions. See each other as we are, not what the hate lets us see. Then we can talk about equity and peace.

Ronald Eissens, October 8, 2001