Wednesday, August 29, Second Day

' I cannot be placed in a category, I am multi-sexual'


List of the articles today***Editorial:Palestinians and Jews***Interview with mr Asraf Saif***Interview with Michael Gransdorff***Videobite:A peaceful solution***Rather nasty and stupid***May the force be with the meantime who has the power..?***Disability caucus:No access, unseen, unheard***


Palestinians and Jews.

Today was a day that saw the strongly expressed disputes between the Palestinians and Jews continued. This time in the form of a newly erected info-stand from the World Union of Jewish Students and the counter reaction of Palestinians with a demonstration. For a couple of hours shouting and counter-shouting, singing and counter-singing and an occasional almost-fighting between participants ruled the surroundings of the media tent. Later that day there were TCs (Technical Commissions ) on Anti-Semitism and Palestinians.

This edition, like the NGO Forum, is dominated by this issue. We have a number of articles and a video-bite.

But as we wrote yesterday; there are numerous other people that have important messages too, and need attention for their causes. Therefore we will keep covering the Jewish-Palestinian issue but in a far more modest way. We will concentrate more on the unknown issues. A World Conference on Racism is a very rare event, too rare to have all its attention having consumed by the well known disputes that should have not been brought to this WCAR, in this form in the first place.

Ralph du Long.


Interview with mr Asraf Saif.

Asraf Saif, is a young lawyer, member for three years from the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights organisation in Palestine. The goal of the organisation is to describe, what they call, the Israeli Apartheid against the Jerusalem people.

'We were witnesses of a Palestinian demonstration this morning, inside the NGO Forum place. What was it about ?'

'I think that the Israeli delegation was trying to make propaganda: they just wanted to show the world that the Israeli face is towards peace. But the situation in the land is different. As you may know, every day, every single hour we have bombings in our civilian residences. This shows us that the Israeli Government is not in the peace process with the Palestinians and they are not going to accept any territorial agreement.'

'During the meeting of the commission on "Palestinians - new forms of Apartheid", somebody from the public stated that we should look now for a solution, but the Palestinian speaker considered that "this is not a place for finding solutions, but for informing people about the situation". What do you think about this?'

'I think that we want solutions, but the Palestinian people don't want to make just a regular peace, they are in their own country, they want their own land, according to the UN Resolution. We are with the peace, but we don't notice from the Israeli side that they want the same.'

'How do you see the future, as being part of the civil society?'

'You know, I am young, I am optimistic, I look at the history and I see so many people who got their freedom in the end. Maybe in our case it will take more time. But I still have hope and we will struggle till the end until we'll achieve our freedom.'


Interview with Michael Gransdorff, South African Union of Jewish Students.

'We were witnesses of a Palestinian demonstration this morning, inside the NGO Forum place. What was it about ?'

I came to the WCAR to protest against racism worldwide and I feel that the agenda has been hijacked for crude political purposes by the Arab world and certain people who have legitimate reasons have been denied to speak. Actually what happened here today was that the Jewish delegation set-up a table promoting peace, promoting cooperation, and Palestinian refused our approach, did not receive our flowers, as symbol of peace and we quite worried about the situation. Jews in the Middle East and Jews all over the world promote peace, as a leading line in their religion, and offered it to the Palestinian States, to the Palestinian people. But Yaser Arafat rejected that offer and started war against the State of Israel. We can once again ask for peace, shake our hands and we would like to live with Palestinians next door as good neighbors.

Videobite of the day:

'A peaceful solution'

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Rather nasty and stupid

The Thematical commission (TC) today on Antisemitism can be characterized as a ' defensive operation' . Rightly so since the Jewish NGOs here have been pushed into the defence, under attack as they are. While this is a conference against racism, for a lot of Jewish people here it is more like an exercise in Antisemitism and exclusion. Jews present at TCs are not allowed to speak when Palestinian NGOs talk about their cause. Some are even shouted down, accused of being ' perpetrators of racism'. Antisemitic cartoons are being spread around which look like they have been reprinted from the infamous Nazi sheet "Der Stürmer". Yesterday fistfights nearly broke out in one of the Thematical Commissions. The TC on Antisemitism today dealt mostly with Antisemitism and Holocaust denial spread by official Palestinian Authority media. Jews are under attack for what the state of Israel does, while nobody bothers with the blatant Antisemitism of the Palestinian Authority, nobody bothers about the way the Palestinian NGOs are taking over Thematical Commissions and try to exclude Jews from the process, nobody bothers with the open support the organizers of the NGO Forum give to all this.

I'd rather have heard something about Antisemitism in other parts of the world since unfortunately it is on the rise (again). But when you are under attack for something you are not responsible for, you can try to ignore that but it is very hard. If you are excluded and discriminated because you are Jewish, during a World Conference Against Racism, that is devastating and mind-boggling. The fact that the organizers of the conference allow this, that we all allow this, is in my opinion discrediting the whole NGO forum. Zionism is the right of the Jewish people on self-determination as all people, including the Palestinians, have a right to self-determination. To equate Zionism with racism is rather nasty and stupid, as it is equally nasty and stupid to equate the right of the Palestinians on their own self-determination with racism. To me, Antizionism as it is practiced here on this conference is no more than Antisemitism in disguise. After a few hours the meeting broke up in several workgroups and just by coincidence, in all workgroups Palestinians and sympathizers also took place. Normal proceedings were for a time quite impossible. Lots of shouting. Miraculously, the moment the press, who was hovering with lots of photo -and film camera's, lost interest and went away, all behaved again and some normal discussions and even a dialogue about Antisemitism was possible between Palestinians and Jews. So there is hope? Of course. But not here on this conference.

Ronald Eissens

May the force be with us the meantime who has the power..?

The confusion about the 'real' version of the draft Declaration and Program of Action (PoA) continued today. As did the process of how to submit things to the drafting committee. Lets start with what is the 'real' version of the Declaration and PoA. During PrepCom 3 in Geneva first a draft was presented which caused a lot of NGOs to be rather upset A. because they couldn't find their submissions in it and B. NGOs took offence to the language in the document. After some frantic negotiations everyone re-submitted their comments and a new version was made, which would function as the working draft for Durban. Due to a mishap the version that got translated and printed for here in Durban was not the last version out of Geneva but the earlier one, without the amendments. This caused quit a stir yesterday. In the afternoon yesterday the International Steering Committee (ISC) issued a statement explaining about the error which occurred and also that the 'real' draft would be distributed to the Thematical Commissions (TC) later that day. As I understand it all TCs received a copy of the Preamble (which outlines the documents in broad terms) and each individual TC received those paragraphs from both documents, relevant to their theme. Which brings me to how language and issues can be submitted to the drafting committee. As the drafting committee are 8 people who, by now, have until Friday morning to finish both documents, there's no way they can take comments from 8000 people. So, you take your contribution to the appropriate TC and the rapporteur of each TC makes a two page document which goes to the drafters. So far no problem, right? Wrong! Very few people at the Forum know how it works and they're still being presented with the wrong version of the draft. Although on the surface one would say that responsibility for the content is on the plate of the ISC -as they are the NGO community elected body- SANGOCO finds it difficult to be just in charge of logistical matters. Who could blame them? As a NGO coalition of course they have a political stake and their issues they want into Declaration and PoA and it's to much to ask of any serious organization to just forget their own agenda and confine themselves to taking care of interpretation and tents. Unfortunately the power is with those who control the infrastructure, so at this point in time that hampers the process. I do not blame it on SANGOCO nor on the ISC. I think the UN should take their responsibility as they are the ones who appointed SANGOCO and than left them out in the cold. Not only them, also the whole NGO community and ultimately the NGO Declaration and PoA have to suffer the possible consequences.

Suzette Bronkhorst


Disability caucus

No access, unseen, unheard

Between pavilion 3 and 4 a group of ten people held their meeting in the open air. Here the disability group finalizing the work on their part of the NGO declaration. The meeting was perhaps characteristic for the way the disabled are being treated at the conference. Already disadvantaged because of deafness, blindness and/or physical disability this group faces even more problems than the 'regular' participants. Ms Mittha Medupe, from the Iketletseng for Disabled and mr Tshepo Mogotsi, from the Disabled Youth South Africa, tell some of their experiences. Both are disabled and use wheelchairs.

Did you visit the various pavilions on the venue?

No, we did not. They are not accessible for us. The tents are situated in such a way that is impossible for us to visit them. So, we don't know what is going on there and therefore it is difficult for us to stay informed. We already had problems with interpretation. In our group are deaf people and for them it is not possible to follow general meetings. For the blind in our group we had to organize our own translation for documents in Braille on our own costs. At the Youth Summit a man that has great difficulties to speak was just ignored, he wanted to contribute but was neither able nor listened to. If we want to use the bathrooms, we have to wait very long. The toilets are not suitable for wheelchair users. It means that the doors cannot be closed. We have to use them with open doors. Transportation is very difficult too, for us it is troublesome to move from one place to another.

This is a world conference and should be organized of world class, but not for us. As black disabled people have to deal with the many problems that come with multiple discrimination. But black or white, disabled face the same obstacles in any county. People must be aware that we are humans.

What do you hope comes out of this conference?

Disability should be visible and our rights must be acknowledged. The way this conference is orgrganized is, makes it very clear that still much awareness needs to be raised.

That's it for today!

best regards,
ICARE Newsteam Durban.

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