Iran which is chairing the conference preparation committee,is working to strike the first anti-Semitic blow, by barring Jewish groups at the UN Rights Commission’s conference on Racism (Durban II). The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy applied for accreditation to the Conference, but Iran rejected the bid, claiming that the council, an umbrella group for major Jewish organizations, wasn’t a non-profit organization, and had made no significant contribution to fighting racism: charges the group calls “absolutely wrong.
Iran leads battle to bar Jewish group from forum TheStar.com – World – Iran leads battle to bar Jewish group from forumCanadian organization’s application to attend racism conference becomes target of fierce debate
Iran has taken aim at both Canada and Israel, turning a normally sleepy session of a United Nations’ committee into an international mud fight in the run-up to a major conference on racism next year.The battle began when the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy applied for accreditation to the World Conference Against Racism – known as “Durban II” for the contentious 2001 meeting that was infamous for anti-Semitic rhetoric. Iran rejected the bid, claiming that the council, an umbrella group for major Jewish organizations, wasn’t a non-profit organization, and had made no significant contribution to fighting racism: charges the group calls “absolutely wrong.”Iran’s president has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. And its government has been in a five-year standoff with Canada over the killing of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in Iranian custody. Canada continues to back UN resolutions condemning Tehran for its human rights violations.Last Friday, Iran struck back. A normally routine application was the focus of hours of heated debate at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, with Iran leading the charge, backed by Egypt and other Muslim countries, and the European Union defending.By day’s end the meeting melted down in confusion, with the council given a week to respond to the allegations. If Iran and its allies don’t blink at the next talks on Monday, the issue will go to a vote.”It’s confusing and divisive,” says Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, which reviews applications for the conference. “They’ll spend the week trying to figure out what happens now.”And, he said, the council’s application “passed our original scrutiny, but states have the liberty to make objections.”Canada refused to attend the 2009 conference, which it calls a “gong show.” Libya will chair the meeting, with Cuba as vice-chair. The date and location of the gathering are still undecided.Hershell Ezrin, the Canadian advocacy group’s CEO, and a former diplomat, said he wants the group to be there, nevertheless, “to bolster those who don’t want to see the conference hijacked again. “We didn’t want it to degenerate into a hate-filled, anti-Semitic environment.”Much of the controversy over the last Durban conference revolved around a parallel meeting of non-governmental organizations, rather than the government forum. Its official plan of action called on states to counter anti-Semitism and hatred of Islam. But Arbour has warned that the 2009 conference “is not and should not be seen as a repetition” of the last one. And this time NGOs will be present only as observers. Critics predict the meeting will be a one-sided forum for attacking Israel, pointing out that countries belonging to the newly formed UN Human Rights Council have kept up a barrage against the Jewish state, while shielding their own serious rights violations.Ezrin called Iran’s objections to his group “deplorable.” “Hundreds of other groups were accredited, and we supplied all the information (the UN) asked for in a very extensive questionnaire.” Organizations accredited to the 2001 Durban conference, or registered with the UN’s Economic and Social Council, are automatically allowed to attend the next meeting, Colville said. But although the Canadian umbrella group has long-standing member organizations, it is relatively new, which required a formal accreditation procedure.”This is theatre of the absurd,” says Hillel Neuer, the Canadian executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, which monitors the UN’s performance. “When you look at the others that are accredited, there are dozens of questionable groups.”Ezrin said the council will deliver a new batch of documents to meet Iran’s objections. But there are no bets on what will happen at the Monday meeting. If a vote is called, the UN’s 192 member countries will decide.However, Neuer says, many Geneva delegates don’t turn up for meetings, and it would take strenuous lobbying to rally enough support to overcome the opposition to the Canadians’ accreditation. “It might go down to the wire,” he says.