Israel Resource Review 13th June, 2007


The Legacy of Shimon Peres: Durban Renewal - This week's gathering of anti-Israel NGO's in Tuscany is nothing new. Only this time the Israel-bashing is taking place under the auspices of the Peres Center for Peace.
David Bedein

As Israel reels from the British academic boycott against it, the gathering of NGO's under the UN banner in 2001 in Durban, South Africa has not been forgotten.

At that precedent-setting conference prominent Israeli, Palestinian and international NGO's first gathered to rally behind the specious idea that Israel represents a racist apartheid entity.

This week Florence, Italy is hosting yet another mass meeting of NGO's who all concur that Israel is an illegal and oppressive occupying power. An NGO gathering in a European country with EU delegates in attendance where they will bash Israel is nothing new.

Indeed the EU, in coordination with the leading NGO's, has just completed two weeks of intense public forums, demonstrations and activities around the world, denigrating Israel for its victory in the Six-Day War.

In "EU-Funded NGOs Lead Anti-Israel Events on Anniversary of 1967 War" Dr. Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, writes, "Many politicized and EU-funded NGOs that contribute to the demonization of Israel are holding activities and publishing reports coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 War.

These activities portray a one-sided view of events, repeating the Palestinian narrative and providing a distorted history of the war…" In its report on EU funding of NGOs, NGO Monitor provides details regarding how a number of EU-funded Palestinian and Israeli NGOs persistently campaign against Israel in international forums, employ biased rhetoric aimed at delegitimizing Israeli security policies and are fundamentally politicized organizations.

What is unique about the three-day gathering of NGO's in Florence ending Wednesday is that this international NGO conference is being organized under the umbrella of the Peres Center for Peace, the day before the Israeli presidential elections.

The center's namesake, Shimon Peres, is the leading candidate for that largely ceremonial post of Israeli president, which is supposed to be a non-partisan position that represents a consensus of Israeli public opinion.

The keynote speech at this week's NGO event is being given by Avram Burg, described by the conference program as an "Israeli political personality," despite Burg's revealing interview with Haaretz (June 1) in which he calls for Israel to cease being a Jewish entity. Each of the Israeli organizations invited – Betselem. Combatants for Peace, Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions, Machsom Watch, Parents' Circle, Rabbis for Human Rights and Yesh Din – carries a uniquely venomous message which describes Israel's very presence in Judea and Samaria as a criminal violation of international law. One of those groups, the Israel Committee for Home Demolitions (ICHAD), goes so far as to compare Israeli law with Nazi law.

In a presentation in March 2000 on a Boston affiliate of National Public Radio, ICHAD head Jeff Halper alleged that Israel's zoning and building regulations are not ordinary laws, and that Israel's legal system resembles the Nazi Nuremberg Laws. Halper has never retracted that comparison. Arab speakers at the conference include Fatah leaders Yassir Abed Rabo and Jibril Rajub, who are unlikely to mention that Fatah continues to conduct terror operations against Israelis.

No one at the conference will remind participants that Fatah's Al Aksa Brigades is defined by the US, the EU and Israel as a terrorist organization that has not renounced its ways. "There are 120 organizations…and occasionally we bring the two sides [i.e. Israeli and Palestinian] together in order to present activities, think together and look forward," said Peres Center Director Ron Pundak, who organized the conference.

"This is the first time we have ever organized such a large conference and we want to see how we can get Europe as a community to help us with the peace process." Pundak acknowledged that the provincial government of Tuscany, noted as a stronghold for the Italian neo-communist party, organized the event.

Praising Shimon Peres, Pundak said Peres was the pioneer of the Peres Center, his legacy influences all Peres Center activities and he was the figure who initiated the conference.

Asked if Peres becoming president would advance the Peres Center for Peace, Pundak nodded his head, saying "I believe so, since the Peres Center represents the realization of Peres' strategic thinking."

In reaction to the conference the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, "The Durban conference did not advance the cause of peace for Palestinians or for Israelis and neither will those who continue to conduct such events in the future."

But later the Ministry Spokesman said he would not have made such a statement had he known the conference was organized under the banner of the Peres Center for Peace.

This is the legacy of Shimon Peres, the new president of Israel, the man who conceived "the new Middle East"

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