[Updated] Seumas Milne of the UK Guardian has one of the best analyses I’ve seen thus far of Durban and the hypocrisy and gamesmanship of the European countries.
He looks at the issue of calling Israel a racist state, which is considered verboten by the European diplomats, but entirely uncontroversial for most of the Arab the world.
In fact, some 700,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes to make room for the Jewish state, and while people in my family who have never set foot in the Middle East have the right to citizenship under Israel’s Right of Return law, Palestinians who still have the keys to their homes can not go back. The Israel Land Authority (ILA) holds nearly 94% of Israeli land in trust for Jews only [see video about JNF's Canada Park], and now Israel has a foreign minister who openly advocates for transfer of Arab Israelis and wants those left, I suppose, to take a loyalty oath. (And of course, the litany regarding racist history and institutions in my own country, the United States, is longer. Talking about it openly hardly means I want to destroy the United States. On the contrary, it means I want to make it live up to its promise.)
The issue of racism within Israel comes up in the conference in a dramatic way. At the Dershowitz/Voight panel on Palestinians as Nazis, Palestinian civil rights lawyer Zaha Hassan questions Natan Sharansky about the bombing of Gaza. Sharansky’s response is too mild and Dershowitz steps in and starts demanding loudly that Zaha tell him just one international law that has been violated by Israel during the war on Gaza. Usama Halabi shouts out “proportionality” and suddenly the focus is on him. He says he is an Israeli citizen, but he has transgressed by trying to get a word in and suddenly Dershowitz is arguing with him. (Usama tells me that someone told him that later, Dershowitz told him to go back to Ahmedinejad. I’m going to review my tape on the plane.)
Halabi is an expert on the legal status of Arab Israelis: he is a lawyer, has written 7 books, and has served on the boards of Adalah, and Betselem. And like every other Palestinian here, he is forced to make his point in 60 seconds if he is lucky enough to get called on by a speaker. He has no official voice here, no place to make his presentation, no space to share his analysis.
I talk to Halabi in the hallway the next day:
Our lands are taken to this day, even those who go into the army. I am a Druze. So our land is being taken despite the fact that many people go into the army and serve. A false argument in Israel: if you don’t give full obligations, you don’t deserve full rights. This is totally false, because I know of many people who give everything and get nothing or almost nothing.