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US House members protest "hijacking" of Durban conference

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  • Josh Pollack
    Washington Post Threat to Boycott U.N. Race Talks Praised, Attacked By Darryl Fears Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, August 1, 2001; Page A03
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
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      Washington Post
      Threat to Boycott U.N. Race Talks Praised, Attacked
      By Darryl Fears
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Wednesday, August 1, 2001; Page A03

      http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13176-2001Jul31.html

      A congressional subcommittee hearing on the World Conference Against Racism
      opened yesterday with praise for President Bush's threat to boycott the
      event if the issue of Zionism as racism is on the agenda.

      But as soon as Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) finished her opening
      statement, the subcommittee's ranking member, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.),
      denounced the president's plan to avoid the conference if another
      contentious issue, reparations for slavery and colonization, is part of the
      discussion.

      Support for and opposition to the president's stance broke neatly along
      racial lines among the eight attending members of the House International
      Relations subcommittee on international operations and human rights. The
      hearing, in the Rayburn Building, was the first public congressional meeting
      on the United Nations conference, scheduled to start Aug. 31 in Durban,
      South Africa.

      Ros-Lehtinen, who is white and of Cuban descent, questioned how reparations
      would be applied more than a century after U.S. slavery officially ended in
      the 1860s. But her most forceful blast was against the effort to equate
      Zionism in Israel with racism.

      "There is perhaps no other issue which threatens the legitimacy and
      effectiveness of the World Conference Against Racism as does the hostile
      anti-Semitic/anti-Israel language shepherded by such countries as Iran, Iraq
      and Syria," she said.

      McKinney, who is black, said the two issues were a smokescreen for what she
      perceived to be the president's desire to avoid the subject of race.

      "I am becoming concerned that they really don't care about racism," McKinney
      said. "I think the administration's opposition to WCAR is a clear example of
      their indifference to racism."

      William B. Wood, a State Department deputy assistant secretary, assured
      McKinney that the president supported the racism conference but said he
      worried that the issues in question would overshadow other pressing
      concerns.

      Those worries deepened after a preparatory meeting in Geneva late Monday,
      when a non-governmental body helping to organize the conference proposed to
      condemn Israel for its "escalation of the third holocaust perpetrated"
      against the people of Palestine.

      That proposal drew harsh criticism from U.N. High Commissioner Mary
      Robinson, who is presiding over the two-week-long meeting.

      At the subcommittee meeting, critics of the proposal repeatedly used the
      word "hijack" to describe "attempts by some Arabs" to steer the conference
      against Israel.

      "It is terribly wrong when, amongst all nations on this planet, only one,
      the state of Israel, is singled out," Rabbi Marvin Hier said in his
      testimony to the panel. "Of course, Israel is not above criticism, but how
      credible can this conference be when nations with horrible human rights
      violations . . . escape any criticism?"



      � 2001 The Washington Post Company

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