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Most Israelis Approve of UN Racism Conference Pullout - 2001-09-04

Most Israelis approve of the government's decision to pull out of the U.N. Conference on Racism to protest anti-Israel language in the draft of the final declaration. Most Israelis have called the conference a farce and a political lynching of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says it was impossible to remain part of a conference that singled out Israel for attack. "We regret very much the very bizarre show in Durban, an important convention that is supposed to defend human rights became a source of hatred a show of unfounded accusations, a reverse to every responsibility on the international arena," he says. "We don't feel defeated. We feel peace was defeated."

Israel, along with the United States, has withdrawn its official delegations from the U.N. conference to protest language in the draft declaration that equates Zionism with racism.

Israel had boycotted two other international conferences on racism, in 1978 and 1983, also because of anti-Israel language in conference documents.

Even before the Durban conference got underway, both Israel and the United States had warned they would pull out of the meeting if anti-Israel language were included in official declarations.

Israeli commentators complain that U.N. officials have let Arab delegations use the conference to lash out against Israel and divert attention from the conference work to combat racism.

Political analyst Barry Rubin of Tel Aviv's Bar-Ilan University criticizes what he calls a throwback to pre-World War II anti-Semitism. But, he dismisses suggestions of Israel's political isolation. "Once again the propaganda against Israel has gone too far," he says. "It has reached the point of the ridiculous. This has turned what was supposed to be an anti-racism conference into a pro-racism conference and I think there will be a backlash. I think the operation that was designed to isolate and damage Israel will have the reverse effect. You know, the basic reflection is not on Israel, it's on the world that the world can let it happen."

Some politicians, like Yossi Beilin, view the walk out as a mistake. Now in the opposition, Mr. Beilin played an active role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He says Israel should not, "run away from the battle."

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also has questioned the decision to leave Durban, stressing the need for Israel to maintain a strong presence in international gatherings.