Rubinstein no show at ZF
by: Dinah A. Spritzer, JTA - Last updated: 2007-09-04
The Zionist Federation has cancelled a London appearance by Israeli newspaper columnist Danny Rubinstein the day after he called Israel an apartheid state at a United Nations conference on Palestinians.
Rubinstein, the Ha'aretz's Arab affairs editor and a member of its editorial board, told an audience of some 350 that "today Israel is an apartheid state with different status for different communities, according to sources at the event, held at the European Parliament in Brussels.
He went on to say that Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel each had a different status," according to a summary of his speech by a United Nations Web site.
Rubinstein also said "Hamas won the election of the international community and Israel cannot ignore that and argued that the security fence Israel was building could not be justified, sources said.
The Zionist Federation issued a statement Friday saying it had read about Rubinstein's quotes and verified the comments with him the next day. According to the Zionist Federation, the result was a mutual decision to cancel Rubinstein's event.
Criticism of Israeli policy is acceptable," the Zionist Federation's chairman, Andrew Balcombe, said in a statement. "However, by using the word apartheid in a UN conference held at the European Parliament, Danny Rubinstein encourages the demonization of Israel and the Jewish people. I believe he was naive to attend the UN conference. Indeed his own newspaper Ha'aretz had earlier reported that Israeli and EU lawmakers had attacked the UN meeting for having a completely one-sided, anti-Israeli agenda.
The Zionist Federation's conference, titled Israel at 60," was held Friday to Sunday in London.
Rubinstein, who did not return a call seeking comment, made his remarks during a forum that pro-Israel nongovernmental organizations such as B'nai B'rith, UN Watch and NGO Monitor described as Israel-bashing sessions run by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The pro-Israel groups say the UN committee has a long history of opposing Israeli interests.
Pro-Israel critics say the name of the UN conference, "International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestine Peace, was misleading, as solutions for peace were not on the agenda and only speakers with harsh words for Israel were given an opportunity to present their views.
At this year's event, attendees gave an ovation to members of the Neturei Karta, the fervently Orthodox sect that vehemently opposes Israel's existence and participated in a highly publicized gathering of Holocaust deniers in Iran.
Observers said that during one workshop, Richard Kuper, spokesman of the London-based European Jews for a Just Peace, argued that Israel supporters emphasise the conflict in Darfur to direct attention away from Israel's human rights violations. Several other speakers at the forum called for boycotts of Israel.
Seven members of the European Parliament published a letter to the International Herald Tribune Friday saying that "despite the neutrally sounding title of its conference," it "has a proven record of anti-Israel bias, spreading propaganda that presents only the Palestinian narrative, including the delegitimization of Israel -- a U.N. member state."
Susanna Kokkonen, political director of the European Coalition for Israel, which represents five Christian organizations and works closely with members of the European Parliament who advocate Israeli interests, said the two-day conference last week had "an atmosphere that was thick with hate towards Israel.
I was most shocked to hear an editor from Ha'aretz condemn Israel in a way that was worse than the Arab speakers, Kokonnen said.
Rubinstein shared the podium with British Parliament member Clare Short, who reportedly said apartheid in Israel was worse than in South Africa.
"Israel doesn't want a two-state solution, and the EU is allowing the state of apartheid to continue," she told attendees, according to several observers. "We have to start sanctions against Israel.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, an organization with ties to the American Jewish Committee, said that by agreeing to speak at the conference, Rubinstein was lending it legitimacy.
Its disturbing that a leading Israeli journalist is participating with a Soviet-era enterprise whose sole aim is to assault Israel morally, legally and financially, Neuer said. But that he would full-throatedly join the jackals and call Israel an apartheid state is an outrage.
"Though Rubinstein was officially presented by the UN as a member of the Ha'aretz editorial board, we trust that the newspaper does not condone the delegitimization of Israel.