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Human rights forum equates Zionism with racism

Published Sep. 10, 2005

Pro-Palestinian groups scored a victory Sunday when a human rights forum coinciding with the World Conference Against Racism equated Zionism with racism and called for international sanctions against Israel.

But Jewish, Christian and international human rights groups rejected the forum's final resolution, which was presented to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to be included in a final declaration by the U.N. conference.

Pro-Palestinian groups effectively lobbied a majority of groups attending the forum to equate Zionism _ the movement that founded Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people _ with racism. Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories was also decried as colonialism.

The forum ran parallel to the world racism conference, which started Friday and runs through Friday. It brought together 166 non-governmental rights groups from around the world and was meeting in Durban.

The forum's document brands "Israel as a racist apartheid state" and recommends that the United Nations reinstate a resolution equating Zionism with racism, establish a U.N. committee to prosecute Israeli war crimes and isolate Israel as an apartheid state.

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, condemned the resolution.

"Israel has committed serious crimes against the Palestinian people, but it is simply not accurate to use the word genocide and wrong to equate Zionism with racism," said Reed Brody, the group's advocacy director.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who was touring southern Israel on Sunday, angrily rejected the criticism as "a palpable expression of racism and anti-Semitism."