October 24, 2014 · 30 Tishrei

Join Us

Key Topics

Give

Reform Jewish Movement Urges Powell to Attend U.N. Conference on Racism

Commends Secretary Powell and Bush Administration for "extraordinary efforts" against anti-Semitism and in defense of Israel

Contact: Alexis Rice (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2001 - In a letter today to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, encourages Powell to attend the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa noting, "Essential values will be under attack in Durban, and we continue to hope that you will lead the American delegation and will personally participate in efforts to eliminate any anti-Semitic language and to rebuff attacks against Israel.and equally importantly [to] further the urgent legitimate goals of the Conference in addressing the scourge of racism and its lasting impact."

Saperstein commends Powell stating, "Your steadfast opposition to the equation of Zionism with racism, your work to ensure that Israel is not singled out in the Conference documents, and your commitment to resist attempts to minimize the evil of the Holocaust have all been both widely noticed and deeply appreciated by our community."

The complete letter follows:

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    On behalf of the 900 synagogues of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, encompassing over 1.5 million people across North America, I write to express our gratitude for the leadership which the Administration, and you personally, have shown in combating attempts to use the upcoming United Nation's Conference on Racism as a forum to legitimize anti-Semitism, and to attack viciously Israel.

    Your extraordinary efforts in opposition to the equation of Zionism with racism, your work to ensure that Israel is not singled out in the Conference documents, and your commitment to resist attempts to minimize the evil of the Holocaust have all been both widely noticed and deeply appreciated by our community.

    We share your view that the Conference document as it emerged from the Geneva "prepcon" is totally unacceptable. It will provide a platform for anti-Semitism and for Israel to be attacked in the most vile terms by those who are, ironically, among the least democratic forces across the globe.

    We also believe, however, that as long as the possibility exists that the noxious language might be removed, or modified in a way which would make it acceptable, that it is vital that the United States continue to fight for changes in the document. Essential values will be under attack in Durban, and we continue to hope that you will lead the American delegation and will personally participate in efforts to eliminate any anti-Semitic language and to rebuff attacks against Israel.

    We understand, of course, the view of those who argue against your personal participation. We recognize that there are legitimate arguments to be made on both sides of this difficult decision. On balance, though, we believe that you can best lead the fight against anti-Semitism and, equally importantly, can help further the urgent legitimate goals of the Conference in addressing the scourge of racism and its lasting impact. Should you choose not to go, we hope you will send a high-level delegation to continue to work on these issues in Durban. If they are able to secure acceptable language at any point in the proceedings, we hope you would be able to personally join the Conference at that time.

    As we noted above, however, unless the offensive language is removed or significantly modified, the United States should not lend its name to the document. Going to Durban, fighting for our shared principles, and, if significant improvements are not made, encouraging others not to sign the final document and even walking out of the Conference would be the most powerful possible demonstration of American moral leadership. The whole world remembers the power of then-Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan's similar action when the original "Zionism equals racism" resolution was adopted an action that began the process of repealing that heinous statement in the United Nations.

    Again, we commend you and your colleagues for your work thus far on this critical issue. We stand ready to assist you however we can.

    Respectfully,
    /s/
    Rabbi David Saperstein



Chai Impact Action Center
Take action on these top issues!

 

 
Travel Justly, Social Action Prayers, Program Bank, Holiday Guides Travel Justly Social Action Prayers Social Action Program Bank Holiday Guides
© Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 1996-2013
View our Privacy Statement
URJ CCAR