15 years after the Durban Conference, the Knesset held a special event arranged by NGO Monitor and MK Dr. Nachman Shai that addressed how the strategies formed at this conference continue to threaten the State of Israel. MK Michael Oren: “Against an idea, you cannot act militarily. You need an idea. Until today, the State of Israel has formed no idea. We need an idea to go against the BDS.”

In a special Knesset event arranged yesterday by NGO Monitor and MK Dr. Nachman Shai, a clear message was delivered that Israel should prepare a campaign to deal with the ongoing implications of the Durban Conference. According to NGO Monitor, in September 2001, in the shadow of the Second Intifada, the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa and it marked a beginning where Israel’s enemies turned to soft power in order to destroy the State of Israel: “The Durban Conference became a platform to set out a strategy to delegitimize Israel through international isolation based upon the South African model. There, they rallied behind anti-Semitic imagery and slogans as well as the demonization of Israel.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor, noted that it was at this conference they decided to “declare Israel to be an apartheid state, to claim Israel is waging ethnic cleansing, committing war crimes, and they took the measures that were used in South Africa against apartheid in order to actualize the complete international isolation of Israel. That was the beginning of BDS and the purpose is to label Israel as the new South Africa.”   In order to mark the 15th anniversary of the Durban Conference, NGO Monitor together with MK Dr. Shai Nachman arranged to have foreign dignitaries and Israeli officials gather in order to discuss the challenges posed by this conference.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated at the event: “Today, 15 years afterwards, we need to fix the mistakes and the great damage that the BDS campaign has done to the concept of human rights. Therefore, the Israeli Ministry for Strategic Affairs will bring to Israel delegations from abroad in order to expose the truth about the State of Israel. In addition, we must go from defense to offense and to display the truth about pro-BDS organizations and activists: what are their sources of funding, what laws they passed, and many times, they receiving funding from European governments and bodies that don’t want to assist human rights but they are not aware of their true activities while they cause great damage to human rights.”

However, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg Anderson emphasized that Europe remains opposed to the BDS Movement and everything else that came out of the Durban Conference: “The European Union is strongly against BDS, the isolation and demonization of Israel and other ideas that might have emanated from the Durban Conference. The European Union is about engagement with Israel. We have a long trek record to prove this. Israel is one of the countries that we have the strongest relations with of all in the world. One of the reasons why we have strong relations with Israel is because what is binding us together is very important and it is our mutual commitment to promote our common values, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. This is part and parcel of the cooperation that we have with Israel. Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy in the Middle East with a long tradition for freedom of speech.” According to him, the EU cooperated with Israel regarding the Durban Conference and balancing the playing field in the UN Human Rights Council: “We are trying to do the best we can.”

Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici stressed at the Knesset: “It’s very important to talk about what we are talking about. I would like to begin by recognizing a very important motion that was passed in the Canadian House a few months ago.” Although she noted that it was a largely symbolic gesture, it was still nevertheless powerful as it stated that Canada rejected the BDS Movement that promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel and called upon the Canadian government to condemn groups that promote such an ideology: “Delegitimization and BDS have a lot to do with anti-Semitism. In this context, the Canadian Parliament passed a resolution condemning organizations that promote a boycott of Israel.”

Although Israel’s diplomatic relations with many countries remains strong, MK Dr. Nachman Shai stressed that what was formulated at the Durban Conference still poses a great threat to Israel especially because Israel has no plan on how to deal with it: “We’re going back 15 years to the Durban conference, where a political war was declared against Israel. It was a turning point regarding the relations between Israel and the United Nations as well as the international community. Our enemies were fighting against us mainly through military means and violence. Since then, they added a political, legal, economic, and academic front. Today, these actions translate into the BDS campaign against us. Israel made a difficult mistake regarding Durban and since then, the country has not presented a global strategy in order to deal with the political campaign.” According to MK Dr. Anat Berko, “At the Durban Conference, they took out a bottle of champagne; anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews came out of it legitimately and freely. Moreover, what is politically correct just does not work for Jews.”

MK Michael Oren emphasized: “The Durban Conference represents a war, a war exactly like the other wars in the history of the State of Israel. They want to annihilate us. It is not a war for peace or a two-state solution.  It is a war to prevent us from being a sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel. Until today, the public does not grasp that we are in this war. We in general are not in the stadium with them. The BDS is very similar to ISIS. ISIS is an organization in an area but ISIS is firstly an idea, a very dangerous idea. ISIS the idea makes people act in a negative way in Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, and Orlando.”

“Against an idea, you cannot act militarily,” MK Oren noted. “You need an idea. Until today, the State of Israel has formed no idea. We need an idea to go against the BDS. The BDS comes with a very simple narrative: Israel is an apartheid state, does ethnic cleansing, is guilty of colonialism and imperialism, etc. What is our narrative? Can we say the Israeli narrative in one sentence? The answer is no. We haven’t got yet that we are in a war for if we are in a war, then all of the tanks cannot rest. The missiles of Hamas and Hezbollah cannot annihilate us but they can bring us to a situation where international organizations like the ICC will just simply take away our right to defend ourselves. They have a diplomatic and legal strategy and we have not realized that it is real. We are in a war and until the country realizes it, we will see more and more Durban Conferences.”