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At Durban II: A shift is needed on American campuses

by Zach Novetsky Tuesday, May. 05, 2009 at 6:55 AM

We must all thank Ahmadinejad for legitimating our long-said message to the world.

For too long, Israel has been singled out by the United Nations: the special committees established to investigate the actions of Israel and only Israel; the endless resolutions passed against Israel; the special status granted to Palestinian refugees, which allows them to remain refugees despite being citizens of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and yes, Switzerland too.

I spoke with a Palestinian refugee just the other day who had citizenship in Canada before moving to Switzerland, where he now resides as a full citizen.

And yes, he is still considered a refugee (by the oblique and unique definition reserved solely for Palestinian refugees but not the millions of Jewish refugees expelled from the Arab world). Yes, he still receives American tax-dollars, European tax-dollar and Israeli tax-dollars, which are funneled through the UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency). However, he is lucky that he is a male refugee, and that his father was a male refugee because refugee status is patrilineal: if his mother had been a refugee and married a non-refugee, he would not be considered a refugee. Shocking that the United Nations tolerates (funds!) such overt gender discrimination. Don't believe me? Read James Lindsay's (former general counsel and legal advisor to the UNRWA) scathing exposé of this organization, entitled "Fixing the UNRWA," available free online.

But let me tell you a different story because the story of the United Nations disregard for evenhandedness and justice is getting old. I want the world to know that this week, the Jewish people and the real victims of this world won a Pyrrhic victory. And I believe it was largely because of the students and activist groups who were present at this conference, who made their presence known and their voices heard (Why didn't more organizations from America send students to protest this debacle!?). After all, it was the clown who made the cover of every newspaper in the world, whose message was simple enough and profound enough to expose the masquerade of Durban II to the whole world - politicians and laymen alike. Of course, the countries who walked out during Ahmadinejad's speech should be commended but their action should have been compulsory.

During my time spent with the European Union of Jewish Students (especially the French students), I have seen a passion for action that shames the campus activism in America, where a real and unjust war is being waged against Israel. Yes, there are exceptional students in America who do great things but sadly, such characters are rare. The EUJS students are not concerned with "not sounding politically correct" or "being ostracized by the larger community" because they fervently believe in the political correctness of their message.

There must be a paradigm shift on campuses across America: Jewish students need to stop being complacent, remaining silent and acting cowardly when libelous events like Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) sprout up on campus. When the charade that is IAW began, it was unknown; now, it is on more than seventy-five campuses. Why is there no American Union of Jewish Students uniting nationwide to combat this farce? Why are there no students ready to dress up as clowns, peacefully disrupt and expose the parody of IAW? There must be a revolution on the American campus, composed of creative students who are both human rights advocates and defenders of Israel.

I want to begin this much-needed revolution. Tomorrow at 12PM to 1PM (Friday April 24th) in New York City, I have called for a protest at the United Nations (being organized on very short notice by my admirable friends). Everyone should wear clown wigs and red noses to symbolize the masquerade that was Durban II. Silence has never been an effective message and it must never be our message; I hope that we will remain silent no more.

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At Durban II: Jewish students in solidarity with Darfurian refugees

by Zach Novetsky

(No verified email address) 23 Apr 2009

Yesterday morning began with the troubling news that we, the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), lost our United Nations accreditation. What did we do to deserve this punishment? We were not the clowns.

As we listened to our group leader explaining why the UN revoked our badges, he was interrupted by an urgent announcement: we could not leave our (heavily guarded) regular meeting area because of possible security threats. Rumors circulated that the United Nations revoked our accreditation because of related security concerns but they turned out to be untrue. After an hour of waiting indoors, we found out that thanks to behind-the-scenes diplomacy, our badges were returned and that we received "clearance" to return to the United Nations' conference. However, no sufficient explanation for the revocation was granted.

Let a lesson be learned on this day: When the Jewish nation speaks up, in a rare and too-often-unseen act of defiance, they are harshly (and unjustly) reprimanded. If only such efficiency and swiftness were characteristic of the United Nations, the ongoing (six years and more than 500,000 lives later!) Darfurian genocide would have never occurred.

Leaving our meeting area, I entered one of the many conference rooms to hear a panel discussion called, "Racism - The Road to Genocide," where speakers detailed various racially motivated genocides of the past century. One speaker in particular, Dr. Charles Small, director of The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, called for a standing moment of silence in remembrance of the Holocaust. An elderly man from the Neuteri Karta and his compatriots of an Iranian NGO remained seated, in flagrant disregard for the universal sanctity of human life (Dr. Small notably reprimanded them for their indecency before he continued with his address).

After the lecture, we entered the hallway, only to find that it was abuzz with commotion. And then I saw it: the infamous clown wig, floating above a sea of people.

A group of students had strategically placed themselves throughout various NGO events. One-by-one, they arose from hiding and declared, "Masquerade! Masquerade!" And one-by-one, they were escorted out of the conference by officers to the applause of their friends, and the boos of their enemies. Whether you agree or disagree with their tactics, they must be commended for taking (peaceful) action and embracing the consequences. For this reason, their message was successfully conveyed.

After the chants of the clowns were no more, we made our way to the Place des Nations, where we organized a rally for Darfur with a large group of Darfurian refugees. United by our humanness, the EUJS delegation stood together with Muslim refugees of Darfur, at the entrance of the United Nations, proclaiming: "Stop Genocide in Darfur! Shame, Shame, al-Bashir! It's not too late, to save Darfur!"

The Darfurian refugees all had tears in their eyes as their heartrending calls for help ascended from their hearts and departed from their lips, hoping that someone, somewhere was listening. We moved the rally closer to the street, now facing the entryway of the United Nations, and our calls of 'Save Darfur' grew louder. As cars drove by and honked in solidarity, our calls grew still louder. Watching the Darfurian refugees march up and down the street, disregarding the oncoming traffic, and dancing in a trance-like state, I knew that their message (our message!), would be heard, somewhere.

Yet, somehow this sight of solidarity was disagreeable to a lone protestor: the same Iranian man who just yesterday joyfully told me that it was no coincidence that Durban II and Yom HaShoah overlapped. There he was, alone, with a massive poster of Gaza and writing below that read, "Zionism = Racism."

As he hoisted the sign above his head, the Darfurian refugees who have for too long been ignored by the likes of this lone Iranian man, rushed over to him and flooded his disingenuous message with their own. Immediately, a group of United Nations police rushed over to the hullabaloo, grabbed the Iranian man, handcuffed him, and dragged him away to revel in his mockery.

Whatever the charge, justice was served. May it be this way for anyone who maliciously attempts to silence the real victims of this world.

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