A UN conference, held at the European Parliament in Brussels, heard an array of speakers call for a boycott against Israel and strategize on ways to achieve its international isolation, during the first day of an event billed by organizers as a gathering to promote "Middle East peace".
The 'International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace' has been organized by the UN's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and attracted political figures and pro-Palestinian members of non governmental organizations (NGOs).
According to the Bnei Brith organization, which sent delegates to attend the conference from its European Affairs Office, British Member of Parliament Clare Short said during her speech that Israel was not interested in a two-state solution, and blasted the EU for "allowing" Israel to build "an apartheid wall".
"The boycott worked for South Africa, it is time to do it again," Short was quoted as saying.
The security fence was also attacked by the European Parliament's vice president, Edward McMillan-Scott, who maintained that it would not bring peace to Israel. McMillan-Scott added that the European Parliament was committed to "a two state solution with safe borders," according to the Bnei Brith report of the conference.
Addressing the conference on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Leila Shahid, Palestinian Representative to the EU, read out a statement in which Abbas expressed satisfaction that the conference was hosted by the European Parliament, and lamented the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Pierre Galand, European coordinator of the Committees and Associations for Palestine, claimed that the conference was taking place despite pressures to cancel it, and blamed the Fatah-Hamas conflict on "Israeli policy".
'Members guided by clear agenda'
"This is a conference of Israel-haters," Adam Mouchtar, Director of Bnei Brith's European Union Affairs Office, told Ynetnews. Mouchtar attended the conference's first day, and said its members were clearly guided by a single agenda: "To prove that Israel is a racist apartheid state, and therefore Israel should be boycotted internationally, as South Africa was."
"We've had this in Durban in 2001. These are the same organizations that took over the Durban conference and coined the term 'Zionism is racism'," Mouchtar said.
He added that the most positive speech came from an Israeli-Arab Knesset Member, Nadia Hilou, who praised the recent boost in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"I feel that it's a farce," Mouchtar said, adding: "It's a biased conference. It nearly totally excludes any reasonable Israeli speakers." According to Mouchtar, one of the few Jewish attendees was a "self hater" invited to "legitimize the claim that the conference was not biased".
Mouchtar called on the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to take action to prevent such activities in the future, adding that the actions of UN sub-committees were "delegitimizing the good work the UN is doing in other fields".
'Campaign to demonize Israel'
But Wolfgang Grieger, Secretary of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, told Ynetnews that the conference had "received a message from Ban Ki-moon".
"It opened this morning with some 400 participants attending, representatives of 140 civil society organizations, members of the European and national parliaments, 53 government observers, as well as 16 intergovernmental organizations, including UN agencies. The Committee is very pleased with this big turnout," he said.
A spokesman for NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog, told Ynetnews: "As NGO Monitor's continued research has shown, non governmental organizations funded and supported by the EU and other international governments, are at the forefront of the political campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel.
"This conference highlights once again, the moral bankruptcy of so many of these groups and individuals who compare the Israel-Palestinian conflict to apartheid South Africa, and single out Israel for boycotts and sanctions," he said.