Socialist Worker

The US won't even talk about racism

Issue No. 1765

George W Bush orders wrecking of UN Conference

The US won't even talk about racism

TOXIC TEXAN President George W Bush ordered the US delegates to leave the United Nations conference on racism this week. The US delegation marched out of the conference in South Africa because representatives of many countries had dared to condemn Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinian people.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who led the slaughter of Iraqi civilians and conscripts in the 1991 Gulf War, claimed, "Israel had been singled out for criticism" and insulted with "hateful language". Singled out? The only thing Israel has been singled out for is the highest level of US economic and military aid.

Far from being picked on, Israel has been insulated from condemnation thanks to its allies-the US and NATO. Israeli forces have murdered over 650 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, over the last 11 months. Israel is the only state in the world today which is assassinating the politicians and leaders of a people it is supposed to be in a peace dialogue with.

Israeli army death squads have executed scores of people from across the spectrum of Palestinian politics since the Palestinian intifada (uprising) began last September. The Israeli defence forces have murdered even more Palestinian children, who have only stones to throw back in response. All these victims have one thing in common. They are Palestinian. It is not a question of religion.

About a quarter of the Palestinian dead are Christian, not Muslim. Two weeks ago Israel invaded the village of Beit Jala, a predominantly Christian village on the Palestinian West Bank. The West Bank is under Israeli colonial style occupation alongside the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

They were seized by acts of war in 1967 and 1973. There are crocodile tears from Western leaders over justice and human rights every time they seek to intervene to protect their interests. There is never such an outpouring against Israel. Its worst crimes receive the mildest rebuke, while the flood of military support and subsidies flow in. Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian leader, is charged with war crimes for the treatment meted out to Albanian civilians.

Ariel Sharon is the Israeli prime minister. As defence minister in 1982 he personally led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The aerial assault and siege of the capital, Beirut, was as bad as anything that happened to Sarajevo and other cities during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. Over 20,000 civilians were killed. Israeli forces secured the perimeter of the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps while Lebanese fascists slaughtered 2,000 people.

Sharon is not charged with war crimes. He is glad-handed by world leaders. The reason is that Israel is the key US ally in the Middle East. And the Middle East means one thing for Western rulers-oil. The oil firms that financed Bush's seizure of the White House, such as Exxon, Amoco and Texaco, look to US and Israeli military might to secure access to the largest oil reserves in the world.

Supporting the Palestinians is not about singling out Israel-still less Jews, many of whom are outraged at what the Israeli state is doing. It is about standing with some of the greatest victims of imperialism and capitalism.


New labour leads the hypocrisy on slavery

THE BIG powers at the UN conference also pushed aside calls for them to apologise for the slave trade. The British government led the pack. Britain was at the forefront of the slave trade in the 18th century.

Some 12 million black Africans were ripped from their homes and transported in inhuman conditions across the Atlantic to work the plantations of the Caribbean and America. The profits from the plantations and trade in human beings laid the basis for the fortunes of banks like Barclays and firms like Tate & Lyle. The continent of Africa was hurled backwards. It suffered again when the European powers, led by Britain, carved up the continent into colonies in the late 19th century.

It suffers today from the domination of the globe by a few hundred huge multinational corporations in alliance with the most powerful states, and institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The New Labour government does not want to apologise for the slave trade because it fears doing so would open the way to massive claims for reparations. There should be a settling of accounts. The cancellation of all Third World debt would be a start.

But humbling the corporations and states that continue to suck the life out of the vast majority of the world's population would be a necessary step to overcoming obscene divisions between rich and poor. That is what Western rulers are terrified of. The British government lectures people from the Balkans to Zimbabwe about human rights, but will run from criticism itself. The US has boycotted the two previous UN conferences on racism. It turned up to this one only to make a show of wrecking it.

The conference has exposed the hypocrisy of our rulers. It has also shown that such shindigs are incapable of bringing them to heel. The people who can do that are the hundreds of millions across the globe who will be sickened by the spectacle this week in South Africa.


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Sat 8 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1765
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