South African media focus on racism conference

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- South Africa has drawn rich praise from around the world over the past week for the manner in which it has hosted the World Conference Against Racism.
And not surprisingly, the event has captured headlines around the country.
The controversial decision by the United States to withdraw its low-level delegation on Monday not only resulted in widespread criticism from human rights groups and NGOs, but was a major news event for the South African media.
The Durban-based Daily News said no one who is serious about attempting to rid the world of racism will take comfort from the decision by the US and Israel to withdraw from the WCAR.
"Those nations and organisations that have so uncompromisingly pursued the path of equating Zionism with racism may well feel they have scored a vital victory by literally hounding their protagonists into packing their bags and heading for home.
"If they believe this, it is nothing more than a pyrric victory because, until practical steps are taken to resolve the real issues at stake, the welfare of the people they claim to speak for will improve not a jot.
"A result in a World Wrestling Federation bout would carry more weight," the newspaper said in an editorial.
The Citizen newspaper said America can scarcely be accused of pulling out of the WCAR "because it didn't really pull in".
"The US signalled its intentions months ago, warning against rhetoric about Israel and slavery.
A tentative, low-level delegation showed America had little faith in the prospects of a reasonable outcome.
"Right on cue, militant pro-Palestinians dominated proceedings, detracting from the broader aims of the conference.
The stridency of their campaign for resolutions against Israel was enough to send the US packing".
The newspaper said it does not share the view that America is the only villain in all of this.
There is a clear difference between constructive discussion - in which the US would no doubt have participated - and hate-filled abusive language which paints one side as evil.
"That boundary was trampled to shreds in Durban," the Citizen said.
Business Day newspaper said it is not only the Palestinian lobby that has been hard at work to hijack the conference.
"Some of our African neighbours have displayed less than clear thinking in pursuit of their interests on the reparations front.
Surprisingly, even South Africa's normally reliable ally, Nigeria, chose to backtrack on a skilfully negotiated wording compromise reached some time ago.
"The key will be for South Africa to ensure that, once the sound and fury of Durban has dissipated, there is something concrete in the outcome of the conference for the developing world.
"That after all, would be the best lesson that we, the host country, could teach the rest of the world arising from our own experiences: that the most intractable seeming conflicts can be resolved (more or less) given a serious commitment to finding necessarily imperfect solutions," it stated in an editorial.
The Daily Dispatch said the signalling and manoeuvring at the WCAR has clouded the forward-looking vision most delegates hoped to develop in Durban.
It said the verbal attacks on Israel have been bad for delicate Jewish-Islamic relations in South Africa and this was borne out in Cape Town this week where streets were peppered with anti-Semitic slogans and a Jewish doctor was beaten with sticks.
"Refugees from intolerance, oppression and poverty who crowd old barges, creep across borders and huddle in their millions in refugee camps around the world are not from the Middle East alone.
"There is still time for the conference to return to its basic agenda of finding ways to reduce and, one day perhaps, eradicate racism and related intolerance.
This may be less intoxicating than beating piٌatas, but it is more important," the newspaper said.

06 september 2001 10:22:00

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