The British Zionist Federation cancelled a London speech by Haaretz editorial board member Danny Rubinstein following his appearance before the United Nation's Conference on Palestinians, in which he referred to Israel as an "apartheid state."
The political director of the European Coalition for Israel, Susanna Kokkonen, said she was "was most shocked to hear an editor from Haaretz condemn Israel in a way that was worse than the Arab speakers."
Rubinstein, speaking before 350 guests at the European Union's Brussels parliament building, said: "Today Israel is an apartheid state with different status for four different Palestinian groups: those in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli Palestinians," the UN report on the conference says.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency says Rubinstein confirmed the comment as more than mere linguistics. "I asked him if he really thought Israel was in a state of apartheid," said the reporter who spoke with him. "And he answered 'yes.'"
The ramifications of branding Israel as apartheid were outlined in several other sessions of the conference, which called for global sanctions and boycotts of the Jewish state. Rubinstein also spoke out in favor of recognizing Hamas's election victory and against the "Partition Wall."
The Zionist Federation, upon hearing of Rubinstein's statements, contacted him and decided to cancel his scheduled appearance. "By using the word 'apartheid' in a U.N. conference held at the European Parliament, Danny Rubinstein encourages the demonization of Israel and the Jewish people," Zionist Federation Chairman Andrew Balcombe said in an explanation of the move. "I believe he was naive to attend the UN conference. Indeed his own newspaper Haaretz had earlier reported that Israeli and EU lawmakers had attacked the UN meeting for having a completely one-sided, anti-Israeli agenda."
Other Jews appearing at the UN conference included members of the Neturei Karta anti-Israel movement, who received an ovation, according to JTA.
According to UN Watch, the World Zionist Organization paid for Rubinstein's flights. Labor Party MK Nadia Hilu, an Israeli-Arab, is also planning on attending the conference. UN Watch's Hillel Neuer said that Rubinstein's participating in the conference was objectionable even without his speech. "It's disturbing that a leading Israeli journalist is participating with a Soviet-era enterprise whose sole aim is to assault Israel morally, legally and financially," Neuer said. "But that he would full-throatedly join the jackals and call Israel 'an apartheid state' is a scandal."
Neuer pointed out that Rubinstein was presented by the UN as an authority due to his membership in Haaretz's editorial board. He hopes that Haaretz itself does not "condone the delegitimization of Israel."