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Jewish Organizations Barred from UN Conference

Jewish NGO announces legal action against UN after being barred from conference on indigenous issues.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/16/2011, 1:12 AM / Last Update: 5/16/2011, 6:12 AM

UN.org

Two Jewish NGOs recently discovered that they have been barred from participating in a United Nations conference.

It began when the Office of Israeli Constitutional Law (OFICL), an Israeli legal action organization, received notice from the UN that their registration for this year’s Conference of the United Nations Permanent forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was being declined.

OFICL investigated the issue and subsequently discovered that another organization called the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, an Israeli Bedouin rights organization, was also barred from attending the same conference.

The organization exchanged numerous calls, faxes and letters with the UN, all of which produced no results, and the OFICL decided it had no choice but to send legal notice to the UN.

OFICL said in a statement released Sunday that it is charging Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, with violating provisions of Declarations of Rights of Indigenous People and Universal Declarations of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and other UN and United States antidiscrimination laws.

“We attended last year’s conference and actually floored 12 Representatives during the Conference,” said OFICL chairman Dr. Michael T. Snidecor.  “I don’t have access to the actual records, but our Secretary was told that we had the largest number of representatives from outside North America at the conference.”

OFICL noted that it had stayed active with the Forum even following last year’s conference.

“The Special Rapporteur for the region said that for years the Forum had tried to obtain information from the Israeli Government about complaints regarding issues with Bedouin in the Negev,” said OFICL director Mark Kaplan. “The government has never responded. So, we were able to forward a report by another organization about the situation containing studies about the serious ecological damage posed by illegal Bedouin construction and proposals on how to work with the Bedouins to solve the issues. Dr. Snidecor also created a simple online system for anonymously filing complaints of indigenous rights violations. So, we have remained an active NGO in the forum.”

The organization also explained that the legal action is required since, as Dr. Snidecor explained, “we were not given any reason for rejecting us other than saying we are ineligible under two resolutions—one of which has nothing to do with NGO qualifications. We see nothing that disqualifies us, and no one will take responsibility for the decision to reject our application.”

“The sad thing is that the indigenous tribes who attend the conference are not guilty, it is the UN employees,” said Kaplan. “Unfortunately, our taking this action may tarnish the reputation of the forum. This is not something we want to do. These are wonderful people, and they are not connected to the anti-Israel governments and policies of the UN.

“However,” he added, “had there been a valid reason to exclude us from the conference, the UN powers-that-be should have been able to cite what the disqualifying issue is. If they cannot cite the criteria we do not meet, then it seems rather suspicious that there is something else going on here. There is no question that the Jewish People meet the UN Criteria for being considered indigenous.”