By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch
In advance of her first visit to the Middle East next week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being beseeched by Israeli leaders to lead the fight against anti-Semitism and vilification of Israel, a trend that has increased since the war in Gaza. The Israelis will ask Clinton to boycott the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, due to take place in Switzerland in April. The U.N.'s first such conference, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, singled Israel out for venomous condemnation, leading the Israeli and U.S. delegations to walk out in protest. The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reports:
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, who was tasked by the government to head its counter anti-Semitism efforts, wants to use Clinton's visit in order to create a united front against the conference.
The U.S. has yet to announce whether or not it will take part in Geneva's World Conference against Racism, although it did vote against holding it.
Herzog said the conference "can set the world dozens of years back. It stands to focus on hatred towards Israel and the Jewish people. I urge the US to announce it will not take part in it and I call on it to lead the sane nation's bloc in that move, as it has before."
Clinton to Pledge $900 Million to Palestinians
Starting her visit Monday at an international donors conference in Egypt, Clinton will pledge some $900 million in aid to Gaza and the West Bank, administration officials are quoted as saying. After that meeting, which is designed to raise $2 billion in postwar rehabilitation funds for Gaza, the secretary will meet leaders in Israel and the West Bank. However, she is not slated to visit Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamic regime that the United States does not recognize. Haaretz reports:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. A leading political source in Jerusalem noted that senior Clinton aides have made it clear that the matter will be central to Clinton's planned visit to Israel next Tuesday.
U.S. Congressman Seeks 'Pressure' on Israel Following Gaza Visit
Following his visit to Gaza, Democratic Rep. Brian Baird of Washington State says he plans to brief Congress on the "level of destruction" and urge his colleagues to re-examine military aid to Israel. The Israeli daily Jerusalem Post reports:
Baird visited Gaza last week with fellow Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and was struck by "the level of destruction, the scope of it, specifically the civilian targets—schools, hospitals, industry." Baird also said Israel had "apparently willfully destroyed any capacity of the Palestinians to rebuild their own infrastructure."
He also said he was troubled by the American origin of so much of the IDF weaponry used in Gaza, and suggested that the US should reconsider the military aid it provides and the weapons it sells to Israel. "We need to use every pressure available to make these needed changes happen," he said.
However, pro-Israel organizations in the United States said they weren't too worried.
"By and large, we continue to see support for Israel and understand why it was necessary for Israel's leaders to do what they did," one official said about Congress, speaking anonymously. "I'm not afraid of these members coming back and giving a briefing."