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World Social Forum today: an interview with Shimon T. Samuels.

Dr. Shimon T. Samuels takes special note of the World Social Forum (WSF) and its annual meetings held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Created by the Brazilian Labor Party (2001) in response to the World Economic Forum (Davos), the conference focuses on globalization injustice--e.g., indigenous trafficking of women. Similar to Durban II, the World Social Forum was soon coopted by Palestinian activists. I attended the November 2013 meeting of WSF Free Palestine, and observed with grave concern the tens of thousands attending the 127 workshops--all aligned in teaching the attendees to undermine anything and everything identified as Israeli.

Dr. Samuels is the director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and is based in Paris. He is a member of the European Jewish Parliament, chair of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and a recent recipient of its Jabotinsky Award for Outstanding Contribution in fighting antisemitism.

Samuels began our interview with this description:

From the WSF, regional forums such as the North American, Latin American, and Asian emerged. The most poisonously anti-Israel is the European Social Forum (ESF). This forum has a more operational role than the WSF. Its first gathering took place in Florence, Italy, in 2002; the third ESF took place in London in 2004, consisting of 500 seminars with 2,500 speakers. Much of its funding was provided by the London Municipality, whose mayor at the time was leftist Ken Livingstone. This forum largely focused on hate-mongering against Israel. Attacks became even more aggressive at the next ESF in Athens in 2006. Much attention there was given to the Boycott, Disinvestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

At the Athens ESF, a handbook describing how to promote the BDS was distributed, illustrating how those in civil society can stop buying Israeli products. Its stated goal is to create a critical mass so that governments will follow its lead. The handbook also recommended targeting "smart boycotts"--i.e., academics. Proponents claimed that even if boycotts are reversed by "Zionist pressure," their real goal is the publicity engendered. Instructions were given regarding governmental restrictions on travel, communications, trade, finance, arms sales, church divestment, and corporations indirectly doing business with Israelis.

In Athens, Samuels says, pending grassroots provocations were suggested. He continues: One could, for instance, fill supermarket carts with Israeli products, crash through the registers, and burn the produce in the street. Other ideas proposed were a European-Palestine caravan to promote BDS and visits to Palestinian refugee camps. At the Athens ESF, I first met representatives from Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-Nazi group. It was then still a small faction appealing for an alliance with the left and Islam against the common enemy, Zionism. They were handing out their magazine devoted to the glorious era depicted by the cover photo of Hitler and the mufti of Jerusalem. Even with the recent government crackdown on Golden Dawn, this openly neo-Nazi party held 18 of 300 seats in the Greek Parliament and was steadily growing.

Samuels reminds us: In 2008, the ESF took place close to the sixtieth anniversary of Israel's independence in Malmo, Sweden. It planned an international network of demonstrations against the Jewish state throughout the entire year. There was also a call for solidarity with terrorist movements such as the Palestinian PFLP, the Kurdish PKK, the Colombian FARC, and the Basque ETA. In subsequent years, the ESF has responded to the European crisis and austerity issues and their consequences, such as the rise of the extreme right. The Middle East subsequently became less important. The Official Reference Document of the Palestine National Committee and the WSF promotes 16 issues on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These include the following: dismantling the Israeli "apartheid regime" and its "apartheid wall," returning Palestinian refugees from both 1948 and 1967, (estimated to be in the millions), furthering a military embargo and boycott divestment campaign, supporting Gaza, advocating the release of Palestinian prisoners, assistance in the Intifada (electronic or real), alerting the Western media to "Israel's crimes," countering Israel's "distortions of history," and trying Israel for war crimes in the International Court of Justice.

Samuels concludes: I have attended many Social Forum meetings. There, one learns about activities being planned for the future. At a meeting in Istanbul in 2010, I first heard about preparing anti-Israel flotillas. WSF NGOs aggrandize their impact through the UN Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a 34-member state agency of the UN Division of Human Rights, which meets annually on each continent. This year's European meeting at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization included boycott plans against the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli generic pharmaceutical company Teva.

Manfred Gerstenfeld *

* Manfred Gerstenfeld is emeritus chair (2000 to 2012) and member of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has authored fifteen books, edited five, and is a founding JSA board member, frequent contributor, and recipient of its lifetime achievement award. This interview was first published August 13, 2013, as "The World Social Forum Is an Enabler of Anti-Israelism," http:// It is reprinted here by permission.
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Author:Gerstenfeld, Manfred
Publication:Journal for the Study of Antisemitism
Article Type:Reprint
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 1, 2013
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