U.S. Will Be Joining Boycott of Geneva over Settlements: PLO Praises Meeting as a Milestone

Article excerpt

The United States and Israel will be almost alone in boycotting a U.N. conference today in Geneva, where the world community is gathering to discuss whether Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The conference has drawn harsh criticism from American Jewish groups and from the U.S. House, which passed a resolution this week calling for the cancellation of the session.

At a hearing yesterday, members of the House International Relations Committee criticized the United Nations for repeatedly showing Israel the "dark side" of its power.

In approving today's conference, the U.N. General Assembly said it was acting to ensure protection of civilians in areas occupied by Israel in 1967.

The Fourth Geneva Convention was adopted in response to Nazi crimes during the Holocaust and spells out rules for treatment of civilians in areas placed under wartime occupation.

But Jewish organizations and the Clinton administration note that the convention has not been the subject of an international meeting in 50 years.

During that time crises and repression have killed millions in Cambodia, Afghanistan, China, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Algeria, Guatemala and Yugoslavia.

"The state of Israel faces collective discrimination in the U.N. system," said Ronald S. Lauder, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

He said Israel "continues to be singled out and attacked at the U.N., without regard to the peace process or the comparative policies of other states."

The United States has considered Israel the only democracy and its only ally in the Middle East for decades. …