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After U.N. votes for Durban III, battle lines are drawn

Marcy OsterWorld
Published: 31 December 2010
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva on April 20, 2009 prompted walkouts by numerous European countries. Michael J. Jordan

When the original U.N. anti-racism conference, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, devolved into an anti-Israel hate fest, Jewish groups around the world were caught unaware.

So when the Durban Review Conference was called for Geneva in 2009, Jewish activists started their fight early, persuading numerous countries to boycott the conference, dubbed Durban II, effectively blocking it from becoming a repeat of Durban I.

Now, with last week’s U.N. vote to authorize Durban III — a U.N. General Assembly session planned for September 2011 to commemorate the original Durban conference — the battle lines again are being drawn.

“The vote of the U.N. General Assembly, while not unexpected, sets the stage for a celebration of the outrageous events that took place during Durban I, which were permeated by manifestations of bigotry and hatred,” said a statement from the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The event is scheduled to be held shortly after the 10th anniversary commemoration of September 11th. It is hard to imagine a more insensitive action, recalling that the attack on the World Trade Center that killed thousands was carried out by those influenced by the same hateful ideologies that Durban I came to represent.”

The first plans to boycott Durban III already are taking shape. Canada announced in November that it would boycott the September 2011 session on “Combating racism and follow-up of the Durban Program of Action.”

“Canada will not participate in this charade,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at a Nov. 25 news conference. “Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it.”

Both the United States and Israel have warned about Durban III turning into another occasion for gratuitous Israel-bashing.

When the matter came to a vote last Friday, the vote was 104-22 in favor of the special General Assembly session; 33 countries abstained.

“We voted ‘no’ because the Durban Declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated,” said a statement by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice. “The United States is fully committed to upholding the human rights of all individuals and to combating racial discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry. We stand ready to work with all partners to uphold human rights and fight racism around the world.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement announcing its intention to skip the session.

“Under the present circumstances, as long as the meeting is defined as part of the infamous ‘Durban process,’ Israel will not participate in the meeting,” the statement said. “Israel expects the participants to deal appropriately with the serious manifestations of racism throughout the world, and to reject attempts to once again divert world attention from this dangerous phenomenon by means of cheap politicization.”

Condemnation of the U.N. vote by Jewish groups was fast and furious.

“The original Durban conference attempted to validate the perverse theory that Zionism is racism,” the B’nai B’rith International executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin, said. “Durban’s legacy of hate, intolerance, and double standards should never be forgotten, and should certainly never be celebrated.”

The Anti-Defamation League called for a boycott of Durban III.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said the anti-racism agenda has been misappropriated. “The global campaign against racism has been hijacked by countries that have little regard for human rights and whose primary goal is to advance highly political agendas,” Harris said. “To bring this traveling show of hatred to New York is scandalous and will not advance the noble U.N. mission of defending and protecting human rights.”

At the original U.N. conference against racism in Durban, the United States and Israel walked out when it became clear that it had devolved into little more than an opportunity for vitriolic Israel-bashing that many said bordered on anti-Semitism. The conference’s final document singled out Israel for special condemnation.

In Geneva in 2009, several European and North American countries announced ahead of time that they would not attend the conference out of concern that its special focus on Israel would make a mockery of the issue of fighting racism, and several more walked out of the conference when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the occasion to bash Israel.

The countries that voted last week against the Durban III session were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Among the countries abstaining were Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, and Spain.

JTA Wire Service

 
 

JCRC board, UJA-NNJ committee pass anti-Durban resolution

_JStandardLocal | World
Published: 01 April 2011
(tags): jcrc, durban

The Jewish Community Relations Council board and UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s executive committee passed a resolution March 23 urging the United States “to join Canada and Israel” in refusing to participate in the Durban III World Conference Against Racism in New York City on Sept. 21, 2011.

The resolution also called on President Obama to “[p]rovide the moral clarity, diplomacy and leadership for other countries to also cancel their attendance at the Durban III conference” and to “[m]ake certain that no U.S. government funds are utilized to finance or support the … conference.”

The resolution noted that “[t]he Durban III conference is intended to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the first Durban Conference, which was held in Durban South Africa in 2001, and from which the U.S. delegation withdrew because the conference ‘had become a diplomatic farce,’ according to the late Cong. Tom Lantos, who served as a U.S. conference delegate. Lantos wrote that Durban I ‘provided the world with a glimpse into the abyss of international hate, discrimination, and indeed, racism. The terrorist attacks on September 11 demonstrated the evil such hate can spawn.’”

“It is ironic,” the resolution continued, “that the end of the first Durban conference preceded 9/11 by three days, and that Durban III is timed to take place 10 days after the 10-year commemoration of this horrific day in the very home of the World Trade Center.”

Noting that “[t]he United States was one of 22 countries which voted against the resolution to convene Durban III this September,” the resolution quoted U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice as saying that “the Durban Declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated.’”

It also quoted a statement from the Netherlands, which “noted that both Durban I and Durban II deviated from their mission in several ways, by pursuing agendas other than the fight against racism and discrimination, including ignoring ‘discrimination based on sexual orientation,’ and by ‘implicitly singling out one country.’ That country was Israel.”

 
 
 
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