Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Durban III - UK to withdraw

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The Jewish Chronicle reported on September 14, that the UK will not participate in upcoming UN sponsored Durban III anti-racism conference to be held on September 22 because it did not want to engage in an event with antisemitic association. The Durban conferences are known to have been hijacked by antisemitism and anti-zionism. British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the Durban conferences saw "open displays" of "deplorable anti- Semitism," and said it would be "wrong" to engage in such events.

The UK is now the tenth UN member state to have pulled out of Duban III, and it joins the company of Israel, Germany, the US, Canada, Italy, Austria, Australia, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands who have already withdrawn from the Durban conference.

Anne Bayefsky, a leading human rights scholar said: "Britain's pullout will be a serious blow to the UN and Durban III's standing, and immediately raises the stakes for France in particular."

Bayefsky also recently reviewed the final document which is to be signed on to at Durban III. It appears to be just as bad as critics of the Durban process had feared.  She notes:

"Western negotiators at the U.N. caved in to the demands of envoys from Islamic states to renew a modern-day form of the decades-long U.N. smear campaign alleging that the Jewish state is racist. Diplomats agreed on a new "anti-racism" declaration that went public Friday at noon...

The final sticking point in negotiations, conducted at U.N. headquarters over the last two months, was whether the original Durban Declaration adopted in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, would be reaffirmed. Passed just three days before 9/11, with the enthusiastic participation of Yasser Arafat, the Durban Declaration grossly discriminates against Israel - the only one of 192 UN members charged with racism in the document.

On Thursday, Islamic states led by Benin, as well as South Africa and the rest of the bloc of developing states called the G-77 - which constitutes a majority of UN members - held firm to their demand to reaffirm the whole message of the 2001 declaration. Western opposition fell apart....

The document also catapults the Durban Declaration and its racist-Israel libel into the center of the U.N.'s "anti-racism" agenda. It "reaffirms" - actually for the first time - that the Durban Declaration is "a comprehensive framework and solid foundation" for combating racism. It downgrades the relative status of the U.N. racism treaty, which has been on the books for 46 years; negotiators refused to repeat even the 2009 Durban II statement that the treaty was "the principal international instrument to prevent, combat and eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" or to call for the treaty's universal ratification."

The truth is that unlike the UN's original anti-racism treaty - the 1965 " International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination" the Durban conferences were intended to fight racism, but become hijacked by antisemitism and anti-zionism.

In 2001 at Durban I, Israel was the only nation mentioned as a source of racism, which effectively equated Zionism with racism. An article in Camera paints a picture of the antisemitism present at Durban I:

"Jews were singularly denied the right to participate in proceedings at the conference because they could not be "objective." Security officials told representatives of Jewish groups that their safety could not be guaranteed. Protesters carried signs stating that if Hitler had finished the job there were would be no state of Israel and no Palestinian suffering."

At the Durban II Conference in 2009 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a key speaker, referred to the Holocaust as an "ambiguous and dubious question". Following Ahmadinejad speech, about 40 delegates withdrew from the Durban conference.

The NGOs accepted to attend the Durban III conference are also very telling. An NGO that is allowed to attend include ‘North South XXI' - an organisation closely linked to Libya's Gaddafi, and Mouvement contre le racism et pour l'amitié entre les peuples (MRAP), an NGO that accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing and apartheid." According to Anne Bayefsky all NGOs that requested credentials to attend the Durban III were granted permission except for four groups:

"Excluded are organizations from Denmark and Nepal that represent the Dalits (sometimes referred to as "outcasts" or "untouchables"), one little-known group dealing with human rights in Iraq, and the Swiss-based U.N. Watch, despite its close relations to the Obama administration and its support for U.S. membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council."

There are also some new revelations about how the original Durban conference went so badly astray. An article in Camera reveals how it was actually a decision pushed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) that "made Durban worse" in 2001, causing the removal of a key provision related to the condemnation of antiSemitism.

The countries - including Australia - who have withdrawn from Durban III should be applauded for showing moral leadership, and those who remain should consider whether they really want to be part of conference that promotes racism and intolerance - the very things which the Durban conferences were intended to fight - now that the official document has been released, making it crystal clear that this conference is going to be no improvement on its infamous predecessors.

Sharyn Mittelman

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