US joins Israel, Canada in boycotting Durban III

Obama administration says original Durban conference was rife with “ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism,” and “we don’t want to see that commemorated.”

June 3, 2011 06:20
3 minute read.
US President Obama and Hillary Clinton

US President Obama and Hillary Clinton 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Jeff Haynes)

NEW YORK – The Obama administration announced Wednesday that the United States would not participate in this September’s United Nations 10th anniversary commemoration of its World Conference Against Racism.

The commemoration, known as Durban III, slated for this year, has met with ample opposition from various parties. Israel and Canada have said they will not participate in the commemoration.

Israel plans to boycott UN Durban III conference
The ADL calls on countries to boycott 'Durban III'

The original Durban conference, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, was marked by a tremendous display of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic vitriol. In a letter to Congress from Joseph E. Macmanus, acting US assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, the Obama administration said that the original Durban conference was rife with “ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism,” and “we don’t want to see that commemorated.”

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who led a bipartisan effort urging the US not to participate in Durban III, praised the administration for its boycott.

“I commend the Obama Administration decision to withdraw from this event,” Gillibrand said. “It is an insult to America that the United Nations has decided to hold the Durban III conference in New York City, just days from the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. We all witnessed how extreme anti-Semitic and anti-American voices took over Durban I and Durban II, and we should expect the same thing to happen with Durban III.”

Leaders from various Jewish organizations similarly applauded the Obama administration’s decision to refrain from participating in Durban III.

“The global campaign of delegitimization against Israel was launched at Durban I. It has remained a lasting scar on the reputation of the UN and ought not to be commemorated or celebrated,” the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations stated in a press release.

“We would fully support a conference that truly addressed bigotry and xenophobia.

Because of the obstinacy of some of those involved, the efforts of the US to turn this event into a productive and meaningful conference were frustrated.

The US, Canada and Israel, recognize that moral clarity demands they announce their non-participation, the press release continued.

“This conference is to be held during the opening session of the UN General Assembly, when many world leaders will be in New York. It is imperative that all democratic countries – those that truly value human rights and justice – announce that they too will not be part of this sham,” it stated.

“We are gratified by President Obama’s decision to boycott the so-called ‘Durban III,’ and we hope all member states of the European Union and democracies in the Americas and Asia will follow the US and Canada’s lead,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a press release.

The US announcement, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said, “is the clearest indication that this gathering will be just as bad for Israel – and for those truly dedicated to the fight against racism – as were the previous two international conferences in 2001 and 2009. To acknowledge the current reality is a sad day for the UN, and the struggle against racism.”

The ADL on Thursday welcomed the US’s announcement that it won’t participate in the Durban III conference.

“It is appropriate for the US to refuse to be a party to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel extremism at the United Nations,” ADL Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.

“Doing so through the tainted Durban process only serves to perpetuate the very bias it purports to work against.”

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