durban anti-israel 88.
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Jewish groups have joined in praising the US decision to withdraw from a UN-sponsored conference on racism, and say they hope that European countries will follow suit. Widely called "Durban II," the conference is scheduled for April in Geneva.
In a statement issued by the Anti-Defamation League, its national chairman, Glen S. Lewy, said, "We applaud the administration for refusing to participate in a process that would in any way brand Israel as a racist country."
Moishe Smith, president of B'nai B'rith International, said that while the group was "never pleased to walk away from international discussions in critical areas like racism, we credit the Obama administration for its good faith effort."
US President Barack Obama was originally inclined to participate in the World Conference Against Racism, set to open on April 20, and even sent a delegation to Geneva for the preparations. But the US rescinded its involvement when the delegation determined that the conference's proposed draft resolutions would be blatantly anti-Israel and were unable to change the content.
"A conference based on this text would be a missed opportunity to speak clearly about the persistent problem of racism," said Robert Wood, the State Department's spokesman.
The first Durban conference in 2001 was attended by the US and Israel, and both withdrew after just a few days due to the virulently anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic nature of much of its content. Critics have long believed that Durban II would be even worse.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the World Jewish Congress, Betty Ehrenberg, said she hoped that every country would boycott the conference. She specifically cited European countries, such as The Netherlands, Denmark and Italy.
The Polish pro-Israel foundation, Europa 21, is hoping that EU members will feel uncomfortable attending Durban II in the wake of the American withdrawal. The group is currently lobbying prominent political and cultural figures with an anti-Durban II petition, and plans to send letters to Poland's foreign ministry and the European Parliament in hopes of getting more countries to join the boycott.
So far, the US, Canada and Israel are the only countries to have announced that they'll stay away. However, press reports recently quoted a top Western diplomat as having suggested that Britain, The Netherlands and France were also considering a boycott.