J'lem, US keep low profile on 'Durban II' parley

C'tee of 20 countries including Iran and Cuba will set the agenda for the 2009 conference.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Israel and the US plan to maintain a low profile this week in Geneva at the UN pre-planning meeting for a 2009 anti-racism conference that is seen as a follow-up to the one held in Durban in 2001, which turned into an Israel-bashing fest. Chaired by Libya, a committee of 20 countries including Iran and Cuba will spend a week starting Monday setting the agenda for the 2009 conference, dubbed "Durban II" by watchdog groups, and reviewing the implementation of the action plan from the last one. Both Israel and the United States walked out of the Durban conference claiming that its agenda of combating racism worldwide had been hijacked by those who used it as a platform for anti-Semitic attacks against Israel that included equating Zionism with racism. This time around, Israel and the US will send low level personnel to observe but do not plan high level involvement. "We have adopted a wait and see attitude," one Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. If the planning for the 2009 conference moves in a positive direction, then Israel could increase its participation in future meetings, the official said. A US government official said that at this time, "We still have the same problem with the Durban Declaration and the Program of Action as we did in 2001. Those problems do not extend to the whole document, parts of which we have been known to welcome." The official added, "Our concerns are limited to the anti-Semitic statements contained in the document and the way the transatlantic slave trade is dealt with." An Israeli official said there was hope this time around that, with Libya as the chair, the focus would be on issues that related more to African nations. The official added that Israel planned to boycott all parts of the planning meetings that dealt with the Durban conference. One Western official told the Post he was not concerned about anti-Semitism this time around and thus did not see a need to distinguish between the two conferences. But watchdog and Jewish groups have already warned that with the participation of countries such as Libya and Iran in the pre-planning, the 2009 conference is likely to become a "Durban II." Hillel Neur, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva, said the seeds of 2001 were sown in the pre-planning conferences such as the one that took place in Teheran. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights told the Post lessons had been learned from the Durban Conference and that the utmost was being done to ensure the conference's success. But the office added that while it had helped facilitate the conference, "ultimately the responsibility for the success of the conference lies with the member-states." The other countries that comprise the bureau for the pre-planning conference are: Cameroon, South Africa, Senegal, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Estonia, Croatia, Armenia, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Belgium, Norway, Greece and Turkey. The final venue for the 2009 conference has yet to be set.