UN votes to commemorate 2001 Durban Conference

US ambassador to UN says voted "no" because doesn't want to see a commemoration of "ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism."

UN General Assembly 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
UN General Assembly 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
UNITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly voted early Friday to hold a summit commemorating the 10th anniversary of the contentious UN conference on racism that was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.
The US and Israel walked out midway through the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in the South African city of Durban over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism.
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Many African and Muslim countries have lobbied for a commemoration because they believe that racism and religious intolerance are still prevalent around the world.
The world body approved a resolution by a vote of 104 to 22, with 33 abstentions authorizing a one-day high-level commemoration on September 21, during the assembly's annual ministerial meeting.
The Durban conference ended with a promise to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and included a program of action. Original references condemning the "racist practices" of Israel and Zionism were removed though a reference to "the plight of the Palestinians" remained.
The United States and Israel also boycotted a follow-up meeting in Geneva in April 2009, known as Durban II, over fears it would repeat anti-Israel outbursts and they were joined by Germany, Italy, Poland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
US Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States voted against Friday's resolution for a commemoration of the 2001 conference "because the Durban declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated."
David Harris, executive director of AJC, the American Jewish Committee, expressed "profound regret" that there will be a Durban commemoration.
"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," he said in a statement.