Jewish groups mull Durban II alternative

Proposal aims to avoid a repeat of Israel demonization.

durban anti-israel 88 (photo credit: )
durban anti-israel 88
(photo credit: )
A coterie of international Jewish organizations is considering holding an event concomitant to a controversial UN anti-racism conference planned for next year. The proposal, which was floated at a Geneva meeting sponsored by UN Watch, an NGO affiliated with the New York-based American Jewish Committee, came a day after the United Nations announced the so-called Durban II racism conference would be held in the same city the following Spring. The event is scheduled for April 20-24, coinciding with Holocaust Remembrance Day. The conference is a follow-up to the notorious 2001 event held in the South African city, which descended into an anti-Israel escapade, prompting a walkout by US and Israeli representatives. Canada has already announced it will boycott next year's meeting, saying the event would promote racism and not combat it. Pro-Israel advocates are urging the US and major European countries, who have not formulated their stance yet, to follow Canada's lead. "The UN has shown that it is so immoral and so self-serving that it has no moral authority on anything," said Keith Landy, past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "To participate in such a conference gives it credence and legitimacy it does not deserve." Pro-Israel advocates have repeatedly warned that the UN conference could easily descend into a Durban redux. "Our great concern is that Durban II is likely to become an anti-Israel conference with anti-Semitic elements," said Amos Hermon, chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency's Task Force against Anti-Semitism. Hermon said the Jewish organizations were considering holding an alternative conference to the UN event, which would include prominent world leaders and religious figures, or a huge Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Geneva with the aim of dwarfing the UN conference. Critics have said the timing of the UN conference is ironic, and only symbolizes the charade behind the event. "At the same time that Jews around the world will be marking Holocaust Remembrance Day and the murder of six million Jews in the worst instance of racism and xenophobia in human history, the United Nations will be discussing whether the Jewish state, created in the wake of the Holocaust and standing as a bulwark to ensure it is never repeated, should be demonized as the worst practitioner of racism and xenophobia among nations today," said Anne Bayefsky, editor of The group of Jewish community leaders and Israel activists meeting Tuesday in Geneva included the US permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Warren Tichenor, and the Israeli permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Isaac Levanon. The meeting was expected to lead to the establishment of a steering committee to coordinate the various international Jewish groups in response to the UN gathering. The United States is seeking guarantees that Durban II will not become an anti-Israel event. The decision to attend will be left to the next US administration, while the European Union has signaled it will decide later this year on its participation in the follow-up conference.