Canberra has withdrawn from the upcoming United Nations conference on combating racism nicknamed ‘Durban III’ over concerns of unfair Israel-bashing. The government said it was not convinced that “unbalanced criticism of Israel and the airing of anti-Semitic views” would be avoided, and had therefore withdrawn. The conference has been dubbed Durban III, after the original anti-racism conference in the South African city in 2001 that was marred by anti-Semitism and attacks against Israel, which was singled out for charges of institutional racism.
Then, Australia, among other Western countries, walked out. Australia subsequently boycotted a follow-up conference in Geneva in 2009 (‘Durban II’), which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used as an platform to unleash a vitriolic attack on Israel and Jews [see picture].
Through a spokesperson, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia had remained involved in early consultations “to oppose attempts to endorse extreme language or explicit references to the text of the Durban Declaration.” However, Australia would not “support a meeting that chooses to reaffirm the original Durban Declaration, as appears likely.”
The president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Danny Lamm, welcomed the decision, which he had been urging since last November. “We have said that Australia should take no part in a process that remains irredeemably corrupted by racism and by attacks on Israel’s legitimacy as the State of the Jewish people. When a respected middle power democracy like Australia decides to stay away from as high profile an event as Durban III, it sends a powerful message to the international community that the UN Human Rights Council and related organs of the UN General Assembly need to clean up their act.”
Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States have already pulled out of the event, which will be held in New York in September.
Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, is to give a keynote speech at a one-day conference against Durban III in New York, hosted by the Hudson Institute and the Touro College Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Lauder said: “Enemies of Israel have realized that they cannot defeat her on the battlefield. Instead, they have created a strategy that seeks to slowly but deliberately isolate her diplomatically. Durban III is but one example of that strategy. The so-called Gaza Flotilla was yet another chapter, as are current efforts now underway by Iran and other enemies of peace to seek UN approval of unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. These are all parts of a dangerous ploy. One needs only look at this larger issue and you can see how important it is to confront forcefully Durban III.”
‘Durban III’ will be held within days of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. Its organizers point out it is meant to “commemorate” the first Durban conference. “It is difficult to imagine a more cynical, calculated attack on Israel’s integrity than these Durban conferences,” Lauder declared. “I will be joined on the dais by colleagues who represent a broad geo-political spectrum, united as one for the single purpose of confronting this sham. We will do so at a time when Iran’s Ahmadinejad will be addressing the United Nations, filling its chamber with the rantings of an anti-Semite intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and Middle East hegemony. How could we not attend this conference and live with our conscience?”