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Durban II draft drops Israel criticism

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Specific criticism of Israel was dropped from a draft resolution prepared for a United Nations-sponsored anti-racism conference.

The new draft resolution for the Durban II conference, to be distributed to government ministers this week, does not single out Israel for criticism but still speaks of concern about negative stereotyping of religions. It also does not include a provision backed by Muslim countries that criticizes "defamation of religion."

The new draft, obtained by JTA, comes amid recent threats from the European Union, Germany and Australia to boycott the Durban Review Conference unless the resolution is more balanced, and avoids the high level of anti-Israel sentiment associated with the original 2001 Durban anti-racism conference.

Israel and Canada already have said they will not attend the conference, scheduled for April in Geneva. The United States and Italy also have said they will not attend unless the resolution is more balanced.

The original resolution singled out Israel as having racist policies and called it an occupying power. The draft also included five paragraphs devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The elimination of references to Israel and other specific countries, and the striking of the "defamation of religion" passage do meet some of the Obama administration’s conditions for participation in the conference laid out in late Feburary. But the new text reaffirms the concluding document of the first Durban conference, which singled out the "plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation."

"A significant effort has been made to clean up the text, but problems remain," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said on a Jewish Community Relations Council of New York conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Neuer said, however, that the changes would likely make it easier for some countries that had been considering boycotting to make the decision to participate.

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