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Israel to boycott Durban III

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will boycott a meeting at the United Nations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Durban conference on racism.

The U.N. General Assembly voted on Dec. 24 to hold a session in September on "Combating racism and follow-up of the Durban Programme of Action," dubbed Durban III.  The meeting will mark the decennial of the original Durban conference, which was to have addressed institutional racism, but devolved into an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate-fest.

The vote was 104 nations in favor of the resolution and 22 against, with 33 abstentions.

In a statement released Saturday night, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "Under the present circumstances, as long as the meeting is defined as part of the infamous "Durban process," Israel will not participate in the meeting.

"Israel regrets that a resolution on an important subject — elimination of racism — has been diverted and politicized by the automatic majority at the UN, by linking it to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (2001) that many states would prefer to forget. The Durban Conference of 2001, with its anti-Semitic undertones and displays of hatred for Israel and the Jewish World, left us with scars that will not heal quickly," the statement said.

Canada announced last month that it will boycott a Durban III conference. "Canada will not participate in this charade," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at a Nov. 25 news conference. "Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it."

The United States voted against the Durban III resolution. In a statement issued following the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said: “We voted ‘no’ because the Durban Declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated. The United States is fully committed to upholding the human rights of all individuals and to combating racial discrimination, intolerance and bigotry. We stand ready to work with all partners to uphold human rights and fight racism around the world.”

Other countries voting against the resolution were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the United Kingdom. 

Jewish organizations condemned the vote.

"The original Durban conference attempted to validate the perverse theory that Zionism is racism," B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. "Durban’s legacy of hate, intolerance and double standards should never be forgotten, and should certainly never be celebrated."

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called on the international community to boycott the summit. "Responsible nations must take a stand against racism and demonstrate leadership in this fight by disassociating from the Durban process and the September 2011 Durban III conference," he said.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, also weighed in on the issue. "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. "To bring this traveling show of hatred to New York is scandalous and will not advance the noble U.N. mission of defending and protecting human rights.

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