BERLIN (JTA) — Germany is being lauded for boycotting the controversial Durban III U.N. conference against racism planned for later this month in New York.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced the decision Sept. 2, saying the event risked becoming a repeat of the Israel-bashing, anti-Semitic fiasco that marked the first two conferences, held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, and in Geneva in 2009.
Jewish leaders, who considered Germany’s decision key, praised the decision. Among them was Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and he urged France and Britain to follow suit.
The conference is nothing but an "organized show-trial against Israel," Graumann told the German newspaper PNP.
The American Jewish Committee, which frequently meets with representatives of the German government, also praised Germany’s decision to withdraw from the event. Its executive director, David Harris, said he hoped other countries would follow suit.
"What a telling statement that many of the world’s leading democracies have chosen to shun the upcoming Durban conclave — with more to come in the next few weeks, we hope," Harris said in a statement issued after the German announcement.
Anti-Israel groups were widely considered to have hijacked the proceedings at the first two conferences, and international human rights issues appeared to become secondary to Israel bashing. Critics of the conference have noted that conference organizers have generally overlooked human rights abuses reported in Arab countries.
This year, Canada was the first country to announce that it would not attend the 2011 event, which is marking the 10th anniversary of the U.N. World Conference on Racism. Other countries that have joined Canada on the sidelines are the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Israel and Italy. About 40 delegates dropped out of the 2009 conference following what was widely described as a hate speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We oppose the attempts by dictators and despots to use the Durban process to hijack this noble cause," Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch organization, recently said in a statement. The Durban process "was marked by ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and that is not something that should