Australia urged to skip Durban II


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Australia’s Jewish leaders are urging the federal government to boycott a United Nations conference against racism.

In a resolution passed unanimously Monday at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s annual conference in Sydney, the council said Australia should join Israel and Canada in withdrawing from the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Geneva because it “strongly believes” Australia will not be able to positively influence the outcome.

The conference scheduled to be held next year is a review of the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism, which was held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 and degenerated into “virulent anti-Semitic behavior,” according to the council.

The council in its resolution, which was sent Tuesday to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, said it believed the “worst elements from the Durban I conference may be included or even accentuated” in Geneva, which has been dubbed "Durban II."

The working document produced ahead of the 2009 conference singles out Israel for unwarranted criticism, the resolution said.

Although the council commends the “principled stand” adopted by Australia in opposing any budget allocation for Durban II, it notes the “high possibility” that the conference will “constitute an unwarranted and illegitimate attack on Western democratic freedoms, international human rights law, and an attack on Israel.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last month that the government was concerned that anti-Semitism could mar the conference, but that Australia had not yet decided whether to attend.

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