Talking Durban II with the administration


White House and State Department officials held a conference call with U.S. Jewish leaders on Monday to explain why it decided to participate in planning discussions for a controversial United Nations conference on racism.

Participants on the call, the content of which was off-the-record, said the session provided an opportunity for the Obama administration to detail its policy and for Jewish leaders to ask questions about the decision to send a delegation to this week’s consultations in preparation for the April UN World Conference Against Racism in Geneva. The conference has been referred to as Durban II, in reference to the 2001 conference in South Africa — which served primarily as a vehicle to attack Israel — and which the U.S. boycotted.

A State Department press release Saturday evening said the administration was participating in this week’s talks in order to "change the direction" in which the conference is heading and was not an indication that it would participate in the actual conference.

"It was an opportunity for Jewish leaders to share our feelings and concerns," said Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

"The purpose was to have a dialogue with American Jewish leaders in order to keep us abreast of where the administration stands," said William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of United Jewish Communities’ Washington office.

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