Jewish group confident in Obama plans on ‘Durban II’


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The foreign policy umbrella for U.S. Jews expressed confidence in the Obama administration’s handling of the so-called Durban II conference.

The new administration stirred anxieties in the pro-Israel community when it announced earlier this month that it would participate in preparations for the U.N.’s Durban Review Conference in April.

The conference, scheduled to take place in Geneva, is meant to review the status of the struggle against racism eight years after the first U.N. anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001. That conference devolved into an anti-Jewish free-for-all, and preparatory meetings until now have suggested that the Geneva review conference poses the risk of a repeat performance, with Iran leading a coterie of nations in insisting on removal of references to the Holocaust.

On Thursday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement saying that it was reassured, "after a series of meetings with key administration officials," that the Obama administration would make the right decision.

"We believe that the administration is engaged in a serious process relative to the Durban conference with full recognition of the concerns of the community," said the joint statement by Conference Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice-Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein. "We know that many European countries are waiting for the U.S. decision, which we believe will be forthcoming."

Solow, who has been a major backer of Obama for more than a decade, assumed the Conference chairmanship in January.

European nations are said to be looking to the U.S. lead on whether to participate in the April conference. The U.S. delegation to the Geneva preparatory meeting from Feb. 16-19 returned without coming to a decision.

"The work done this week will be important information for taking these decisions," the delegation said in a statement.

The statement said the delegation "consulted with 30 national delegations from every region to outline our concerns with the current outcome document and to explore whether there exists the possibility for progress in re-shaping the" conference’s draft document" and tenor of the discussions."

As it currently stands, the draft document "singles out Israel for criticism, places unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression under the guise of defaming religion, and calls for payment of reparations for slavery," the delegation’s statement said.

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