Pillay calls Durban II accusations ‘unwarranted’


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United Nations human rights chief said accusations that an upcoming racism conference will turn into an anti-Semitic hate-fest are unfounded.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council Monday that media reports and lobbying against the upcoming meeting in Geneva, dubbed Durban II, by some organizations is "unwarranted."

Pillay made her remarks just two days after the United States said it would pull out over references to Israel and religion in the draft conference document. Israel and Canada had said already that they were not attending the conference in April.

"I am fully aware that the legacy of the 2001 Durban Conference has been tainted by the anti-Semitic behavior of some NGOs at the sidelines of that conference," Pillay said. "And now the Geneva review conference has also been the target of a disparaging media and lobbying campaign on the part of those who fear a repetition of anti-Semitic outbursts."

The 2001 human rights meeting in Durban, South Africa, singled Israel out for criticism and compared Zionism to racism. Israel and the United States walked out.

The United States sent representatives to a preparatory meeting to write a draft document for the conference, but announced after the meeting that it would boycott in April.

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