A bipartisan group of seven House members is expressing its support for the Obama administration’s decision to not attend the Durban II conference later this month in a letter to the president. The group includes the two chairmen of the Congressional Task Force Against Anti-Semitism, Reps. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), as well as Democrats Henry Waxman (Calif.), Shelley Berkley (Nev.), Alcee Hastings (Fla.) and Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)
"We applaud you for making it clear that the United States will not participate in a conference that undermines freedom of expression and is tainted by an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic agenda that questions the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state," writes the group of House members. The full letter is after the jump:
Dear President Obama,
We are writing in support of your administration’s decision to not attend the upcoming Durban Review Conference, which is currently scheduled to take place in Geneva this month.
In 1997, the UN General Assembly authorized the inaugural World Conference Against Racism, seeking to review best practices in eliminating racial discrimination and promoting consciousness of the global struggle against racial intolerance. When the Conference was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, it was intended to mark an important recognition of the historic wounds caused by the transatlantic slave trade, oppression, and the ongoing racism and discrimination that are a consequence. Regrettably, the noble agenda of the Conference was overshadowed and diminished by a conference document and rhetoric that sought to single out Israel for criticism, and brand Israel a racist state, and by blatant displays of anti-Semitism and hatred for Jews in the Conference’s NGO Forum.
The Preparatory Committee for the 2009 Conference, led by Libya and Iran, has met repeatedly since 2007. At the instigation of the Pakistan-led Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Egypt/Algeria/Libya-led Arab League, and the Cuba-led Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the draft documents resulted in a distorted anti-Israel agenda that once again threatened to eclipse a much needed spotlight on racism, slavery and xenophobia.
While the United States made a sincere effort to restore the Durban Review Conference to its stated aim of assessing country commitments to combat racism, American delegates to a recent Preparatory Committee meeting saw that the situation was not salvageable. Even the latest revised draft outcome documents support restrictions on freedom of expression and reaffirm the principles of the 2001 Durban Conference, thereby implicitly endorsing anti-Israel bias. This is unacceptable and distracts from the many human rights violations that are being perpetrated around the world. We applaud you for making it clear that the United States will not participate in a conference that undermines freedom of expression and is tainted by an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic agenda that questions the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.
The world is looking to our country for leadership on many issues, and we thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to effect change and assert U.S. leadership and engagement in the global fight against racism and intolerance.