State’s latest on Durban II


I wonder if the State Department’s latest statement on Durban II will assuage recent concerns about an about-face of the Obama administration’s decision not to go: On the one hand, it is generous in commending the recent changes.

On the other hand, not only does it essentially say "Not good enough -yet," it cites precisely the reason that Jewish groups have in objecting to attending the U.N. racism review conference in Geneva later this month: The draft outcome document must not even implicitly affirm the first conference’s fierce anti-Israel hostility through a generic nod to the 2001 event, which devolved into an anti-Jewish free-for-all.

On the third hand, there is that "yet," albeit with just six days left to decide whether to attend.

Anyway, here’s the State Department statement in its entirety:

Robert Wood
Acting Department Spokesman,  Office of the Spokesman
Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
April 13, 2009

The United States welcomes the recent progress that has been made through the efforts of many delegations, governments and officials in the formulation of the draft outcome document for the Durban Review Conference on April 20. As the United States noted on February 27, the previous draft text contained objectionable language in several areas. Since then, substantial improvements have been made, including shortening the document, removing all language that singled out any one country or conflict, and removing language that embraced the concept of "defamation of religion" and that demanded reparations for slavery. We commend those who have worked to effect these changes.

There remain, however, elements of the current draft text that continue to pose significant concerns. The U.S. believes any viable text for the Review Conference must be shortened and not reaffirm "in toto" the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA). In addition, while references to "defamation of religion" have been removed from the current draft text, we cannot support restrictions on freedom of expression that could result from some of the document’s language related to "incitement" to religious hatred — a concept that the United States believes should be narrow and clearly defined and made consistent with human rights obligations ensuring freedom of expression.

We appreciate that many delegations continue to work hard in good will to improve the current text. We hope that these remaining concerns will be addressed, so that the United States can re-engage the conference process with the hope of arriving at a Conference document that we can support.

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