Australia withdraws from Durban III


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Australia has withdrawn from the upcoming U.N. conference on racism over concerns of Israel-bashing.

The government said it was not convinced that “unbalanced criticism of Israel and the airing of anti-Semitic views” would be avoided, and therefore withdrew.

The conference has been dubbed Durban III, after the original anti-racism conference in the South African city in 2001 that was marred by anti-Semitism and Israel bashing. Back then, Australia, among other Western countries, walked out.

Australia subsequently boycotted a follow-up conference in Geneva in 2009, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used as an opportunity to unleash a vitriolic attack on Israel and Jews.

A spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia remained involved in early consultations “to oppose attempts to endorse extreme language or explicit references to the text of the Durban Declaration.” But Australia would not be able to “support a meeting that chooses to reaffirm the original Durban Declaration, as appears likely,” the spokesman said.

The president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Danny Lamm, welcomed the decision, which he had been urging since last November.

“We have said that Australia should take no part in a process that remains irredeemably corrupted by racism and by attacks on Israel’s legitimacy as the State of the Jewish people,” he said. “When a respected middle power democracy like Australia decides to stay away from as high profile an event as Durban III, it sends a powerful message to the international community that the U.N. Human Rights Council and related organs of the U.N. General Assembly need to clean up their act.”

Australia joins the United States, Canada, Israel, the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands in declining to attend.

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