President Barack Obama has announced the U.S. will boycott the U.N.’s anti-racism conference, known as Durban II, which convenes today in Geneva, Switzerland, for fear it will serve as a platform for attacking Israel, as happened at the first Durban Conference eight years ago.
It stands as an irony that the follow-up conference to the 2001 Durban Conference on racism convenes the same day as Adolf Hitler’s birthday, the day when Israel holds ceremonies to commemorate the Nazi dictator’s victims.
“I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe,” Mr. Obama said in Trinidad and Tobago yesterday.
“We expressed in the run-up to this conference our concerns that if you adopted all of the language from 2001, that’s not something we can sign up for,” Mr. Obama said. “Hopefully some concrete steps come out of the conference that we can partner with other countries on to actually reduce discrimination around the globe, but this wasn’t an opportunity to do it.”
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Worries about the anti-Israel bias of the conference is heightened by the key roles occupied by Iran and Libya, which view Israel as the main problem in the world and in the Middle East.
That has been the consistent message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has announced he will address the conference. Iran, which leads the world in anti-Semitic rhetoric today, has been designated as the deputy chairman of the conference and Libya, whose leader, Muammar Gaddafi, whose hatred of the Jews is also well-known, heads the conference’s central committee.
Reports yesterday indicated Germany was going to boycott the conference as well.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which includes both Iran and Libya, dominates the representation at this conference. The same group transformed the 2001 conference into an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic gathering.
The OIC is also trying to revise and to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified in 1948, to make human rights subordinate to Islamic Sharia law.
Anne Bayesky, head of EyeOnTheUN.com., issued a strong press statement in Geneva on the eve of the conference: “Your draft words on the Holocaust – the very foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – have been narrowed to the barest mention from previous versions. And if the minor reference survives at all – it will be a testament to your interest in Jews that died 60 years ago, while tolerating and encouraging the murder of Jews in the here and now…”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com