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Durban III, also known as the "World Conference against Racism",[1] is a United Nations (UN) scheduled conference to be held in New York City in mid-September, 2011.[2] Initially mandated in 2009 by General Assembly (GA) Resolution 64/148 to commemmorate the UN Durban Conference on its tenth anniversary, it was given additional form and visibility by a GA Third Committee draft resolution adopted on 24 November 2010.[3]

The Durban conferences have previously been criticized by Western governments for allegedly promoting rather than combating racism. The Canadian government has already announced its intention to boycott the upcoming conference over concerns, voiced by other critics as well, that the original Durban Conference and the Durban II conference promoted racism and antisemitism and that the present summit would do the same.

Canadian boycott

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Jason Kenney

On 25 November 2010, shortly after the conference was declared, Canada announced that it would not be attending and that the country had lost faith in the United Nations' human rights process. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said: "The original Durban Conference, and its declaration, as well as the non-governmental activities associated with it, proved to be a dangerous platform for racism, including antisemitism," also stating that "Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it," and "Canada will not participate in this charade. We will not lend our good name to this Durban hatefest." [4][5][6]

The boycott declaration was supported by the opposition. Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the main opposition party in the Canadian Parliament, issued the following statement:

I unequivocally support the decision to boycott the Durban III conference, taking place in New York next September. The first Durban conference, which the proposed Durban III conference seeks to commemorate, turned into a festival of racism against Israel and the Jewish people that Canada was right to condemn. Sadly, while a decade has passed, the Durban conferences remain a staging ground for antisemitic and anti-Israel statements. Canada should absolutely not participate in the Durban III conference or countenance in any way these hateful views. In light of this disturbing trend, the conferences cannot be seen as legitimate forums capable of facilitating honest discussions about racism. Combating both racism and antisemitism is a global responsibility, and as a steadfast defender of the principles of equality and dignity for all persons, Canada must not participate in Durban III.[7]

Canada had also been the first country to announce that it would boycott the Durban II conference, over similar concerns. At the time, it was followed by nine other western countries. Kenney said that his country's decision to boycott the earlier event was vindicated when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used it as a vehicle for Holocaust denial, racism, xenophobia and the promotion of hatred, saying: "Despite the fact that the Durban declaration and its follow-up have served, frankly, to fuel bigotry, the General Assembly has chosen to repeat and even augment the mistakes of the past." Members of the Canadian delegation to the original Durban Conference stayed to the end but said they did so only to decry the attempts to de-legitimize Israel, and issued a statement dissociating Canada from the final agreement.[8]

American reaction

United States representative John Sammis stated to the UN committee that the event "risks undermining the relationship we have worked hard to strengthen over the past few years between the United States and the UN."[2]

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said: "We all witnessed how extreme antisemitic and anti-American voices took over Durban I and Durban II, and we should expect the same thing to happen with Durban III... I appreciate the Obama Administration’s strong statement opposing yesterday’s resolution, and urge it to again withdraw from the event and encourage other nations to do the same."[1]

On 23 November, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the Obama administration to "announce publicly, right now, that we will stay away from Durban III, deny it US taxpayer dollars, and oppose all measures that seek to facilitate it. And we should encourage other responsible nations to do the same."[2]

On 17 December, Gillibrand led a group of 18 senators, consisting of 11 Democrats and 7 Republicans, who sent a letter to US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice urging her to refrain from participating in the conference. The senators wrote: "It is important that the United States send a strong signal that another anti-Semitic and anti-American Durban Conference particularly held so close to the tenth anniversary and location of the worst terrorist attack in American history is unacceptable".[9][10]

Other views

Human rights scholar Anne Bayefsky criticized the timing and location of the conference, in New York City several days after the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as "pour[ing] salt in the wounds of still grieving Americans." Bayefsky noted that "crowds at Durban I held high their signs reading: 'For the liberation of Quds, machine-guns based upon faith and Islam must be used,' and 'The martyr’s blood irrigates the tree of revolution in Palestine,'" stating that "the obvious connection between hate and terror, or incitement to violence and violence itself, is either irrelevant to the UN or part of the plan."[2]

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Fiamma Nirenstein

Italian Vice President of the Committee of Foreign Affairs Fiamma Nirenstein, who covered the original Durban Conference as a journalist, wrote that Durban III reconfirms the "extremely violent platform" of the earlier summit, in which "Jews wearing kippahs had to protect themselves against the demonstrators toting portraits of Bin Laden and hounding the Jews. The Jewish centers in the city were stormed and closed; and the press conference of the Israeli delegation was violently assaulted and interrupted." She stated that "re-approving the Durban document means... reviving manifestations of hate in which the swastika and the Star of David overlap and the hunting season on Jews is declared open, the result being an exponential growth in antisemitic incidents. This makes many people very happy."[11]

Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post editorialized that the conference would further reduce the little respect and credibility the UN had left, saying that the summit "will undoubtedly become a clearinghouse for vitriolic anti-Semitism", and that "it would be downright evil to hold another hate fest against the West as Americans commemorate the loss of loved ones murdered by terrorists in the 9/11 attacks."[12]

References

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