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Durban III – An Exodus Begins?

Jul 25, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

Durban III - An Exodus Begins?
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Over the weekend, the Czech Republic, Italy and Holland have all pulled out of the UN’s September 22 meeting to commemorate the 2001 Durban conference, a supposed anti-racism meeting that turned into a mass display of antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda. Canada, Israel and the US have already stated that they will not be attending the “Durban III” summit.

As the explanations for the pullout given by the Czech Republic, Italy and Holland demonstrate, we can expect this years Durban III summit to be a repeat of the first Durban conference in 2001 – which essentially labeled Zionism as racism, and Israel as the world’s only racist state.

The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic had wanted to include in the final statement of the meeting in September “that all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism.”   The Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry said:

“because it is not possible to get such a guarantee, the three countries now see themselves forced to no longer participate in the preparations for the celebration, and also not to attend it”.

The Czech Republic’s move also came three days after UN negotiators circulated a draft of the final declaration that will be adopted at the conclusion of Durban III. The “political declaration” focused on “victims of racism” and it included the Palestinian people listed as victims of racism and names only one state victimizer – Israel.

On July 22 the Italian Foreign Minister made a declaration explaining why Italy will not be participating in the conference, it stated:

“For some time now we have had some reserves [sic] over the exercise known in the UN sphere as the “Durban Process”, because over the years it has been instrumentalised in political terms. The Process has been transformed from a forum for debate on and coordination of international action against racism, discrimination and xenophobia, into a tribunal for accusations against Israel.

It was for this reason more than any other that we decided not to take part in 2009 in the “Durban II” Review Conference.  And it was for that same reason that Italy, along with other Western and European Union countries, voted against convening the event celebrating the 10th anniversary of Durban. This is scheduled to take pace on 22 September 2011 in New York, at Heads of State and Government level.

In the negotiations under way in recent weeks in New York on the content and organisation of September’s event, we therefore took steps, with the EU partners whose thinking reflects ours in this respect, to seek to avoid the shift of emphasis that took place in the conferences of 2001 and 2009. I recall the address by the Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, on that latter occasion, in which, inter alia, he legitimised the Holocaust denial theories. For this reason, we asked for the final document to explicitly recognise that past references, in the context of the Durban Process, to the specific situation of the Middle East are not part of the international commitment against racial discrimination. We feel that any axiomatic linkage between racism and Israel’s defence of its right to exist as a state is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, however, just some weeks before the forthcoming event, I have to say that this request was not accepted. In these circumstances, I feel that the minimum conditions for Italy to take part in the commemoration on 22 September are not in place.

Italy reiterates it commitment to combat racism and all forms of intolerance and discrimination. We continue to view international cooperation in this sector as one of the key instruments to improve the protection and promotion of human rights throughout the world.”

Unfortunately there are other Western countries that have are still participating in Durban III, including some that played a leading the Durban declaration – such as Norway and Switzerland. Hopefully, the decision by the Czech Republic, Holland and Italy will be a wake up call to other nations to now start withdrawing from Durban III in the recognition that – for all its pretence of fighting racism – it is actually perpetuating it.

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