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Monday, March 10, 2008

AJC: Give Durban a chance

The news is:
The "Durban 2" anti-racism conference can still be salvaged, despite recent decisions by Israel and Canada to boycott the gathering, according to David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
...Harris told Haaretz that "we can't afford to declare 'Durban 2' lost without more focus on diplomacy, especially toward the European Union countries and others influenced by them."
Following Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's announcement two weeks ago that Israel would not participate in the United Nation's follow-up Conference against Racism, unless it was made clear that the event would not become a platform for Israel-bashing, there has been a great deal of indecision among international Jewish organizations as to how to deal with "Durban 2."
The first Durban Conference, in 2001, quickly descended into a festival of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity, causing the withdrawal of Israel and the United States from the parley. Over the last few months there has been a great deal of discussion between Israel, western governments, the Jewish Agency and other Jewish organizations on how to prepare for the follow-up conference, slated to take place some time in early 2009.
The fact that the conference is to be organized by the UN Human Rights Council, chaired by Libya, with Cuba as vice-chair, and that its two preparatory meetings are scheduled for Pesach and Yom Kippur, gave little reassurance that the next conference, whose venue has yet to be decided, will be any different from 2001.
A month ago, Canada announced it wasn't going to participate in next year's event, and Israel followed suit soon after.
The AJC's Harris said that it is still "important to focus the attention of world leaders that if this will be a replay of the first Durban Conference, it will undermine the international fight against racism and embarrass the United Nations."
He pointed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's statement of three weeks ago that France will also not participate in the conference if it is "a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001."
Harris and the Israeli government were really saying the same thing, but one is saying the cup is half full, and the other is saying the cup is half empty. Clearly, nobody should be attending the conference if it is going to racist (half empty) and clearly, while there is any chance of preventing another racist debacle, we need to focus on trying to salvage the conference. A good anti-racism conference would be a much greater victory for Israel than a partial boycott of a bad one.
Ami Isseroff

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