|Update: Durban III Conference, September 2011|
Over the last several weeks, Hadassah representatives have participated in a series of conference calls on the United Nations Durban III Conference, scheduled for September 2011 in New York City. The previous two conferences in 2001 and 2009—purported to be Conferences on Racism—devolved into forums for anti-Semitism and Israel bashing. Another concern is that additional South American countries may use the UN General Assembly meetings, also taking place in New York at that time, as a platform to unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood. Hadassah has joined a task force, under the auspices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which will monitor these issues and coordinate a collective response for the Jewish community.
Please see below for additional background information on theses topics.
Durban I – September 2001
In 2001, the United Nations convened the "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance" in Durban, South Africa—dubbed Durban I. Contrary to the lofty mission enumerated in the conference title, the event marked a week of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rhetoric. Israel and the United States walked out over texts branding Israel as racist and an apartheid state. The final documents of the government, non-governmental organization (NGO) and student forums declared that Israel was guilty of war crimes and reintroduced the charge of "Zionism equals racism".
Durban II – April 2009
The mission of Durban II, convened in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2009, was to review the implementation of the Durban Declaration from the prior conference. Many countries—including Israel, Canada and the United States—boycotted because of fear of continued hostility towards Israel. The keynote speaker, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, condemned Israel as totally racist and accused the West of using the Holocaust as a reason for aggression against Palestinians. Most European countries walked out during the speech.
Durban III – September 2011
On December 24, 2010 the UN General Assembly voted 104 to 22, with 33 abstaining, to convene Durban III. The United States was among the no votes. The conference is billed as a commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Durban I. Many are concerned about the timing because the conference will coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the yearly UN General Assembly meeting. Canada and Israel have already declared that they will not participate, however Israel is remaining low key about this decision so as not to draw additional and unwanted attention to the conference.
The concern with the South American countries is that they may use the General Assembly meeting, following Durban III and the anti-Israel atmosphere, as an opportune time to introduce a resolution unilaterally declaring Palestinian statehood. Five South American countries have already recognized Palestinian statehood (referring to territory pre-1967 borders) in recent weeks. This declaration—part of a campaign to put the United States on the spot and further isolate Israel—would be contrary to all prior agreements and counterproductive for future peace negotiations. The United States has already pledged to veto the resolution if it does come up for a vote. Date: 1/19/2011