The session is planned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism that took place in Durban, South Africa. That conference degenerated into a wildly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel melee that showcased the United Nations at its worst.
“There is simply no reason to commemorate such a vile display as the original Durban conference,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The United States is making a bold statement that the singling out of Israel will not be tolerated. We hope other nations will also recognize that such anti-Israel behavior has no place at a global venue and will also decline to take part.” Canada and Israel had already announced they would not participate.
B’nai B’rith delegates and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) walked out of the original conference and corresponding NGO forums as these quickly came to embody frightening expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments.
In a letter on June 1 to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the U.S. State Department wrote: “The United States will not participate in the Durban Commemoration. In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated.” The letter also noted: “The United States is fully committed to upholding the human rights of all people and to combating racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, and bigotry.”
At its recent Board of Governors meeting in New York, B’nai B’rith leaders passed a resolution urging “all United Nations member-states not to participate in the Durban III conference in September.” The resolution noted that “throughout the Durban process, the important goal of addressing and combating racism has been hijacked by those who seek to demonize the State of Israel, and any event that is meant to glorify or reaffirm the process or the outcome documents will certainly be doomed to repeat this history.”
“In 2009 in Geneva, Durban II—a review of the conclusions of the original conference—included Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a speaker,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Obviously the United Nations is not capable of considering the very serious topic of racism in a meaningful way. If history is our guide, then this Durban conference will ignore the very real and dangerous issues of racism and intolerance in the world. It’s truly a shame that these vital issues get usurped time and again.”
B’nai B’rith mobilized the largest multinational Jewish NGO delegations to both the 2001 and 2009 conferences.
Active at the U.N. since it was founded, B’nai B’rith closely monitors events at the world body.