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Next Up at the UN: Durban III

Samara Greenberg

The United Nations General Assembly voted on Friday to hold a summit commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism by a vote of 104 to 22, with 33 abstentions. That conference on racism, known as the “Durban” conference for the city in which it was located, is famous for devolving into an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate-fest that likened Zionism to racism and Israel to an apartheid state, prompting the United States and Israel to walk out.

Durban I’s anti-Semitic atmosphere also prompted nine states to boycott its follow-up meeting, or Durban II, held in 2009, including the United States, Israel, Germany, and Canada. That event – whose preparatory committee was chaired by Libya and vice-chaired by Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba – issued a draft declaration before the conference accusing the U.S., Israel, Western Europe and other liberal democracies of having racist policies and discriminating against Islam.

A flyer distributed at the 2001 Durban Conference.

Needless to say, routine human rights abuses throughout the Muslim world were never mentioned in the declaration.

Israel and Canada have already announced they will not attend the 2011 commemoration meeting, now being called Durban III. And while the U.S. rightly voted against holding the conference last Friday at the UN, it has yet to clarify whether or not it will boycott the meeting. But it should, and soon. Indeed, Washington’s delay in formally cancelling its participation in Durban II until 48 hours before the conference blocked efforts to build a large coalition of democracies prepared to boycott the event. This 2011 commemoration provides yet another opportunity for the White House to do something it has been reluctant to do in recent years: Behave like a leader.