US will boycott Durban II: Update

Friday, February 27th, 2009

James Besser in Washington

UPDATE: JTA just reported that the administration is withdrawing from participation in the Durban II conference, a move expected to clear the way for several European nations to do the same (full story here).

Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) praised the move, announced in a conference call with Jewish leaders this afternoon,  calling it a “swift and clear-eyed decision (that)  demonstrates that the U.S. government speaks with a consistent moral voice against the singling out of Israel for condemnation in the United Nations, and is determined to engage in a fight against racism that is free from the politicization and hatred that has plagued the Durban Review Conference process.

There was talk in Washington this morning that the Obama administration is nearing a decision on the controversial Durban II conference on racism – and that the decision probably won’t please planners of the session, scheduled for April in Geneva.

Recently the administration rejected the advice of the ADL and several other Jewish groups and announced it would send a delegation to preliminary talks laying out working papers and an agenda for the conference. While conceding that the conference was shaping up as a rerun of a 2001 session that turned into a festival of Israel bashing and outright anti-Semitism, administration officials expressed the hope they could change that and help turning Durban II into a conference that genuinely examined issues of racism and xenophobia worldwide.

That decision ignited outrage from the Jewish right, which accused the administration of selling Israel out, but most major Jewish leaders said they understood the decision and would support it – as long as administration officials stuck to the red lines they laid out in their initial statement.

In  recent days it’s become clearer their effort to modify the conference has not worked; today there is talk in Washington that the administration may getting ready to walk away from the conference.

That could be the subject of a conference call with Jewish leaders later today.

Asked about the call, Jewish Council for Public Affairs Washington director Hadar Susskind said he did not know what the administration was planning, but predicted  “they will be true to what they said all along: that they wanted to engage to see if they could move this conference in a positive direction, and if they  can’t, they will remove the United States from that process. My sense is that they are getting very near that point.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.