Australia to boycott Durban review conference

By Dan Goldberg, August 23, 2011
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Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Australia has joined America, Canada, Israel and several European nations in withdrawing from the controversial UN conference on racism next month.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed Tuesday that she was not convinced that "unbalanced criticism of Israel and the airing of antisemitic views" would be avoided, her spokesperson said.

Australia thus would not send a representative to the meeting in New York, dubbed "Durban III" after the original anti-racism conference in the South African city 10 years ago that was marred by antisemitism, prompting Australia, among other western countries, to walk out.

The Labor government subsequently boycotted the second conference in 2009, during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unleashed a vitriolic attack on Israel and the Jews.

The PM's spokesperson said Australia remained involved in early consultations "to oppose attempts to endorse extreme language or explicit references to the text of the Durban Declaration." But Australia would not be able to "support a meeting that chooses to reaffirm the original Durban Declaration, as appears likely," the spokesperson said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr Danny Lamm welcomed the decision, which he had been urging since last November.

"We have said that Australia should take no part in a process that remains irredeemably corrupted by racism and by attacks on Israel's legitimacy as the State of the Jewish people," he said.

"When a respected middle power democracy like Australia decides to stay away from as high profile an event as Durban III it sends a powerful message to the international community that the UN Human Rights Council and related organs of the UN General Assembly need to clean up their act."

The Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands have also declined to attend.

Last updated: 2:27pm, August 23 2011