US boycotts UN racism conference

Durban conference

Washington has confirmed it will boycott a UN forum on racism in Geneva next week because of differences over Israel and the right to free speech.

The state department said the proposed text of the conference’s guiding document remained unacceptable despite having been amended significantly. The US and Israel quit a similar forum in Durban in 2001 when its draft document likened Zionism to racism. Current language about “incitement to religious hatred” also alarms the US.

Pro-Israel groups vehemently opposed participation while human rights advocates and organisations like TransAfrica and members of the Congressional Black Caucus thought it was important to attend. Immediately after the announcement, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who heads the black caucus in Congress, said the group was “deeply dismayed” by the boycott.

BBC News, 18 April 2009

For the background, see “West fears Muslim countries will hijack UN Geneva racism conference”, Guardian, 17 April 2009

The amended draft statement for the Durban review conference can be consulted (pdf) here.

Paragraph 13, to which the Obama administration objects, says that the conference:

“Reaffirms that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law; reaffirms further that all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts shall be declared offence punishable by law, in accordance with the international obligations of States and that these prohibitions are consistent with freedom of opinion and expression.”

From which we can only conclude that the US government defends the right to promote “religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

Update:  BBC News reports that Australia and the Netherlands have joined the US, Israel and Canada in boycotting the conference.

And now Germany too.

Further update:  The Telegraph backs Obama and demands to know why Gordon Brown doesn’t follow his example: “Durban II will be little more than a celebration of the alliance between anti-Western leftists and Islamists. Countries that take civil rights seriously are right to stay away. Why is Britain not among them?”