WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has decided to boycott the so-called Durban II conference out of concerns for anti-Semitism.
Multiple sources on a conference call with the White House on Friday told JTA that the Obama administration had opted not to attend any further preparatory meetings ahead of the planned U.N. conference against racism in Geneva in April.
The conference reprises the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa that devolved into an anti-Jewish free-for-all. Canada and Israel have opted not to attend the conference, and some U.S. Jewish groups had been pressing the United States to do the same.
Preparations for a draft document so far have seen Iran leading a coterie of nations blocking inclusion of anything that might guarantee Jewish protections – including mention of the Holocaust – while inserting draconian language guarding Islam against “insult.”
The State Department sent a delegation, including a senior staffer from the American Jewish Committee, to this month’s preparatory talks. The delegation’s conclusions were that the anti-Israel and anti-Western tendencies were too deeply entrenched to excise.
Now that the United States is withdrawing from the conference, European nations are expected to follow.
Speaking for the White House on Friday’s call were Samantha Power and James Warlick, who handle international organizations for, respectively, the national security council and the State Department; and Jennifer Simon, an adviser to Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.