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.”
Here is the Jewish Week blog post from this morning that foreshadowed this move:
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.
I would guess a more official word from the White House or State Department (Hillary Clinton?) should be following. Right?
Update: Ben Smith has more at Politico where he identifies the White House aides who indicated the pullout and states that President Obama is expected to make a statement about the boycott sometime this afternoon.
H/t to Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece at The Atlantic on speaking with Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father, about the upcoming conference.
Cross-posted from Writes Like She Talks.