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Special Alert – 19 April 2009

Dear All,

I have dedicated a few of my recent updates to discussing the upcoming Durban Review Conference (dubbed “Durban II”), to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, starting tomorrow. Until now, Australia has held off on a decision on whether to attend, despite withdrawals from the conference by Israel, Canada and Italy.

Today, the Australian Government has finally decided not to attend the conference. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said that the conference will only reaffirm the 2001 conference, which singled out Israel repeatedly. He declared, “Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the review conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views… Of additional concern are the suggestions of some delegations in the Durban process to limit the universal right to free speech (see more here and here).” For FM Smith’s full statement, click here.

This comes on the heels of yesterday’s official withdrawal from the conference by the United States. In February, the US had declared that “the document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable”. Despite these comments, they were holding off until the final text of the Outcomes Document was released before making a final decision in the hope they could make a change. On Saturday the State Department declared “The Obama administration will with regret boycott a UN conference on racism next week over objectionable language in the meeting’s final document that could single out Israel for criticism and restrict free speech.” To read more about the US’ withdrawal from the conference, click here and here.

Italy already withdrew several weeks ago, but other members of the EU are yet to make a decision. The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will meet Sunday evening to evaluate their stance on attending. Czech foreign ministry spokeswoman, Zuzana Opletalova declared, “There are still several member states of the EU that are not decided yet… We are in touch with them and there will be a decision on a common position before the conference starts.” Britain will be attending the conference, but will not be sending any high-level officials (see more).

I will continue to update you as more information comes through.

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Israel Advocacy Analyst
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507