The Globe and Mail
Mon 25 Feb 2008
Section: National News
Byline: Omar El Akkad
OTTAWA — Following Canada’s lead, Israel announced yesterday it will not attend the sequel to a UN-sponsored anti-racism conference decried by a Canadian MP as an anti-Semitic "gong show."
Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni praised Canada yesterday for withdrawing its support from the so-called Durban II conference in South Africa.
"The Canadian decision, at this early stage, undoubtedly will shake the entire foundation of those wishing to repeat the 2001 Durban Conference once again," the minister said, according to speaking notes.
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban was seen by several nations as deteriorating into a flurry of anti-Semitism.
Both the United States and Israel left the conference to protest against draft texts calling Israel an apartheid state for its treatment of Palestinians (the language was later dropped). The Canadian delegation stayed, but only to decry the proceedings.
Durban II is scheduled to take place in South Africa next year. However, last month, Canada withdrew its support for the conference.
In an interview yesterday, Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, said he has seen no evidence to suggest next year’s conference won’t be a repeat of 2001’s .
"We came to the conclusion that it was unsalvageable," he said. "[On the issue of withdrawing from the conference], we thought it would be better to lead than follow."
Mr. Kenney pointed to the appointment of countries such as Libya and Iran to senior conference organizing positions, and the scheduling of events during Jewish high holidays, as evidence the conference will again become a forum for anti-Semitism.