The UK will join the US, Canada and Australia in boycotting the UN event marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, which featured antisemitic messages, the Foreign Office said Monday.
'Following historic concerns regarding antisemitism, the UK has decided not to attend the UN’s Durban Conference anniversary event later this year,' a Foreign Office representative said.
The UK did not attend the Durban anniversary event in 2011 for the same reason.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, praised the decision not to attend the Durban IV conference. The September conference is the 'commemoration of a supposedly anti-racism conference, which itself was antisemitic,' she said.
'We will always support the fight against racism, but this must include opposing antisemitism in all its forms,' van der Zyl said.
MP Stephen Crabb and Lord Eric Pickles, chairmen of the Conservative Friends of Israel; and Lord Stuart Polak, the group’s honorary president, welcomed the decision. It is 'absolutely right that the UK is joining our close allies Australia, Canada and the US in condemning the infamous gathering,' they said in a joint statement. 'We applaud this latest decisive action from the UK Government in opposing antisemitism in all its forms wherever it occurs.'
Those organizations, as well as the Jewish Leadership Council, wrote to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in recent months, calling on him to boycott the event because of it being a 'hostile showcase for open antisemitism.'
The US last month said it would not attend the Durban Review Conference on September 22 due to 'concerns over the Durban process’s anti-Israel sentiment, use as a forum for antisemitism and freedom of expression issues.'
Soon after, Canada said it was 'concerned that the Durban Process has and continues to be used to push for anti-Israel sentiment and as a forum for antisemitism.'
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he 'will not associate Australia with one-sided and contentious language that singles out Israel or an event that champions such language.'
Earlier this month, Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said he plans to hold an alternative event to the Durban conference that will deal with combating racism, including antisemitism.
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, also known as Durban I, after the South African city in which it took place, was a hotbed of antisemitic and anti-Israel messages and was where the accusation of apartheid against Israel was popularized.
An early draft of the resolution adopted at the Governmental Conference at Durban equated Zionism with racism, leading the US and Israel to withdraw from the conference. The final draft did not condemn Zionism as racist, but the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the only one listed specifically under the section on 'victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.'
The NGO Forum at Durban approved a resolution calling Israel a 'racist apartheid state' and accusing it of genocide. Antisemitic materials, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, were distributed at the event.
Durban conference secretary-general Mary Robinson refused to accept the document over the language, saying that 'there was horrible antisemitism present.'
France is also expected to pull out, a diplomatic source said last month, but it has not yet issued an official statement. A German Foreign Ministry official said Berlin had yet to decide on the matter.
The US did not participate in the Durban II and III follow-up conferences in 2009 and 2011, respectively, because the original conference “became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive,” president Barack Obama said in 2009.
Israel, Canada, Italy, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland also boycotted the conference. In 2011, for Durban III, the number of countries boycotting rose to 14."