Australia withdraws from Durban III over Israel-bashing fears

Australia has withdrawn from the upcoming United Nations conference on racism over concerns of Israel-bashing.

The government was not convinced that “unbalanced criticism of Israel and the airing of anti-Semitic views” would be avoided, and therefore withdrew, it announced.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed Tuesday that Australia had decided not to attend the meeting in New York next month.

It has been dubbed “Durban III” after the original anti-racism conference in the South African city in 2001 that was marred by anti-Semitism, prompting Australia, among other western countries, to walk out. The Labor government subsequently boycotted the second conference in 2009, during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unleashed a vitriolic attack on Israel and the Jews.

Gillard’s spokesperson said Australia remained involved in early consultations “to oppose attempts to endorse extreme language or explicit references to the text of the Durban Declaration.”

But Australia would not be able to “support a meeting that chooses to reaffirm the original Durban Declaration, as appears likely,” the spokesperson said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr. Danny Lamm welcomed the decision, which he had been urging since last November.“We have said that Australia should take no part in a process that remains irredeemably corrupted by racism and by attacks on Israel’s legitimacy as the State of the Jewish people,” he said.

“When a respected middle power democracy like Australia decides to stay away from as high profile an event as Durban III it sends a powerful message to the international community that the U.N. Human Rights Council and related organs of the U.N. General Assembly need to clean up their act.”

Australia joins the United States, Canada, Israel, the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands in declining to attend.