Durban II revised text studied: Jewish leaders call for Australia’s withdrawal

March 23, 2009 by J-Wire
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The President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert M Goot AM SC and the President of the Zionist Federation Philip Chester have studied the latest draft for the Durban II Conference and today urged the Australian Government to now withdraw.

J-Wire publishes their joint statement in full following the March 17 publication of  the most recent Draft Outcome Document from the Chair of the Working Group Yuri Boychenko (the Boychenko Draft).

From Robert Goot and Philip Chester

“When we met recently with the Foreign Minister, he said that in the absence of substantial improvement in the text of the Draft Outcome Document, Australia would not participate in Durban 11, but  he expressed interest in seeing what text might emerge from the Chair of the Working Group (Yuri Boychenko).

“We have now seen the Boychenko Draft text and it must be acknowledged that it is a significant improvement on the version in circulation from 20 February 2009, which we discussed with the Foreign Minister.

“Significantly however, the Boychenko Draft contains a statement, as an agreed paragraph 1 which ‘reaffirms’ the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) as it was adopted at Durban in 2001 (Durban 1)”.

ZFA President Philip Chester

ZFA President Philip Chester

“The Israeli and the American delegations withdrew from Durban 1 over the demonizing language (“apartheid”, “war crimes”, etc. in the draft declaration). The “compromise text”, negotiated by Canada and the Europeans, still singled out Israel. It emphasized “the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation”, recognized “the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”, and promoted the claim to a “right of return”.

“An endorsement of this discriminatory language at the Durban 11 Conference would reinforce the damage done eight years ago at Durban.

It was that language led the Australian Government’s representative at Durban I to make the following statement on 8 September 2001, in relation to the adoption of the final document and report of the Conference:

Australia is unequivocal in its opposition to racism in all its forms and is committed to strong action at all levels to combat

it, both domestically and internationally, and this was reflected in the approach we took to this World Conference.

We regret that far too much of our time has been consumed by bitter divisive exchanges on issues which have done nothing to advance the cause of combating racism.  This has been particularly evident in respect of the debate about the Middle East.  Despite the great efforts of many delegations, including that of Australia, to achieve a balanced text, the references to the Middle East contain language which will do nothing to achieve greater peace in that troubled region and nothing to advance the objectives of this Conference.

We have some specific reservations on the text we are about to adopt which we would like to be included in the record of the meeting in the same manner as that requested by the Canadian delegation.  In relation to the second paragraph…of your text on the Middle East, my delegation believes that this paragraph deals with a political situation, and has no place in the outcomes of the World Conference, which is on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance…. my delegation believes that this language undermines the agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, as the representative of the Palestinian people, which aim to achieve a just settlement of the refugee problem, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, through direct negotiation to resolve all outstanding final status issues….”

“In light of those statements and the fact that paragraphs 63-65 and 115 of the Document adopted at Durban I, single out Israel amongst all of the worlds nation states for criticism as a racist state, and in light of the principled statement by the Australian Government’s representative at Durban 1, we assume that notwithstanding its advances, the Boychenko Draft does not represent the substantially improved text or the qualitatively improved text to which the Australian Government aspires.

”In this latter respect, we note that the Dutch Foreign Minister, Maxime Verhagen has produced an even more truncated version of a Draft Outcome Document which does not reaffirm the DDPA.

“We would urge the Australian Government to actively support the Dutch Draft Outcome Document.

“We once again urge the Australian government to withdraw now from the Durban II Conference, notwithstanding the Boychenko draft.  That draft, by reaffirming the DDPA, in fact re-runs Durban I, which as the Foreign Minister noted on ABC Radio on 18 March 2009, was “essentially an anti-Israeli, antisemitic harangue.” Withdrawal now will send an important message to the world including those countries which look to Australia to provide leadership.”

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