January 22, 2008 | Press Release

FDD Applauds Canada’s Withdrawal from Anti-Western, Anti-Semitic U.N. Conference

Washington, D.C. (January 23, 2008) – The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) applauds the Canadian government’s decision today to withdraw from the United Nations’ Durban Review Conference.   

The conference, scheduled for 2009, is a follow-up to the U.N.’s third World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, which became notorious for its strident anti-Semitic and anti-Western attacks.


FDD asked the Canadian government to consider its participation in a letter delivered to Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney.  The letter, signed by FDD President Clifford D. May and Roberta Bonazzi, Executive Director of the European Foundation for Democracy, thanked Canada for voting against funding for the conference in the U.N. General Assembly and added:


        Durban II, should it move forward, would promote hatred and discrimination under the UN banner, undermining the values upon         which the UN was formed. It would bring shame to those associated in any way with the conference. …


        We applaud your stance against this conference, which is an affront both to liberalism and modernity as well as Canadian                     interests. Given the present concerns, we ask your government to review all the options available to it to ensure the hatred of             Durban I is not provided with a credible, international forum. Participation, funding and public support are all elements that we             hope enter into that discussion.


On December 22, 2007, 40 countries joined Canada in voting against the use of General Assembly funds for the Durban II conference.


“Canada has taken a courageous step,” said Clifford May.  “Its withdrawal sends a message that racism and hatred will not be tolerated in any of its guises, especially when that racism and hatred is used to validate and justify terrorist attacks against civilians.”


Durban I was intended to develop an international plan to combat global racism, though it quickly proved to be a platform for anti-Semitism and attacks against the United States and Israel.


Representative Tom Lantos, a member of the American delegation to Durban I and current chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Congress, said at the time, “Having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand, this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period.”


Colin Powell, then U.S. Secretary of State, withdrew the U.S. delegation, telling the U.N. organizers: “You do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism;’ or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world — Israel — for censure and abuse.”


FDD Journalist-In-Residence Claudia Rosett has chronicled problems with the Durban II conference preparation:


“The U.N. preparatory committee is chaired by Libya, and among the other 19 members are Iran, Pakistan, Cameroon, Russia, and Cuba — none of them run by regimes known for their contributions to tolerance and human dignity,” she wrote in the December 21 National Review Online (her exposés on Durban II can be found here and here).


The conference planners have emphasized their desire to see Durban II focus on Israel and also include close examinations of “Western forms of racism,” including NATO operations in Afghanistan and Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad.


The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy institute focused exclusively on promoting pluralism, defending democratic values and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism.  Formed just weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks, FDD uniquely combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism training, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of these goals.  For more information, please visit www.defenddemocracy.org.


A copy of the letter sent to the Canadian ministers can be found here.