February 26, 2009 | Press Release

FDD Praises President Obama for Withdrawing U.S. from U.N. Durban Review Conference

Washington, D.C. (February 27, 2009) – The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) today applauded the decision by the Obama administration to withdraw from the United Nations' Durban Review Conference.

The conference, scheduled for April 20-24 in Geneva, is a follow-up to the U.N.'s World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, which became notorious for its strident anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western attacks.

“This is unquestionably the right decision,” said FDD President Clifford May. “It sends a message that racism and hatred must not be tolerated in any of its guises — not least when that racism and hatred is used to justify terrorist attacks around the world. We hope that Europe follows the lead of the United States and Canada in refusing to participate.”

FDD journalist-in-residence Claudia Rosett has chronicled problems with the Durban II conference preparation: “Increasingly, the organizers are also priming the conference for a broader attack on other democratic nations, especially the U.S. Some are pushing for a U.N.-backed gag order that would enlist Islamic anti-blasphemy laws to stifle free speech worldwide,” she wrote in Forbes. She also highlighted the hypocrisy of Iran, Libya and other human rights abusers leading the conference planning. (For more of Claudia Rosett's writing on the Durban Review Conference, please click here.)

FDD's Executive Director Mark Dubowitz highlighted the threat to free speech from Durban II in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Europe:

“The likely outcome of Durban II will be to urge all U.N. member states to pass legislation restricting basic freedoms of speech and action — all in the interest of preventing 'Islamophobia.' The discrimination or defamation of Muslims, or of any other group for that matter, is of course reprehensible. But 'Islamophobia,' as defined by Libya, Iran and the other Durban II organizers, covers any criticism of Islam, Muslims or their actions. If the leaders of these countries have it their way, writing op-eds criticizing Islamic radicalism, or speaking out against Muslim terrorists or, of course, publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, are soon to be considered criminal examples of racism.”

Durban I was intended to develop an international plan to combat global racism, though it quickly proved to be a platform for legitimizing terrorism.

The late Representative Tom Lantos, a member of the American delegation to Durban I, and prominent human rights advocate, 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.”

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.

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