A bipartisan coalition of 18 U.S. Senators, led by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, today urged United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice to refrain from participating in the United Nation's Durban III World Conference Against Racism, citing concerns that the conference will once again serve as a forum for anti-Semitic and anti-American demonstrations. The Senators also expressed disappointment with the United Nation's decision to hold the conference in New York City on September 21st, 2011, just days after the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
"It is an insult to America that the United Nations has decided to hold the Durban III conference in New York City just days from the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks," said Senator Gillibrand. "We all witnessed how extreme anti-Semitic and anti-American voices took over Durban I and Durban II and we should expect the same thing to happen with Durban III. I urge the Obama Administration to withdraw from the event and encourage other nations to do the same."
In what should have been a major step towards eradicating racism worldwide, in 2001, the General Assembly of the United Nations held the first World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Offences in Durban, South Africa. Despite its noble goals, the conference became a platform for anti-Semitic and anti-American demonstrations. Last year's Durban II was also marred by demonstrations of prejudice, forcing delegation from the U.S. and other nations to withdraw from the conference.
On November 23, 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations announced its decision to hold the Durban III World Conference Against Racism in New York City, on September 21st, 2011. Concerned that this conference will meet a similar fate as the previous two, U.S. Senators wrote a letter to the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, urging her to remove the United States from participating in this conference.
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), James E. Risch (R-ID), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Dan Inouye (D-HI), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).
The Senators' Full Letter to U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Rice:
Dear Ambassador Rice,
We write to express our dismay regarding the United Nations decision on November 23, 2010 to hold the Durban III World Conference Against Racism in New York City on September 21, 2011, just days after the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
We appreciate the United States' strong statement opposing the resolution on Durban III. However, we urge you to again refrain from participating in the conference as long as it undermines the very goal of fighting discrimination with a demonstration of anti-Semitism. We applaud the Canadian government's decision to boycott the event. We believe that the United States ought to demonstrate leadership on these issues by removing itself from association with Durban III and encouraging other nations to do the same.
Unfortunately last year the 2009 U.N. Durban Review Conference Against Racism (Durban II) proved to be a repeat of the 2001 controversial summit as extreme anti-Semitic voices took over Durban II, and the United States and our allies were forced to pull out. The United States had likewise withdrawn from participating in Durban I primarily because the conference was viewed as disproportionately focused on Israel and the United States. We are very concerned that Durban III will follow in the pattern of the two preceding conferences by serving once again as a forum for anti-Semitic and anti-American demonstrations, which would again taint this opportunity to combat the abhorrent practices of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance.
It is important that the United States send a strong signal that another anti-Semitic and anti-American Durban Conference particularly held so close to the tenth anniversary and location of the worst terrorist attack in American history is unacceptable. We can send this signal by making clear now that the United States will not participate in this gathering. Of course, we would welcome the United States' eventual return to the conference if it were to become a legitimate forum for combating discrimination - but that is a development that seems highly improbable to us.
We respectfully ask that you keep us abreast of any developments and offer our assistance in efforts to combat racism and anti-Semitism.
James E. Risch
Benjamin L. Cardin
Frank R. Lautenberg