UK to confirm boycott of Durban IV conference amid antisemitism concerns
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UK to confirm boycott of Durban IV conference amid antisemitism concerns

EXCLUSIVE: Senior government source confirm 'serious concerns' over the UN-organised event's history which has targeted Israel and faced claims of antisemitism

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Kofi Annan Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation addresses the delegations during the opening session of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in the coastal city of Durban August 31,2001.[Some 6,000 delegates gathered for the ceremony which is already deeply mired in rows ranging from charges of Israeli racism to issues of reparations for slavery.
Kofi Annan Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation addresses the delegations during the opening session of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in the coastal city of Durban August 31,2001.[Some 6,000 delegates gathered for the ceremony which is already deeply mired in rows ranging from charges of Israeli racism to issues of reparations for slavery.

The UK government is finally set to announce that it will boycott the forthcoming Durban IV conference in New York over “serious concerns” about the event’s past issues over antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred.

A senior government source confirmed to Jewish News that Britain will join the likes of United States, Canada and Australia in avoiding September’s 20th anniversary of the World Conference against Racism.

The UNESCO organised event had previously been blighted with one-sided attacks on Israel including in 2001 draft resolution which likened Zionism to “racism.”

The Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies and the Conservative Friends of Israel groups have been amongst those to write to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in recent months urging the UK to boycott the event.

Jewish News understands that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was made aware of widespread objections to UK participation at Durban IV during a meeting with Jewish communal organisations last month.

The PM is believed to have taken up the issue again following the May 20th meeting.

The source also confirmed there was “zero support” for UK participation at the event amongst the current government cabinet.

But there has been concern that the Foreign Office had up until now been “dragging its heels” over an official announcement on the UK boycott.

A letter sent jointly by the JLC and the Board to the Foreign Secretary warned that despite being known as a conference against racism Durban “is remembered by the international Jewish community as a “hostile showcase for open antisemitism.”

It noted that the infamous antisemitic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion had been distributed within the conference venue and during Durban 11 the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had claimed Israel was founded on the “pretext of Jewish suffering.”

On April 20, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would “obviously” attend September’s UN General Assembly, when asked by Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villers about the Durban IV event.

But he then added the government “will not support any partisan or political attacks on Israel” and he said he wished to “reassure her” that” the Government are absolutely crystal clear in our condemnation of and opposition to any and all forms of antisemitism.”

The crossbench peer Baroness Deech also pressed Minister of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on whether the UK planned to particiapate in September’s UN General Assembly’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism.

Lord Amad said that while the UK was committed to combatting racism “some of the antisemitic actions and speeches in and around the Third World Conference against Racism and its various follow-up events gave rise to serious concerns.”

The peer added “we will consider UK attendance in the light of developments between now and the commemoration event, including the likelihood of any recurrence.”

Last month a spokesperson for the Canadian government confirmed: “Canada is concerned that the Durban Process has and continues to be used to push for anti-Israel sentiment and as a forum for antisemitism. That is why we do not plan to attend or participate in events surrounding the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also confirmed: “We will not associate Australia with one-sided and contentious language that singles out Israel or an event that champions such language.”

The conference is scheduled for September 22 in New York.

Jewish News has approached the FCO for comment on the UK’s decision to also boycott the event.

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