The WSJ asks whether the Obama administration, having agreed to participating in the preparations for the Durban Conference, otherwise known as the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, will attend the Conference itself. The previous conference, held in 2001, was criticized for attempting to equate Zionism with racism. These controversies ultimately led to the withdrawal of the US and Israeli delegations. As a consequence of this kerfuffle, the 2001 Durban Conference maintained its general tone but modified the final language into something less confrontational. Wikipedia notes:
In the end, the Conference delegates voted to reject the language that implicitly accused Israel of racism, and the document actually published contained no such language.
Several countries were unhappy with the final text’s approach to the subject, but all for different reasons. Syria and Iran were unhappy because their demands for the language about racism and Israel had been rejected by the Conference, the latter continuing its insistence that Israel was a racist state. Australia was unhappy with the process, observing that “far too much of the time at the conference [had been] consumed by bitter divisive exchanges on issues which have done nothing to advance the cause of combating racism”. Canada was also unhappy.
The language of the final text was carefully drafted for balance. The word “diaspora” is used four times, and solely to refer to the African Diaspora. The document is at pains to main a cohesive identity for everyone of African heritage as a victim of slavery, even including those who may have more European than African ancestors. The “victim” or “victims” of racism and slavery (the two words occurring 90 times in the document) are defined in only the most general geographic terms.
Given this background, it was inevitable that Durban II would generate even more controversy. Reuters reported that the Obama administration had decided it would play, although the extent to which it would participate remained nebulous.