France has become the 11th country to commit to boycotting the upcoming Durban IV Conference in New York, over concerns of antisemitic remarks made at previous such events. This year’s conference marks the 20th anniversary of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa.
Austria, Australia, the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Canada, and Israel, have already committed to boycotting the conference.
These countries accuse the Durban Conferences of providing a platform for antisemitism, such as Durban II (2009) when Iranian president of the time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to the Holocaust as an “ambiguous and dubious question.” In a statement from the French Presidency, a spokesperson explained President Macron “has decided that France will not take part in the follow-up conference due to take place this year as he is concerned by anti-Semitic statements made within the Durban Conference.”
Accusations of antisemitism go back as far as the original 2001 conference, in which the US and Israel walked out over plans to include criticism of Zionism in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The two countries, and other boycotting nations since, argue that criticism of Israel, their occupation of Palestinian land, and their crimes against the Palestinian people, have too often diverged into open antisemitism.
The Durban+10 Coalition, an alliance of NGOs formed in 2011, disagrees. In a statement on the third conference, they denounced the “slander and sabotage against the DDPA and 10th anniversary spearheaded by the United States, Canada, Israel and several members of the European Union, particularly Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, to suppress the rights and demands of the many groups protected by the DDPA, including Migrants, Indigenous Peoples, African and African descendant peoples for restitution and reparations and those of the Palestinian people for self-determination.”
For the French presidency, the intention of the boycott is to continue the “fight against all forces of racism and [France] will be watching to make sure that the Durban follow-up conference is held in accordance with the founding principles of the United Nations.”
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester Branch