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Wiesenthal Center urges UN to nix Durban anti-racism meet over past antisemitism

Rabbi Abraham Cooper tells Antonio Guterres it’s time for the world body ‘to finally bury Durban, not celebrate it’

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, center, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, speaks in front of civic and faith leaders outside City Hall, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, center, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, speaks in front of civic and faith leaders outside City Hall, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Friday urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to cancel an upcoming conference against racism, saying past iterations of the gathering have “devolved into an antisemitic hatefest.”

“With raging antisemitism, it is past due for the UN to finally bury Durban, not celebrate it,” the organization’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement.

The follow-up meeting of the Durban Conference, named after the South African city where the first edition was held in 2001, is set to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

However, the format has been controversial since its inception, with critics, led by Israel, charging that the first edition in Durban was tarnished by virulent and undisguised antisemitism

“As the spokesman for Jewish groups at Durban in 2001 and along with my Jewish delegates were targets of verbal abuse and physical attacks,” Cooper said.

He added: “It’s outrageous that there is an attempt to resurrect the horrific ‘achievements’ in the halls of the General Assembly. Enough!”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following talks in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)

The statement came as French president Emmanuel Macron announced he will boycott the conference over concerns about “antisemitic statements” at previous editions. France and several other countries previously boycotted follow-up meetings in 2009 and 2011.

The United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, Israel and numerous other European countries have already announced they are boycotting this year’s meeting.

The first Durban conference — held from August 31 to September 8, 2001, just days before the terror attacks of September 11 — was marked by deep divisions on the issues of antisemitism, colonialism and slavery.

Western countries believe that criticism of Israel and its military control of territories sought by the Palestinians for a state frequently veered into open antisemitism.

The US and Israel walked out of the conference in protest at the tone of the meeting, including over plans to include condemnations of Zionism in the final text.

Last month, President Isaac Herzog said the upcoming conference was “a gathering of hatred and slander, an antisemitic event in the worst sense.”

Herzog called for countries and organizations to join together by acting “decisively, unanimously, and fearlessly” against the Durban IV conference to ensure it does not take place.

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