italy also walks by on the other side

Italy pulls out of Durban II over ‘anti-Semitic‘ draft statement
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, Mar 6 2009

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini announced Thursday that his country was pulling out of the ‘Durban II’ UN conference on racism because of “aggressive and anti-Semitic statements” in the draft of the event’s final document. The move by Italy was the latest blow to a meeting seen by many Western governments as marred by Muslim attempts to attack Israel and to shield Islam from criticism. Frattini yesterday informed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that he has also canceled a planned visit to Iran, following pressure from both Jerusalem and Washington. This would have been the first visit to Iran by an EU foreign minister in nearly four years. Senior Israeli officials had asked senior White House officials to become involved, and to convince the Italians to change their plans, saying that:

This visit could have sent the wrong message to the Iranians.

Frattini’s comments on Durban II, made on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, were reported by Italian news agencies. Ministry Spokesman Maurizio Massari confirmed Frattini’s statements, and said Rome would not participate in the conference unless the document was changed. Massari said by telephone:

There are expressions of anti-Semitism. Until the document is modified, we will not have a part in it.

The US has imposed similar conditions. Israel and Canada have already announced a boycott. Members of Italy’s center-left opposition, and Jewish groups abroad, praised Rome’s move. David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement that he hoped the rest of the EU would join the pullout:

We applaud Italy for its principled decision not to participate in a conference that seems determined to repeat, if not exceed, the disgrace of Durban in 2001.

Italy is the first EU country to officially withdraw from the conference, though other nations have threatened not to attend. Islamic countries, still angry over cartoons and films attacking Muslims, have been campaigning for wording that would equate criticism of a religious faith with a violation of human rights (sic-RB). The informal negotiations have proven difficult, with many issues that marked the first UN conference on racism in 2001 re-emerging, such as criticism of Israel. The Apr 20-25 meeting in Geneva is designed to review progress in fighting racism since the previous summit in South Africa. That meeting was marred by attacks on Israel and anti-Israel demonstrations at a parallel conference of NGOs. The US and Israel walked out midway through the conference over a draft resolution that singled Israel out for criticism and likened Zionism to racism (sic-RB). Last week, the US administration said that the US would stay away from this year’s meeting unless its final document was changed to drop all references to Israel, and to the defamation of religion. European nations have expressed hope the summit can go ahead with a final text that is acceptable to all sides. But they, too, have red lines they say cannot be crossed. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in December that his country would walk out unless anti-Israel statements were scrapped. French diplomat Daniel Vosgien said then that his country opposed the idea of banning criticism of religion (unless, of course, the religion happens to be Judaism – RB).

One Comment

  1. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The Italians are renowned for pasta, cars that rust, and spineless leaders.
    Italy can join Israel on my Do Not Buy list.

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