Durban III Conference Opens in New York Amid Allegations of anti-Israel Bigotry

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NEW YORK - As the Palestinian statehood bid draws increasing support at the United Nations convention in New York, key member states have distanced themselves from a conference marking the 10-year anniversary of the Durban anti-racism conference in South Africa.

Israel has asked friendly nations to stay away from this year's event. Thus far, 13 countries have announced that they will not attend the conference, including nine EU countries, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

Israel supporters demonstrating in New York yesterday.Credit: Natasha Mozgovaya

The 2001 anti-racism conference was criticized for its harsh language against Zionism's "racist practices," calling the Zionist movement one that is "based on racial superiority." The draft document containing these statements prompted the U.S. and Israel to withdraw their delegations.

In 2009, the "Durban II" conference was held in Geneva, and made headlines after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech in which he attacked Israel and denied the Holocaust.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the conference yesterday, and urged all countries to "stand firmly" against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and reject discrimination against Christians.

A counter conference was held at the Millennium Plaza hotel in New York yesterday to protest the Durban III convention and its allegedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda.

High profile speakers included Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, actor Jon Voight and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

Dershowitz told the audience that "the reason there is still no peace in the Middle East can be summarized in two letters: UN."

The Harvard professor continued his attack on the UN, saying "rights of women, children and gays were ignored, because the UN was too busy debating whether Zionism is racism. The UN has encouraged anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry."

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