Germany Urged to Boycott UN Conference Against Racism | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 13.03.2009

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Germany Urged to Boycott UN Conference Against Racism

Politicians and non-governmental groups are calling on Germany to join the United States and other western nations in boycotting a UN conference on racism because they fear Arab states will use it to attack Israel.

An Israeli flag waves in front of the wall between Israel and the Palestinian territory

Critics fear the conference will be hijacked by Islamic countries to criticize Israel

German conservative parliamentarian Kristina Koehler this week urged Germany and the rest of the European Union to boycott the World Conference against Racism to be held in Geneva on April 20-24.

"Germany must boycott this anti-Semitic and anti-Western spectacle," Koehler, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, said.

Koehler was referring to a final declaration statement prepared for the conference in which Islamic member states plan to urge the UN to forbid blasphemy and religious defamation.

Critics say the sections could limit freedom of religion or speech. They fear the conference will be hijacked by Islamic countries keen to protect their religion from criticism and focus fire on Israel.

A number of countries including Australia, the US, Canada, Italy and Israel said they were withdrawing from the conference unless the wording of the document they consider hostile to Israel is altered before the gathering starts.

A petition to boycott the event

Saudis walk under flags of Muslim countries participating in the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference

Islamic countries want the UN to forbid blasphemy and religious defamation

In Germany, a group of NGOs, publicists and former politicians has started a petition called "Boycott Durban II."

The petition refers to the first UN conference on racism held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The US and Israel walked out of that conference to protest against an attempted resolution comparing Zionism to racism.

According to Spiegel Online, 1,300 people have signed up so far, including authors Peter Schneider, Ralph Giordano und women's rights activist Seyran Ates.

German Social Democrat Klaus Faber told Spiegel the final declaration statement is one-sided.

"There is nothing about mass murders in Darfur, nothing about genital mutilation, stoning or racial terror," he said.

Unfounded concerns?

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says there is no need for concern

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay said on Monday there was no need for the United States and other Western countries to fear the Geneva conference on racism would be tainted by anti-Semitism.

"I am fully aware that the legacy of the 2001 Durban Conference has been tainted by the anti-Semitic behaviour of some NGOs at the sidelines of that conference," Pillay said as she addressed the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week.

"And now the (Geneva) review conference has also been the target of a disparaging media and lobbying campaign on the part of those who fear a repetition of anti-Semitic outbursts," she said, adding: "This is unwarranted."

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