The World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, turned into a campaign to delegitmize Israel and brand Zionism as racism. The United States warned organizers it would withdraw from the conference if these efforts were not dropped and worked for weeks to ensure the conference would stick to its subject and not single out one nation for criticism. That effort failed and the U.S. withdrew. The following is the text of Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement:
Today I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home. I have taken this decision with regret, because of the importance of the international fight against racism and the contribution that the Conference could have made to it. But, following discussions today by our team in Durban and others who are working for a successful conference, I am convinced that will not be possible. I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of "Zionism equals racism;" or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world--Israel--for censure and abuse.
I deeply respect the goals of South African President Mbeki and Foreign Minister Zuma in hosting this conference. I strongly support the good work of Secretary General Annan to try to make it come out right. The United States and delegations interested in a successful outcome had worked productively in Durban on the other key issues of the Conference and were hopeful that they could be resolved. I wish that it could have turned out more successfully.
Sources: U.S. State Department