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“In 2009, a Durban review conference was held in Geneva. Thirty-one year old Naftali Balanson, managing editor at NGO Monitor, was dispatched to observe the review conference. “I went to observe NGO activity during the conference. There were many Jewish activists there from the World Union of Jewish Students.” What struck Balanson most was the difference between what he had heard about Durban I and how Durban II turned out. “As opposed to the first Durban conference where there were mass rallies and massive NGO participation and an NGO session, the NGO events were completely on the sidelines… [many of the NGO activities] were not well attended.” There was a major attempt to prevent anti-Semitism and anti-Israel statements from hijacking and embarrass Durban II. “NGOs [tried] to introduce an anti- Israel agenda into it, but because no NGO forum was allowed, the anti-Israel groups created an ‘Israel review conference’ in Geneva, far away from the actual UN in some basement. Within the Durban review conference, the UN was trying hard to avoid the NGO incitement. In order [for people] to get into the building they were checking bags and I saw them pull out a folder that said ‘Zionism and racism’. . . I witnessed a heated confrontation at [Iranian President Mahmud] Ahmadinejad’s press conference and I saw security officers take away a poster saying Zionism = racism,” recalls Balanson. Because of the presence of Ahmadinejad, several European delegations left the conference. According to students involved, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had recruited some students to attend the conference, but in the end they played a limited role. Balanson argues that since Durban I and Durban II “the NGOs have turned to what we call ‘mini Durbans,’ whether it is the Human Rights Council and the Committee [on the Exercise of] the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinians or the Convention Against Torture or women’s rights. They use those frameworks to attack Israel. They have learned that using these mass rallies with anti-Semitic material doesn’t look good.”” “Balanson argues that the importance of Durban III is not necessarily in substance but rather the threat of becoming complacent. “If the Jewish community turns its back and ignores these events, then they will become an opportunity for Israel-bashing. The success at Durban II was the result of proactive organizing and planning by the Jewish community worldwide.” One result of the racism and other controversies at Durban I was that several Western countries were prepared to walk out of Durban II, and many countries have shown little interest in Durban III. Ten countries (including the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria) have already announced their decision not to attend. Bar-Ilan University professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, believes that “Durban III is not in and of itself significant. It will be one day, and it is unlikely to adopt important declarations, but it is not just about Durban III. The fact that these countries are pulling out, shows that everything connected with the Durban process has been counterproductive. These countries are distancing themselves from the anti-Israel campaigns.” Steinberg claims that the main importance of Durban can be seen in the increased activism and impact of the NGOs that took part in Durban I. “I would say that the Durban NGO network has peaked in the last months, whether it is Israel Apartheid Week, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) disruptions, such as those that took place at the Israel Philharmonic’s concert in London. There are still a large number of the organizations that came to Durban that are involved [in anti-Israel activity]. The Goldstone Report was a direct product of the Durban process.” NGO Monitor, which sent observers to the second Durban conference, has decided not to send anyone to New York. Steinberg believes that NGOs view Durban “as a lose-lose issue,” and NGO Monitor’s resources can best be devoted elsewhere. Balanson compares it to a tree that gives less fruit. “Because of the microscope that was on the other two events, the NGOs have realized this,” and they have moved on.”