Hypocrisy Marks Durban Conference

“We say that this fake regime [Israel] cannot logically continue to live. Open the doors [of Europe] and let the Jews go back to their own countries.”
This is a 2005 quote made by Iranian president and world-class clown Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has become infamous globally for denying the Holocaust, demanding the extermination of Israel and his acidic hatred for and mistrust of Jews. For much of the Western world, he has become an icon of modern evil. For much of the Jewish world, he’s become the new Hitler.

So he’s the perfect candidate to lead the second United Nation’s Durban conference, don’t you think?

Instead of singling out the Jewish state, the countries in charge of organizing Durban II, such as Iran, should excise the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic vitriol from the charter and broaden the conference to address real racism in the world. Consequently, Canada, Israel, the United States, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland and Australia all announced that they would boycott the conference.

Many world powers gathered in Geneva last Monday for the beginning of the weeklong conference with the stated intent to address and confront the problem of racism in the world. But before Ahmadinejad could even open his mouth to confirm widespread fears that Durban II would be just another cesspool of anti-Semitic garbage and conspiracy theories, two delegates dressed in rainbow clown wigs and noses jumped into the walkway and threw clown noses at the Iranian leader as their delegations began booing Ahmadinejad and shouting “Racist!”

The delegates were escorted out of the hall by security as the room cheered, and they were banned from the conference. It turns out that the people involved were from the French Union of Jewish Students, Coexist and Tehran-based Neda Institute for Political and Scientific Research.

In his opening speech, Ahmadinejad proceeded to name Israel as a “most cruel and oppressive, racist regime,” which was created from the “pretext of Jewish suffering” during World War II and called for efforts to be made to “put an end to Zionism.” Following these remarks, the entire French delegation stood up and walked out of the conference. Over 40 diplomats from more than 20 different countries, mostly Europeans and Morocco, followed France’s lead out of the hall. Several non-governmental organizations joined them in leaving, such as B’nai B’rith International. As they did so, the conference room erupted in applause and cheers again, forcing Ahmadinejed to wait for the noise to die down before he could continue.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon afterward condemned Ahmadinejad’s speech.

“I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve,” Ki-Moon said.

Throughout the week of the conference, hundreds of pro-Israel and Jewish groups crowded the halls outside the conference in protest, wearing clown noses to symbolize the circus show of hypocrisy inside. At one point, a coalition of 20 groups present at the conference organized a “Conference Against Racism, Discrimination and Persecution,” a direct rebuke of the formal Durban conference that was supposed to address these issues but never did. There, attendants addressed cases of true genocide and racism and gave the floor to victims of such discrimination. They also discussed cases in which Israel has helped combat racism and persecution, such as taking in Darfur refugees and executing Operation Solomon, when 14,325 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted into Israel within 36 hours in 1991 after the Jewish state saw that civil war threatened Ethiopia. Among those present at the meeting were StandWithUs International Director Roz Rothstein and lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

Like the first Durban conference, the U.N. gave Ahmadinejad an opportunity to address true cases of racism in the world but instead he took advantage of it to trivialize the Holocaust and incite hatred. A man who regularly denies the genocide of millions of people and would deny millions more a very personal and wrenching tragedy has no place anywhere near an anti-racism summit.

Instead of recognizing Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric for its racist nature, several nations of the world handed him a megaphone so he could slander and rant against a single country in the name of fighting racism. Durban II is a prime example of how obsessed the U.N. has become with hounding Israel with accusations dreamt up by anti-Semites in power. To put Ahmadinejad, a leader who opposes the ideas of freedom of speech, religion and sexuality, up on the podium of an anti-racism conference exhibits an astounding hypocrisy in the U.N. and many of its member nations, but they are very likely too busy damning Israel to be aware of it.

The U.N.’s recent passage of the “Anti-Blasphemy Resolution” – promoted as “protecting all religions from international criticism,” only lists Islam in name and does in fact restrict freedom of speech against religion – is only another example in addition to Durban II of how Muslim member nations have used the U.N. to push their own interests. And the U.N. is too busy being politically correct (see: giving Ahmadinejad podium time at Durban) to notice.

While allowing a leader who looks the other way when gays are hung in his nation to lead an anti-racism conference is a beautiful irony that will be lost on many, the disturbances at Durban II show that there is still hope for the ethics and morals of the world’s countries.

Delegates from nations such as Norway and Pakistan remained in their seats to listen to Ahmadinejad, but the many who walked out on him are the people who truly believe in fighting racism and genocide. These are the nations that should be carrying the banner of tolerance and equality, not nations like Iran or Pakistan. To allow these countries an outlet to voice hatred in the name of fighting hatred goes beyond all reason.

Until the world realizes the hypocrisy and unadulterated hate that has become the theme song for the Durban conferences, we are doomed to suffer future Durbans just like the last two.

AE Anteater is a third-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.