Twenty-three delegations storm out of UN Racism conference as Ahmadinejad condemns Israel as “racist”

Protesters constantly disrupted the speech as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned Israel for “racism” at the Anti-Racism conference which opened in Geneva Monday, April 20. Some were bundled out. He went on to denounce the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan as an arrogant drive to “expand its sphere of influence.” UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon accused the Iranian leader of misusing the anti-racist platform “to divide and incite hate.”
At the main Holocaust Day ceremony in Jerusalem, with which the Geneva conference coincided, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged that Holocaust deniers would not be permitted to perpetrate another such crime against the Jewish people.
The boycott of the UN World Conference against Racism snowballed with Germany and New Zealand joining the US, Canada, Australia, Italy, Holland, Sweden and Israel. It is the follow-up to Durban I in 2001, from which the US and Israeli delegates walked out over its anti-Israel, anti-Semitic content. Yet the text prepared for second session reaffirms the language of the first. The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also scheduled a press conference for Monday, the eve of Israel’s annual Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.
Outside, an “alternative” anti-racism conference was staged in protest with the participation of refugees from political and human rights abuses in Iran, Libya and Sudan. They included a large group of Iranians.
Jerusalem recalled its ambassador to Bern for consultations to protest the meeting Swiss president Hans Rudolf Merz held with the Iranian president despite Israel’s request not to shake the hand of this “Holocaust denier, exporter of terrorism and anti-Semitism.” The pope criticized the boycott after US president Barack Obama spoke of the antagonism to Israel at Durban I “in ways that were extremely hypocritical and counterproductive.”
In regretfully announcing US absence from the Geneva event, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the US also has serious concerns about relatively new additions… regarding ‘incitement’ which run counter to the US commitment to unfettered free speech.”
Explaining its absence, Canada has said it is “interested in combating racism, not promoting it,” and Italy condemned its “aggressive and anti-Semitic statements.”
The European Union failed to reach a consensus on its position.
The UK sent a low-level delegation – like Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
In walking out of the original conference in 2001, the then secretary of state Colin Powell said: “… you do not combat racism by hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of Zionism equals racism, support the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust or suggest that apartheid exists in Israel or that single out only one country in the world – Israel – for censure and abuse.”
Black U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (Democrat) said the Black Caucus, which she heads, was “deeply dismayed” at the decision to boycott Durban II. She explained that this would make it more difficult for Washington to influence the UN Human Rights Council.
Washington has taken steps to join the controversial body which is dominated by states under fire for human rights violations.
A rally by pro-Israeli and pro-freedom of speech groups was to be led by US Rep. Scott Garret (R-N.J.). Garret, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R.-Fla.), and Rep. Dough Lamborn (R.-Colo.) have co-sponsored legislation to prohibit US funding for any follow-up events of Durban I.

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