The United Nations World Conferences against Racism (The “Durban” conferences)
In 2001, the World Conference against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa. The American and Israeli delegations walked out, believing the proceedings unfairly targeted Israel and hijacked the proceedings in order to tar Israel and Zionism with charges of racism.
When the second United Nations World Conference against Racism, popularly known as “Durban II,” met in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2009, anti-Semitism and harsh criticism of Israel were in evidence again. Israel, the United States, Canada, and several other countries boycotted the conference altogether, recognizing that it would once again be commandeered by Israel’s enemies in order to attack the Jewish state.
The suspicions of the boycotting countries were proved true on the very first day of the conference, which, coincidentally, fell on Yom Ha’Shoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. In a speech to conference delegates, Iranian President Ahmadinejad blasted out one calumny after another, calling Israel “the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”
Ahmadinejad claimed that Israel’s founders “resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless on the pretext of Jewish sufferings,” called Israel’s government “perpetrators of genocide,” and accused “Zionists” of planning the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Summing up, he said that “world Zionism personifies racism.” (Zionism is generally defined as the belief that the Jews should have a homeland in the land of Israel.)
Meanwhile, other members of the Iranian delegation screamed at Nobel Laureate, Humanitarian, and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, calling him a “Zio-Nazi.”
Many Western delegates walked out on Ahmadinejad’s speech, but delegates from Arab and Muslim countries applauded. While the representatives who walked out certainly did the right thing, it is a travesty that the U.N. provided a public forum for the Iranian President in the first place.
Yes, the U.N. Secretary General condemned Iran’s President for the incitement. But delegates at the conference nonetheless ratified the original Durban I declaration that singles out Israel, brands it a racist state, and says that Palestinians are victims of racism.
In late 2010, the U.N. announced that it would hold a conference in New York City in September, 2011, to mark the 10th anniversary of the first Durban conference. The U.S. announced that it would not attend, citing “ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism” associated with the event.