Durban II / A self-righteous anti-Zionist jamboree
Ahmadinejad invitation to speak makes it a safe bet that conference will quickly become a bash Israel fest.
To mark the Durban II conference, Haaretz.com asked two of its editors to contribute an opinion piece. The other piece, by Ariel Zilber, can be found here
What happens if you throw an anti-racism party and the VIP booths are all packed with emissaries of states with checkered racial and human rights policies, occasionally taking to the stage to badmouth Jews? Today, in the neutral nation of Switzerland, we will find out.
The United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva, known as Durban II, this year falls on the same day as both Hitler's birthday and Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day, due to the intricacies of the Hebrew calendar.
The conference is being officially boycotted by Israel, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, and Canada. The recovering alcoholic put in charge of running the bar is Libya, former head of the UN Human Rights Commission, perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing, and a country where homosexuality is illegal.
In addition to Libya, the conference will be co-chaired by such defenders of human rights as Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Cuba, along with a handful of South American countries currently not discriminating against their indigenous communities.
That leaves the conference virtually bereft of any Western nations, with the exception of Great Britain, who announced Sunday they would attend the festival, and France.
Proving that nothing says racial tolerance like Holocaust denial on Holocaust Memorial Day, the UN has invited President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak. This makes it a pretty sure bet that the conference will quickly become a bash Israel fest, with the littlest president taking center stage in his white leisure suit, leaving the ambassadors of the UN's second-tier nations spellbound.
By this time tomorrow, pictures of Mahmoud speaking from the podium will be splashed across newspapers around the world, and precious ink, newsprint, and bandwidth will be wasted on his "messages of racial tolerance" and pleas for "the peace of the Middle East."
Perhaps now is the time to bury the refrain that Ahmadinejad was misquoted with his "wipe Israel off the map" comments, that he never said such a thing, that what he actually said, is that the time has come to "remove the regime in Jerusalem." For this presumably means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the death of Jewish sovereignty and the permanent end of Zionism as a political movement or ideology.
This sort of argument over semantics while the centrifuges enrich uranium is lost on the overwhelming majority of Israelis, who don't see their national existence or sovereignty as a sin of the modern world, something which must be cast aside so they can be allowed to live.
And it could be that that is the problem with such conferences, with UN General Assembly resolution 3379 ("Zionism is racism"), and with the lion's share of "tolerant" anti-Israel criticism. It all seems too quick to clarify that there is no problem with Israel or Israelis per se, and certainly not with all Jews, it's just Zionism that's the sticking point.
The problem with Durban II is it shows the ability of dozens of countries and their diplomatic officials, under the auspices of the United Nations, to make a superficial claim that they are moving to rid the world of racial prejudice, by way of smearing Israel and discrediting the ideology that says that Jews have the right to self-determination.
Then-Israeli Ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog told the UN General Assembly in 1975, after 3379 was passed, "For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such."
For us, the sane nations of the world, Durban II is no more than a self-righteous anti-Zionist jamboree, and should be treated as such.