European diplomats walked out of a session of the Durban II conference when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the world to unite against Israel.President Barack Obama defended the decision to boycott Durban 2.
In a speech at the U.N.-sponsored anti-racism conferencein Geneva, the Iranian president first blamed the West for injustice, then went on the offensive against Israel, calling it the “racist perpetrators of genocide.”[...]
He was briefly interrupted when several protesters in rainbow wigs yelled “Racist!”
At the first mention of “Jewish,” representatives of the 23 European Union countries that chose to participate in the conference noisily got up from their seats and marched out the door -- a move met by more clapping from Iranian and Arab delegates, while other diplomatic delegations refrained. The walkout dealt another blow to organizers of the conference, which is being boycotted by nine countries, including the United States, Israel and several European nations.[...]
During the speech, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remained in his seat, just behind Ahmadinejad. However, the U.N. chief issued a denunciation shortly afterward, expressing regret that Ahmadinejad had not heeded his earlier request not to attack Israel on the floor.
“I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite,” Ban said in a statement. “We must all turn away from such a message in both form and substance.”
President Obama said the U.S. would have been "putting an imprimatur on something we just don't believe" if it had participated in the Durban II conference.Both Germany and New Zealand also pulled out of Durban 2.
A statement Saturday by the State Department said it was too late to address critical problems with the anti-racism forum and its decision not to attend was final. The statement commended conference organizers for additional improvements to a draft outcome document that removed explicit criticisms of Israel, but said the document remained unacceptable because it endorsed the 2001 Durban Conference, which singled out Israel for criticism.
The new document's inclusion of the endorsement, which does not specify Israel or the Palestinians, “has the same effect as inserting that original text into the current document and re-adopting it.”
Answering a question at a news conference in Trinidad & Tobago about the U.S. decision to boycott the Durban Review Conference, scheduled to start Monday in Geneva, Obama noted that the initial 2001 Durban conference, which was supposed to be about racism, instead "became a session through which folks expressed antagonism towards Israel in ways that were oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive."
"We expressed in the run-up to this conference our concerns that if you adopted all the langugage from 2001 that's not something we could sign up for," Obama said. "If you're incorporating a previous conference we weren't involved with that raised a whole set of objectionable provisions, it wouldn't be worth it to participate because we couldn't get past that previous issue."
He added if that if there had been a "clean start, fresh start," the United States would have been "happy to go."[...]
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee applauded the decision by the United States not to attend.
“President Obama's decision not to send U.S. representation to the event is the right thing to do and underscores America's unstinting commitment to combating intolerance and racism in all its forms and in all settings,” AIPAC said in a statement.
Jewish leaders applauded decisions by Germany and New Zealand to skip the Durban II conference now underway in Geneva.
While praising Germany's decision to boycott the U.N.-sponsored anti-racism conference, Dieter Graumann, a vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, added, “it was shameful that Europe is so discordant over this.”
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said he hoped Germany's decision would encourage others to do the same.
Germany's decision was announced late Sunday night by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said he had consulted with several other European foreign ministers before deciding not to participate.
"The federal government has reached the conclusion that despite all the intensive work ahead of the conference, particularly by E.U.-member states, there is still a serious risk that this conference, like its predecessor in 2001, may be misused as a platform for other interests," Steinmeier said. "This is not acceptable to us."
Harris called the move a "reaffirmation of Germany's special friendship with Israel and its commitment to core democratic values."
Explaining Holland's decision to skip the conference, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said Sunday that the Netherlands could not participate together with countries that appeared ready to accuse Israel alone of human rights abuses without looking at their own records.
New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully said Monday that the 2001 World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa gave rise to “expressions of anti-Israeli views which undermined its focus on genuine anti-racism initiatives.”
In a statement he said: “I am not satisfied that the wording emerging from preparatory discussions will prevent the Review Conference from descending into the same kind of rancorous and unproductive debate that took place in 2001.”
New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman applauded the conservative government’s “courageous action” and blasted Labor and the Greens, who he said accused John Key’s government of “pandering”.[...]
In addition to Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands, countries boycotting the conference include the United States, Israel, Canada, Italy and Australia.