U.N. UPDATE: Racism Conference Flops Amid Boycott

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 22, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The much anticipated U.N. event marking the tenth anniversary of the Durban Conference against racism was more about the empty seats than the ones that were occupied.

For the U.N. organizers, it was one of the key events of this years’ gathering and as such it was hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and given the General Assembly main hall as a venue. But the conference drew little attention inside the U.N. and was overshadowed by discussions regarding the Palestinian issue.

The U.S., Canada, Israel and most Western European nations boycotted the event, as they did in the previous follow up meeting convened in 2009. For Israel and its supporters, this meant success. With at least a dozen seats left empty, the Durban process has lost its legitimacy and the conference which became synonymous with criticism of the Jewish state, was sidelined. Secretary Ban tried to focus on the advance made in the past decade in fighting racism, but also spoke of the controversy the Durban process created because of its focus on Israel. “This process is meant to further the world’s essential fight against racism,” Ban said. “We should condemn anyone who uses this platform to subvert that effort with inflammatory rhetoric, baseless assertions and hateful speech.”

But while inside the U.N. headquarters celebrations of the Durban anniversary drew little attention, across the road, in the Dag Hammarskjöld plaza, the event stirred high emotions.

A colorful and noisy gathering, organized by a group called Iran 180, tied together the Durban event with the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who spoke from the U.N podium at the same time. The group, made up of 33 NGOs, staged what they described as “street theater” which included a mock wedding of Ahmadinejad with Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad and a nuclear missile attached to a ticking clock. Several hundreds of participants who came to the protest were given colorful clown wigs and red noses, presumably to demonstrate how the U.N. had become a circus.

Driving this point home was Professor Alan Dershowitz who told the excited crowed that the building across the road is to blame for everything that is wrong in the Middle East. “There are two letters that to me signify why there is no peace in the Middle East and those two letters are U and N,” he said.

Dershowitz repeated this message a short while earlier when he spoke at a day-long conference against the Durban conference organized by the Hudson Institute and Touro college. A day earlier B’nai B’rith also hosted a discussion on the same interest.

The high level activity of Jewish groups against commemorating the Durban conference was viewed by Israel as a flawed strategy. A senior diplomat said the Israeli foreign ministry had tried to convince Jewish organizations to maintain a low profile and to let the event go practically unnoticed. The diplomat said Israel believed protests would only give the conference attention it would otherwise not receive.

But the protests went ahead anyways, and despite early reluctance on behalf of the Israeli government, cabinet minister Yuli Edelstein attended one of the anti-Durban events.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.