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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘The world is a big joke’ The Durban Conference

Published: April 24, 2009
Section: Opinions

I recently watched the movie “Watchmen” and although it is a sci-fi movie, there is something you can learn from the comedian character – “the world is a big joke.” I mean this because this week the Durban II conference took place in Geneva, Switzerland.

For those of you living in a cave, the first Durban Conference was held in South Africa five years ago to discuss racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance but instead became a forum of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

As a consequence this year several countries have decided not to attend, amongst them the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Israel. Switzerland said that they are neutral, but how can you be neutral in something like this? Have they not learned from the mistakes of the past? As Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

This conference on racial discrimination has distinguished speakers like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is certainly an example country in human rights. Three French Jewish students realized the circus this was and stood up with clown wigs to scream at Ahmadinejad during his speech.

Similarly, 23 delegates abandoned the conference while he was speaking. Ahmadinejad called the State of Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime” and said zionism had penetrated mass media and financial systems to extend its domination over other countries.

Coincidentally, this was the same day that the Holocaust was being remembered worldwide.

Want to hear a great joke? The board of the Durban II Conference on Anti-Racism is: Iran, vice-chair; Libya, chair of the “Main Committee;” Cuba, “rapporteur.”

No wonder there is so much racism around the world, when the UN Human Rights budget is spent on big jokes like this. I honestly cannot find a better adjective for a conference (worth more than $5 million) in which dictators give a lesson in human rights to Israel.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the handful of countries that did not attend the conference, and said that it helped restore a measure of sanity and helps bring some moral clarity in this big joke that the world has become.

Meanwhile, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said he was greatly disappointed at the nations that did not attend saying that differences needed to be addressed. Well, Mr. Ki-Moon, what would you do if North Korea were to say that South Korea is an awful government compared to North Korea? Furthermore, it is a clear violation for a member of the UN to incite hatred against another country, especially at a UN conference.

The fact that this conference is taking place in the 21st century is unbelievable, I just cannot express it. How can we discuss racism and an end to it with such authoritarian leaders leading the conference? It just does not make sense.