By staging a walk out while President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran was addressing the UN anti-racism conference in Geneva on April 20, the European countries have exposed their own racism without affecting the ultimate outcome of the meeting. Representatives from a tiny minority of European countries that have a chequered history regarding human rights are all former colonialists who have perpetrated horrible crimes during the colonial era. Holding a mirror to their misdeeds was obviously hard for them to swallow. They are quick to condemn others but are not prepared to make amends much less admit their own misdeeds that span many centuries.
The behaviour of these countries that included Germany, New Zealand, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic, and that of countries that had already boycotted the conference—the US, Canada, Australia and Israel—underscores their intolerant nature. They would not countenance any criticism of the Zionist state of Israel even though its appalling record in mistreating Palestinians is meticulously documented and now widely recognized globally. Even the UN has condemned the zionists’ murderous occupation and oppression of Palestinians in unmistakeable terms, the most recent example of which was witnessed in the 22-day onslaught on the defenceless people of Ghazzah from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009.
Judges from member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and lawyers from Norway have accused Israeli leaders of war crimes. At an International Conference in Tehran on April 22-23, they examined way to prosecute the Zionist war criminals. According to Agence France Presse, Norwegian lawyers have also accused Israeli leaders of war crimes in the Ghazzah offensive in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were murdered while tens of thousands of others were injured. The 1.5 million residents of Ghazzah continue to live in subhuman conditions suffering from lack of food, medicines and other essential necessities because of a two-year-long Israeli siege. According to the Norwegian criminal code, the courts can open proceedings that include serious violations of human rights. The lawyers have said that they will charge Tzipi Livni (foreign minister at the time) and Ehud Barak (defense minister at the time), asking for their extradition and arrest. For Israel-doting Europeans, such subjects are taboo but the UN conference on racism went ahead regardless of the protestations of the tiny minority of Europeans.
The final declaration consisting of 143 articles was adopted by the consensus of all but nine of the 192 member states of the United Nations. This was a slap in the face of the boycotting states although one would be hard pressed to find any mention of this in Western media reports of the conference. They focussed on the pathetic walkout by the five European countries’ representatives as if they represent the will of entire humanity. They described the walkout with screaming headlines as “pandemonium” when in fact many in the audience cheered the Iranian president as he condemned Zionist atrocities against the Palestinians. Nor did it faze President Ahmedinejad who fearlessly spoke about the past crimes of the European colonialists as well as those of the racist Zionist entity in Palestine.
“I am optimistic this document will have a great future and lead states to combat racism and racial discrimination,” said Yuri Boychenko, the Russian diplomat who headed the committee tasked with drafting the final declaration that took several months. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Niva Pillay also called upon the boycotters to return to the conference. Not all Europeans were hostile. For instance, the Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger criticized Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands—the only European Union (EU) countries to stay away from the Durban-2 conference in Geneva—as representing “not a sign of strength” for the EU. Speaking with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation on the first day of the conference he defended Austria’s decision to participate in the UN anti-racism conference as the “right signal” saying: “who does not participate cannot have a say.” Even the Vaticandelegation at the conference said it was satisfied with the final declaration. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Msgr. Silvano Tomasi, a permanent observer at the UN in Geneva, said “the document is not perfect, but it respects the essential points of human rights, and opens the way to proceed forward in negotiations on a variety of issues that, for the first time, were accepted in a universal manner.”
The conference in Geneva was called the Durban Review Conference or Durban-2, in reference to the first conference held in the South African port city of Durban in 2001. At that conference, when Israel came under criticism, its delegates together with those from the US walked out. Nonetheless, the conference passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism. The aim of the conference in Geneva was to assess the progress made since that time. Perhaps, not much since countries that are guilty of the most egregious crimes—the Europeans, the US, Canada and the Zionist state—are not prepared to accept their past crimes or continued violations of international law. Even so, at Geneva, the conference declaration called for protection of vulnerable people and to fight against racism, discrimination and intolerance. The adopted text referred to the original declaration from the first conference in South Africa in 2001, which included specific mentions of Israel and the Palestinians including the clause that Zionism is racism.
President Ahmadinejad was the only head of state to attend Durban-2 in Geneva. He was therefore, accorded the first speaker at the conference and he went straight to the heart of the matter. In his wide ranging address that was punctuated with repeated applause from conference participants, he said the Palestinians were made “homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering” after World War II, and denounced Israel as “the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.” He denounced Zionism as a racist ideology and declared the demise of Western hegemony at a time when it was suffering economic haemorrhaging. On his return to Tehran, President Ahmadinejad was met at the airport by a jubilant crowd that blocked the car transporting him. He announced to the delight of the assembled crowd that “Israel suffered a serious blow" in Geneva.
The Geneva declaration called “neo-Nazi, neo-Fascist and other violent national ideologies” as dangers that needed to be combated. The legacy of slavery and the plight of Africa were also included in detail urging states to combat impunity for crimes of genocide. It would be immediately obvious that such ideologies—Nazism, Fascism, Zionism etc—emerged and flourished in Europe; slavery was practised by Europeans and North Americans that not only dehumanized millions of people from Africa but also built their societies on the blood and sweat of these people. Delegates in the main plenary session drew attention to such conflicts as those in the Middle East—Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan—and the modern-day scourge, Islamophobia, as well as the legacy of colonialism. It is revealing that while representatives of European and North American countries were averse to condemnation of Zionism, they themselves are rapidIslamophobes and freely practise it in their societies.