Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A view on the walkout.

Antony Lerman - ‘Ahmadinejad, Durban and another fine mess
Iran's president may have derailed the UN meeting. But rather than walk out, delegates should have stayed to argue their case […]

[The meeting] appears to have been completely derailed by a publicity-seeking, not especially powerful politician, desperately campaigning for re-election as president. And meanwhile, the millions whose lives are utterly blighted by racial discrimination, violence and hatred are relegated to a footnote. Part farce, part tragedy? Seeking refuge in humour doesn't seem an entirely inappropriate way of responding when none of it seems to make any sense.

Some who stayed in their seats clapped and cheered. In whose interests? Did the anti-Israel rhetoric at the 2001 Durban anti-racism conference help alleviate the plight of the Palestinians one iota? No. The last eight years have seen a gross deterioration in their position. Did the attempt to brand Zionism a form of racism help bring closer an end to the aggressive settlement policy on the West Bank? No. It continued apace. And with the new rightwing dominated government now in power in Israel, that policy looks likely to intensify. The Palestinians, who deserve no less than a complete and immediate end to occupation and all the repressive policies and human rights abuses that go with it, lost out then and will lose out again. […]

[T]he boycotts by the US, Canada, Israel, Italy and others only hand a kind of victory on a plate to those who want to hijack the conference for their own, narrow political purposes. Since when has the UN been a children's tea party? It can't help for powerful countries to give the impression that they cannot make the arguments that need to be made against Ahmadinejad and his ilk. And these arguments need to be addressed to a wider world audience. And in whose interests is it for Israel to be playing the victim? Israel too is perfectly capable of making its arguments. What on earth will withdrawing its ambassador from Switzerland achieve? When the dust settles, it will be easy for other states to ask: "Why should we entertain the likes of a far right racist like your foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman?"

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