Durban II starts with a bang, Canadian PM explains his country’s boycott

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The Durban Review conference is officially underway in Geneva, and, predictably, it started with a bang; the BBC is reporting that Western delegates walked out of a speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacking Israel as a “racist” state and criticizing its creation, and that the speech was briefly disrupted by demonstrators wearing clown costumes.

While opening sessions were underway in Geneva, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking to reporters in a teleconference arranged by The Israel Project, expressed strong concern “that around the world anti-Semitism is growing in volume and acceptance, justified by opposition to Israel itself.”

Harper said Canada was the first country to announce it was boycotting Durban II and that it would not fund Canadian NGOs that participated in the conference.

“Our government is leading the world, not following it, in championing international understanding and pluralism,” he said, “and we are taking a strong stand against racism and anti-Semitism in all its forms.  Canada will not lend itself to an international conference that promotes these kinds of things.”

But Harper declined to criticize the Obama administration for its initial decision to test the waters and see if the Durban process could be reformed – an effort that failed, leading to a renewed U.S. boycott.

“In preparatory meetings for Durban II, we observed clear, unmistakable signs this conference will again scapegoat the Jewish people,” he said.

Meetings were scheduled on Jewish holidays “to prevent or minimize participation by Jewish delegates,” he said; Jewish NGOS faced obstacles to participation, while those that “participated in the original conference, including those responsible for overt  displays of racism and anti-Semitism, were reinvited to the preparatory committee…countries with a history of hatred were given key organizational roles.”

And he pointed to another obvious sign of the meeting’s anti-Israel bias; Ahmadinejad was “the only head of state scheduled to address the conference.”

Harper expressed strong concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and its anti-Israel rhetoric — but said his country “has maintained diplomatic relations” with Tehran.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.