Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

The Face of Antisemitism: Durban II

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Statement by Anne Bayefsky at the Durban Review Conference
United Nations, Palais des Nations, GENEVA, Switzerland
April 23, 2009

When all have left these halls and returned to the far reaches of the globe, the contribution of the Durban Review Conference to combating racism and intolerance will be remembered for its human face the face of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In this conference's opening moments, he took the opportunity you provided to trivialize the Holocaust and repeat his commitment to genocide against the UN member state of Israel.

His words were not an accident. Nor were they an afterthought. UN officials were fully aware of his hate-filled statement in advance. UN member states had heard him deliver the same message in the General Assembly only last fall. His active emissaries had made it publicly known to the Human Rights Council for over a year - and every preparatory meeting of this conference since (as recently as last week) exactly what his government intended to communicate.

And yet - the UN handed him a global megaphone, translated his hate speech into six languages and broadcast it around the world.

And when he was finished, what was the response from you who claim to care about combating intolerance?

His words promoting antisemitism were applauded in this very hall.

His words have been ensconced on the UN website where they continue to be disseminated around the globe.

His country was elected Vice-Chairman of this conference's committee charged with the adoption of the declaration before you.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also Secretary-General of this conference, thought his words should merely be labeled "political grandstanding" evidently unable to recognize antisemitism today.

Democracies who had promised a different response to Durban-sponsored hate, like the United Kingdom and France and Denmark, made a show of walking out part way through his speech, only to return as if it was a small glitch or an easily isolated event.

Durban II will therefore be remembered not only for the words of the Iranian President, but for the actions of his antisemitic supporters among you, his UN enablers, and all those states without the courage to reject a forum for bigotry when it masquerades as human rights however transparent the veil.

Durban II will be remembered for adopting a declaration that reaffirms discrimination and demonization of the Jewish state the antisemitism of the 21st century.

Durban II will therefore be remembered for the abomination of turning the spread of antisemitism into a human right.

Durban II will be remembered for its cynical reference to the Holocaust while planting the seeds for another genocide against the Jewish people and its nation.

Durban II will be remembered for purporting to build equality for some, on the sands of inequality for others.

Durban II will be remembered for poisoning the wellspring of universal values.

Durban II represents the triumph of hate over hope.

And the dustbin of history is its only desert.