Today a racist conference began in Geneva. Tonight began Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Memorial Day. Not only has the juxtaposition of these two events not gone unnoted, it carries a particular bitterness.
The number of nations that decided not to attend Durban 2 is respectable. The more absent themselves, the less legitimacy the proceedings have. Germany, New Zealand, and Poland joined the line-up of those staying away.
Biggest disappointments are Great Britain and France, which are in attendance. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared that the French representative would walk out “immediately” if the proceedings were racist or anti-Israel; and today he had his chance to prove it. Representatives of the EU, we were told, would be there as “observer” to make sure no “red lines” were crossed — and would “respond appropriately” to any “unacceptable” statement.
And, it should be noted, the Vatican opted to participate.
Biggest surprise, at least for me, was the statement by President Obama, declaring that the US could not attend the conference because of “hypocritical antagonism” towards Israel.
“Our participation would have involved putting our imprimatur on something we just didn’t believe in.”
Many had thought at the last moment he would decide to attend. There is only speculation as to why he didn’t.
Yesterday, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a meeting over dinner. All very “civilized.” Today, Foreign Minister Lieberman — with Netanyahu’s approval — called Israel’s Ambassador in Switzerland, Ilan Elgar, back to Jerusalem for consultations as a sign of protest. Later, the Foreign Ministry summoned Monika Schmutz-Kirgoz, the head of Switzerland’s diplomatic mission to Israel, for an “urgent discussion” to convey Israel’s serious displeasure with the Ahmadinejad meeting.
Said a Foreign Ministry spokesman:
“A meeting with Ahmadinejad badly damages the international moral coalition against Iran and serves as a dishonorable move which should never take place. A head of state who has some respect for himself should not shake the hand of the Holocaust denier from Tehran.”
What matters most to me is that our Israeli representatives demonstrated enormous respect for our state by protesting this way. No shrinking violets here, but rather proud Israelis taking a forceful position.
President Merz, who was not pleased, indicated that he had a right to do this as Switzerland is a neutral country. The Swiss were “neutral” during the Holocaust too, and gave quiet assistance to the Nazis. In a struggle against evil declared neutrality is itself immoral.
So what happened at the opening day of the conference?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave the key note address and called for the elimination of Israel. Israel, he said, was founded on the “pretext of suffering” after WWII. [ON Holocaust Remembrance Day, he speaks about a pretext!!] But Israel founded a “cruel and repressive racist regime.” “Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights at eradicating this barbaric racism. Efforts must be made to put an end to Zionism.”
In the course of his statements, dozens of delegates walked out. At this time I do not have exact information on which nations they represented; most were EU connected.
But they didn’t stay out. They returned to participate, in the face of the evidence of how the conference was hijacked, with the argument that they couldn’t leave the conference to the racists. But they delude themselves, for the majority of those present didn’t walk out and applauded the Iranian president.
Present during the proceedings were some Jewish students, some from Israel and some — who donned clown wigs when Ahmadinejad began to speak, to show that the proceedings were a circus — from France. They came to heckle him, and were escorted from the auditorium. But they received a round of applause.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon did not walk out but later deplored Ahmadinejad’s remarks.
From the Israeli Foreign Ministry came this statement:
“The offensive and inflammatory incitement and humiliating and intolerable appeal to racist hate by the Iranian President, which were expressed during the first hours of the conference, constitute clear proof, for those who still require it, that the conference’s agenda has been taken hostage and been diverted from real and necessary racism-related deliberations – to a brazen attack on Israel.”
The Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at Yad VaShem tonight was dedicated to Children of the Holocaust. Every year survivors light six torches in memory of the six million. Those who did this year were all young children at the start of the Holocaust. But there were seven, not six, because one set of identical twins was included: Iudit Barnea and Lia Huber (nées Tchengar). They were among the twins who endured the infamous twin experiments of Mengele.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, one of the speakers at the Ceremony, said:
“We will not let the Holocaust deniers perpetrate another holocaust on the Jewish people. This is the highest responsibility of the State of Israel and of myself as prime minister.
“Israel is the shield and the hope of the Jewish People. Here we create for the glory of our people and all of mankind. The country’s achievements in every field – culture and science, medicine and security – are groundbreaking. We are a nation small in number but of great fortitude.”
Yet another speaker was IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-General Gabi Ashkenazi:
“Even today we still face elements that seek to destroy us, those who hate us, Holocaust deniers and various leaders who openly call for our extermination.
“[The IDF is] capable of striking the farthest enemy.
“…we insist on preserving the morals unique to the Jewish people since its inception through the way we fight and conduct ourselves. Those who spoke of the ‘supreme race,’ and sought to rob us of our humanity, should know that the Israeli people is alive, determined to face any challenge, ready to face even the most complex threats and defeat them.
“It’s difficult to explain the moral strength required of those warriors, who survived the Nazi hell and gathered their strength to come to Israel, to fight for it, and to rebuild their homes and lives here.
“The sense of purpose of the Holocaust survivors who fought in 1948, their devotion, courage and determination – were the central foundations of the ‘silver platter’ we were given the Jewish state on.”
Stand tall, Israel!
With all of the obscenity I’ve described here, I’m tempted to call this obscene as well. Or else just mind-numbingly stupid.
The US tonight let it be known that even though Ahmadinejad gave a nasty speech today, it was still interested in direct negotiations with him. This was part of President Obama’s policy of engagement.
In a statement of particular profundity, State Department spokesman Robert Wood, speaking to reporters in Washington, said, “The comments that he made … frankly feed racial hatred. If Iran … wants a different relationship with the international community, it’s got to change its behavior and stop this horrible rhetoric.”
So much more to write, but tomorrow awaits. I close here with a link to my piece on YNet that went up today, “PA’s Fallacious Premises”: