Human Rights

A Conference for Racists

"Kol hakavod" to the Western diplomats who walked out on Ahmadinejad's hate filled speech at the "Durban II" conference in Geneva.  As reported in Haaretz, dozens of Western diplomats walked out on the Iranian president when he started using the podium to engage in a racist tirade against Israel.

There are those who say what happened was an attempt to stifle any criticism of Israel…see The Traveler Within.  I disagree with my learned friend Mohamed who wrote:

"Durban II was stillborn. Months before, the main topic of discussion wasn't racism, wasn't the worst regimes in the world, wasn't apologies for past slavery or any such thing.

It was Israel, or more precisely, how to make sure that Israel doesn't in the least bit get criticised – regardless of whether they actually are guilty of racism or not. That was completely irrelevant. Occupied Palestinians as well as Israeli Arabs be damned."

The problem is not that the idea was to avoid any criticism of Israel — the problem is that there is no way the conference should have been ONLY about Israel.  The problem is, as Mohamed describes, that the conference was stillborn — because the main topic wasn't racism, the worst regimes in the world, etc.

We desperately NEED a conference that will really tackle the problems of racism.  And there are many many places far worse than Israel when it comes to racism.  How about:

  • The way China treats Tibetans

  • The way Iran treats Bahais–click here for more info

  • The way Zimbabwe treats white people

  • The way Saudi Arabia treats religious minorities


Yes, Israel has a race problem.  But the problem is not how they treat the Palestinians.  The treatment of people in the West Bank is the result of a military occupation, not racism.  The US government setup a lot of checkpoints in Iraq; the inconvenience caused was not "racist."

The race problem in Israel is the way Israel treats her Muslim citizens — 20% of the population who don't get their fair share of infrastructure, education, health care, etc.  A fifth of the population subject to almost shameless discrimination, like when the Israel Railroads Authority tried to fire a bunch of railroad crossing guards because they weren't IDF veterans.

But those problems are no worse than the racism faced by Muslims in other countries — like France.

It's not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel.  But it is anti-Semitic to focus on criticizing Israel while conveniently overlooking other countries that are much worse in terms of human rights violations and racism.

The UN conference was supposed to be a conference ON racism.  Sadly it was more of a conference FOR racists.


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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