As the Durban III Conference got under way on Thursday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged nations not to use it for “inflammatory rhetoric,” a reference to attempts to brand Israel as a racist country.
“We are all aware that the original Durban conference and its follow-up two years ago caused immense controversy,” Ban was quoted by Reuters as having said in a meeting marking the tenth anniversary of the original Durban Conference.
Ban added, “We should condemn anyone who uses this platform to subvert that effort with inflammatory rhetoric, baseless assertions and hateful speech. Our common commitment must be to focus on the real problems of racism and intolerance.”
The first Durban event was marked by wrangling about Middle Eastern and African demands for reparations for slavery and attempts by Islamic countries to brand Israel as racist. A follow-up conference in Geneva in 2009 also descended into chaos after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday) called Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, criticized the world body on Thursday for holding another Durban conference.
“We cannot -- and will not -- ignore such a willful misuse and abuse of the United Nations,” Prosor told Reuters in e-mailed comments. “Many of the world’s free nations are joining Israel in refusing to give legitimacy to this year’s Durban Commemoration. Fourteen nations are boycotting the event outright. This is a powerful message.”
One of the speakers at the rally was Harvard law professor and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz who referred to the UN as “a war mongering institution that gives membership to nations that practice apartheid,” and said it “has no moral authority when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people.”