Leading Jewish groups from Europe and the US slammed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva on Monday, saying it vindicated the decision of many Western countries not to attend in the first place.
Ahmadinejad’s “racist and bigoted comments…delivered today at the UN conference on bigotry and racism again underscored the conference has been hijacked by those with extremist political goals,” according to the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“We applaud the nations that walked out of the conference as the Iranian president launched into his bigoted and distorted tirade,” the Conference’s Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement.
At the Durban II conference, Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being “the most cruel and racist regime,” which was formed on a “pretext of Jewish suffering” during the Holocaust.
Many Western delegates and the representative from Morocco walked out at the first mention of Israel from the Iranian president. Some delegates, however, remained in the room and were heard to cheer Ahmadinejad’s words.
“We regret that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not join and instead remained on the dais while President Ahmadinejad spewed his vile rhetoric and incitement,” Solow and Hoenlein said.
According to European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, Ahmadinejad’s speech made “abundantly clear” what “conference organizers Iran, Libya, Pakistan and their allies had in mind as they planned Durban II.”
“It should surprise no one that Ahmadinejad, an avowed Holocaust denier and sponsor of international terror, would vent forth the hatred, vitriol and lies that he spewed during his address to the Durban II delegates,” Kantor said in a statement.
He also blasted the UN secretary-general for staying on the dais as Ahmadinejad spoke.
“If Hitler himself had addressed this forum, would sit as politely as he did for the lies and hatred spewed forth by Ahmadinejad? Shame on him,” Kantor said.
American Jewish Committee head David Harris decried that “an advocate of genocide” was given the floor “at a supposed anti-racism conference – on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less.”
Harris, who led a delegation of activists to Geneva to combat the anti-Israel vitriol expected to be heard from many NGOs and participating states, accused Ahmadinejad of making “a mockery of the struggle against racism.”