Mahmoud steals opening of Durban II conference


Michael Jordan and I are in the press gallery at the Palais des Nations in Geneva following the speech of Iran’s president at the U.N. Conference Against Racism (Durban II). It’s over now, and the temperature in the room has dropped significantly.

As he has done before, Ahmadinejad went on an extended rant against Zionism, prompting a dramatic walkout by the Europeans. As they did, remaining delegations clapped noisily to show their support. United Nations it was not. (Click here to read the JTA news report.)

Earlier, several protesters wearing clown wigs disrupted the speech screaming "racist" and, according to some folks up here, one even threw his red nose at the stage. Krushchev’s shoe it was not, but the sentiment was clear.

The last time I saw a similar maneuver, it was from one lone guy who leaped the barrier in the visitor’s gallery in New York and screamed "anti-Semitism, the U.N. is anti-Semitism" several times on the floor of the General Assembly. Security triangulated in on him pretty fast and it was over. This time, the protesters seemed to have learned a lesson. They entered the room from multiple directions, so it took the blue-shirted U.N. guys a little longer to get the situation under control. All the while, Ahmadinejad continued speaking as if nothing was happening. It’s all on the video we should get uploaded in the next few hours.

When it was finally over, the foreign minister of Norway took the stage. He said Ahmadinejad’s speech threatened the conference, was "incitment to hatred" and one of "intolerance." He said it had made Iran the "odd man out" (I wonder how that translates to Farsi).  "Norway will not accept that the odd man out hijacks the collective efforts of the many," he said, to applause. He also vowed that Norway would not surrender the rostrum of the United Nations to extremism — a swipe at Iran, sure, but also against the United States and others who elected to boycott the conference.

We’ll be here all week, but it’s hard to imagine what could top this.

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