GENEVA (JTA) — European diplomats walked out of a session of the Durban II conference when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the world to unite against Israel.
In a speech at the U.N.-sponsored anti-racism conferencein Geneva, the Iranian president first blamed the West for injustice, then went on the offensive against Israel, calling it the “racist perpetrators of genocide.”
“Under the pretext of Jewish suffering, they have helped bring to power the most oppressive, racist regime in Palestine,” Ahmadinejad said, to heavy applause from Iranians in the upper gallery and pockets of Muslims elsewhere on the floor. “They have always been silent about their crimes.”
He was briefly interrupted when several protesters in rainbow wigs yelled “Racist!”
At the first mention of “Jewish,” representatives of the 23 European Union countries that chose to participate in the conference noisily got up from their seats and marched out the door — a move met by more clapping from Iranian and Arab delegates, while other diplomatic delegations refrained. The walkout dealt another blow to organizers of the conference, which is being boycotted by nine countries, including the United States, Israel and several European nations.
Ahmadinejad went on to criticize the United States for the bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the global economic crisis.
He railed against those who use their “economic and political influence” and control of the media to back the “barbaric racism” of the “Zionist regime.” He called for the world to “put an end to abuses by the Zionists” and the “conspiracies by some powers and Zionist circles.”
During the speech, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remained in his seat, just behind Ahmadinejad. However, the U.N. chief issued a denunciation shortly afterward, expressing regret that Ahmadinejad had not heeded his earlier request not to attack Israel on the floor.
“I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite,” Ban said in a statement. “We must all turn away from such a message in both form and substance.”