NEW YORK (JTA) — Representatives of Iran, Cuba and Lebanon blasted Israel at the Durban Review Conference at the United Nations.
While some speakers in the Thursday morning session made reference to what Iran’s representative called “the stonewalling behavior” of a few nations — the more than a dozen countries that are boycotting Durban III out of concern for anti-Israel bias — most speakers used the session as an opportunity to herald the progress of their own countries in combating racism. That included, for example, the representative from Zimbabwe, who called his nation “a tolerant and peace-loving country.”
In his own remarks at the session, Amnesty International’s representative, Jose Luis Diaz, accused many participating countries of being in a “state of denial” about human rights abuses and racism in their countries, saying nations were using the conference to "score political points."
"We find it striking that while virtually everyone agrees that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance affect all parts of the world, rare are the governments that admit that these phenomena are a real problem in their countries," he said. "We believe that if there has not been more progress in the struggle against racism, this is in good part due to the tendency of states to play politics with the issue — using it to score points against other states — coupled with the readiness of many governments to bury their heads in the sand about the extent of the problem at home."
Thursday’s conference was called to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The ostensible purpose of that gathering a decade ago was to talk about racism, but it quickly turned into an Israel-bashing extravaganza.
Israel, the United States, Jewish groups and some European countries have denigrated the Durban process since, skipping the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva as well as this week’s gathering in New York.
As an alternative, Jewish groups organized a counter-conference nearby on Thursday to spotlight the hypocrisy of the Durban process.