From Durban II With No Love

News of Western diplomats walking out during a speech made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, in protest over his criticism of the State of Israel and its Zionist culture made me pause. A day before the conference convened, the newly elected Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared that he won't negotiate with the Palestinians until they accept and recognize Israel as a Jewish State for the Jewish people. If this is not racism, I do not know what is.

Ahmadinejad is a controversial figure for denying the Holocaust and other remarks. His unusually extensive list of sworn enemies around the globe range from Israel and the US to Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and from gay rights activists and hippies to neo-cons and war mongers. But I do not like how the media has turned him into the mascot for Israel bashing. Under this model, now, you either support Israel's inhumane policies or risk being counted as a sidekick for Ahmadinejad, resurrecting the President Bush's with us or against us rhetoric.

Thanks to Ahmadinejad a good conference to discuss racism -- a serious issue -- was turned into a media love fest where the Israeli narrative went unquestioned. Although no country is perfect, no other country can have it both ways as Israel does -- an oasis of democracy that has institutionalized racism and is beyond reproach. Israel does struggle with racism -- Sephardic Jews make less money and have lower levels of education than the European Jews; Russian Jews' bona fides are questioned; Ethiopian Jews are treated with skepticism; and yes, Arab citizens of Israel are viewed as traitors and treated as second class citizens. Unfortunately, the Western counties do not see any of that, and accept the Israeli narrative of how anti-Semitism is the root of all evil--but can the death of 1500 Palestinians (Semitic people) in Gaza recently be condemned as anti-Semitic behavior?

Obviously European and American leadership chose not to lead on the issues of racism because they do not have much to offer on the subject. After all, given their history of racism, colonialism, and imperialism, third world countries have plenty to say on those subjects. But Europeans and Americans who perfected the art of slavery chose to be no-shows and not to take part in the conference on racism. The old boys club avoided the guilt trip and opted out and instead chose to defend one of their own, Israel -- a European colonial settler state. Unfortunately those who had hoped to talk about their experience with racism -- much like Candidate Obama did in his much hailed Philadelphia speech -- were denied a forum.

I think the president of Iran was wrong regarding Israel and its people, even though what he said is on par with what some of the new members of the Israeli government have said about Palestinians. Although there are many justified criticisms of the Israel's discriminatory policies, it's not helpful to have Ahmadinejad point them out. However, I think he would have done better to avoid the anti-Israel rant and talk about racism and prejudice suffered by blacks and North Africans in countries like France and South Asians in the United Kingdom. It seems to me that the West is much harsher on those that criticize Israel, but look the other way when Israel carries out an offensive and innocents are killed by the scores. Having said that, the West usually make things right and I just hope that in the Palestinian case it does not take too much more time.

Most of the forty Western diplomats who walked out accused Ahmadinejad of incitement against Israel come from the same group of countries either carried out the racist Holocaust, financed or failed to stop it. Yet serving another slice of hypocrisy pie by condemning those who are too weak and too dysfunctional to do harm to Israel of being insensitive. I am left with one unanswered question, why did none of those "courageous " diplomats walk out during the UN meetings in the days leading to the Iraq war in 2003?

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