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MENA: Reflections on Durban II

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mahmoud_ahmadinejad [1]

Wikipedia – President Mahmūd Ahmadinejād speaking at Columbia University on 24 September 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [2]‘s speech, and the way European Union representatives reacted to it at the United Nations Conference on Racism in Geneva (Durban II), has stirred debates among bloggers across the Middle East. Some bloggers accused him of showing off [3] for his next electoral campaign, others accused the world of showing no willingness to work together for a better future, while others rejoiced because what Ahmadinejad said is exactly what they wanted to hear.

Saudi blogger The plucky, who is based in Australia, wrote [4]:

بالأمس استمعت لحديث الرئيس الإيراني أحمدي نجاد في مؤتمر العنصرية في جنيف و التي نظمته الأمم المتحدة. أستغرب حقيقة من دول تدعي الديموقراطية و حرية التعبير تغضب و تثور ثائرتها و تغادر المؤتمر بمجرد انتقاد نجاد لـ عنصرية إسرائيل. لا أستطيع تفهم الأسباب التي تجعل دول مثل إسرائيل و الولايات المتحدة (و حلفائهما) ترفض الحضور ، و لا أتفهم أيضاً ردة فعل الاتحاد الأوروبي حين غادر معترضاً على تصريحات الرئيس الإيراني. أليس من الأجدر مناقشة هذه الانتقادات بشكل حضاري و متمدن باستحضار لغة الأرقام و الحقائق بدلاً من هذا الضجيج المفتعل الذي يدعم حجة نجاد في حديثه ؟
Yesterday I listened to Iranian President Ahmadinejad's speech in the UN Conference on Racism in Geneva. I was surprised by countries, that call for democracy and freedom of expression, yet showed anger and left the conference as soon as Nejad criticized Israel's racism. I can not understand the reasons why countries like Israel and the United States (and their allies) refused to attend the conference, and also I do not understand the reaction of the European Union when its representatives left due their objection to the Iranian president's remarks. Isn't it better to discuss these criticisms in a civilized way, recalling facts and figures instead of the fabricated clamour – which actually supports Ahmadinejad's claims?

From Palestine, Natalie bitterly compared [5] the boycotting of the conference to the time when “people of conscience refused to shake hands with South African whites during the Apartheid regime as an objection to the racist system there.

Another blogger and human rights activist, Marcy Newman, who lives in the West Bank, Palestine, wondered [6] – just like The plucky – on the irony she finds in the situation, saying:

The Zionist entity’s racist in chief is calling ahmadinejad racist. where is the irony? the Zionist entity is plotting a bombing campaign of Iran and the man who regularly calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is calling ahmadinejad racist.

From Bahrain, Esra'a, who was invited to be a panelist at the pre-Durban summit, reflected her thoughts [7] after she realized how people were confusing between anti-semitism and the hatred of Israel, and how Iran was condemned for the wrong reasons despite having a lot to be criticized for at the conference.

The Iranian regime was attacked NOT for oppressing their people in this Summit; despite these crimes being mentioned, that was barely the focus. They were attacked for threatening to “destroy Israel,” that was the premise of every criticism against Iran, even though Israel also threatened to nuke it! “Oh, but that was in retaliation.” It’s no different. Both governments are equally dangerous with an absolute disregard for human rights. Israel having a liberal “lifestyle” doesn’t change its corrupt politics that is threatening many of us, just like Iran is threatening us by funding militant organizations and violently oppressing anyone opposing it.

Arab-American blogger Fayyad, who writes at KABOBfest was skeptical [8] in regards to US President Barack Obama's intentions after boycotting the conference and changing the draft text of the conference to omit mentions of the racism inherent to Zionism and the Israeli state.

Fayyad wrote:

With George Bush, we had a clear villain; a murderous abuser of human rights and executor of imperialist policies that many of his actions came under scrutiny, and even though he managed to get away with many crimes, they were not accepted as righteous by the wider population.

Obama, on the other hand, with his liberal movement mandate, gets away with more crimes than Bush, because the liberal who scrutinized Bush’s every action, are sleeping rotten when it comes to Obama, thinking that Change towards an equitable progressive society was achieved on election day.


So be careful, if Obama looks better than Bush, it means you just don’t know how he’s about to screw you. Careful Cuba and Venezuela. And if you’re looking for a black president to finally make America discuss its history of racism, wait a little longer.

From Syria, Omar who's based in Toronto, expressed his sorrow [9] at how the world missed another opportunity to frankly discuss global injustices for a better future.

Conferences like the one held today are a great idea. They should be an open forum for discussing injustices no matter which side the injustice is incurred by. As soon as you limit what can be said at a conference
like this, you take away all credibility. Sadly, this is exactly what happened today.

Another Syrian blogger Dubai Jazz, who lives in Dubai, echoed [10] a different idea, questioning ‘what after the conference? what are Arabs doing about it?’

Today, he’s (AhmediNejad) the only loud voice in the region. The Europeans will find reasons (hell, they will concoct them if they have to) to walk out of any conference. The Arabs are more or less silent. And the Palestinian people are left in limbo.
That's what's happening today.

Back in Palestine, Mohamed who said that Durban II was a great platform for Israel, also criticized [11] Ahmadinejad's speech:

Of course, that Ahmedinejad went surely didn't help, and that jackass is as much guilty for the failure of the conference as various Israel-lobbies in OECD capitals. If he really cared about the racism that the Palestinians face on a daily basis, he should've stayed at home and let the conference follow its course, rather than beautifully assist those attempting to hijack it into a pro-Israel choir.

Lebanese blogger Antoun, who lives in Australia, blamed [12] the “West” as well as Israel for the Palestinian's suffering. He added that the West didn't storm out of Durban because of Iran, but because it didn't want to hear the truth. Highlighting excerpts from Ahmedinejad's speech, he further comments:

Ahmedinejad didn't deviate from the obvious, didn't descend into anti-Jewish vitriol, nor did he racially attack Jews. So why the furore?

Hundreds of thousands worldwide protested against Israel's racism in Western capitals throughout the Gaza war. Yet, Western governments continue to remain blind and deaf to Israel's racist policies.

And last but not least, Kal, an Algerian blogger and a student of International Relations and Middle Eastern/African Studies, also summed [13] up  his opinion in two lines:

The bottom line at Durban II: Durban is a platform on which despotic majorities and dictators may stand on the backs of those whom they pretend to represent and agitate on behalf of.

Photo credit: Wikipedia [14]