Durban II Diary - Part 3: The Clowning of Ahmadinejad
It's clear now - the Durban Review Conference is not an anti-racism conference; it's a pro-racism conference, sponsored by the UN. But more of that anon. Meanwhile...
I have had enough of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to last me a lifetime. He's gone now, departed from this hotel with his entourage that I was told had taken forty rooms, the men with the machine guns vanished from the corridors and balconies. Earlier this evening there had been a party in the mezzanine for five hundred of his closest friends, which, goaded on by Claudia Rosett (she is more intrepid than I), we tried to crash. We didn't get very far but I suspect Claudia, the only woman in sight without a hijab, had as much chance of getting in as I do of flying a biplane to Jupiter.
But perhaps she was jealous because she only arrived this afternoon in Geneva and missed the extraordinary events that occurred in the Palais des Nations today. Even now, many hours later, it's hard to digest them, hard to even conceive that I was there. But the UN itself may have received a powerful blow to its prestige from which it will never recover. Given the circumstances, it doesn't deserve to.
It all began for me around three o'clock. I was in Room 17, a giant meeting hall and had my eyes fixed, as did two or three hundred others, at the large television screen on stage. Ahmadinejad was beginning to address the conference in the main assembly hall just below us. But there was no English language translation coming out of my earphone. I was puzzled, but I wasn't alone. What was the demon saying? Alan Dershowitz, seated directly behind me, was the first to speak out. He jumped to his feet and cried out, demanding the right to a translation of the Iranian's speech. In my room at least, there was uniform agreement. People started crying out in frustration for a translation that wasn't forthcoming. What was going on with the UN, where simultaneous translation was a given?
Just then, on the television screen, a couple of kids in clown suits started demonstrating in the aisles in front of Ahmadinejad. It seemed surreal. (I later learned they were members of a European Jewish delegation.) Everyone in my room appeared amazed, even pleased, but the clowns were unceremoniously escorted from the hall and Ahmadinejad resumed his speech. I thought this was some minor interruption of the sort one frequently sees in the US, but in what seemed like seconds, a number of national delegates were standing up in their seats in front of Ahmadinejad and walking out in his face. These included France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, the UK, etc... all countries that, I knew, had made a big deal about attending the conference, not the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands - that honor roll of countries with the sense to realize what a fiasco this was in front and refused to participate (how good they look now!).
This walkout precipitated, if anything, a bigger response in the room I was in where almost everyone was on their feet now, shouting at Ahmadinejad and racing for the door. I found my cameraman and headed down stairs toward the main salon. It was almost like a stampede at that point - right in the United Nations - people were so appalled by Ahmadinejad. We took a lot of footage of this with commentary by Dershowitz, Shelby Steele and John Voigt, which you will be able to see on PJTV.
Still, by then, I had only heard snippets of what Ahmadinejad had said that had prompted this reaction. Soon, however, it was all too clear. Here is a translation of just one passage - reprinted verbatim in their own English - provided by the perpetrators themselves, the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN:
"Following the World War Two, they [the West? Security Council members?] resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and the dubious question of holocaust. [sic] They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and from other parts of the world to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine..."
So there you have it - Holocaust denial in what was ostensibly the main speech of the Durban Review Conference. The Vatican (among others) condemned this as "extremist and unacceptable." I have heard too that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is quite concerned about the fallout this will have for the UN, particularly for it's heavily US financed pocketbook, if the American people start to have enough of this reactionary nonsense masquerading as anti-racism.
But wait - there's more.
Because I had a press pass, I was able to attend Ahmadinejad's press conference immediately after the walkouts. I didn't really want to, but I felt, well, as they say, in for a dime, in for a dollar. This room too was jam-packed. I kept debating whether to ask a question, not that I could have. Only about six were answered. Ahmadinejad drones on and on, of course. Listening to him answer questions is terrifying and instructive at once. I know this sounds like a bit of an exaggeration (and, yes, I'm aware of Godwin's Law) but it must be a little like it was to have listened to Hitler and Stalin. Language is turned upside down. Everything is its opposite. "Democracy" is totalitarianism. "Human rights" are oppression. "Freedom" is repression. You head starts to spin. I think I remember from 1984 that Winston Smith got a headache listening to that kind of language. I can well understand it.
I'm too tired now to go on. It's one in the morning here in Geneva. I am looking out the hotel window to make sure he is gone. What remains as a question is who allowed Ahmadinejad to speak at this conference in such a prominent position? It would be interesting to find out - and to understand their reasoning. More later.