DURBAN II: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday April 21, 2009
On Sunday April 19th, on the day that was Adolf Hitler's birthday, Hans Rudolf-Merz, the president of Switzerland, met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran.
On Monday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an avowed Holocaust denier, addressed the forum at the UN sponsored Durban II conference held in Geneva.
On Monday members of Western delegations, in attendance at the conference, walked out of the hall as an unfazed, unflustered, uncaring Ahmadinejad spouted his rhetoric, lambasting Israel and the United States of America.
On Monday night, Jews world over began marking Holocaust Memorial Day.
What were they thinking? What were the planners of the conference and what were the handlers of the Swiss president thinking?
The Iranian leader was invited to give the keynote address at the conference and took every advantage of the opportunity to spew terrible hatred and bald faced lies - his mainstay rhetoric and public pronouncements. Representatives from 24 Western nations walked out on Ahmadinejad.
The European Union, in attendance only as observers, walked out.
Jordan, repulsed by what was being said, walked out.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, host of the event, stayed seated but released a statement. The secretary general condemned the Iranian leader's speech and pointed out that, in advance of the address, he had spoken to Ahmadinejad and made it clear that the United Nations has officially repealed the Zionism is racism pronouncement and has affirmed the historical reality of the Holocaust.
In the end, the keynote speaker was the only head of state remaining in the room. And you want to know what Ahmadinejad was thinking? He was pleased. He had made his point. And Ahmadinejad continued on, regurgitating the same hate filled lies.
The Western world and even some members of the Arab world, made a point of walking out on Ahmadinejad and the president of Switzerland made a point of welcoming him into his country.
Hans Rudolf-Merz justified his meeting with the Holocaust denier and rabid anti-Semite Ahmadinejad by repeating the by now overused and incorrect cliche that Switzerland is a neutral country, that as a neutral country Switzerland embraces the idea of maintaining open channels and talking to everyone in order to properly facilitate negotiations between battling parties.
It is the same empty cliche that the Swiss used during World War II to avoid saving Jews, the cliche they used to cover up collaboration with the Nazis.
Neutrality does not mean spineless. Neutrality does not mean an incapacity to differentiate between right and wrong. Neutrality does not mean the inability to condemn evil and wrongdoing.
Neutrality means taking no sides, but it also means adopting a set of values that embraces moral and ethical principles.
Switzerland should have joined countries of conscience and condemned Ahmadinejad, condemned the words he used and the ideas he espoused. Instead, by paying him a courtesy call, the Swiss leader showed that he is not at all repulsed by the ideas Ahmadinejad holds dear. The Swiss president followed the lead of his predecessors and remained silent in the face of evil.
Excuses aside, Switzerland did not host the event. Durban II was hosted by the United Nations and held on United Nations territory. Switzerland was as much the host of Ahmadinejad at Durban II as the United States was when he came to New York to address the UN General Assembly in September.
There was no diplomatic need, no protocol for the head of Switzerland to go out his way and have a special dinner with the head of Iran. And because of that meeting Israel has called its ambassador to Switzerland back to Jerusalem for consultation and has called the Swiss ambassador to Israel in for a serious tongue lashing and is demanding an explanation.
Israel is making symbolic gestures, the president of Switzerland was not acting symbolically. Israel was pointing out that Switzerland has not learned their lessons. Nothing has changed in Switzerland. The Swiss witnessed Jews being murdered and did worse than nothing, they sent them back to Germany.
And today, a man preaches the murder of Jews and the Swiss plead neutrality and dine with the preacher.
Shame on Switzerland. Shame on the United Nations. Shame, shame.
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