Geneva (AsiaNews) - Dozens of delegates, most of them from the European Union, left the hall where the international UN conference on racism is taking place today, while Iranian President Ahmadinejad was giving his speech, accusing the state of Israel of being "racist." Some shouted "Shame!"; other applauded him. Before this, Tel Aviv had recalled its ambassador from Switzerland, the host country for the meeting. The reasons for the recalling of the ambassador are explained in an official note: "for consultations and in protest at the conference in Geneva." Tel Aviv's action adds more tension to the boycott that some countries have brought against the conference, accusing it of anti-Semitism. The countries not participating include the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Holland, Germany, Italy.
The UN meeting, "against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance," is the first meeting on this topic in the eight years since the conference in Durban (2001), which concluded chaotically with some of the countries leaving, because they were critical of the final document, which cited only the state of Israel as a racist country.
The conference (called "Durban II"), which will last until April 24, is supposed to approve a document restating the conclusions of 2001, with the risk of reproposing the unilateral accusations of Israeli racism. It was this that unleashed the boycott of various countries. In recent weeks, the conference committee removed from the text the terms and accusations that were most clearly against Tel Aviv, but the preamble of the document itself reaffirms "the adoption" of the Durban document, although in other parts it speaks of stopping anti-Semitism, together with hatred of Islam and Christianity.
The unilateral accusations against Israel (and the lack of accusations against racism in the Third World, as in Sudan, Vietnam, China, India, etc.) led a number of countries to boycott the meeting.
In Israel, public opinion is divided: some think that the country should have participated in the conference in order to avoid leaving the entire stage for the enemies of Tel Aviv.
At the beginning of the work in Geneva, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that he was "profoundly disappointed" at the boycott of the conference by some countries.