Kerry Applauds Obama's Boycott Of Racism Summit, Urges Israel To Freeze Settlements

06/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry applauded on Tuesday Barack Obama's decision to boycott a recent conference on world racism, saying that the forum became exactly what the administration feared: a megaphone for anti-Zionist rhetoric.

"Recently, a conference against racism became a stage for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to slander... the Jewish state," said the Massachusetts Democrat. "And the President of the United States was right to boycott the Durban II racism conference in Geneva. And I'll tell you, though, while listening to some of his comments and to see people burst into applause was a vivid reminder that our fight is far from over. I was, nevertheless, and I hope you were too, encouraged to see dozens of delegates vote with their feet and storm out in protest. Too many people in the day-to-day currents of life, outside of this room, don't realize the reality of violent anti-Semitism."

The remarks, delivered at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C., came a few weeks after the Obama administration made the choice to boycott the U.N conference, to the chagrin of some minority groups in the United States. Kerry was widely applauded by the pro-Israel crowd for his support of the president's decision. Indeed, AIPAC officials said, after the fact, how pleased they were with senator's address and, in particular, the "stanzas" of the condemnation of Iran.

A much more tepidly received portion of his address -- though one Kerry has offered in the past -- came when the foreign relations chair called for "freezing" Israel's "new settlement activity."

"We will defend Israel's security unflinchingly," he said. "We always have and we always will. But the fact is that settlements make it more difficult for Israel to protect its own citizens. New settlements.... don't just fragment a future Palestinian state. They also fragment the Israel Defense Forces, who must defend [them]. They undercut President [Mahmoud] Abbas and strengthen Hammas by convincing Palestinians everyday that there is no reward for moderation. And they empower the enemies of peace in the region."

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