In boycotting the second United Nations Conference Against Racism (dubbed "Durban II"), being held today in Geneva, Switzerland, President Barack Obama has shown leadership in opposing anti-Semitism.
Over the weekend, President Obama defended his decision to boycott the conference, saying the anti-Israel rhetoric in the draft final communique was "oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive."
The first United Nations Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001 ("Durban I") degenerated into an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hate fest of demagoguery and threats. (To cite just a couple of examples, fliers depicting Hitler with the question "What if I had won?" circulated among participants and at one point, thousands of demonstrators marched bearing banners proclaiming "Hitler Should Have Finished the Job.")
In a poignant and revolting historical irony that is surely no accident, this year's United Nations Conference Against Racism coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this year's guest of honor is Mahmoud "the Holocaust is a Myth" Ahmadinejad.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today: "Six million of our people were slaughtered in the Holocaust. While we commemorate them, a conference purporting to be against racism will convene in Switzerland. The guest of honor is a racist, a Holocaust denier who makes no secret of his intention of wiping Israel off the face of the earth."
It might seem that the decision to boycott a hate fest would be an easy call for any civilized individual or country. But representatives of France and Britain are attending, and according to early reports, Ahmadinejad has used his podium to spew more vicious anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, Switzerland's President Hans-Rudolf Merz and Mr. Ahmadinejad held a tete a tete on the sidelines. Memo to Mr. Merz: cozying up to the world's premier Holocaust-denier and anti-Semite on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day is no way to be neutral. Looks like our President made the right call.
In a show of solidarity that this pundit finds gratifying and frankly a little surprising, other countries that have boycotted are Israel (okay that was a no brainer), Italy, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Germany. And just today, Poland, the country in which more Jews were slaughtered during the Holocaust than any other, announced it was boycotting, too.
Thank you for leading the way, Mr. President.