Serious defense of Israel shone alongside clever and zany protest at the United Nations Conference Against Racism in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this week.
For representatives of countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Cuba to sit on a Council that obsessively attacks Israel instead of focusing on widespread, egregious human rights abuses around the world--including abuses these governments themselves perpetrate routinely--would be funny if it were not nauseating. Similarly, for delegates to sit and lap up the racist tirade of Mahmoud "the-Holocaust-is-a-Myth" Ahmadinejad at a conference that purports to fight racism is comedy worthy of Mel Brooks, except it is not fiction.
But because alongside the viciousness of it, the absurdity is undeniable, it was somehow fitting that protestors included both Harvard law prof Alan Dershowitz, who made an eloquent defense of Israel, and a group of French Jewish students wearing rainbow wigs who tossed a red nose at the would-be-Hitler-of-today to highlight what a farce the conference was.
Dersh pointed out that nations like Israel, which have internal mechanisms for investigating human rights abuses and are open societies where people can criticize their governments without fear are not in need of monitoring and lectures from countries like China, Egypt, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, where people can't speak out without fear and where human rights abuses are widespread and horrific.
The French Jewish students' humorous and bold act took guts. The fact it could be funny reflects the reality that enough people of good will have said "Never again" to true, institutionalized racism and dehumanization, and to tyrants who seek world domination. Heaven help us all if the enemies of freedom and democracy--who, not surprisingly, are Israel's enemies--were ever to be in a position of greater power. These countries already abuse the powerless, and those within their borders who seek intellectual, sexual, or spiritual freedom. For those who suffer their fascism, and for those of us who are sincere defenders of human rights, there is nothing funny about that.