EDITORIAL - Send out the clowns: A conference on racism is subjected to bigotry

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never been a poster child for tolerance. The Iranian leader's invective-filled rants about Israel are legendary. He once hosted a conference in Iran specifically aimed at debunking the Holocaust; it was attended by hundreds of anti-Semites from around the world.

One would think that such unsavory associations would have disqualified Mr. Ahmadinejad for serious consideration at Monday's conference on racism sponsored by the United Nations. Unfortunately, the Iranian leader was not only invited to the event in Geneva, Switzerland, but he also was among the first scheduled speakers. Mr. Ahmadinejad did not disappoint - if you're an anti-Semite.

He opened the conference with a conspiracy theory about Israel, the Palestinians and the United States in which he rambled on for 30 minutes. True to form, he called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime" on the planet. While it is true that Israel hasn't earned many good-neighbor badges for its treatment of the Palestinians lately, it is not deserving of such a vile moniker.

The United States boycotted the conference, citing the likelihood of anti-Semitic outbursts of the kind the Iranian president promptly delivered. During his tedious tirade about Zionist conspiracies, 40 diplomats from Britain and France walked out. Germany, Italy and six other countries didn't bother to send representatives to the weeklong conference in the first place.

Several rainbow wig-wearing protesters were ejected during Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech for shouting and squeezing their clown noses as a sign of contempt for him. It was too subtle a gesture for Mr. Ahmadinejad, who droned on. Perhaps the protesters should have thrown big clown shoes at him. That's the kind of response he would have understood.


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