A fascinating collection of letters in today’s Melbourne Age newspaper, proving once again that debate about Israel/Palestine is far more robust in the public than the mainstream media usually allows:
The most frustrating thing about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the UN anti-racism conference (The Age, 21/4) — aside from his flagrant anti-Semitism — is the truth in his claim that Zionism is a racist, apartheid ideology. When critics of Israel quite rightly denounce the horrendous treatment of Palestinians, but lump it together with a vile racism of their own, not only does it reek of hypocrisy, but it lets Israel and America conveniently off the hook.
If we genuinely want an end to all racism, first we have to reject the equation that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism.
Then we must draw parallels between historical examples of the Nazi Holocaust or apartheid South Africa and the reality that Palestinians face every day.
Only then can the most hopeful solution — one free, democratic and secular state for all the people of the Palestinian territory whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian — start to be realised.
Andrew Gilbert, Kingsbury
Role reversal is a farce
A notorious anti-Semite and misogynist was a speaker at a UN conference on racism. Is it not time for the world to acknowledge that the UN Human Rights Commission conference actually promotes racism and misogyny? How can any country whose leaders genuinely believe in human rights attend such a farce?
How can any human rights organisation be taken seriously when it takes part in a circus where Elie Wiesel stands outside as a protester and Ahmadinejad is a speaker?
Elise Margow, Caulfield South
Courage and opportunity
WITH the hysteria over President Ahmadinejad’s speech, we may overlook one thing. As a people suffering daily the effects of Israel’s occupation of their land, and quite undeniably racist treatment at the hands of Jewish settlers supported by Israel’s Government and military, the Palestinians cannot attend this conference because they have no state. So it is incumbent on supporters of Palestinians’ rights to make representations to the UN for them, and Ahmadinejad has had the courage to do so.
It must also be noted that the representatives of European states who walked out of the room had intended to do so, perhaps to shield their ears from some uncomfortable truths; truths that the rest of the delegates subsequently heard and even applauded. It is a small consolation to those of us disgusted by Australia’s boycott of the conference that it thereby lost the opportunity to join in this mock protest.
If this is to be a meaningful conference, why on earth can we not mention Israel, whose new Government quite openly espouses racial discrimination and apartheid and seeks to prevent the Palestinians from having their own state on their own land?
David Macilwain, Sandy Creek
IT WAS fitting that John Langmore’s piece (Comment & Debate, 21/4) came on the day that dozens of Western diplomats were compelled to walk out of the opening session of the UN racism conference, following the anti-Semitic screed of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only in an Orwellian universe could a conference purportedly designed to end racism begin with a statement endorsing its full potential.
By boycotting the meetings, Australia joins a list of other nations that learned the sad lesson of Durban: the skill with which well-meaning and vital initiatives are hijacked for political purposes. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s surprise and dismay that Ahmadinejad’s comments did just this reveal a level of naivety that speaks ill of the UN’s leader.
One wonders just how many diplomats forced to lend legitimacy to the Iranian rant by their presence and compelled to flee the chamber would gladly have “lost” this opportunity, along with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the other nations that wisely refused to be drawn a second time into this charade.
Joel Eigen, Melbourne