By Rabbi Abraham CooperAssociate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
At dusk on April 20th, Europe's elites will stand in solidarity as Jews gather on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) to weep for 6 million brothers and sisters -- including a lost generation of 1.5 million children -- murdered by the Nazis. April 20th also marks the opening of the UN's Second World Conference Against Racism -- "Durban II" -- in Geneva. At first glance, these two events present a powerful synergy. One commemorates Hitler's victims, while the other ostensibly re-embraces the fight against all forms of intolerance in today's world. In reality, the Orwellian world of UN "Human Rights" presents Europe with a choice that will impact the endemic values crisis threatening our civilization.
There should be no place for democracies at a UN "anti-racist" conference that welcomes serial human rights abusers to its podium.
Now comes the kicker that vindicates the decision by Canada, Italy, Israel, and (belatedly) the U.S. to boycott Durban II. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the president of soon-be-be-nuclear-armed Iran, who persecutes Bahais and gays while denying the Holocaust and planning to "wipe Israel from the map" -- is reportedly also attending the UN's "antiracism" conference. And why not? Last September, the Iranian president received a standing ovation from delegates and a bear hug from UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, after his bizarre speech denouncing the democratic world order which he hinted would soon be replaced by an apocalyptic age ushered in by the coming of the 13th Imam. Religious leaders and selected NGO elites then feted him with a banquet. Given extremists' stranglehold on Durban II, Ahmadinejad is guaranteed a warm reception in Geneva.
You can already hear EU experts saying: "Perhaps Ahmadinejad will use the human rights podium to signal a kinder, gentler Iran." Not likely. Remember 2006? Walking a tightrope between denouncing Iranian extremism and embracing profitable trade with Tehran, German Chancellor Merkel's government was concerned when Ahmadinejad hinted at a visit to coincide with the Iranian team's World Cup soccer matches. Instead, he merely wrote her a letter questioning whether the Holocaust occurred and commiserated with the Germans for having to pay reparations to Jews because of the non-existent "Final Solution."
Now, Ahmadinejad's possible appearance presents world leaders -- especially Germany's Chancellor -- with a stark choice.
Like the ancient Egyptians who built "edifice complexes," modern European leaders love to erect monuments and commemorate historical events such as end of the Third Reich and fall of the Berlin Wall. The global community-of-conscience should not allow them to have it both ways on April 20th. You cannot simultaneously memorialize 6 million dead Jews while validating a leader who would eliminate 6 million live ones.
The stakes here involve not just symbolism but substance. "A spectre is haunting Europe," Marx wrote a 160 years ago, "the spectre of Communism." Communism is no longer a danger, but a much older ideology -- the hatred of Jews -- is making a comeback. According to polls takenbeforethe recent Gaza War fueled anti-Semitism, about half of Europeans consider their Jewish fellow citizens more loyal to Israel than to their own countries. A new Pew Research poll shows 46 percent of Spaniards, 36 percent of Poles, 34 percent of Russians, and 25 percent of Germans have an unfavorable attitude toward Jews. Only the UK (9 percent negative) -- and, beyond the pond, the U.S. (7 percent) buck the trend.
An ADL poll shows 31 percent of Europeans blame Jews for the current financial meltdown. In the U.S., Neil Malhotra of the Stanford Business School provides some preliminary data. Almost a quarter of non-Jewish Americans blame Jews "a moderate amount or more" for the economic crisis and almost 40 percent attribute "at least some level of blame to the group." These are findings are ominous portents of a future that may be darkened by extreme economic nationalism and scapegoating of religious and racial minorities and immigrants.
Younger Europeans will be watching to see if the pious intonations of their elected leaders on Yom Hashoah are matched by their deeds. There should be no place for democracies at a UN "anti-racist" conference that welcomes serial human rights abusers to its podium. A few well-placed vacant seats in Geneva would send a long-overdo message to the UN to finally clean up its own act.
It's been 70 years, since the UN's precursor, the League of Nations, folded. President Woodrow Wilson's hoped for a world "made safe for democracy," but the League wasn't was even joined by the U.S. Failing to repudiate Fascism's aggressive, racist doctrines, the League did nothing to stop Japan in Manchuria, Italy in Ethiopia, or Germany in Spain. It was made a laughing stock by that era's dictators and bullies who defied it and ultimately destroyed it. If the UN continues to bow to today's fascists and racists like Ahmadinejad, it's ultimate fate is likely to be the same as the League's. It's not too late for Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy to follow Canadian Prime Minister Harper and President Obama and just say no to Ahmadinejad's Durban.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center