A UN conference on fighting racism and intolerance is exposing as many divisions in the international community as it would hope to heal.
A number of Western nations are boycotting the summit in Geneva over fears it will be used as a platform for unfair criticism of Israel. Some Arab states sought to define Zionism as racist at the previous conference in Durban in 2001. Human rights groups have voiced concerns. “It’s… a problem if some start to use racism to fight racism, or use intolerant language to fight for tolerance, these things are unacceptable,” said Julie de Rivero of Human Rights Watch. The EU is divided over the summit. The US, Canada and Israel have all decided not to attend. There will be much interest in the opening address to be given by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. An Isreali government spokesman said: “This conference was supposed to be a world gathering for the struggle against racism and unfortunately it has become a platform for intolerance and indeed some manifestations of racism.” On the eve of the summit thousands gathered in Warsaw to remember victims of Nazi hate crimes. 66 years on and the world still struggles to agree on how to define racism and intolerance.