Canada right to skip UN hatefest

UN Watch in the News

Leader Post
April 24, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper should enjoy the moment. Rarely does public life offer as perfect an opportunity to smile smugly as the head of our government was handed Monday by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Under the Conservatives in Ottawa, Canada took the rather un-Canadian step of boycotting the UN conference on human rights in Geneva, which is a follow-up to a controversial gathering in South Africa eight years ago that turned into an anti-Israel, anti-western affair.

And Ahmadinejad proved how right Harper was. The Iranian leader harped on his anti-Israel obsession, accusing the international community after the Second World War of “bringing to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”

One can only marvel how this could be said with a straight face by the leader of a country that throws foreign journalists in jail, grossly discriminates against women and treats

blasphemy as a capital offence. Those nations that rejected the Harper approach were left with no choice but to look foolish and walk out of the meeting.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Iranian incendiary before the conference that he “regretted” the boycott by countries such as Canada, the U.S., Germany, Italy and Israel. Afterwards, Ban was left to sputter that Ahmadinejad had sought to “divide and even incite.”

Ahmadinejad? Incite? Who knew, Mr. secretary general? After all, except when he doubts the Holocaust or calls for Israel’s obliteration, he always seems so sincere about the cause of human rights!

Now, many readers may find it difficult to care what the president of Iran might say about human rights or racism.

But the tragedy is that his performance hurts the UN, and undermines efforts of people like U.S. President Barack Obama to restore a process of dialogue and mutual understanding in the world.

The UN is built on the idea that if you engage with a difficult international figure, he is more likely to soften his stance and help work toward an accommodation.

Instead, the Iranian president’s behaviour sends out the signal that in his case, at least, conciliation is for suckers.

In its efforts to meet the Ahmadinejads of this world half way, the UN can find itself doing things that would have horrified its founders.

Consider the apt assessment of Hillel Neuer, a Montrealer who is executive director of monitoring group UN Watch: The Geneva conference “is the opposite of what it claims to be — it’s the world’s most intolerant regimes seeking to indict the world’s most tolerant democracies.”

Copyright 2009, Leader Post, Edmonton Journal
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