As all the major news outlets have been swift to report, a multitude of western leaders staged a walkout during Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s address to a UN Conference on Racism. The protest was sparked by the content of the Iranian President’s comments which were, mordantly so, racist in nature towards Israel.

On behalf of the world, we get it. You do not like Israel. You feel that Israel is itself racist toward the Palestinian people. Such is evident by the concluding statements of the 2001 Durban Conference that stated the same. Yet in light of these views, what good does it do to make openly racist comments at a conference on racism? Hypocritical, irascible words do not make the case for your publicly stated position on Israel. Quite the contrary, they betray your unwillingness at working towards a solution.

The organizers of the conference expressed their dismay that the United States did not attend a forum devoted to fighting racial prejudice and xenophobia. Yet Ahmadinejad’s words have certainly more than justified the boycott. I give credit to President Obama for expressing his personal support for the cause of ending racism, but publicly declaring that this conference does not provide an opportunity to meet such a goal.

At the end of the day, it saddens me to see opportunities to address real issues squandered and politicized, as is the case with the 2009 Durban Conference. Much of the hardship that the key stakeholders in this conference face today are due to the specter of racism, yet these leaders are too shortsighted, or self interested, to address it.

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