Posted on: April 19, 2009 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 1

One would like to say that this is a bad joke, but sadly for Israel, it is reality. None other than Avigdor Lieberman has issued Israel’s statement regarding the Durban II conference.

Obviously, this is part of the job of Foreign Minister, and it’s why Lieberman is such an absurd choice for the job. But to see Lieberman, who has risen to a position of power based on a campaign of racism and xenophobia, makes these

Avigdor Lieberman, Israels Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's "Foreign Minister"

statements…I just don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Lieberman’s statement only increases the negative effect on Israel. The fact that anti-Israel hysteria, which featured a good deal of anti-Jewish hate, derailed Durban I has caused a backlash. It is fair now to ask whether full global participation in the conference is being conditioned not on the absence of unfair singling out of Israel but rather on the absence of any criticism of Israel at all. I don’t know whether that is the case, but I do know that having Lieberman make a statement supporting a boycott of Durban II is just as distasteful as having a hatemonger like Mahmoud Ahmedenijad speak at the conference.

Lieberman making these statements is not just Orwellian–it is another example of Israel’s regression and moves away from its preferred identity as a Western-style democracy in the Middle East. One wonders how long the apologists will continue to harm Israel by defending an avowed racist, xenophobe and demagogue, a corrupt man who was convicted of physically assaulting a 12-year old.


The Obama administration will not attend, and that’s not a surprise. People have raised the notion that this will undermine Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world. I very much doubt that.

The Congressional Black Caucus has criticized Obama’s decision, and they certainly have a good point. The concern that no one seems to be talking about is the worsening of an already frayed relationship in the US between the Jewish and African-American communities.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Perhaps it wouldn’t have made any difference, but I can certainly see that, politically, Ahmedenijad’s appearance at the conference made it impossible for Obama to come to any other decision. But this will be seen by a large portion of the African-American community as exactly what Barbara Lee, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it was–a missed opportunity for the US to take leadership in the global fight against racism. And it will be seen by many as an opportunity bypassed for the sake of the Jews.

That’s a part of this that we in the American Jewish community had better deal with directly. There has been a lot of progress in recent years in mending the relationship between Jews and Blacks in the US. We can’t afford for that work to evaporate. And we can’t afford for Jews to be seen as an obstacle in the fight against racism, after all the many years we have worked so hard on issues of racial equality.

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  1. […] Moshe Yaroni says that “having Lieberman make a statement supporting a boycott of Durban II is just as distasteful as having a hatemonger like Mahmoud Ahmedenijad speak at the conference.” Indeed. It’s an embarrassment. These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

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