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Leon: Racism conference may turn into a 'hate fest'

Michael Hamlyn

Former leader of the Democratic Alliance Tony Leon, who now speaks for the party on foreign affairs, has launched a scathing attack on South Africa's plan to host a second World Conference against Racism in Durban next year. "Quite what good will come of this exercise remains open to serious question," he said.

Former leader of the Democratic Alliance Tony Leon, who now speaks for the party on foreign affairs, has launched a scathing attack on South Africa’s plan to host a second World Conference against Racism in Durban next year.

Leon told a meeting of the Women’s International Zionist Organisation in Cape Town on Wednesday that last Friday President Thabo Mbeki announced that Durban would be the site for a review conference to evaluate the implementation of the decisions of the World Conference against Racism held there in 2001.

“Quite what good will come of this exercise remains open to serious question,” Leon said.

He told the Zionists that Canada, one of the countries most supportive of human rights, announced that it would boycott the Durban 2009 conference, saying it would likely “degenerate into expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism”.

Canada has already concluded that “2009 Durban” will not remedy the mistakes of the past, but on the basis of its preparatory committee will simply see a ramping-up of the 2001 conference.

“You will recall at the original 2001 Durban conference [that] the American and Israeli delegation stormed out, citing anti-Semitic attacks outside the official meeting, which included the leaflets saying, ‘Hitler should have finished his job’,” Leon said. “You will recall that at that conference, it was Israel that was singled out almost alone among the human rights violators of the world.”

He said that the preparatory committee for the conference is chaired by Libya, and its members include Iran, Pakistan and Cuba.

The United States voted against a United Nations resolution concerning the conference, and the 27 European Union countries have also expressed profound reservations about the fact that some of the most rights-delinquent countries in the world will sit in judgement on how the other states implement anti-racism measures.

It appears likely, Leon suggested, that many other Western nations will soon follow Canada’s lead.

“The question then arises how South Africa hopes to steer the conference in a direction of balance and probity, rather than leading it to degenerate again into a hate fest of intolerance and imprudence.”

He added that the South African taxpayer forked out R100-million for the last World Conference against Racism. “The results have been dismal and in terms of the advancement of the real fight against racism, almost non-existent.”

He asked: “Are we again going to witness, host and pay for a slanted, sectional and sectarian conference, or will we use our best endeavours and our foreign policy credentials to steer it in the right direction?”—I-Net Bridge

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