Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized on Monday, April 20, Israel’s racist practices against the Palestinian people, sparking a walkout by European delegates from the UN conference on racism.
"In fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine," Ahmadinejad told the conference.
"The UN Security Council has stabilized this occupation regime and supported it in the last 60 years giving them a free hand to continue their crimes."
The Iranian leader accused Israel of committing "genocide" against the civilian population of the besieged Gaza Strip.
More than 6,600 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed and injured in 22 days of air, land and sea Israeli attacks.
The onslaught, which inflicted heavy damage on the infrastructure of the densely-populated enclave, left some 20,000 homes and thousands other buildings in ruins.
"The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces," Ahmadinejad said.
More than 35 states are participating in the Geneva conference, the UN’s first global racism conference in eight years.
The five-day meeting will review progress in combating racism since a sequel meeting in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, a few days before the 9/11 attacks.
Ahmadinejad’s speech sparked a collective walkout by 23 European delegations from the meeting hall.
"I hope this protest gesture inspires the international community to take notice," Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.
"The defense of human rights and the fight against all types of racism are too important for the UN not to unite against all forms of hate speech, against all perversion of this message."
British ambassador Peter Gooderham described the Iranian leader’s remarks, applauded by the delegations that remained in the UN assembly hall, as offensive and inflammatory.
Slovenian ambassador Andrej Logar claimed the comments were "detrimental to the dignity of this conference."
The US and some European countries had boycotted the conference, expecting Ahmadinejad and others to be critical of Israel.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Iranian leader of incitement.
"I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian President to accuse, divide and even incite," he said in a statement.
"This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also blasted the speech.
"The UN conference that opened on Monday in Geneva had a goal that should have united and mobilized the international community: the struggle against all forms of racism," he said in a statement.
"The speech given by the President of Iran was the exact opposite: an intolerable appeal to racist hate, it tramples on the ideals and values recorded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
In a later press conference, Ahmadinejad defended his comments and criticized the boycotters.
"In our opinion, this is arrogance and selfishness and the root cause of the problems of the world."
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)