It was no surprise at the UN conference on racism that President Ahmadinejad would go through his litany of hate and stupidity as he attempted to prove there was only one nation in the world guilty of racism–Israel. As his speech of hate began at least 23 nations walked out of the auditorium, but Norway decided to remain and found itself attacked by many for listening to the outpouring of ignorance from the Iranian leader. Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store insisted he remained in order to follow Ahmadinejad with his own speech which attacked the Holocaust denier. Store told the audience that speeches filled with hate and anger only “threatens the very focus of this conference. Through his message (Ahmadinejad) has made Iran the odd man out. And Norway will not accept that the odd man out hijacks the collective effort of the many.” He went on to note violations of human rights and the practice of racism in Iran which hardly makes that nation the conscience of the world.
The Israel government let Norway know of its displeasure at the failure to walk out. President Sarkozy defended nations which remained to fight racism on the conference floor rather than refusing to attend or walking out the door. There is much to recognize in the view that nations should attend the conference and confront those who spout hate and ignorance rather than giving them complete control over what happens. We respect the efforts of Norway and France to openly confront the forces of racism which, unfortunately, have too much power in the UN.