(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not win friends among the Palestinian delegation at the United Nation's anti-racism conference in Geneva last week, even though he championed their cause on its opening day.
His speech "was not helpful at all. It was not balanced," the PLO Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi told The Jerusalem Post in Geneva last week.
"He [Ahmadinejad] made from it a show and used it as an election campaign for his country," said Khraishi.
Although Ahmadinejad spoke of the "Zionist crimes of aggression, carnage and other brutalities" against the civilians in Gaza, the overall thrust of his speech, which called for the eradication of Zionism, did not fit within the goals and aims of the Palestinian delegation in Geneva.
The distinction between their stance on Israel and Iran's is a subtle but significant one. Ahmadinejad crossed the line, Khraishi said, because his speech delegitimized the very existence of the State of Israel, whereas the Palestinians, he said, accepted the state of Israel within the pre-1967 borders.
Both in the run-up to the 2009 Durban Review Conference and at the event itself, the Palestinians did not hesitate to attack Israel's policies. They took issue with what they have referred to as Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank and the "racial policies" against Palestinians, which they believe ensue from acts they deem illegal, such as construction of what Israel calls the "security barrier" and Palestinians call "the separation wall."
The day after Ahmadinejad's speech, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki spoke of the Israeli occupation as the "the worst violation of human rights" and "the ugliest face of racism and racial discrimination."
But Iran's words were not coordinated with the Palestinian delegation and did not reflect the Palestinian Authority's policy regarding Israel, Khraishi said.
He said a decision had been made by the PA leadership "not to use Durban as a platform to attack [the existence of] Israel."
"We ask all of those who are going to support or to show their support with us, to do so according to our interests and not according to their agendas," he said.
"We have no time for that. Our people are dying under the occupation. We are the ones who are losing the blood there, and so if there is anyone who wants to fill his glass from our blood, we will cut off his head; we will not allow it," he said.
Still, in spite of persistent rumors that the Palestinians had walked out in protest, along with 23 European nations and St. Kitts and Nevis, he said the Palestinian delegation had remained in the room during the speech.
He and Malki did walk out of the room during the last moments of the speech, which had run over its allotted time, because they did not want to be late for a meeting.
"We are always flexible when it comes to listening," he said. "I disagree with many speakers, but I stay to listen to them and to see the best way to deal with them."