Peres 'deeply hurt' by racism parley

There must be a limit to Swiss neutrality, president says; PM: Some haven't learned lessons of Shoah.

peres 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
peres 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
President Shimon Peres has added his voice to those condemning the perversion of the nature of the United Nations' World Conference Against Racism, now under way in Geneva. "I feel deeply hurt and ashamed that on the eve of a day of commemoration for the Holocaust, a racist conference is opening in Geneva with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the keynote speaker," Peres said in a statement released on Monday. He expressed outrage that "a man that calls for wiping Israel off the map, a man who denies the Holocaust," is the guest of honor at what is presented to the world as a human rights conference. "There must be a limit, even to the neutrality of Switzerland," Peres declared. "Today is the day? This is the man to speak? This is the outlook for the future? I don't want to speak too much about Iran. But in Iran, people are hanged because they are suspected of God knows what - nothing. There is a center of hate, of blood, of terror." Peres expressed appreciation to "the United States of America and the other six countries that decided not to attend this shame of Durban, and to keep a human face and human hope for people who would like to see a world without racism, without terror, without hanging and without incitement." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that not everyone had learned the lessons of the Holocaust. "Six million of our people were slaughtered in the Holocaust, but unfortunately not everyone has learned the lessons," he said during Monday's cabinet meeting. "While we unite in the victims' memory, in Switzerland today, a conference is opening that is supposed to be against racism, but its honored guest is a racist, Holocaust denier who doesn't hide his intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth." Netanyahu was referring to Ahmadinejad, who was greeted by Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz on Sunday upon his arrival in Geneva, much to the chagrin of Israeli and Jewish leaders. Netanyahu stressed that in contrast to the Holocaust era, today "there is a strong Jewish state." "The state of Israel is the key to ensuring the existence of the Jewish people and our security," he said. Netanyahu praised the nations that have decided to boycott the event in Geneva. The US, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Poland and Israel are not attending the conference, while the UK and France have indicated they will walk out if it turns into a platform for racist comments against Israel. Also during Monday's meeting, the prime minister announced that NIS 20 million would be allocated to the basket of medical services for Holocaust survivors and another NIS 10 million for the return of victims' assets. He said he had reached the decision together with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog. "I am pleased that we can provide this service so that Holocaust survivors can have honor, health and long life," Netanyahu stated. Defense Minister Ehud Barak also referred to the UN racism conference at the cabinet meeting, saying that a world in which Ahmadinejad can be a guest of honor at a conference against racism was "an upside down world." "We need to work to counter this, that's why we exist," he said. Meanwhile, regarding the peace process with the Palestinians, Barak downplayed the question of whether Netanyahu had mentioned a two-state solution. "What's important is that we are prepared for a regional comprehensive settlement, consisting of peace and cooperation, that will express the joint interests of the free world, the moderate Arab world and Israel, in an organized struggle against radical Islamic terror, the Iranians and for the sake of peace and stability," said Barak, according to a statement from his office. "Of course, part of that is a Palestinian state living in peace next to the state of Israel, with Israel clearly being a Jewish state." The defense minister went on to say that on such complex challenges, the focus should not be on speech and slogans, but on the outcome. "The important thing is the result and the essence of what is being discussed, which clearly is a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state, living in peace," he said. "The real challenge is not inventing a slogan, but creating a comprehensive regional infrastructure for such a deal."