Strange Days at the UN

Canada had a moment of clarity when it led the charge against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly, and should be saluted for it.

Read the transcript of this Point of View

Rex Murphy Point of View

September 24, 2009

It wasn’t a red-letter day for sanity at the United Nations yesterday. Moammar Gadhafi, in particular, put on a performance that would have stretched credibility even as a Saturday Night live skit.

In 93 minutes the world will never have again (thank god) he railed on that "swine flu" was a plot by the pharmaceuticals, that the world may soon be swept by "fish flu" and that John F. Kennedy’s assassination was likely the work of --- who else --- Israeli agents.

However, all was not surreal and bizarre.  Canada acted exceptionally.  It announced that it would be boycotting the speech of Iran’s dubious President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – variously, for Holocaust denial, for the jailing of one Canadian journalist, the death in prison of another, and perhaps more generally for the travesty of the ‘elections’ held there recently and the vicious putdown of the huge protests that followed them.

Ahmadinejad, it will painfully be remembered, was the ‘world leader’ who invited no less than a one time Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to be the keynote speaker at a conference of "scholars" "studying" the Holocaust.  Headlining David Duke as a scholar on the Holocaust – was not just a lapse in taste: it was an insult to the human mind.  Daffy Duck is more of a scholar than David Duke.

That conference perfectly prefigured his remarks last week – that the Holocaust was just "a pretext used by Jews to trick the West into backing the creation of Israel," that the Holocaust itself was questionable.   Condemned for those statements he wore the outrage from other leaders, and Israel in particular, as a badge of honour: Quote: "The anger of the world's professional killers (Israelis) is a source of pride for us."

Normally governments try to duck real issues, avoid taking clear stands.  But yesterday was different.  The Canadian government neither temporized nor muffled itself in diplo-speak.  It announced it would not attend the rant – set an example for other countries – and was a rare voice of brave lucidity in rebuking the detestable assertions of Iran’s President.  The same man, be it noted, who in another talk two years ago at Columbia University, added to the world’s anthropology by announcing "there were (they don’t exist) no homosexuals" in Iran.

It was a really good speech to stay away from, with its replay of that oldest of hateful anti-Jewish bile --- of the sinister web cast by "the Jews" over all aspects of the world. Can it be the 21st century in which these words are spoken in a world forum? He said:  "It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery…to attain its racist ambitions."

The Protocols of the Elders fester on in that sentence.  Gadhafi we may partly excuse, because of his irredeemable absurdity.  Ahmadinejad is a bitter menace on his way to nuclear status.

So it was close to singularly refreshing that our government did the right thing, was out in front of a troop of other nations and left Ahmadinejad speaking to a dwindling hall. We don’t often see such moments – so it’s worth more than a salute when we do.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.