Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for being here. This crowd is an extraordinary sight. You are assembled from all over this country and, indeed, from many corners of the globe.
The message echoing from this hall is clear: We will not stand idle. We will be counted. We will be heard.
I am honored to open today’s conference. Many distinguished leaders have gathered here. They will have important insights to share. However, you don’t have to be a human rights activist or a Harvard Law professor to understand that the Durban Declaration has been contaminated by the taint of racism that it claims to fight.
Time and again, this Declaration and its conferences have been used as vehicles to advance prejudice. They have thrust open a door for anti-Western, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic extremists to spread their views under the cloak of UN legitimacy.
The UN is commemorating this legacy today. It will host speeches by exemplary models of tolerance like Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It has invited NGO’s from around the world to stage "high-visibility initiatives" to bring attention to the day.
Some of these organizations might raise a few eyebrows. One is best known for accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing. Another is a direct offshoot of the Iranian Government. Even Muammar Gaddafi has found time in a busy schedule of issuing radio messages and hiding from incoming artillery to send his personal NGO.
Are these organizations qualified to lead the fight against racism? It would be like asking the Mafia to publicize an anti-crime initiative, or hiring Charles Manson as a spokesman for an anger management program. This undermines the UN’s credibility and distracts from its mission.
Yesterday, I sat in a major UN forum on diseases. Today the UN is providing a forum to spread the world’s most contagious disease.
Ladies and gentleman, racism is a contagious disease. It spreads by distorting our language and our values. It leads to hate. It leads to violence.
As the Middle East’s only free and open society, Israel wants to be a partner in any legitimate effort to fight racism. The Jewish people have always been at the forefront of this cause. We cannot – and will not – ignore such a willful misuse and abuse of the United Nations. Many of the world’s free nations are joining Israel in refusing to give legitimacy to this year’s Durban Commemoration. Fourteen nations are boycotting the event outright. This is a powerful message.
Yet, the asterisk now affixed to today’s meeting is not enough. The dangers posed by the Durban Declaration remain clear. As Churchill once said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
Today we make clear that the truth will not be submerged. Today – in the face of hate and prejudice – we speak for understanding and tolerance. On behalf of the State of Israel, I promise to work alongside you in this critical effort.
Ladies and gentleman, the task before us is clear. When moral equivocation replaces reason at the United Nations; when the values we cherish are turned on their head; when others stand in silence; we must act together – persistently, passionately, and with conviction. All of us most do our part for our societies, our children, and our common future.