Many Western countries have boycotted the conference, and many more walked out of the conference room while Ahmadinejad was delivering his speech. Were/are they right? A bit of propaganda, combined with the willingness to swallow it on the part of deeply paranoid souls, have helped extend a few myths about Durban I and Durban II, which have convinced quite a few that boycotting the latter was the right thing to do. Time for dispelling:
1. Durban I produced an antisemitic document that only sought to bash Israel
While there's no denying that a lot of antisemitim was on display at Durban I, and strenuous efforts were made to inject it into the document, it was effectively counterbalanced by the non-antisemitic world (i.e. the overwhelming majority of countries), and the final declaration contained not a single, repeat, not a single antisemitic, anti-Zionist or anti-Israel passage. Don't trust my word, go and read it.
2. It's outrageous that of all world leaders, none other than Ahmadinejad was invited to deliver the inaugural speech
All heads of State were invited to speak! But only Ahmadinejad took the opportunity. If Western leaders had wanted to convey a message that they care about racism, they could have coordinated for one of their presidents, prime ministers, kings or queens to be present in Geneva. But the UN can't disinvite a president who has the protocolar right to speak only because he's known to be deranged. That would be the beginning of a very dangerous slippery slope.
3. The UN are a bunch of incurable antisemites anyway, so it's no use attending their conferences because it will change nothing
This myth is based on the view that the UN is OK when it recommends the creation of Israel or orders Iran to suspend its nuclear program, but wrong when it hosts a conference in which Israel may be called what it is, i.e. racist. But the UN is representative of the whole world, and whenever nefarious regimes attend a meeting, it is fundamental that rule-of-law countries also be there just to convey the message that the world, on the whole, ain't that bad.
For instance, Haaretz reports:
Western countries were fiercely opposed to parts of early drafts for a Durban II declaration that suggested Israel was driven by racism in its treatment of Palestinians, and included proposals to bar "defamation of religion".
But the latest version of the draft issued yesterday as negotiations moved to a close showed all references to Israel had been dropped as has the "defamation" bid, also by Islamic states.
"This is the positive outcome of insistence by Western countries that the wording some people wanted was just not acceptable to democracies," said the representative of one rights activist group who asked not to be named.
I don't agree that Israel is not driven by racism, but if it was the only country that would have been so characterized, I'm fine that the reference was removed. And it's a great thing that defamation of religion (another slippery slope) was not included in the document.
This example, together with the non-antisemitic declaration from Durban I, are proof that, when it comes to the UN, involvement is better than boycott. But go tell that to those who publicly feign outrage at Ahmadinejad's tirade, but intimately are very happy that he displayed a degree of lunacy which can be presented to the Western public as characteristic of all Muslims.