Over the past few days, I have received several questions that I would like to answer in this quick blog post. If you have any questions, please post as a comment or send in an e-mail and I will try to get to them later this week.
Why is the American Jewish Committee taking part in the Durban Review Conference since the US government has boycotted the conference?
I hope to write a longer essay soon regarding the dynamics between countries that have boycotted (of which there are 10 - Italy, Israel, US, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and the Czech Republic), the countries that chose to walk out of Ahmadinejad's speech (which included the EU countries and others) and the countries who support Israel but chose to stay in the room (the prime example is Norway). However, I obviously support the participation of the American Jewish Committee and UN Watch at this conference. Our presence does not lend legitimacy to the conference, as would the presence of the US government. Our presence does give us the opportunity to dialogue with other groups - including the victims of genocide in Darfur and Rwanda, Arab and Palestinian groups, other Jewish groups, and many other international NGOs who are hear to discuss a wide variety of issues affecting our world.
Why did you stay in the room for Ahmadinejad's speech instead of walking out?
The "walk out" took place on the main floor of the Assembly Hall. The official representatives of various countries walked out at the first mention of Israel as a racist state and Zionism as a racist institution. The walk out did not occur in the galleries (which consisted of representatives of NGOs and press). Again, as with the boycott issue, my presence in the gallery did not legitimize Ahmadinejad's hate speech. However, many believe that the presence of the governmental officials from the western democracies would have legitimatized this man. In choosing whether the attend the speech, I believe that I am hear to bear witness to what occurs at this convention and I need to be present for the speech to be able to come home and describe this experience.
Is your safety at risk?
We spend most of our time in the UN complex itself, which as you would expect, has a lot of security. Additionally, at all Jewish-themed events, there is independent security as well as Swiss police present. In short, I feel very safe here.
Are you having fun?
I have smiled at this question, because fun is a strange word to describe my experience here (especially my experience yesterday). It has been an interesting and educational experience. Also, the sessions themselves have alternated between exhilarating and painfully boring. And yes - there have been moments of meeting new and incredible people that have been fun. However, fun is not the first word I would use to describe this experience as a whole.
Why are there so many typos in your blog?
I am often blogging after midnight. Our group is running on little sleep. For example, last night some of us did not return to the hotel until 1 a.m., at which point we had our first opportunity to upload pictures and videos, check out news coverage and write about our experiences. We meet for breakfast every morning at 7:30 and then leave for a full day of sitting in the sessions, going to NGO events, going to demonstrations and networking with other participants. So I apologize for my typos and grammatical mistakes, but it is fairly miraculous that I am even writing full sentences. I just had two shots of espresso, so I am wide awake at the moment!