Jewish and Israeli students made sure their voices were heard on Monday during the address delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN racism conference in Geneva, known as Durban II.
Delegates from 23 nations walked out of the hall in protest as the Iranian president launched a harshly-worded harangue against Israel. The students, however, staged far more colorful, and entertaining,
Seconds after the Iranian president began three French students wearing colorful clown wigs rose from their seats and began yelling at the Iranian leader. Though they were removed from the hall within seconds by UN security, their protest drew considerable attention.
The three, Jeremy Cohen, Rafael Hadad and Jonathan Hayoun, are members of France's Jewish student union (UESJ). They were able to enter the hall as representatives of NGOs. They said they made the decision to take action on Sunday over lunch.
"We wanted to show it was one big joke," Cohen told Ynet shortly after their performance.
Rafael Hadad being removed from the hall (Photo: Reuters)
"Rafael was in the center of the hall, Jonathan and I were in the galleries," said Cohen, who serves as president of the Jewish student union at the Sorbonne. "We waited for our chance, pulled the wigs out of our pockets and called him a racist.
"We wanted to do something meaningful, and we took advantage of Ahamadinejad's speech. We dressed as clowns because we wanted to show that his speech and the entire conference is a joke. We were very happy that so many people walked out afterwards."
Boaz Toporovsky, Chairman of the National Student Union, and two additional students managed to enter the forum hall where Ahmadinejad had taken the podium. When he began attacking "the Zionist regime," the students immediately began shouting "racist" at the Iranian president. Security guards removed them from the all.
Toporovsky spoke with Ynet shortly after the incident took place: "At first they wouldn't let us in, but we managed to sneak in to the gallery. At first we thought to wave an Israeli flag, but people in the Foreign Ministry told us that it would be better not to thrust Israel to the 'front' like that, so we settled for shouting."
After placid opening remarks, Ahmadinejad's speech took a sharp turn, with Israel and the West in his crosshairs.
"The first seven minutes he talked about Allah and praising Allah," Toporovsky recalled, "and then he started deriding Israel, saying it was the most racist nation in the world, propped up by the West, and that's when we started yelling 'racist' towards him.
"He stopped his speech and looked at us, we kept shouting, the whole audience was applauding us. When they were taking us out of the hall we kept yelling towards him. After that they took us out of the building and took away our UN entry passes."
Yaehli Moran Zelikovich contributed to this report