Thursday, June 7, 2007

From Bucharest: The Opening Plenary or Rep. Eric Cantor gets to give his much edited speech

[On the left: Gregg Rikhman, crouching, consulting with Rep. Eric Cantor on responding to Prince Hassan's criticism of US policy. Right: Rep. Eric Cantor during a meeting of the delegation, Dr. Gregg Rickman next to him]

The morning plenary began with a video presentation by Elie Wiesel and a speech by the former Crown Prince of Jordan, Hassan. Hassan spoke about the need for Muslim moderates to be nurtured. He noted that he studied Hebrew at Cambridge, has a Jew as an advisor at school, and has worked closely with a number of Jews.

He also argued that there was no such thing as Islamic terrorism. Islam is a religion and terrorism is an act. If I would have had the chance I would have pointed out to him that Islamic is an adjective which modifies the noun. But it was a relatively small part of a pretty long speech.

One section did cause a bit of commotion. He condemned America's actions in Iraq. As soon as he made that statement the American Ambassador to the OSCE, Julie Finley, jumped up and went up to the chair to give him a note. [I assume it was a request to respond at once.]

When she returned to her seat, Gregg Rickman, the U.S. Sprecial Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism immediately came over to Cantor. You can see him huddling with Cantor in the picture on the left and sitting behind Cantor in the one on the right. The blond "flip" in the picture on the left belongs to Ambassador Finley.

Rep. Cantor quickly wrote and delivered a short but forceful statement to the effect that this was a conference on antisemitism and other forms of intolerance and to make statements such as that is to hijack it for another purpose.

He spoke quite eloquently. It was interesting to watch all this happen in front of my nose.

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