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Your editorial (Injury Prevention 2006;12:209–10) on the 8th World Conference rightly deplored the lack of attention paid to Darfur, but overlooked another serious flaw in the program that dismayed many delegates, particularly those who are acquainted with the Middle East. What was in the minds of the organizers when they offered a plenary slot to a speaker with a track record1,2 of deeply partisan statements on the complex, century-old Arab–Israeli conflict? How does providing a public platform to an advocate of a solution that is predicated on a denial of the existential legitimacy of one of the protagonists (Israel) advance the prospects of achieving peace in that troubled region or the cause of injury prevention in general by one iota?
In the circumstances, it was perhaps unsurprising if equally reprehensible that, in a further bizarre twist to the proceedings, we delegates were subjected to the extraordinary announcement, without a trace of irony, that a country (Iran) with a declared current foreign policy objective of wiping another sovereign state (Israel again!) entirely off the map had been selected as the venue for the next International Safe Communities conference.
The problem with the Durban event arose not from its political content but because it appeared to have been politicized—meaning that its ideals were perverted and misused as a vehicle to promote a highly partisan and (arguably) extreme political agenda. Some degree of political debate at such gatherings is inevitable, appropriate and desirable as much injury prevention depends on government policies. Politicization, by contrast, is none of these and merely brings academic meetings—and by extension their sponsors—into disrepute.
Competing interests: None.