When, on August 3, 2005, the palace guard of the president of Mauritania seized the reins of power in a bloodless coup, international condemnation was swift. The State Department issued a statement deploring the act and calling for “a peaceful return to order under the constitution in the established government.” France, the UN and the African Union immediately echoed Washington’s demand, as did the International Organization of Francophone Lands on August 25. The US also announced a suspension of non-humanitarian aid to the vast country straddling the semi-arid Sahel that separates North Africa from sub-Saharan Africa.
In the late summer of 2001, thousands of delegates from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances (WCAR). For two weeks, the Durban air resounded with the slogan: “Zionism is apartheid.” The US and Israeli withdrawal from WCAR drew further attention to the conflicts between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel delegates, and the American press had reported on almost no other issue when the conference closed on September 9.