September 29, 2008
Number 09/08 #08
As readers may be aware, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the opening of this year’s session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Sept. 23, he made a series of statements about the evil power of the “Zionists” to control “an important portion of the financial and monetary centres as well as the political decision-making centres of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.” He also suggested the Wall Street collapse was the fault of “Zionists”. (The full text of his speech is here; a useful news summary of the key points is here.) What’s more, his speech was received with much applause by the General Assembly and he was embraced following it by the UNGA President, (see video here). Ahmadinejad was also feted in New York with various interviews, media forums, and meetings with church and peace groups.
This Update includes comments on the significance of his speech and Ahmadinejad’s reception.
First up is Abe Foxman, the veteran head of the venerable anti-racism organisation, the Anti-Defamation League. He argues that Ahmadinejad essentially used the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as his source, especially “the notion that the Jews, though small in number, control all the sources of power and influence in the world in order to further their own interests at the expense of everyone else. And, when problems emerge, of course, it is the Jews’ fault.” He goes on to argue that this is the most dangerous kind of hatred of Jews, because it implies that one must defend oneself against this all-powerful menace, and therefore anything one does to Jews to do so, no matter how extreme and violent, is legitimate. For his full analysis, CLICK HERE. The reactions of various foreign ministers, including a labelling of the speech “blatant anti-Semitism” by Germany’s foreign minister, are summarised here.
Next up is Eve Epstein, vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, who is less concerned with the contents of the speech than the reaction to it. She points out that if Ahmadinejad had merely substituted the word “Jews” for “Zionists”, which appeared to be his clear meaning, his speech would have been illegal hate speech throughout much of the democratic world. She asked of the UN majority who applauded and embraced Ahmadinejad, have they learned nothing from the various Holocaust education and genocide prevention programs, or warnings about antisemitism from former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. For Epstein’s complete argument, CLICK HERE. Also commenting on the cheering for Ahmadinejad at the UN was law professor and head of “Eye on the UN”, Dr. Anne Bayefsky.
Finally, former Jerusalem Post editor Bret Stephens, in a piece written just before Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN but highly relevant to it, makes the case that Ahmadinejad’s extremism is accomplishing a great deal for the Iranian regime. Despite the many problems Ahmadinejad has created, he is making other very extreme figures and positions in Iran seem moderate by comparison, He points also to American intellectuals adopting the Iranian view that the US should make a deal to allow Iran to dominate the Middle East in exchange for keeping the oil flowing. For this full argument, CLICK HERE. A somewhat different and conflicting argument about what Ahmadinejad is accomplishing in relation to Israel comes from Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston.
Readers may also be interested in:
- The text of some other significant UN General Assembly speeches, from Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Australian PM Kevin Rudd.
- Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz commenting on the contrast of Ahmadinejad in New York and Paul McCartney in Israel.
- Editorials on the speech from the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, while Canada’s National Post comments on Iran’s plan to seek a seat on the UN Security Council.
- Columnist Ruth Marcus describes her encounter with Ahmadinejad at a media breakfast. Meanwhile, Martin Peretz of the New Republic condemns Christian groups determined to hold a meeting with the Iranian president, as does former New York Times correspondent Clifford May.
- An Iranian dissident comments on how to react to the speech.
- Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorialised on the need for more urgent and robust efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
- Analyst Michael Ledeen writes an open letter to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, while former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton says the UN speech should be a wake up call on Iran’s nukes.
- Iran publishes a book of cartoons mocking the Holocaust at annual “Jerusalem Day” celebrations last week.
- The EU says Iran is approaching the ability to make nuclear warheads.
- Suggestions that an Iranian ship captured by pirates off Somalia may contain chemical weapons, here and here.
- Iraq’s parliament has reportedly reached a deal on new provincial elections. Commenting on this important democratic milestone are Washington Institute for Near East Policy expert Nazar Janabi and the Wall Street Journal.
- Some analysis of the oil market suggesting any major fall in the price could create real problems for Iran (and also for Iraq).
By ABRAHAM FOXMAN
New York Sun, September 26, 2008
As an organization committed first to combat anti-Semitism but also to work against all forms of prejudice, the Anti-Defamation League often talks against a “hierarchy of hate,” a competition for victimhood among minorities. Our philosophy is that the emphasis should fall on the commonalities of those who are targeted for hate as the best way to form strong coalitions.
Every once in a while an event takes place, however, that jars us out of that kind of approach. The speech by President Ahmadinejad of Iran before the United Nations General Assembly on September 23 is one such event.
It is not that anything that comes from the mouth of Mr. Ahmadinejad shocks. After all, he has denied the Holocaust.
It is, rather, the realization that the most lethal form of hatred that could be directed against the Jewish people was delivered from the platform of the United Nations and that no other such diatribe against any other religious or ethnic group could possibly flow from that august site.
With all the discussion that has surfaced in recent years as to when anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s tirade had little to do with that. Instead, he returned to the language that appeared in the infamous forgery, the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” that was used by Adolf Hitler to persecute and eventually murder millions of Jews. It is the notion that the Jews, though small in number, control all the sources of power and influence in the world in order to further their own interests at the expense of everyone else. And, when problems emerge, of course, it is the Jews’ fault.
Listen to Mr. Ahmadinejad: “Although they [Zionist Jews] are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centres as well as the political decision making centres of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex, and furtive manner.”
This is the classic charge against the Jewish people that is at the root of why anti-Semitism has been so enduring and so lethal. The “secret, evil power” of the Jews can be conjured up any time there is a crisis. And so we’ve seen it in our time, first with the terrorism of September 11, 2001, when Jews were accused of committing that dastardly act, then with the war in Iraq, and now with the financial meltdown on Wall Street.
And it is such a lethal form of hatred because it does not merely suggest that one should dislike Jews, but rather that one needs to defend oneself against the “all-powerful, poisonous Jew.” Once one accepts the assumptions of the “Protocols” or of Mr. Ahmadinejad, then anything goes. Even the destruction of the Jewish people, as took place under Hitler, or the use of a nuclear weapon against the Jewish homeland, as is threatened by Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s focus on the Jews as the source of evil in the world sets the stage for the justification of what’s to come. That’s why his speech was not just one more diatribe from a “crazy” leader.
There is no more dangerous brew of ingredients in the world than this. And yet, Mr. Ahmadinejad was able to deliver these words at the General Assembly, at the very place that was created in response to the end-product of this kind of lethal hatred, the Holocaust.
And the representatives of the nations did not walk out in protest: many even applauded him at the conclusion of his address.
It makes one wonder. Have all the Holocaust memorials, commemorations, books, and films really sunk in? What does “Never Again” mean when the United Nations is used to reiterate the very themes that were the basis for what happened in the 1930s and 1940s? And all this while Iran is getting closer to achieving a capacity to produce enriched uranium and build nuclear warheads.
It is said again and again that Iran is not a Jewish issue but one for the world’s safety and security. And it is. But as we watched the spectacle at the United Nations, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Jews are being left out there once again.
Mr. Foxman is National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and author of “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control.
Back to Top
Ahmadinejad’s antisemitic address at the U.N.
By Eve Epstein
National Review, September 25, 2008,
In the absence of outcry, he will have won.
Iranian extremist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has wangled invitations from various patrons of New York polite society this week, seeking “dialogue” and discussion, during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. He is, after all, president of Iran.
But we should harbor no illusions about what the man is up to.
Ahmadinejad has revealed his agenda.
He is not just against Israel. He is against the Jewish community in its entirety.
This was made plain by the dastardly speech delivered by the Iranian strong man from the platform of the General Assembly earlier this week. The text came straight from Joseph Goebbels.
The Iranian leader did not observe the polite distinctions of refined antisemites in Europe and elsewhere. He did not say that some of his best friends were Jews, even though the Israeli state should be considered a criminal regime.
Instead, taking advantage of the world financial crisis, he resurrected language from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and recycled the worst of Hitler’s tropes.
He knows his moment, and, evidently, his audience.
Amadinejad announced that the Wall Street financial crisis was the fault of the Jews. Jews, writ large. True, he spoke of “Zionists.” True, most Jews are, indeed, supporters of the state of Israel. But he attacked the Jewish community around the world for crimes they were said to have committed, with no relation to Israel.
He is rebranding a real and full-throated antisemitism. The nightmare sketched by Philip Roth, in his novel about the possible revival of the real thing, has come out from under the bed.
Listen to the Iranian president in his own voice of malevolence — citing the “deceitful, complex and furtive manner” of people who live as Jews.
The Jews control the media. The Jews control financial centres. The Jews force politicians to hearken to their interests. The Jews are an “acquisitive and invasive people.”
We have heard that voice before, and it did not end well.
For the sake of a reader who might be disbelieving, it is well to quote these paragraphs in full. This text was delivered before the diplomats from 190 countries. The United States and Israel had already left the room. No other country sought to make a point of order, to move to strike the remarks from the record as inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations or to leave the room in protest during the speech. On the contrary, his antisemitic hatemongering was applauded. The president of the General Assembly embraced Ahmadinejad after the speech was completed.
To their shame, U.N. member states’ pledges of “Never Again” were betrayed by a singular lack of moral outcry. Have they learned nothing from the multitude of Holocaust education and genocide prevention programs they sponsored?
Ahmadinejad said to the United Nations assembly: “The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centres as well as the political decision-making centres of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.”
And then the Iranian head-thug lamented that any political candidate might even talk to the Jewish community — mimicking the phrase recently heard in American politics, about “what politicians do.”
“It is deeply disastrous,” said President Ahmadinejad, “to witness that some presidential or premiere [sic] nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support.”
“This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will.”
If he had used the word “Jew” instead of “Zionist,” such sentiments would likely be barred from the Internet in many countries, as a form of hateful invective.
But Ahmadinejad is clever, and summons the spirit of European and Muslim antisemitism by casting this as an issue of the Jewish state.
He ends on that note. His “humane solution” to the Zionist problem is to have “a free referendum in Palestine for determining and establishing the type of state in the entire Palestinian lands.”
The United States delegation to the 1919 Peace Conference was instructed that the Jewish home in Palestine should be recognized when it became a state in fact. Israel was admitted to the United Nations in 1949 as a Jewish state.
But in a world in which the recrudescence of antisemitism is always a safe bet, Ahmadinejad’s proposal for a popular referendum, apparently to embrace the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper, would have a predictable consequence — the elimination of a member state of the United Nations.
For the rest of this week, this violent man is making the rounds in New York City. Ahmadinejad has appeared on Larry King Live. He is attending a dinner at a New York hotel for a “dialogue” with Quakers, Mennonites, and Episcopal groups. He has met with these same groups three times before, and it has only served to embolden him.
Several years ago, as leader of the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan warned of the “alarming resurgence” of antisemitism in the world. “It is hard to believe,” he said, “that, 60 years after the Holocaust, antisemitism is once again rearing its head.”
Annan was exactly right about the danger. His clarity should limit the charade of Ahmadinejad’s visit.
In this week’s hollow ceremonies of polite discourse, no one should be deceived about the malign intentions of the current leader of Iran, as he builds his nuclear weapon.
Eve Epstein is vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.
Back to Top
By BRET STEPHENS
Wall Street Journal, SEPTEMBER 23, 2008
Imagine yourself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now in your fourth year as president of Iran and about to make yet another appearance at the U.N.’s General Assembly in New York. Superficially — but only superficially — things do not appear to be going well.
Over the weekend, you replaced the head of your central bank over differences about an inflation rate of 28%, up from 12% in 2006. He’s the second one to go in just a year. Ali Larijani, once your top nuclear negotiator, resigned last year over his objections to your confrontational style, and may challenge you in next year’s presidential election. Your boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also cooled on your presidency.
Abroad, your tenure has brought about three binding, albeit weak, U.N. sanctions. The often pliant International Atomic Energy Agency last week issued a scathing report, scoring your government for obstructing its investigations and citing evidence that your military has sought to refit long-range missiles to carry a nuclear warhead. Now France and Britain are pressing for another round of sanctions — and another kick in the shins to your faltering economy.
As for your well-publicized doubts and disquisitions on the future of Israel, or the existence of homosexuality in Iran, or the Holocaust, or the divine halo you sensed the first time you spoke at the U.N., you have succeeded — as George W. Bush never could have done on his own — in convincing the American public that Iran is a clear and present danger. In Tel Aviv they say you must be a Mossad mole. Could the Islamic Republic possibly have an uglier face?
Of course not. And that’s the whole point of your presidency. Your goal has been to define Iranian deviancy down. You’ve succeeded handsomely.
A decade ago, before anyone outside the torture chambers of Tehran’s Evin prison knew your name, it was former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who personified the Iranian hard line. He green-lighted terrorist attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina; he refused to revoke the death sentence on novelist Salman Rushdie; a German court fingered him in the assassinations of Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. When Mohammad Khatami succeeded him as president, the world breathed a sigh of relief.
Now it is Mr. Rafsanjani who is often spoken of as a “pragmatist” and a “moderate” — as compared to you.
As for the nuclear file, in 2004 the West’s bottom line was that Iran had to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiations. Mr. Khatami obliged (or at least pretended to); the West’s negotiating position barely budged.
By contrast, since you took over you have installed thousands of centrifuges, spinning uranium roughly at a rate of a bomb’s worth of fissile material every year. And while you’ve paid a price in U.N. sanctions, you’ve also caused Russia and China to split with the rest of the Security Council over stiffer penalties. Better yet, the Bush administration has gone from refusing to negotiate, to offering conditional negotiations, to pursuing low-level negotiations and now, lately, feeling its way toward tacit diplomatic normalization. All that without you bending an inch toward the West.
Above all, you have given the world time to digest the notion that Iran will inevitably become a nuclear power, and that nothing can be done to stop it — at least at any kind of acceptable price. Will Americans agree to open a third military front in the Middle East? Does Israel, which couldn’t so much as defeat Hezbollah, want to roll the dice on a bombing run that will spark another bloody regional war but retard Iran’s nuclear programs by at most a few years? How will the U.S. afford its epic Wall Street bailouts if you shut down the Straits of Hormuz?
Surely your enemies will take no such risks. Which is why you’re pleased that the more far-seeing Americans are coming around to your point of view. Look at former CIA spy Robert Baer. Mr. Baer has a new book arguing that the U.S. ought not “to stand in the way of Iran’s quest to dominate Islam.” He thinks Israel’s nuclear arms should be put under U.N. supervision. He believes the U.S. and Iran are ripe for the kind of alliance Nixon forged with Mao.
It cannot surprise you that such ideas are now taking root with the American intelligentsia; useful idiots always contribute to the revolution.
And what about your own future? It’s true that Iran has inflation and other economic headaches, but didn’t the Imam Khomeini say he didn’t start a revolution to bring down the price of melons? If the Almighty wills that you will leave office next year, so be it. As president, you have done more for the Islamic Republic in your four years than all your predecessors combined managed in their 25.