The propaganda war against Iran, mostly advanced through continuing attacks against Mahmoud Amedinejad, continued this week as the Iranian president delivered the first speech at the UN Durban Review Conference on Racism. The reason he delivered the first speech, of course, is that he was the only national president who agreed to come to the conference. Most other nations sent representatives. The United States and Israel, as expected, refused to send anyone. So the Iranian President gave his speech, and with his first remarks about Israel, some forty outraged representatives of mostly European nations, stormed out in protest. The U.S. media predictably focused on this walkout, barely giving any attention to what Ahmedinejad had said, characterizing it as “anti-semitic,” and leaving the impression that the remarks were both humanly and historically false, racist, and deeply insulting to anyone who knows the facts. This is the same treatment Ahmedinejad has received in the past, to wit, when he made his remarks about Israel that are endlessly quoted as having vowed to “wipe Israel off the map”, and hence constituting a prima facie case for Iranian aggression. But as University of Michigan professor Juan Cole and Farsi language analysts long ago pointed out, Ahmadinejad was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, who had said the “regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” Cole explained that this “does not imply military action or killing anyone at all.” Journalist Diana Johnstone further pointed out that the quote was not aimed at the Israeli people, but at the Zionist “regime” occupying Jerusalem.
In the same way, it one takes a look at what Ahmedinejad said at this conference in the light of real rather than imagined history, one gets a different picture. First, according to CNN.com’s account, Ahmadinejad accused the West of making “an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering ... in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine.” Well let’s see. Did not the Israeli war of 1948 force some three-quarters of a million Palestinians from their homes and make them refugees? Is that not making Palestinians homeless? And did not subsequent wars in 1967 and thereafter turn the Palestinian people who remained into an occupied people, living in refugee camps called the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? And was not the 1948 United Nations plan to give a majority of historic Palestine to the Jewish people driven in part by the moral cowardice of the Europeans and Americans, who again and again refused to admit Jewish refugees trying to escape the Holocaust, and sought to compensate for this cowardice and their historic pogroms against Jews by giving their approval and hypocritical sanction to a Palestinian homeland for European Jews in a land already occupied since time immemorial? Which is what Ahmedinejad also said:
“In fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”
But you would never know that from the media’s account. For CNN.com felt compelled to add its own version of the 1948 founding of Israel: “Israel was established in 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish people after the Holocaust, on land also claimed by Palestinians.” ALSO CLAIMED BY PALESTINIANS? Palestinians didn’t have to claim it: Palestine was their land. It is their land, Palestine. And it was seized by Zionist force of arms in 1948 and subsequently, as any look at maps from different historical periods or fair accounts of what happened will show. And that seizure is still going on in the form of the apartheid wall and so-called “settlements.” And that war is still going on, most recently in the invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces, sanctioned and approved by the United States, including the slaughter of 1400 Gazans, most of them defenseless women and children.
But that bad Ahmedinejad had the nerve to call this “racism.” He put it very nicely in fact, when he said, “In fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.” Well isn’t that true? Is not the history of Jews in Europe, and America for that matter, a history of racist oppression against a minority? And does not the status of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories now mirror that historic racism in the manner and methods the Zionist regime (European in origin) has consistently used to attack, oppress, disenfranchise and ethnically cleanse the original Semitic people of Palestine? But Ahmedinejad went further. He added that the Jewish national movement “personifies racism” (because what, pray, can a “Jewish state” mean other than the privileging of one people over another—as in the fact that any person of Jewish heritage even today arrives in Israel from Europe with more inherent rights than a Palestinian who has lived there for generations?) and in CNN’s words “accused Zionists of wielding economic and political resources to silence opponents.” Good lord. Does the man have no shame? Zionists use money and politics to try to silence opponents? Who ever heard of such a thing?
Finally, this man who has been compared to Hitler by the American press had the nerve to tar the United States of America’s invasion of Iraq with the same brush:
“Wasn’t the military action against Iraq planned by the Zionists and their allies in the then-U.S. administration?”
Well, wasn’t it? To whom did Iraq present a threat? Were we to believe that the fabled Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” threatened the continental United States? No, the real threat Iraq posed was to absolute Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Just as now, the real threat Iran poses is a constantly hyped threat to that same absolute hegemony. And so, though they may not have been primary in promoting the attack on Iraq—for Bush and his Vice President and his Secretary of Defense seemed determined from the very outset to find an excuse to take out Iraq and Saddam Hussein—there was a cluster of Bush administration hawks, the so-called neocons, who surely played a role in promoting the Iraqi invasion: people like Paul Wolfowitz, Irving “Scooter” Libby, Eliot Abrams, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and many more in Congress, many with a history of strong connections with Israel, its right-wing Likud party, and the wing-nut who now rules the nation, Binyamin Netanyahu. Ah, but to call attention to that fact is dastardly, un-diplomatic, anti-semitic. And so the great moral beacons of world democracy—the representatives of white, historically racist Europe—walk out in a huff. Heaving diatribes against this upstart crow from the Middle East: as, from that bastion of equality and fairness regarding the globe’s darker peoples, Great Britain, came “offensive,” “inflammatory,” “outrageous and anti-semitic;” from France came “unacceptable,” and “heinous;” while from Canada erupted the observation that the major problems with Iran are continued threats against Israel and against the Israeli people, along with persistent nuclear ambitions. “Nuclear ambitions!” mind you. For its part, the U.S. through its State Department, ignoring the comment of Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights that she regrets and is “shocked” by the United States’ decision to boycott, said that its decision to not attend was based in its objection to a conference document that “singles out” Israel for criticism, and conflicts with the U.S. “commitment to unfettered free speech.”
Presumably, that right to free speech extends only to the U.S. and its allies, but not to the likes of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, or Iran, or those “other” races in the Middle East possessed of this disturbing tendency to want to rule, and even inhabit their own part of the world.