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On Ahmadinejad and Progressive Myopia

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Sound to “them”? It appears that Mr. Weissman may hold more contempt for the Palestinian and Arab intellect than Jabotinsky. First of all, Ahmadinejad is not the leader of Palestinian resistance. Hamas certainly does not take its cues from his speeches. But it is also important to realize that Ahmadinejad’s words do not inflame the Muslim people of the Middle East, they enrage the white people of the West, those who boycott or leave international conferences without even a hint of embarrassment. In fact, the prior agreement by European delegates to walk out at the first mention of “Israel” proves that these undignified dignitaries would have missed anything he wound up saying anyway and wouldn’t have taken a lengthier, more nuanced discussion any more to heart. It is not that the historical and current reality isn’t known well enough; it’s that the imperial powers in support of the ongoing Israeli Occupation and aggression simply don’t care.

Some critics, such as Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, have accused Ahmadinejad of bad timing, delivering this particular speech at a time when American and Iranian relations may finally be rekindled. These analyses tend to focus more on the eagerness of Israeli leaders to attack Iran, using as an excuse Iran’s wholly legal nuclear energy program and the repetition of the mistranslation of Ahmadinejad’s supposed threat to “destroy Israel,” than on Ahmadinejad’s speech itself. These critics appear to blame Ahmadinejad for not kowtowing to US and Israeli rhetoric and capitulating to its demands in the face of grave and imminent danger posed by two nuclear-armed states. How is this Ahmadinejad’s problem? Is truth supposed to tremble in the face of adversity? This argument infers that the illegal threat of attack or annihilation should silence all debate, thereby entirely subverting even the most basic of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist ideologies. 

Additionally, it is clear that Israeli leaders are not interested in establishing peaceful relations with their immediate Arab neighbors, let alone with Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity afforded to him by misrepresenting Ahmadinejad’s speech to state that any renewed peace talks with Palestinian leaders was contingent on the removal of the “Iranian nuclear threat.” Meanwhile, Iranian leaders speak only of the need for “mutual respect and justice” and the upholding of international law in order to resume diplomacy. And yet, which nation does the United States call upon to unclench its fist?

The Iranian Constitution is quite clear with regards to international relations, explicitly stating that “the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based upon the rejection of all forms of domination, both the exertion of it and submission to it, the preservation of the independence of the country in all respects and its territorial integrity….” The document forbids any agreement that may result in foreign control over the natural resources, economy, military, or culture of Iran and affirms Iran’s commitment of “non-alignment with respect to the hegemonic superpowers and the maintenance of mutually peaceful relations with all non-belligerent States.”

Furthermore, the Constitution declares that, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has as its ideal human felicity throughout human society, and considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world. Accordingly, while scrupulously refraining from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of the oppressed against the oppressors in every corner of the globe.”

Thus, to allow the threat of Israeli aggression or potential of renewed American diplomacy to muzzle him, President Ahmadinejad would have done a great disservice to himself, his government, the Iranian people, their Revolution and their Constitution. 

The tone of much progressive criticism of Ahmadinejad’s speech seems to say, "He should've been more tactful… It's unhelpful to say things so bluntly… He should be more understanding, more wishy-washy, less specific, more diplomatic." Pardon me, but when did outrage over injustice have to be nicely stated? Ahmadinejad should be "nicer" when speaking out about the murderous policies of the US and Israel while Iran hasn't threatened or attacked any other country in centuries? Why is it Ahmadinejad’s responsibility to gently walk on eggshells when addressing a room full of historic and current colonialists, occupiers, militarists, and imperialists, who consistently attempt to degrade him by name calling? This smacks more of Western Caucasian apologia than progressive tenderness and tact. If you're not furious about what Israel is doing on a daily basis, then you're not paying attention. Well, Ahmadinejad is paying attention and he doesn't feel compelled to coddle the European (and American) imperialists who brought the world to this point, the same people who supported the repressive tyranny of the Shah's dictatorship in Iran. 

Are these critics truly suggesting that the Iranian guy in the room should practice deferential diplomacy with Western powers? Is he their butler? The elected president of a country whose democratic government was aggressively overthrown by a CIA coup at the bidding of Britain, an historically imperial and colonial country, should be sensitive to the delicate sensibilities of the Western governments that have demonized and ostracized that country for thirty years? Why should imperialists be handled with kid gloves? So that their delegates won't storm out in a pre-planned huff like so many frustrated toddlers?

At the end of his critique, Weissman writes, “One final question: Should we join Ahmadinejad in calling the Israelis ‘racist perpetrators of genocide?’ I would not. The long-standing Israeli policy of seeking ‘more land and fewer Arabs’ is horrendous. But it is not genocide, at least not until Avigdor Lieberman has his way. And it is not essentially racial, but increasingly religious, denying people first-class citizenship because they do not share the dominant faith or identity. To me, that is every bit as pernicious as racism, whether in Israel or any number of Islamic countries.”

When it was founded in 1948, the United Nations defined genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Is this really such an outlandish description of what Palestinians have been subjected to for the past hundred years and what continues to befall them on a daily basis? Thoughts of cancer patients denied travel permits and mothers forced to go into labor at West Bank checkpoints, as well as the hundreds upon hundreds of slaughtered innocents in Gaza just four months ago, prove the point quite easily. 

Also, is the “Islamic racism,” mentioned by Weissman, intended to implicate Iran? If so, he should elaborate. Even Ayatollah Khomeini, whom progressives still love to demonize as an extremist and a zealot, always made a strong distinction between Judaism and Zionism. When Khomeini returned from exile in 1979, he met with representatives of Jewish communities and issued a religious decree, ensuring the safety and protection of Jews in Iran during and after the coming Revolution.

President Ahmadinejad’s speech at Durban II doesn’t really need my defending. His words speak for themselves. However, when progressive commentators treat Ahmadinejad as a pariah, they wind up speaking for the very imperialists they’re supposed to be opposing. 

There’s already plenty of propaganda out there. I think it’s time for a little truth. 

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Nima Shirazi is a writer and a musician. He is a contributing commentator for Foreign Policy Journal and Palestine Think Tank. His analysis of United States policy and Middle East issues, particularly with reference to current events in Iran, Israel and Palestine, can be (more...)
 
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