22 April 2009

Is Ahmadinejad entirely wrong?

Yes, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does shamelessly grandstand, and yes, once again he has set the cat among the pigeons on the racism front, but is much of what he says not true? In his tirade at the UN anti-racism conference, he is quoted as calling Israel a "cruel and repressive racist regime."

Let's parse that phrase in terms of Gaza. Wasn't the slaughter of 400 children during Israel's invasion of the strip earlier this year "cruel"? Is not the continuing blockade of Gaza "repressive"? And is denying the one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza the right to return home simply because of their race and religion not "racist"? So where in that phrase is Ahmadinejad wrong or anti-Semitic?

The problem is that Israel wants to maintain its racial integrity -- its very purpose -- and when you do that in a heterogeneous region you wind up doing unpleasant things. Like ethnic cleansing. like apartheid, like collective punishment akin to terrorism, all of which Israel has done. We in the West have great difficulty saying these things because our collective guilt over our mistreatment of the Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, has made Israel by far the most politically correct issue around. Serious criticism just isn't on. Ahmadinejad is not bound by this political correctness and says what he thinks, much of which is nonsense, but some of which is inconveniently true. He says that the Holocaust was a "pretext" for the dispossession of the Palestinians, and wasn't it? It is certainly used by us in the West to justify the state of Israel.

Various motives are ascribed to Ahmadinejad for his attacks on Israel. He is accused of playing to the home crowd with an election coming up, of trying to establish Iran as the leader of the Arab World, of appealing to European anti-Semitism, and maybe some or all of these accusations are true. But is it not also possible he is simply very angry about the suffering of the Palestinians? A great many people in the Middle East are, a sentiment we in the West do not seem willing to accept.

Worth noting is that while European diplomats boycotted the conference or walked out on Ahmadinejad's speech, the representatives of Third World nations stayed to listen, many to applaud. I suspect this is because his views are close to the Arab people's, many of whom understandably see Israel as a colonial imposition, and Third Worlders generally are much more sensitive to colonialism than we are. If we want to contribute to peace in Palestine, and in the Middle East generally, while removing one of the major catalysts of hostility toward the West, we might try listening to Ahmadinejad. Filtering out the chaff, certainly, indeed condemning much of it, but paying attention to the kernels of truth, and certainly appreciating the passion of a Third World voice more broadly representative than we might like to think.

No comments:

Post a Comment