Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ahmadinejad's Inconvenient Truths

You'd think it had been rehearsed, and maybe it was. The president of Iran gets up in front of a United Nations conference on racism, and the instant the word “Israel” passes his lips, the entire EU delegation rises as one man, and leaves the room. And let's not forget that these people are, supposedly, diplomats – experts in the art of compromise, masters of relativism, of seeing the other side of any argument. But even in the rarefied world of diplomacy, there are absolutes – and the one absolute that is absolutely non-negotiable... that towers above the rest... that puts a fatal chill on any discussion of some of the most urgent issues of our time... is that nothing negative, or even neutral, shall be said, or thought, about the State of Israel, ever. Israel is that oddest of oddities on the world scene – a country – and a basically artificial one at that – which is assumed to never be wrong, and whose actions are assumed to always be wholly justified. It is the sacred cow of the world... the untouchable... and “she who must be obeyed” (especially by any U.S. administration).

Of course, the above is true of the diplomatic community of Europe, the English-speaking world in general, and probably – by default – most of Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa is too busy annihilating itself to care, and Asia east of Pakistan couldn't care less. The Arab/Islamic world, on the other hand, is as dogmatically committed to Israel's eventual disappearance as Europe and America are to its perpetuation – and we wonder why we have such a hard time reaching “understandings” with one another. Still, it is curious how the U.N. can organize a conference, invite the president of a major Islamic country to speak first, then become a scene best characterized by the phrase, “I'll take my dolls and go home.” Clearly, the delegates who headed for the nearest exit weren't interested in what Ahmadinejad had to say – probably because they assumed they had heard it too many times already. But that's not usually a reason to walk out of a conference that they spent a lot of time and money to attend. Clearly, they arrived with every intention to “make a statement” -- and make one they did. So let's explore, for a moment, the issues that were – either actually or allegedly – involved.

To begin with, it should be noted that Ahmadinejad actually vetted his speech with the Secretary-General of the U.N. before giving it. This is somewhat remarkable... but it was, you'll admit, a very clever ploy. Now he can say, “Well, the Secretary-General didn't mind it – in fact, I took some material out at his suggestion – but you people are too gutless and brainwashed to even sit and listen.” And he would, of course, be right. The occasion, furthermore, was a conference on “racism” -- and as we well know, one man's “racism” is another's simple desire to defend the way of life of his own racial/ethnic/religious/national group. I doubt if the word “racism” has ever been used, since it was coined, to refer to _all_ racism, of every type. It always refers to bad, or non-allowed, racism as opposed to the kind that we tolerate because it comes under the heading of payback, or reparations, or “social justice”, or some such drivel. So when the white racism of Rhodesia is replaced by the black racism of Zimbabwe, for example, it's not called that. And when the racism of the American South is replaced by the racism of “affirmative action” and quotas, it's not called that. And so on. In fact, one might ask whether the term “racism” adds anything at all to the meaning of a more general, and less inflammatory, term, namely “discrimination”. If “racism” is simply “discrimination on the basis of race”, then it doesn't add any meaning – unless we consider race to be a unique trait in that, since one is born with it and it cannot be altered (except in the case of Michael Jackson), it's extra unfair to use it as the basis for discrimination. But is ethnic group any more amenable to alteration than race? How about gender? How about age? (For that matter, how about weight, or height, or looks?) How about religion, even – most of the world does not consist of people who “shop around” for the church in which they feel most “welcome”; they stick with the one they were born into. And I guess it doesn't help that some of the few honest anthropologists have pointed out that what we call “racism” is, most likely, an instinctive response to people who don't fit in... i.e. it's a primitive way of preserving the integrity of, and protecting, one's own racial group – i.e. one's DNA. But in a society for which Charles Darwin is worshiped as some sort of secular deity, things that really do represent evolutionary mechanisms are considered politically incorrect, and beyond the pale. (Cue sound of liberal heads exploding – as usual.)

But let's get back to our man Mahmoud. What did he actually say? Well, he's supposed to have said that Israel is a “racist regime”. But surely the Israelis – who are Jews, i.e. the most open-minded, tolerant group of people on the face of the Earth, couldn't possibly be “racist”, right? But think about it. What if a country were established for the – for all intents and purposes – exclusive use of one racial, ethnic, or religious group, for whatever reason? And what if, in the process of establishing that country, people who were not part of that group were forcibly driven out -- “ethnically cleansed”, if you will – and the ones who remained were confined in refugee camps – not for weeks, or months, or years, or decades, but for entire lifetimes? And what if those not in the camps had perpetual second-class status in the society? Wouldn't it be fair to refer to that country as “racist”, or “discriminatory”? Wouldn't condemnations be in order – economic sanctions, like in the case of South Africa – perhaps severing (or never establishing) diplomatic relations? The answer, of course, is yes – and that's precisely what we would have done in any other circumstances... except in this case, because Israel is special, exceptional, unique, and the experience of the Jews before and during World War II has exempted them, forever, from the standards of conduct – both international and domestic – that the rest of world feels compelled to adhere to.

But Ahmadinejad described the Israeli regime as not only racist, but “cruel and repressive”. Again, I can only cite the refugee camps and Gaza as evidence – and the massive destruction of Palestinian resources whenever they get “in the way” of West Bank settlement. If this isn't cruel and repressive, what is? And there are, by the way, plenty of Israelis, and other Jews, who feel this way. This is not a "Semitism" issue at all, but a humanitarian issue -- as even Jimmy Carter has pointed out.

And what else did he say? “The United States and Europe helped establish Israel after World War I...” -- the last time I checked, this was called “history” -- “... at the expense of the Palestinians.” Oops! Tilt! Surely we would never have helped anyone establish a country at the “expense” of anyone else. That's why western Palestine (the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan/Red Sea) was chosen, because it was “a land without a people”. Oh sure, there were cities and towns and villages there... but they weren't inhabited by “people”. Maybe by field mice... or space aliens... or out-of-work actors... but not real people. So we're totally off the hook on that count. And this is the sort of thing that inflames the diplomatic community of today – presenting obvious facts that no one wants to hear or acknowledge.

“They resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering.” Military aggression? No way – the Palestinians were simply encouraged to leave homes they had lived in for centuries, and move into squalid refugee camps. Maybe the issue is whether the Palestinians constituted an “entire nation”. Well, half of them wound up in Jordan... so I guess, technically, only half an entire nation was evicted from Israel/the West Bank/Gaza. That's makes it OK I guess. Was Jewish suffering a “pretext”? It was all too real – but would the Zionist/Israel operation have been possible without it? Highly doubtful. Zionists had been trying to establish a Jewish state for decades up to World War II, but had gotten a cold shoulder from the European powers.

Well then, surely Ahmadinejad went off the deep end when he “blamed the U.S. invasion of Iraq on a Zionist conspiracy.” Other than the well-known pressure the Israel lobby was putting on Congress and the Bush administration to invade Iraq in order to accomplish “regime change” even before 9-11, there's absolutely nothing to this accusation. Other than the fact that Israel considered Saddam Hussein to be Enemy #1... other than the fact they had already bombed his reactor... other than the fact that the most radical of Zionists consider the entire territory up to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to rightfully belong to Israel... other than the fact that the Neocons, nearly all ex-Trotskyite Jews, were the prime movers behind the invasion... other than the fact that the Evangelicals, or Christian Zionists, have been pro-invasion from the beginning, and continue to be, even in the face of massive failures, massive casualties, and massive debt... there's nothing to it. Wouldn't you walk out on anything this silly? I sure would.

So... for daring to talk about the Israel question at all, and for laying out facts that many perfectly reasonable people have long since agreed on, Ahmadinejad's speech is termed “vile, hateful, inciteful” and a “spectacle” by the U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N. So... who is being reasonable here, and who is being unreasonable? Who is sabotaging the chances for a thaw in relationships? Ahmadinejad is telling many “inconvenient truths” -- and the EU, the U.S., and their stooges, are denying them. I suppose that, in order to win friends and influence people in the West, the Iranians are supposed to embrace all of the myths, memes, and rationales that are called upon to support our benighted foreign policy... i.e. they are supposed to deny, and disown, their own version of the truth, as well as the evidence before their own eyes and those of the rest of the Moslem world. “We'll work on your grievances as soon as you deny you have any justified grievances” is the message. Well, this just isn't going to work, and a bunch of doughy, dumpy diplomats walking out of a meeting like a bunch of thwarted grade schoolers isn't going to contribute to the dialog either. Would it be asking too much of this group of wimps to just sit down and listen, for once, and consider whether there might be some substance to Ahmadinejad's complaints? OK, sure – maybe he exaggerates now and then, maybe he is provocative (intentionally, without a doubt), maybe he even qualifies as a "Holocaust denier" – but aren't diplomats supposed to seek out the pearl of truth hidden behind every thicket of rhetoric... the grain of legitimacy behind every diatribe? How would we feel if people kept walking out on speeches by Dick Cheney or John McCain, for instance? (Oops – they did. And rightly so.) I just think it's amusing... and sad. But we're still claiming to be P.O.'d at Iran for the “hostage crisis”, even though it was, arguably, brought about by the actions of our most incompetent president ever – up until George W. Bush, that is. And once Iraq was neutralized, the next place on our “to do” list – you know, the one kindly provided by AIPAC – was Iran. So in a way it's a miracle we haven't already invaded... and, in fact, Ahmadinejad knows this and takes great delight in mocking us for it on a daily basis. Israel would be even happier than they are now if we moved into Iran... but a funny thing happened on the way to Tehran. We discovered that we couldn't even keep the lid on Iraq and Afghanistan. We're also experiencing a bit of economic unpleasantness – and I'm certain that the twin debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have a lot to do with it. And who knows, there might even be a small speck of skepticism floating around the State Department as to whether it's always in our best interests to do exactly what Israel tells us to do. Well, I know – that's a crazy idea – but still, “what if”? Now, it's a given that we'll never declare our independence from Israel as long as either they or we still exist... but a bit of pushback might be in order, or, failing that, a total economic collapse which will render us incapable of doing any more heavy lifting for our “little brother” on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. As that day seems to get closer, don't you think Israel would take notice and do whatever it can to help us stay in business? And yet I haven't seen any signs of that – or even of any particular sympathy. All they want is for us to stay in Iraq and spend our last dollar on invading Iran. Nice folks. They're treating us like the old plantation slave who is just allowed to wither and die, and is buried in an unmarked grave. Problem is – that headstone has two halves, and the other one is marked “Israel”.

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