Thursday, December 14, 2006


An anti-Zionist Orthodox Jew meets with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Usually, revisionist history takes a while.

When revisionist historians deal with genocide, they usually wait until the witnesses are dead and gone.

Not this time. Not when it comes to Jews, apparently. There are still people alive on this planet who carry the tatoos from the concentration camps on their arms, for crying out loud.

I'm not going to join the chorus of the many voices on the web attacking Islam and all Muslims. There are a million other places someone can go to read all that, but right is right, and wrong is wrong, and this absurd and disgusting Tehran Conference on the Holocaust must be roundly condemned by everyone everywhere, especially those who work hardest to preserve peace.

We have Iranians living in our neighborhood. They are good people. Decent people. My brother's sister in-law is married to an Iranian. They are a wonderful family. I believe there are many Iranians today who are very worried and concerned about where Ahmadinejad is trying to take them. One must speak up, though, to what Ahmadinejad is up to. If this man's recklessness continues to go unchecked, I'm increasingly convinced that a massive conflagration will be unavoidable - a conflagration with the potential to kill millions of people.

Ahmadinejad is jockeying to replace even old Khomenei-type conservatives like Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with his own brand of radicals in a bid to squash even a semblance of democracy in Iran. There are some hopeful signs that he is starting to run into resistance. Recently there have been student protests against him.

In the past decade and a half of foreign policy sleepwalking and lost opportunities, perhaps we should have made the effort to try to establish a dialogue with Mohammad Khatami when we had the chance.


Liam said...

In the Times editorial, it noted that municipal elections are coming up in Iran. Nice timing, right?

Repressive regimes in Islamic countries often rely on anti-Semetism to distract their people from their own government's failures. Ahmadinejad is just turning it up a bit. Still, as you say, it is thoroughly disgraceful.

It is important to remember that Ahmadinejad is not the center of power in his country. I also think that the powers that be in Iran are not interested in starting World War III or trying to destroy Israel (which may be close to the same thing), they're interested in becoming the dominant power in the region. US policy over the past six years has aided them greatly in this undertaking.

Jeff said...

Hi Liam,

The power structure in Iran is more complicated than a lot of people realize. Ahmadinejad has a lot of rivals to work his way around. I think he makes a lot of them nervous with his brinksmanship too. Let's hope so.

Whether he uses a conference like this as a PR ploy, or whether he actually believes this nonsense, he shouldn't be able to get away with it without a huge hue and cry. The Shoah is about all humanity, not just Jews. No matter what anyone thinks of Israel's policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, no matter what people think of US policy in the Middle East or our involvement in Iraq, the meaning of the Shoah must not be undermined, because it was the greatest crime against humanity in all of human history. Not necessarily because of the numbers (there may have been even greater numbers of mass murder in certain episodes of human history), but because a sophisticated, urbane, educated, cultured nation had succumbed in the space of a few years to an ideology that led to the employmment of documented, scientific methods of factory-style mass production to eradicate an entire race of people from the face of the planet. The Shoah does not belong to the Jews alone, or take its significance primarily from the it was Jews who were the main target. But once again, they are a witness people and a conscience to the world. The meaning of the Shoah is about what is possible of lurking inside all of us, which is why it must never be trivialized, denied, or forgotten.

Joe said...

Hello my friend! A handful of months ago you had a separate (compelling) post about Ahmadinejad. Alas!, Faith indeed does move mountains...

I too have often been struck about how withdrawn US policy seems to have been during Khatami's era...almost coy. Was it a missed opportunity? I don't know enough about it to make a call on that, but it seems that way... Unproductive at best. On the otherhand, the attitude toward the current regime seems the opposite, though with an equally unproductive result. Given the apparent ambitions and objectives of Ahmadinejad, I guess its essential to mount an effective opposition. But again, I can't help ask myself if "oppose and challenge" didn't seem more like "antagonize, dare, egg-on". It seems a curious juxtposition of postures to have taken with these 2 leaders. Am I alone in this perception? And, why would we have chosen this strategy for communication / relationship with Tehran? As always though, my ignorance (and growing skepticism?) get in my way. I don't have the answers obviously...I don't even know what the questions should be anymore.

Jeff, I was struck by your concerns about a potential massive conflagration if this man continues down the path he seems to have chosen. What could you envision as the possible unfolding of events and where it could lead us? (hope you don't mind me asking.)

thanks as always Jeff. Un abrazo fuerte (also from your Godson AJ who is here next to me...)

Joe said...

p.s. - A few posts/comments ago (about Iraq) you answered me with more great thoughts. You were not referring Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival" were you?

Jeff said...

Hi Joseph,

Hey, I happened to run into Mum and Pop and several of your siblings over at Johnny’s last night. Mum tells me she checks in on my blog regularly. If Mum is watching I’d better be careful about my manners. If Chris is watching I’d better be careful about my logic. If Pop is watching, I’d better be careful about his blood pressure. :-)

Please tell AJ I said hi and send along our love. Give him a kiss from us and tell him we wish we could see our Godson more often, especially around Christmas.

You’re reading Chomsky? You commie-symp… No, I haven’t read “Hegemony or Survival”, but I guess I did borrow from Chomsky a little bit when I was speculating about whether or not the conspirators need to be aware of the existence of the conspiracy for the conspiracy to be real. Nice catch, Joe. Chomsky is brilliant when it comes to linguistics, but as far as politics is concerned, nah, he’s been a red diaper baby since the day he was born.

In the post in which I cited Andrew Sullivan, he was making reference to how apocalyptic this guy’s worldview is. The Shia believe that someday the Mahdi, the Hidden Twelfth Imam, will return to earth and usher in the new Caliphate, under which Islamic justice will rule the world. Apparently Ahmadinejad is seriously convinced that the arrival of the Hidden Imam is imminent, within the next couple of years or so.

What concerns me is that in his rhetoric and in the use of his Hezbollah proxies he’s playing a dangerous game of chicken with Israel, a nuclear power with territorial depth about as wide as my back yard. I’m not really talking about us. When I talk about a conflagration and millions being killed, it is mostly Iranians I’m talking about. If things keep going the way they’ve been going, I think things are going to end very, very badly for Iran in particular.

Back in the 1930s, there were some Jews in Germany and other parts of Europe who were listening to Hitler’s rhetoric and making preparations to get out, warning other Jews that they should do the same. Most responded by calling them alarmists, not taking a silly little man like Adolf Hitler seriously, figuring that the anti-semitic rhetoric was a familiar and time-worn ploy to drum up some popular support. The Israelis are determined never to wait until such a thing happens again. In their current, besieged mindset, they are not going to submit to the knives at their necks so meekly as before. I know this mindset has created a whole slew of problems for them (another topic entirely, in my opinion), but apparently there is some justification for it.

I’ve read some commentary suggesting that Ahmadinejad wanted to hold this conference in order to make the case that if Germany really was to blame for the Holocaust, that Germany must make reparations by making territorial concessions to the Jews. The very most gentle and charitable thing you could say about him is that he wants to relocate all the Jews from the Israel to Europe. The Europeans don’t want them; far too many of them think the Jews should all be in New York. Both suggestions are as offensive to me as they are to the Israelis, so there we are… I don’t cut him even that much slack though. When Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chant “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”, why are we so reluctant to believe them? Why do we dismiss it as mere bluff and bluster when every action seems to indicate that they mean exactly what they say in earnest?

I agree with you, though, that there should be lines of communication open with them. As Jim Baker pointed out recently, all through the Cold War, even as the Soviets were threatening to bury us, we kept on talking to them. I think the reason why we didn’t engage Khatami as we probably should have, is because we didn’t want to be seen as interfering in this proud Persian society and thereby discredit the reformers. I think the general feeling was that the emotions about the Shah were still too raw, and if we reached out to Khatami, the hard-liners would be able to use that to call his credibility into question. I think there was optimism that the reformers were gaining momentum and would eventually win on their own. Then came the Palestinian Intifada and the whole region was super-radicalized.

By the way, if the Europeans are worried that the U.S. is going to invade or attack Iran, I think there is very slim chance of that happening, because I’ll let you in on a little secret, just in case anyone hasn’t noticed…

The till is empty. We’re flat-out broke! As Ray Charles would say, we’re “busted”.

Very interesting questions all, but I put the question back to you regarding my main point… Isn’t Holocaust denial totally unacceptable and beyond the pale, regardless of how one might feel about Israel’s policies?

Joe said...

thanks Jeff for the insight. To answer the last question you put to me, "yes" its beyond my conprehension (and I'm certainly looking very pale this winter)... ergo beyond the pale.
As far as Pop is concerned, I better which what you say and how you say it. As you well know (and he probably reminded you), he's one good one left!

un abrazo fuerte

Jeff said...

As you well know (and he probably reminded you), he's one good one left!

Funny, we were just talking about that last night. I've got to tell you, Joe... He looked and sounded great. He's looking very fit, and your mother is too.

It was good to see everyone. Daniel has his A Capella group from WHS over, singing Christams Carols. Great stuff. It made for a very nice evening. You were missed, my friend.

Jeff said...


Ahmadinejad's opponents win local elections in Iran

Tehran, Dec 21. (AP): Final results today showed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opponents have won the elections for local councils in Iran, an embarrassing blow to the hard-line leader.

Moderate conservatives opposed to Ahmadinejad won a majority of the seats followed by reformists who were suppressed by hard-liners in 2004, according to final results from Friday's local elections announced by the Interior Ministry.

The vote is widely seen as a sign of public discontent with Ahmadinejad's hard-line stances, which have fueled fights with the West and led Iran closer to UN sanctions.

Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rhetoric and staunch stand on Iran's disputed nuclear programme are believed to have divided the conservatives who voted him into power last year.

Some conservatives feel Ahmadinejad has spent too much time confronting the United States and its allies and failed to deal with Iran's struggling economy.

The voting also represented a partial comeback for reformists, who favour closer ties with the West and further loosening of social and political restrictions under the Islamic Government.

In Tehran, the Capital, candidates supporting Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, a moderate conservative, won seven of the 15 council seats.

Reformists won four, while Ahmadinejad's allies won three. The last seat went to wrestling champion Ali Reza Dabir, who won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is considered an independent.

Final results for the rest of the country also showed a heavy defeat for Ahmadinejad supporters, and analysts said his allies won less than 20 per cent of local council seats nationwide.