Monday, December 18, 2006

The road to Tehran is not travelled only by fanatic crazies. Along for the ride others have joined, in at least parts of the way, to demonize the Jews and to nazify the Israeli people, all in the name of "criticism of Israel". Jimmy Carter*, a well meaning but morally incompetent author, has also injected some fuel into Ahmadinejad's bandwagon, when he recently published a book that depicted Israel in the ugliest possible manner. UN Human rights commissioner Mme Louise Arbour, without the slightest misstep, put in her share into the wholesale villification of Israel, even after she herself was witness to the deadly consequences of Hamas terrorism. The Human Rights Council in Geneva has yet to show some interest in looking at the real grievous violations of human rights happening in the world, instead of focusing exclusively on Israel's never ending conflict with the Palestinians. I just thought I'd mention these few passive accomplices of Ahmadinrejad's campaign. They bear part of the onus for the monstrosity we saw unfolding in Tehran last week.

Here is a more forgiving analysis, pointing, nevertheless, to the same poisonous mindset described above:


Yet simply because opposition to Zionism ideologically or Israel politically isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic, it doesn’t therefore follow that being anti-Zionist or anti-Israel are morally acceptable positions. There are more than six million Israelis who presumably wish to live in a sovereign country called Israel. Are their wishes irrelevant? Are their national rights conditional on their behavior–or rather, perceptions of their behavior–and if so, should such conditionality apply to all countries? It also should be obvious that simply because opposition to Zionism does not automatically make one guilty of anti-Semitism, neither does it automatically acquit one of it.

Such nuances, however, seem to go unnoticed by some of Israel’s more elevated critics. Michel Rocard said in 2004 that the creation of the Jewish state was a historic mistake, and that Israel was “an entity that continues to pose a threat to its neighbors until today.” Mr. Rocard is the former Prime Minister of France, an “entity” that itself posed a threat to its neighbors for the better part of its history.

Alternatively, Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, whose paper on “The Israel Lobby” is now being turned into a book, have complained that “anyone who criticises Israel’s actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy . . . stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-semite.” Maybe. But earlier this week, former Klansman David Duke took the opportunity to tell CNN that he does not hate Jews but merely opposes Israel and Israel’s influence in U.S. politics. He even cited Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer in his defense. Would they exonerate him of being an anti-Semite?

In fact, anti-Zionism has become for many anti-Semites a cloak of political convenience. But anti-Zionism has also become an ideological vehicle for an anti-Semitism that increasingly feels no need for disguise. In January 2002, the New Statesman magazine had a cover story on “The Kosher Conspiracy.” For art, they had a gold Star of David pointed like a blade at the Union Jack. This wasn’t anti-Zionism. It was anti-Zionism matured into unflinching anti-Semitism. And it was featured on the cover of Britain’s premiere magazine of “progressive” thought.


The scholar Gregory Stanton has observed that genocides happen in eight stages, beginning with classification, symbolization and dehumanization, and ending in extermination and denial. What has happened in Tehran–denial–may seem to have turned that order on its head. It hasn’t. The road to Tehran is a well-traveled one, and among those who denounce it now are some who have already walked some part of it.

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* Here's a look at the irony of ironies, for those who insist on remaining deaf, blind and dumb to historical realities and their ominous reverberations in today's world:

On November 4, 1979, 400 Khomeini followers, armed with sticks and chains, broke down the door of the American embassy in Tehran, stormed the compound, and took hostage all the Americans on the grounds. It was in fact these hostage-takers who in 1979 would pose for the cameras next to a poster with a caricature of then American President Jimmy Carter and the slogan "America cannot do a damn thing." Khomeini did not release his prisoners until January 1981. Could America really "not do a damn thing"?

This is the key question raised by Mark Bowden's gripping account of the hostage crisis in his new book Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam. The "guests" in question obviously were no guests. Not only were the Americans robbed of their liberty, but they were subjected to mock executions and beatings. Hardly any of them believed that they would get out of the compound alive. But in this "first battle," the battle was never really joined either. Bowden's account clearly reveals the helplessness of the Carter administration: The more assiduously President Carter sought compromise, the more contemptuously he was mocked by Khomeini.

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