No. 536 29 Tishrei 5766 / 1 November 2005
Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s call for the elimination of Israel led to many condemnations, including from the UN Security Council and the European Union. This censure – though only verbal – differed from the usual Western silence concerning genocidal statements of Iranian leaders in previous years.
Possible explanations for the West’s reaction include opposition to Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s support for terrorism in Iraq. Moreover, Ahmadinejad directly threatened the West in his address: “We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [i.e., the West] and the Islamic world.” He also stated that “a world without America and Zionism” is “attainable.”
The official Iranian News Agency headlined the speech: “World Without U.S. Achievable,” indicating one of the Iranian president’s main messages. In that spirit, a top Iranian military commander, Maj.-Gen. Ataollah Saleh, stated that a clash between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. has become inevitable. A few days later, the Iranian Ministry of Education announced that 20 million students in primary schools would chant “Death to America” to mark the anniversary of the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran in 1979.
Israel undertook diplomatic action, successfully promoting a Security Council resolution condemning Iran. It also proposed the exclusion of Iran from the United Nations. Israel further asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to cancel a planned visit to Iran, which he decided to reschedule.
As happens frequently, Israel functioned as “the canary in the coal mine.” Iran’s threat of Israel’s extinction serves as a warning of Iran’s intentions toward the international community.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, addressed the “World without Zionism” Conference – which preceded the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day established by Ayatollah Khomeini – at the Interior Ministry in Teheran on 26 October 2005:
Imam [Khomeini] said: “This regime that is occupying Quds must be eliminated from the pages of history.” This sentence is very wise….Today, [Israel] seeks, satanically and deceitfully, to gain control of the front of war….If someone is under the pressure of hegemonic power [i.e., the West] and understands that something is wrong, or he is na?ve, or he is an egotist and his hedonism leads him to recognize the Zionist regime, he should know that he will burn in the fire of the Islamic Ummah [nation]….Oh dear people, look at this global arena. By whom are we confronted? We must understand the depth of the disgrace imposed on us by the enemy, until our holy hatred expands continuously and strikes like a wave.1
Other speakers at the event were terrorist leaders Hassan Nasrallah of Hizballah in Lebanon and Khaled Mash’al of Hamas, who lives in Syria. Prior to his statement, Ahmadinejad told the hundreds of students present to shout the slogan: “Death to Israel.”2
Ahmadinejad’s genocidal call against Israel has deep roots in both fundamentalist Iran and among radical Muslims in other countries. What was unusual, however, was the widespread condemnation which followed his words. This essay looks at how the issue developed and how the parties concerned responded.
The Reasons for the Outcry
Why did this genocidal call create much more verbal censure than similar calls from Iranian leaders and others in the Muslim world? What had changed?
There is strong American and European opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. Ahmadinejad’s incitement enhanced Western awareness of how potentially dangerous Iran is to their own societies. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), had created the impression that Iran was moderating its policies somewhat.
Ahmadinejad directly threatened the West as well, although this was largely missed by the Western media. He also declared in his address: “We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [i.e., the West] and the Islamic world,” adding that “a world without America and Zionism” is “attainable” (the Iranian News Agency headlined the speech: “World Without U.S. Achievable”).3 One of Iran’s top military commanders, Maj.-Gen. Ataollah Saleh, said that a clash between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. has become inevitable.4 Iran’s Ministry of Education announced that 20 million students in primary schools would chant “Death to America” to mark the anniversary of the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran in 1979.5
Many aspects of the murderous nature of radical religious elements in the Muslim world, which Iran sponsors, are frequently in the news. These include attacks mainly against other Muslims but also against Westerners in Iraq. High-level British officials have charged that Iran is behind attacks on British forces in southern Iraq. There are still reverberations from the 7 July London bombings carried out by local Islamists. Muslim terrorists are regularly arrested in various countries. Iran has been a major contributor to the radicalization of European Muslim conservatives as well, where cases of Islamist violence have been spreading.6 These developments increasingly undermine the credibility of propaganda slogans such as “Islam is only a religion of peace,” “Islam condemns all terrorism,” and “Muslims are solely victims and not perpetrators.”
In a more general way, Western awareness of the internal conflictual politics of the Arab and Islamic worlds has grown in recent years after increasing exposure in the media. In Darfur, Sudanese Muslims have been murdering other Muslims for years. Unrelated but widely publicized are the UN findings on the connection of Syrian authorities to the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Gradually there is greater awareness in the Western world that there is a connection between the extreme rhetoric from parts of Muslim culture – also beyond religious extremists – and murderous acts.
Israel enjoys more favorable public opinion in the West due to its withdrawal from Gaza and the continued inaction of the Palestinian Authority against terrorism. This is at a time when more people in the Western world are beginning to comprehend the similarity of Islamist terrorism against Israel and against their own countries. In the background is some awareness that nowadays more Palestinians are killed by other Palestinians than by Israelis.
Earlier this year many memorial meetings took place in remembrance of the liberation of German concentration camps. In particular, attention was given to Auschwitz. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on 1 November 2005 to establish an annual Holocaust Day.7 The similarity of the Iranian president’s words to Nazi pronouncements was clearer to those sensitized by the enhanced Holocaust remembrance.
Radical Muslims’ Genocidal Calls
Ahmadinejad, then mayor of Teheran, was elected Iran’s president in June 2005, defeating former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who had held office in 1989-1997. Ahmadinejad, a former lecturer at Teheran’s University of Science and Technology, holds a doctorate in engineering and traffic. He also served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.8 He clearly seeks to renew Khomeini’s legacy by stressing anti-Americanism and the export of the Islamic revolution.9
With his murderous call, Ahmadinejad followed in the footsteps of previous Iranian leaders including Rafsanjani who said in 2002: “If one day…the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel’s possession [meaning nuclear weapons] – on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This…is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”10
In 2000, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Muslim worshippers in Teheran, referring to Israel: “We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region.”11 Due to the ongoing calls for mass murder by the country’s political and religious leaders, Iranian society is permeated by a culture which calls for genocide. Several commentators on Ahmadinejad’s statements drew attention to the fact that “a Shahab-3 ballistic missile (capable of reaching Israel) paraded in Teheran last month bore the slogan ‘Israel Should Be Wiped Off the Map.'”12
As its key leaders call for genocide, many lower-level Iranian officials repeat these words. For example, in June 2002 Iran held the International Conference on Imam Khomeini and Support for Palestine, in which Khamenei participated. “The Iranian organizer of the conference, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, declared, ‘Israel is a cancerous tumor in the heart of the Muslim world which should be removed,’ and lauded the attacks carried out by Palestinian suicide bombers.”13
Similar or like-minded statements can be found among many fundamentalist and other Muslims elsewhere. Palestinian Authority television carried a Friday sermon calling for the butchering of all Jews everywhere.14 In 2004, the special UN envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, called Israel’s policy the big poison in the region.15
Initial Western European Reactions
Initial reactions from the Western world to Ahmadinejad’s statements included the summoning of the Iranian ambassadors in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain, as well as condemnations. The UK Foreign Office spokesman called the comments “deeply disturbing and sickening,” adding: “We have seen in Israel today the horrible reality of the violence he (Ahmadinejad) is praising,” in a reference to a Palestinian suicide attack in the Israeli town of Hadera that killed six people.16
Prime Minister Blair said, “I felt a real sense of revulsion at these remarks.” He then alluded to the Holocaust, saying, “Anyone in Europe, knowing our history, when we hear such statements made about Israel, it makes us feel very angry.”17
The connection of Ahmadinejad’s statement with the Holocaust was also made by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende who told the Dutch Parliament: “too much happened then and therefore it does not fit our time to make such statements.”18
The leaders of the European Union, meeting in London, condemned the Iranian position and said that such comments would raise concerns about the role of Iran and its intentions.19
French President Chirac is usually reluctant to criticize Islamic countries, such as when in 2003 then-Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir made an anti-Semitic attack in front of leaders of all Muslim states.20 This time, however, Chirac said that Ahmadinejad had “let his country, which is an important one, run the risk of being banned by the nations.”21
The German expert on Muslim anti-Semitism Matthias Kuntzel pointed out in a blog that German politicians, after their verbal condemnations, had called for “business as usual.” He defined the official German position as: “we are not going to call into question our efforts to create an atmosphere of trust for Iran’s nuclear policy just because the Iranian president puts in danger the lives of a couple of million Jews!” He added that only 60 protesters attended a demonstration at the Iranian Consulate in Hamburg.22
There were only a few calls for more concrete steps beyond declarations. Hans van Baalen, a Dutch parliamentarian in the second largest government party, the VVD (Liberals), suggested that The Netherlands recall its ambassador from Iran.23 A few days later he added that visits by official Iranian delegations to The Netherlands should be cancelled.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed “dismay” at Ahmadinejad’s remarks, saying, “Israel is a long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member.” He added that the UN charter is opposed to threats or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state.24
Russia also came out against its Iranian ally. Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov said, during a visit to Jordan, that “those who insist on transferring the nuclear file of Iran [from the International Atomic Energy Agency] to the Security Council have now a supplementary reason to do so.” He added that Russia remains opposed to such a move. He added that his ministry had called in the Iranian Ambassador in Moscow. 25
Canada’s four parliamentary parties announced that they would pass a resolution to condemn the statements. Earlier, Prime Minister Paul Martin and Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew had done so.26
The Vatican censured the Iranian president’s statement, without mentioning either Iran or Ahmadinejad. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls condemned “certain statements, particularly serious and unacceptable, in which the right to the existence of the State of Israel was denied.”27 The Israeli daily Maariv reported that Iranian government officials had threatened the Holy See, warning that criticism of the Iranian president would endanger freedom of worship for Catholics in Iran.28
In the discussion at the UN on the resolution instituting Holocaust Remembrance Day, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton linked this explicitly to the comments of Ahmadinejad, saying: “When a president or a member state can brazenly and hatefully call for a second Holocaust by suggesting that Israel, the Jewish homeland, should be wiped off the map, it is clear that not all have learned the lessons of the Holocaust and that much work remains to be done.”29 Earlier, many other U.S. sources had condemned the words of the Iranian president.
While most Muslim countries remained silent, Turkey’s foreign ministry expressed disapproval. Spokesman Narnik Tan said: “It is naturally impossible for us to approve such a statement….Turkey…believes that regional conflicts can only be solved…through dialogue and peaceful means.”30 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan told neighboring Iran not to meddle in other countries’ ties with Israel, without commenting directly on Ahmadinejad’s words.31
A few days later it became known that a major national security policy document prepared by Turkey’s National Security Council and used by both the Turkish government and military had singled out Iran’s potential as a source of instability, risk, and uncertainty in the region.32
Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said: “I urge the president of Iran to focus on adding Palestine to the map alongside Israel, not calling for wiping a country from the map….All those who want to support the Palestinian cause must support a two-state solution with Palestine alongside Israel.”33
However, the Aksa Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah party, on 6 November became the first Palestinian group to openly support Iran’s call, distributing a leaflet in the Gaza Strip endorsing the Iranian president’s demand. “We affirm our support and backing for the positions of the Iranian president toward the Zionist state which, by God’s will, will cease to exist.”34
The Iranians Persist
Initially, the Iranian ambassador in Moscow tried to soften the impression his president’s words had made and declared that Ahmadinejad had not meant to speak in such sharp terms.35
On 27 October, however, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Iranian state television that Iran does not consider Israel legitimate. The Iran Focus website mentioned that Mottaki, a former Iranian ambassador in Ankara, had been ordered to leave by Turkish authorities in 1989 in view of his role in “a series of assassinations and kidnappings targeting Iranian dissidents.”36
On 28 October, as is usual on the fourth Friday of the month of Ramadan, the annual Al-Quds Jerusalem Day demonstrations took place in Teheran, with Ahmadinejad’s participation. He rejected the West’s condemnations and repeated his words against Israel. State television showed him surrounded by demonstrators with signs: “Death to Israel, Death to America.”37
Ahmadinejad also received support from Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a son-in-law of Ayatollah Khamenei, who noted that “Zionists had created hysteria in the world media.”38
On the day after Jerusalem Day, Iranian state television broadcast a ten-minute animated film on a children’s program glorifying the actions of a boy who killed himself in a suicide action against Israel, as an example for other children to follow. When carrying out this action, the child shouts: “I place my trust in God. Allah Akbar.”39
Trying to separate Ahmadinejad from large parts of Iranian society, as many Western media did, is not justified. He is not comparable to Saddam Hussein who came to power through a coup. The Iranian president came to his position through elections where there was an alternative candidate with serious chances. While Iranian elections do not permit the candidacy of those in favor of democracy, the result still reflects to a certain extent the wishes of many in Iranian society.
While there was some mild criticism of Ahmadinejad’s words in Iran, critical reactions did not address the genocidal aspects but rather stressed that the statements damaged the country’s international image.
Iranian Support for Islamic Jihad
In the meantime, Iran continued to support anti-Israel terrorism. A few days after Ahmadinejad’s initial statement, the Sunday Times reported that Iran had promised the Palestinian terrorist organization Islamic Jihad $10,000 if it launched rockets from the West Bank to Tel Aviv, according to a senior Palestinian intelligence official. He showed the reporter money which he said had come from Damascus and which had been confiscated from an Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank.40
Iranian funding for this Palestinian terrorist organization goes back to the 1980s. In 1993, “Fat’hi al-Shiqaqi, Islamic Jihad’s [then] secretary general, openly admitted in an interview with Newsday that Islamic Jihad is funded by Iran, but did not provide an exact figure. ‘Iran gives money and supports us,’ al-Shiqaqi said.”41
In 1996, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department stated in court that Iran supported Islamic Jihad’s terrorist activities with about $2 million annually. In 2002, Abdallah Shallah, the group’s secretary general, met Khamenei in Teheran, who promised him an increase in financial support.42
The Israeli Reaction
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said it had been decided to open a broad diplomatic initiative in reaction to the statement. “We have decided to turn to the Security Council for an emergency session. I have called on all my counterparts through the world not to turn a blind eye and to stop once and for all the Iranian games.”43
Both Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Vice Premier Shimon Peres said that Iran could not remain a member of the United Nations if its president made such statements. Peres declared: “Since the United Nations was established in 1945 there has never been a head of a state that is a UN member state that publicly called for the elimination of another UN member state.”44
Later Israel asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to cancel his planned visit to Iran. American Ambassador Bolton also spoke out publicly against the visit. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that other ambassadors had also privately advised Annan to cancel his visit,45 which he did on 5 November.
Foreign Reactions Build Up
Had Ahmadinejad and his collaborators not continued with attacks on Israel, the protests probably would have fizzled out. In The Netherlands, Foreign Minister Bernard Bot called in the Iranian ambassador to protest against Ahmadinejad’s words. When the ambassador said that he would clarify the matter and come back, the Dutch ministry official who received him reacted that he considered the matter closed and there was no need for another visit. A few days later in a meeting with his Russian colleague Lavrov, Bot agreed that it was unwise to isolate Iran, adding that there was little enthusiasm in the EU to temporarily suspend Iran’s UN membership or recall European ambassadors from Teheran.46
At the same time, new problems with radical Muslims were emerging in The Netherlands. On 14 October, seven suspected terrorists were arrested in four Dutch cities. Soon afterward, a 28-year-old Moroccan Dutchman from Rotterdam was arrested who was suspected of having supplied hand grenades to a Dutch Muslim terrorist group.47 At the beginning of November, it became known that Samir Azzouz, a son of Moroccan immigrants and one of the seven arrested a few weeks earlier, had been plotting to shoot down an El Al plane at Amsterdam Airport. In April he had been acquitted of planning to attack a Dutch nuclear reactor.48
Dutch problems with radical Muslims received additional publicity at the beginning of November at the time of memorial meetings and debates on the occasion of the first anniversary of the cruel murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by the Islamist Mohammed Boyeri. (A few days later, Muslim terrorists were also arrested in Denmark, which got much international publicity. Also, widespread riots in France drew increasing attention.)49
On 28 October, the UN Security Council condemned the words of the Iranian president. While the Security Council only issued a press statement – the weakest form of expression – it was still a diplomatic defeat for Iran. This declaration was even supported by Algeria, the only Arab member of the Security Council, which had opposed a public meeting on the subject and had weakened the text of the press statement.50
Italians March for Israel
One of the strongest reactions developed in Italy where a torchlight protest march took place on 3 November near the Iranian Embassy in Rome. The protest was initiated by Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the conservative daily Il Foglio. Its importance was that it originated in non-Jewish circles. While Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the National Alliance party, had pledged to participate, he changed his mind due to Iranian threats, saying: “My physical presence, as foreign minister, at this evening’s rally could cause harmful consequences to our national interests and to the security of our fellow citizens from the Iranian side.”
Ten to fifteen thousand people participated in the demonstration including cabinet minister Roberto Calderoli, who stated that he represented both the government and his own Lega Nord party. All government and opposition parties were represented, with the exception of the two communist parties. Among the many prominent attendees were the secretary general of the major socialist opposition party DS, Piero Fassino; former Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema; and Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, both also from the DS.51
Socialist participation was particularly important since the left-wing governments of Prime Ministers D’Alema and Romano Prodi were not viewed as favorable to Israel, while the present Berlusconi government is among Israel’s best friends in Europe. Prodi, who was not in Rome on the day of the march, sent a letter to Prime Minister Sharon expressing his solidarity with him and the Israeli people.52
Few Italians would have forecast that Alfonso Pecorara Scanio, the president of the Green opposition party, would be marching in Rome with prominent politicians of the National Alliance such as Ignazio La Russa and Maurizio Gasparri, together with many other pro-government and opposition politicians in a joint demonstration for any international cause, much less in support of Israel. There was, however, discord in the middle of the political map. Before the demonstration, Italian Minister of Culture Rocco Buttiglione accused Iran “and a large part of the Islamic world” of desiring that the Holocaust reach its completion. Franco Monaco, one of the leaders of the Margherita moderate opposition party, said this was “throwing oil on the flames.”53
In reaction to the Italian demonstrations, there were several demonstrations at the Italian Embassy in Tehran. An Iranian canard was now promoted saying that Edoardo Agnelli – the son of the late head of the Fiat group, Gianni Agnelli, who had passed away five years ago – had been murdered because he had converted to Shia Islam. It alleged that he was a victim of a “Zionist plot” to prevent him from inheriting control of Italy’s largest industrial group. Students announced that they would mark the anniversary of his death on 15 November.54
There were many reactions to Ahmadinejad’s statements from the Jewish world, but in the general commotion these voices did not get much attention. In Argentina, where there are strong indications that the Iranian government had been behind the largest post-war terrorist act against Jews outside Israel, Luis Grynwald of the Jewish AMIA organization – whose offices had been bombed in 1994 – asked the government to condemn Ahmadinejad’s words.
Jorge Kirszenbaum, President of the DAIA umbrella organization of Argentine Jewry, said the Jewish community would demand the extradition of Iranians suspected of having been involved in the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the AMIA building.55
The French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF organized a protest demonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy in Paris on 2 November that drew 5,000 participants, including senior representatives of all the major parties represented in the parliament with the exception of the communists. A message of “solidarity with Israel” from Bernard Delanoe, the socialist mayor of Paris, was read by a member of the European Parliament.56 There were also smaller pro-Israel rallies in some European towns, including Vienna and Budapest where some signs read: “Israel today, Europe tomorrow?”57
Media and Other Reactions
The French daily Le Monde pointed out that in one go Ahmadinejad had wiped out the “reformist parenthesis” of his predecessor Mohammed Khatami’s presidency. It added that this is a “sign of serious alarm at a moment when Iran’s nuclear ambition manifests itself seriously.”58
The same paper carried an op-ed by Jewish author Marek Halter who commented: “Ahmadinejad did not risk anything, and he knows it. He has oil and, probably soon, the atomic bomb. The Iranian president also knows that the heads of the democratic nations will not, after interventions in Afghanistan and during a time of economic hardship for many, ignite a major crisis.”59
The British Guardian published an editorial critical of Ahmadinejad’s words. Yet it said: “There is no real reason to suppose that Iranian policy toward Israel, which in recent years has been marked by occasional verbal extremism and by support for Palestinian groups but also by a recognition that Israel is a permanent fact of life in the Middle East, suddenly changed this week.”60
Jim Hoagland, in the Washington Post, said that the Iranian statements were not new, adding: “If novelty there was, it lay in the statements of condemnation that European governments issued as the inflammatory remarks spread around the globe.”61
In the New York Sun, Daniel Johnson wrote that European leaders with the exception of Tony Blair had failed in their reactions to the Iranian statements, as they had no plans for sanctions against the country. He began: “The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has done us all a favor. By calling for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’ last week, he has put the leaders of the West on the spot. Even Adolf Hitler was never quite so frank about his genocidal intentions toward the Jews, to which the democracies notoriously turned a blind eye. Now, however, there is no excuse.”62
In the same daily, Harvard historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, who specializes in Holocaust research, recalled how Hitler had already in 1920 made clear his intent to exterminate the Jews. Goldhagen wrote: “For genocide to occur, two components must be present, intent and opportunity, with intent often long preceding the acquisition of the means and circumstances necessary to implement it.” Goldhagen concluded: “To allow the current Iranian regime to acquire nuclear weapons would be as irresponsible as were those who did not take Hitler seriously.”63
Reuters reported rumors circulating in Teheran that Ahmadinejad is influenced by his religious mentor Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is in favor of isolation of the country from the West. The report noted that many Iranian cabinet members are former Revolutionary Guard colleagues of Ahmadinejad, whose policy is to purge appointees from the Rafsanjani/Khatami periods, as seen in his recall of 40 Iranian ambassadors.64
There was also some additional negative fallout for the Iranians in the Western academic world as various universities and interfaith organizations removed Al-Quds Day from their calendars. They had thought it was a Muslim religious holiday rather than a hate festival.65
International Support for Iran
The Iranians had apparent difficulty in mobilizing support in the Muslim world, though they found some sympathetic Afghani and Pakistani voices. Farid Ahmad Pracha, a Pakistani parliamentarian, commented: “The words of Mr. Ahmadinejad are the heartfelt wish of all Muslims and it is accepted by all Islamic entities around the world; we are in full support of the president and we back him up.”
Mortesa Puya, Deputy Head of the Movement of the People of Pakistan, said: “Late Imam Khomeini many times spoke about the destruction of Zionist regimes and freedom for the oppressed people of Palestine.” “The words of Mr. Ahmadinejad are the heartfelt wish of all the Muslims, which will result in the complete destruction of such a regime.” “The Islamic governments must always be prepared and have a strong position against the Zionist regime, and Iran, who stood up against Israel, was an example of that.”66
The Iranian government tried to bring Venezuela to its side since the government of President Hugo Chavez had voted against the EU-proposed resolution against Iran’s nuclear efforts on the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.67 However, the Venezuelan government did not want to be seen backing Iran in the Ahmadinejad case.
European Muslims and Communists
There was little support for Ahmadinejad in the Western world, and those who showed understanding for him came under criticism. On Al-Quds Day, a few hundred Iran supporters marched in Berlin. They were criticized, however, by the Islamic Council which groups several Turkish Muslim organizations in Germany including the largest, Mili Gorus.68 (Seventy-five percent of the 3.2 million Muslims living in Germany are of Turkish descent.)
At a meeting of the EU Committee of the Swedish Parliament, Sermin Ozurkut, the representative of the Leftist party, said it was “hypocritical to criticize the Iranian president, as the EU leaders had done at their summit,” and expressed great understanding for the Iranian president’s remarks.69
In Italy, Communist Europarliamentarian Marco Rizzo said he would not demonstrate at the Iranian Embassy because he did not want to participate in any demonstration which did not explicitly say “two peoples, two states.”70
There was public support for Iran as well among European Arab extremists. Dyab Abou Jahjah, of Lebanese origin, who heads the Arab-European League (AEL) based in Antwerp, wrote that the Iranian president’s reasoning is “intellectually defendable, and despite the fact that his regime is no perfect example of political morality, I argue that his position on this matter is the only possible moral one.”71 Historian Joel Kotek has noted that the secular Muslim AEL, whose ideas are close to Hizballah, “proclaims the ‘liberation of Antwerp, the world capital of Zionism,’ saying that it should become a fortress of pro-Palestinian action.”72
Ahmed Rami, a Moroccan Holocaust denier living in Sweden, also supported Ahmadinejad’s remark. Rami was sentenced to prison for the incitement of his now defunct Radio Islam (which continues as a website) against Jews.73
While previous genocidal statements by Iranian authorities had gone largely unnoticed, the many Western and other condemnations in the Ahmadinejad case indicate that there is now greater awareness of the danger of such calls.
Yet what is the deeper meaning of this solely verbal censure? Is it limited to somewhat greater scrutiny of the present Iranian government? Will it also lead to greater attention to other sources with similar attitudes in the Muslim world? Will Western politicians who stress that words must necessarily lead to murder, act against them at the incitement stage by means other than declarations? Time will tell whether the reactions reflect a changing attitude in the Western world or whether the condemnations of Ahmadinejad’s words were the result of a temporary combination of circumstances.
* * *
* I would like to thank Dore Gold for his comments, Yusef Hakimian for his help on Farsi sources, and Kevin Touati for his contribution in the initial documentation research for this essay.
1. “Iranian President at Teheran Conference: ‘Very Soon, This Stain of Disgrace [Israel] Will Be Purged from the Center of the Islamic World – and This is Attainable,'” Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Special Dispatch Series, No. 1013, 28 October 2005.
3. “A World Without America,” MEMRI Report, 2 November 2005.
4. Amir Tehevi, “Iran’s New Anti-Israel ‘Rage,'” New York Post, 28 October 2005.
5. “Iran to Mark U.S. Embassy Seizure Anniversary with Parades,” Iran Focus, 30 October 2005.
6. On the radicalization of European Muslims after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, see Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 190.
7. Herb Keinon, “UN Adopts Holocaust Day,” Jerusalem Post, 2 November 2005.
9. That these were the essential elements of Khomeini’s legacy is discussed by Kenneth Pollock, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), pp. 250-252.
10. “Former Iranian President Rafsanjani on Using a Nuclear Bomb Against Israel,” MEMRI Special Dispatch Series, No. 325, 3 January 2002.
11. “Iran Leader Urges Destruction of ‘Cancerous’ Israel,” CNN, 15 December 2000.
12. Daniel Pipes, “Iran’s Final Solution Plan,” 1 November 2005, www.danielpipes.org.
13. Yehudit Barsky, “Terrorism Briefing: Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine,” American Jewish Committee, 2002.
14. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The 21st Century Total War against Israel and the Jews: Part One,” Post-Holocaust & Anti-Semitism, No. 38, 1 November 2005.
15. Boris Kalnoky, “Schwere Kampfe vor der Schiitenhochburg Nadschaf,” Die Welt, 28 April 2004 [German].
16. “Iran Leader’s Comments Condemned,” BBC, 27 October 2005.
17. Ewen MacAskill, Michael White, Nicolas Watt, and Robert Tait, “Blair Rebukes Iran for Threats against Israel,” Guardian, 28 October 2005.
18. “Bot: Uitspraak Ahmadinejad volstrekt onaanvaardbaar,” Trouw, 26 October 2005 [Dutch].
19. “Vague d’indignation apres les propos du president iranien,” Le Monde, 28 October 2005 [French].
20. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The Mahathir Affair: A Case Study in Mainstream Islamic Anti-Semitism,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 506, 2 November 2003.
21. “Vague d’indignation….”
24. “Annan Expresses ‘Dismay’ over Iran Call for Destruction of Israel,” Ha’aretz, 27 October 2005.
25. “Moscou condamne les propos d’Ahmadinejad mais continue de soutenir l’Iran a l’ONU,” Le Monde, 27 October 2005 [French].
26. Paul Lungen, “MPs Plan Resolution Condemning Iran,” Canadian Jewish News, 3 November 2005.
27. Nicole Winfield, “Vatican Denounces Iran Remarks on Israel,” AP/Guardian, 28 October 2005.
28. Menachem Gantz, “Iranians Threaten the Vatican,” Maariv, 30 October 2005 [Hebrew].
29. Shlomo Shamir and Amiram Barkat, “Germany Lauds Unanimous UN Declaration of International Holocaust Day,” Ha’aretz, 2 November 2005.
30. “Turkey Says It Cannot Approve of Iranian Call to Eliminate Israel,” Associated Press, 28 October 2005.
31. “Turkey Urges Iran to ‘Political Sobriety,'” IranMania News, 28 October 2005.
32. Metehan Demir, “Key Turkish Policy Paper Singles Iran Out as Risk,” Jerusalem Post, 8 November 2005.
33. Chris McGreal and Brian Whitaker, “Israel Launches UN Offensive against Iran,” Guardian, 29 October 2005.
34. Khaled Abu Toameh, “Aksa Brigades Endorse Iran’s Call to Eliminate Israel,” Jerusalem Post, 7 November 2005.
35. “Turkey Says It Cannot….”
36. “Iran’s Foreign Minister: President’s Remarks Reflect Our Strategy,” Iran Focus, 29 October 2005.
38. “Iran’s Parliament Speaker Defends President’s Speech, IranFocus, 30 October 2005.
39. Toby Harnden, “Suicide Bombers on Iran Kid’s TV,” Sunday Telegraph, 6 November 2005.
40. Uzi Mahnaimi, “Teheran ‘Bounty’ for Attack on Israel,” Sunday Times, 30 October 2005.
41. “Terrorism Inc.: Islamic Jihad Founder Admits Funding by Iran,” Newsday, 11 April 1993; quoted in Yehudit Barsky, “The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine,” American Jewish Committee, 2002, p. 13.
43. Chris McGreal and Brian Whitaker, “Israel Launches UN Offensive against Iran,” Guardian, 29 October 2005.
44. “Peres: Iran Should Be Expelled From UN,” Guardian, 27 October 2005.
45. Shlomo Shamir and Aluf Benn, “UN’s Annan Urged to Cancel Iran Visit,” Ha’aretz, 30 October 2005.
46. “Bot wil Iran niet isoleren,” 1 November 2005, www.pi.net/planet/show/id=62967/contentid=651250/sc=be5259 [Dutch].
47. “Prominent lid Hofstadgroep gearresteerd,” 29 October 2005, www.parool.nl/nieuws/2005/OKT/29/bin1.html [Dutch].
48. “Report: Dutch Terrorism Suspect Hoped to Shoot Down El Al Plane,” Associated Press, 5 November 2005.
49. “Malaise au Danemark vis-avis des musulmans apres l’arrestation d’islamistes,” Le Monde, 31 October 2005 [French].
50. “Uno verurteilt Irans Attacken gegen Israel,” NZZ Online, 29 October 2005 [German].
51. “In piazza per Israele a migliaia. Cdl e Unione insieme per una sera,” La Repubblica, 4 November 2005 [Italian].
52. “Prodi scrive al premier israeliano, ‘Europa e Italia fermino l’Iran,'” La Repubblica, 2 November 2005 [Italian].
53.”Fiaccolata anti-Iran, cresce la tensione,” Corriere Della Sera, 3 November 2005 [Italian].
54. “Iran, studenti di nuovo in piazza Ahmadinejad: ‘Sostegno alla Siria,'” La Repubblica, 6 November 2005 [Italian].
55. “Argentine Jews: Extradite Iranians,” JTA, 30 October 2005.
58. “La haine,” Le Monde, 27 October 2005 [French].
59. Marek Halter, “Take Teheran at its Word,” Forward, 4 November 2005. The original French version appeared in Le Monde on 1 November 2005.
60. “Very Wrong and Very Foolish,” Guardian, 29 October 2005.
61. Jim Hoagland, “Iran’s Useful Reminder,” Washington Post, 30 October 2005.
62. Daniel Johnson, “Western Leaders Put on the Spot by Iranian’s Words,” New York Sun, 3 November 2005.
63. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, “Iran Bares ‘Genocidal Intent,'” New York Sun, 3 November 2005.
64. Paul Hughes, “How Far Along Radical Road Can Iran’s President Go?” Reuters, 3 November 2005.
65. Toby Axelrod, “As Iran Calls to Destroy Israel, New Look at ‘Holiday’ with Same Goal,” JTA, 30 October 2005.
66. www.kayhannews.ir/840811/2.htm [Farsi].
67. “Ahmadinejad Hails Venezuela’s Vote in IAEA,” Islamic Republic News Agency, 28 September 2005.
68. “Islamrat distanziert sich von Al-Kuds-Demonstration,” Die Welt, 28 October 2005 [German].
69. www.liberalerna.net/nyhetsbrev/start/issue.asp?NetworkID=5 [Swedish].
70. “Fiaccolata all’ambasciata iraniana ‘Ci vuole la diretta televisiva,” La Repubblica, 31 October 2005 [Italian].
72. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Interview with Joel Kotek, “Anti-Zionism in Belgium – The Country’s Civil Religion that Reflects the New Anti-Semitism,” Post-Holocaust & Anti-Semitism, No. 29, 1 February 2005.
73. Susanna Abramowicz and David Dahan, “Founder of Swedish Radio Station Supports Iranian President,” www.ejpress.org/article/4027
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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world’s largest corporations. Among his ten books are Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003); American Jewry’s Challenge: Conversations Confronting the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); and Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? (JCPA and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2005).