If Israel is not a racist state, if Zionism is not a racist ideology, then I do not speak English.
I don’t quite know why, but hypocrisy is the element in political discourse which catalyses my most murderous responses. Perhaps it’s because I like language, or respect it, and believe it shouldn’t be raped.
I remember Tony Blair making a speech in Gaza in November 2001. This is when I realised for certain that he was not a mere fool but a dangerous and filthy murderer. Away from the hall and its selected attendees, for the visiting dignitary’s comfort, a demonstration against British Zionism was being violently suppressed. And at that very moment British warplanes were ravaging Afghan villages. And Blair lectured his audience, representatives of those who’d been hounded and attacked for six decades, in the following terms: What you people must understand, he squeaked, is that no cause, however just you think it may be, justifies violence. Not a flicker of irony nor a trace of self-doubt wrinkled his ugly face.
Let me be clear about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is the president of a state which has achieved a mild but relatively remarkable degree of economic independence, and which leads a principled opposition to imperialism in the region. Compared with its neighbours, it is prosperous and free. But the Islamic Republic also interferes in its citizens’ personal business by trying to enforce dress codes and the like. Its rate of judicial murder is higher even than America’s. Corruption is endemic, as it is almost everywhere, and hypocrisy bedevils the religious establishment as much as it does politicians in the West. Ahmadinejad is a populist demagogue in the mode of Berlusconi or Jack Straw; his function is to distract from his regime’s failures by means of a grandiose and imprecise rhetoric. This means he often ends up with his foot in his mouth. “We don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” he informed Columbia University, “We don’t have this phenomenon.” He may or may not have meant that Iran has a different cultural approach to sexual categories, and his claim was certainly no less absurd than the university president’s claim that Ahmadinejad was a “dictator”, but his words were clumsy at very best. It almost seemed that he’d made a deal with Fox News to play the oriental buffoon. Ahmadinejad often doesn’t seem very clever. Iran is a clever country full of clever people, and it deserves better.
In a 2006 interview with Der Spiegel, Ahmadinejad said, “..there are two opinions .. in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part.” This may or may not be outright Holocaust denial, but it looks very much like it, and his comments occasioned criticism from within the Iranian establishment, including from the Supreme Leader. The two-fingers aspect of such flourishes goes down well with some less thoughtful Muslims; the glee of it is in trampling the Western taboo. But it remains ignorant and offensive. It’s particularly offensive to the memory of those Jews slaughtered by fascism who were not Zionists – the majority – people slaughtered not for any political crime but because Hitler thought they were Semites and therefore subhuman. It’s personally offensive to such children of Holocaust survivors as Norman Finkelstein, who has done so much to oppose Zionism. And Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, or near-denial, wounds the Palestinian cause because it fails to understand the larger structure of European racism which permitted both the Holocaust and the Nakba. And it plays into the hands of Zionists who shout, “these filthy Semites hate us because they are anti-Semitic.” And this obscures the truth, which is simple: We don’t hate them for their race, and only a hysterical few of us hate them for their religion. We hate them – from a deep and blackly bubbling well – because they are thieves and murderers and racists and liars. A Zionist is a Zionist, whether he’s a Jew like Olmert or a WASP like Bush. And some of the greatest, most heroic enemies of Zionism are Jews, people like Ilan Pappe, Jeff Halper, Israel Shahak, the Neturei Karta, Philip Weiss.
Yet we must also remember that Ahmadinejad has been slandered, mistranslated and misrepresented. He is not a puppet tyrant in the Mubarak mould but a democratically elected leader who exercises his powers according to a constitution. Of course, Iranian democracy is by no means perfect; it is formally limited by the Council of Guardians, just as American democracy is formally limited by the corporations. But Iran is certainly more democratic than Israel, a state which allows the full benefits of citizenship to only half of the people under its rule. When Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini’s opinion that “the regime occupying Jerusalem would be wiped from the page of history” – an event any decent human being should hope for – he was interpreted as calling for the genocide of Israeli Jews. The neo-cons also had a field day with their entirely false story about Nazi-style yellow badges to be worn by Iran’s Jews. The real blood-and-soil racists amused themselves by inventing Persian Hitlers.
When considering Ahmadinejad’s spirited comments on Israel we must remember not only the disgust an informed person feels over the theft of Palestine but also that the Zionist state has nuclear missiles targetted at Iran, a country which has not attacked anyone in 300 years. We must remember too that Zionism has recently helped engineer the destruction of Iran’s western neighbour.
In any case, in his speech to the Durban Review Conference on Racism, Ahmadinejad seemed to have learnt his lesson. Perhaps mindful of the hadeeth “A true jihad is a word of truth spoken before an unjust ruler,” he steered clear of Holocaust denial and argued instead that Jewish suffering had been used as a pretext for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the establishment of an apartheid state. And this is the plain unvarnished truth. Because how can Germany’s murder of six million Jews possibly justify the dispossession of the ancient Canaanite-Arab Palestinian people, the descendants of the Biblical patriarchs? It can’t. No more than the legacy of trans-Atlantic slavery can justify the creation of a blacks-only state in Finland. No more than the Holocaust and continuing persecution of the Gypsies justifies the establishment of Gypsy rule over the people of France. Should the poor Tutsis be granted Belgium, and the Belgians driven into camps, and massacred? I’m not talking about Tutsi immigration to Belgium, or even the founding of a Tutsi defence force in the country. I have no problem with that, and I have no problem with Jewish immigration to Palestine. I have a problem with Tutsis expelling Belgians from Belgium.
The examples above seem immediately absurd, but the Palestinian case, to many in the West, doesn’t. I wonder why? But I don’t wonder very much. Finland, France and Belgium are white European countries with advanced capitalist economies. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are not proper human beings. They are brown people, Arabs, Muslims, people of the South. That’s why. It’s only recently that the official West has accepted that Palestinians even exist.
Ahmadinejad called Israel a racist state. This view is considered controversial or, according to an American spokesman, “hateful.” But Israel was created by an act of massive ethnic cleansing. That means murdering and expelling on the grounds of ethnicity, of race, of religion. Today Israel’s absurdly-named Law of Return allows automatic citizenship to anyone of Jewish origin anywhere. Meanwhile millions of Palestinian refugees are refused the genuine return which is their legal and moral right. Those Palestinians who currently hold Israeli passports (but not for much longer if Israel’s fascist foreign minister has his way) are concentrated in deprived zones, intimidated, kept out of all coalition governments by Jewish agreement, and their houses demolished. Recently an Israeli Jewish policeman was given six months community service for shooting dead an unarmed Palestinian Israeli. Israel also rules over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who have voting rights only to a non-existent ‘authority’, who are concentrated in refugee camps and townships, who are forbidden to travel on Jews-only roads, who are trapped by walls, whose drinking taps run dry while the Jews on the hilltops keep their swimming pools topped up, whose schools are closed, whose hospitals bombed, whose mothers die in labour at checkpoints, whose children’s brains can’t grow for the micronutrient deficiencies deliberately planned by the siege.
If Israel is not a racist state, if Zionism is not a racist ideology, then I do not speak English.
A gaggle of white delegates walked out during Ahmadinejad’s speech. Britain’s envoy pigeon-toed it from the hall wearing an inbred public-school jowliness which he perhaps thought was manly. One genitally-challenged weasel took the revolutionary action of shaking his fist in the President’s direction, for all the world as if his fist and all its blood and hypocrisy were not, like the rest of him, too obscene to be put on public show.
The countries which walked out, or refused to attend, are Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the UK, the US, and the Zionist terror state. Half of these states were founded on genocide, and the rest have been guilty of it. All are complicit in the six-decade-long ethnic cleansing of Palestine – the actual, not imagined, destruction of a nation. The self-righteous hypocrisy of these criminals is nauseating.
None of them walk out of speeches by their mass-murdering darling Shimon Peres. All of them will shake Avigdor Lieberman’s repulsive hand. Their response to the massacre in Gaza was to help Israel tighten the seige. And it is no surprise that Israeli war crimes strike them as morally correct, for they themselves have committed enormities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The outrage expressed by the criminals and drones who walked away from Ahmadinejad’s speech is proof, if proof were needed, of the hopeless racism of our world system, and proof too that the system will fall. How long can the earth be ruled by people who rape their own languages? What human depth or stability is there in a discourse founded on dishonesty? These are people who maim, starve and kill in the name of human rights, who bolster apartheid in the name of anti-racism. Changez Khan and Attila were a league ahead in civilisational terms, and so too is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.