Monday, February 05, 2007

Wiping Israel off the map??

Frequently we hear that Iran is a dangerous threat becasue the president has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

John Pilger’s article in Saturday’s Morning Star reminded us of what President Ahmadinejad of Iran actually said:

“A close examination of his notorious remark about Israel revels how it has been distorted.

“According to Juan Cole, US professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, and other Farsi language analysts, Ahmadinejad did not call for Israel to be “wiped of the map”. He said “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”

“This, says Cole, “does not imply military action or killing anyone at all”. Ahmadinejad compared the demise of the Israeli regime to the dissolution of the Soviet Union”.

Indeed. The USSR, DDR, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and even Czechoslovakia have all vanished from the page of time.


twp said...

What's the point of defending this guy? It's not simply this one comment that he allegedly made but his actions and his history that suggest that he is indeed anti-semitic.

What next - is Pilger going to reinterpret one of Bush's many comments to make it appear as though he is actually not as neo-conservative as we all thought?

Salman Shaheen said...

It is worth noting that post-Islamic revolution Iran has never attacked or committed an initial aggressive act against another country, and Iran itself has not attacked anyone for hundreds of years. It is, perhaps, a slightly superficial point to compare this to the records of Israel and the US (which has been involved in a war every year since 1942); but sometimes I think it's worth mentioning whilst the hawks are clamouring for blood...

AN said...

I am not defending him, I have friends who have been in his gaols!

But the "wiping Israel off the map" claim is put forward, usually in the same breath as saying Iran is working on nuclear weapons, to imply that Iran is planning some sort of attack on Israel.

It is a carefully calibrated misquotation. In the same way we were lied to about the scale of atrocities by Serbia in Kosovo, or Iraq's WMD.

Puncturing the hype against Ahmadinejad's Iran, is not the same as supporting his appalling government.

Nor actualy is being an anti-semite proof of aggressive military intent!

AN said...

And that is certinaly true Salman, even in 1998, when the taliban seized the Iranian embassy and executed several diplomats, and there was huge popular outcry for war againsg Afghanistam the Iranian government desisted from military action.

Tawfiq Chahboune said...

Let us for the sake of argument accept that Ahmadinejad stated explicitly that he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map" (something he did *not* say). Only the Supreme Leader, not President Ahmadinejad, is in a position to launch such a war.

In any case, this is a manufactured incident (indeed, non-incident because it didn't even happen, fo pity's sake!). The Middle East is awash with statements like these all the time. Ariel Sharon once threatened to nuke the whole Arab world. Threats are par for the course. Why is this non-threat being hyped up into some sort of Hitlerian Holocaust? The answer is obvious: public backing for threatening Iran.

After all, the US openly threatens Iran, and there is no corresponding denunciation. Iran recently said that if it is attacked, it would defend itself. The British press went berserk: Iran threatens the UK and all the rest of it. Extraordinary really!

AN said...

Good point about ME being awash with this rhetoric.

I went to the 2nd caero conference, and was amused at how many flowery speeches there were about how people were going to fight to the death and never abandon the the palestinians.

Much like British trade unins, the togher the rhetoric at conference, the less they will deliver, and what they realy meant was they are happt for the palstinians to all die fighting, and they will do absolutlay nothing to help!
My iranisn friends are exceptionaly cynical aboiut al this - (they actually would like Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map!) but know he has no intention of doing anythi ng but make an
arse of himself on TV

AN said...

god I am a terrible typist. you know I meant the tougher the rhetoric etc.

twp said...

I understand the points about the double standard with threats from either side - but my concern is that it's not relevant for the left (ie Pilger) to go around clarify Ahmadinejad's statements for him - or the statement of any other imperialist leader.

My point is, why focus on him? Why make it a point to clarify his comments on this, particularly when he is a known anti-semite?

The correlation here is subtle but is there if you choose to look at it at face value.

What if Pilger had addressed someone who called Bush a "fascist" and written a column about why Bush actually isn't a fascist. While it may be technically true - what is the purspose behind the action? To me it indicates an implied support which should make us uncomfortable to say the least.

Louisefeminista said...

Here is a similar (maybe same) piece by Pilger in the latest New Statesman (You need a sub for Morning Star)re: Iran

AN said...

TWP - I don't understand the releveance of him being an anti-semite to the issue. It is undoubtedly true that he is an anti-semite, but actually that is an issue of embarrasment for many Iranians, and is seen as weakinging the authority of Tehran's anti-Zionist stance. (Incidently iran still has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East and South Asia outside Israel, and there is a jewish member of the Iranian parliament. )

It is not just a question of double standards, becasue that implies a symmetry.

there is no symmetry, beacsue the USA is a global hyper-power, and one that has invaded two or Iran's neighboutring countries! Iran is only a regional power, and in the context of its conflict with the USA is defending its sovereignty.

AN said...


It is the same article!

well done for finding ti, but hey - why dpon't you cheapskates but an on-line subscription to the Star???

Louisefeminista said...

Cheapskate! Pah!!

Well, I did have a sub but have not got around to renewing it (yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses) but the newspaper stall at my local train station sells it!

And anyway, shouldn't it be free online? I mean, I buy the paper but if you want an inclusive readership then I think it should be free.

AN said...

I think publishing a daily paper is a bit of financial strain on them.

It is good value, only about £60 per year, and has opened itsellf out a lot now.

It is worth £60 just to read Gregor gall's column.

twp said...

I dunno Andy,

I think you're getting into worrying territory here. It appears you are claiming that the Iranian regime is somehow superior because of the actions of the US regime. US agression in the ME doesn't necessarily mean that Iran's government is somehow to be preferred.

Also, I never claimed that Iranians were anti-semitic as a whole, but we are talking here about the current regime - which is. That would be like claiming that US citizens were all neo-cons.

I think you're incorrect in asserting that Iran is merely "defending its sovereignty". It's quite clear that it has imperalist intentions of the highest order and that Ahmadinejad would like to have more power at his disposal if he could.

The way you paint it, the Iranian regime looks like a peace-loving sovereign state under siege from big bad America who would never dream of holding power for themselves. It's not as simple as that.

AN said...

Well TWP, even if the USA and Iranian state were symetrical, then as a socialist in Britan - the USA's main military ally and international supporter, I will still argue to weaken the propaganda towards war on Iran, which means correctng the misleading impression given by the pro-war lobby that Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy israel (with the implied threat of using nuclear weapons).

Ahmadinejad's personal anti-semitism is perhaps not in question, given his recent hosting of David Duke, et al at a conference. However you go further and claim the regime (i.e. the whole government) is anti-semitic. Do you have evidence of this? My understanding is that there is persecution of proselytising religions in Iran (hence the repression of the ba'hai), but as Judiasm is non-proselytising they have not been subject to that. This is the relevence of the fact there remains a reasonably large Jewish population, who have not fled Iran. (or rather the exodus of Iranian Jews pre-dated the theocratic regime)

As a non-Arabic, and the leading shia country, Iran has a complex relationship with the question of the Arab national struggle against the imperial carve up, and the Zionist project, and there is a community of overlapping interest between the Iranian state, Iranian national capital and the struggle against the overall imperial settlement in the ME.

The fact that a regional power can be forced into confrontation with the dominant imperialism, in no way means that it is a "superior regime" - the position you attribute to me. Chaing Kai Shek's war against the Japanese was progressive, it didn't make the KMT government any less internally reactionary.

I don't now what evidence you have of Iran having "imperalist intentions of the highest order " - it is a regional power and has a capitalist economy, but in the Marxist sense (or any other) how is it acting in an imperialist way? unless you regard imperialism as just a synonym for capitalist.

AN said...

I just rang a friend of mine who is an asylum seeker from Iran who has been in prison for B'hai faith.

She tells me the jews are not peesectuted, nor are the Christians. But the B'hai are - not as I thugh becasuue of the proselytising thng - but becasue the B'ai believe there is a later propet after Mohammed, and have also therefore rejected Islam.

Louisefeminista said...

Firstly, I think Gregor Gall is an excellent writer and speaker as well (bk on Sex Work very good)

Secondly, I agree with AN on this issue. Ahmadinejad is an anti-jewish racist but what Pilger is getting at in my opinion is that this is a war drive. It is arguable either way about what what he meant about the State of Israel but the point being is that it is being used by the West to build up for an attack on Iran.

The argument TWP uses about "imperalist intentions of the highest order " isn't viable as what country is Iran trying to dominate? Doesn't seem to have projects in extracting super profits. Maybe it would like to but they don't.

Whatever you think of Ahmadinejad think about what kind of devastation this war drive (air strikes..?) on the Iranian people. The Americans want to put Iran in its place and know its place in the Middle East. This is imperialism at it's highest order. They want a chastened Iranian regime that is subservient to the US.

The Iranian parliament has reserved seats for Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. What this means is that the Iranian regime is contradictory and it is awful to live under but a change in the regime can only come about internally and from the Iranian people and not from an imperialist war.

Anonymous said...

If someone had told me, when my family were killed by the new regime in 1980,that socialists would appease the theocracy,I wouldn't have believed them.
very sad Andy.

AN said...

Anonymous - I am sorry for you loss.

However, I hardly think we are "appeasing" the theocracy.

Tawfiq Chahboune said...

Since there are people whose family were killed by the Shah, would they not find Mr Anonymous's appeasement of those who supported the Shah's murderous regime unbelievable? You see, we can all play these easy games. What is important is to support the democratic movement in Iran. And they're asking for the US to back off: the Iranian regime will collapse from within and the people themselves are capable of precipitating this. Anything else will cause misery, a la Iraq and Afghanistan. The US, however, is frightened by a democratic Iran (that's why it overthrew Mossadegh).