"There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings."
- Dorothy Thompson
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opening speech at the 2009 United Nations World Conference Against Racism, dubbed Durban II, addressed numerous inconvenient and uncomfortable truths regarding both the UN Security Council and the history of the State of Israel. Predictably, in response to the public airing of such truths, Ahmadinejad was immediately met with sharp and revealing opposition and self-righteous indignation by the representatives of many European countries - echoed, if not led, by the US and Israeli governments - and has been lambasted and demonized in the Western media.
Such a response is unsurprising. Ahmadinejad is no stranger to manufactured controversy. And, as usual, a simple look at his actual words reveals statements of fact that cannot be refuted. Ahmadinejad's statements prompted an instantaneous and virulent reaction and criticism from the world's most imperial and hegemonic powers. He was immediately presented as a hatemonger and racist for speaking truth to such powers. The speed and ferocity of those with the power to divert attention away from the meaning of Ahmadinejad's actual speech in favor of personal attacks on the Iranian president himself betray the true motives behind such scapegoating.
Speaking at United Nations headquarters in Geneva on Monday morning, Ahmadinejad accused Western powers in the 1930's and 40's of fomenting warfare and implementing economic and military policies that have proven destructive to much of the rest of the world ever since. "Those in authority at the time set off two world wars," he said, "killing hundreds of millions of people and causing mass destruction" in Africa and Asia, in addition to Europe. "Those who won [World War Two], considered that the world was with them," he continued, and "set up laws that were oppressive and trampling."
Is this controversial or offensive? Perhaps, if one knows nothing of modern history, Western imperialism, aggressive globalization or neo-liberal economic policy. Anyone familiar with American foreign policy over the past sixty years, especially in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Latin and South America would not be surprised by such banal statements.
Ahmadinejad then turned his attention to the unjust and inequitable hierarchy of nation states that formed the basis of the United Nations itself. "The Security Council set up after World War II, let's analyze it. The veto vote - is that equality? Is that justice? Is that equality amongst human beings?" he asked, "Or rather is it arrogance and humiliation? The Security Council must be the most important body for decision-making in order to promote peace. If a law is based on force, how can we secure peace and justice? The seeking of power and arrogance means racism, injustice and occupation."
Who would disagree with these remarks, other than those who seek to maintain their control over issues of global security and justice, diverting attention from the war crimes committed by allied states and condemning resistance to colonialism and military occupation in the same breath? The UN Security Council, established as the most powerful element of the United Nations - wielding far more influence and authority than the General Assembly - has long been the best friend to imperialism, during and after The Cold War. The United States has used its Security Council veto to bully other members into submission and acquiescence, allowing for the illegal invasions and ongoing occupations of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Most recently, the Security Council adopted resolutions enabling Israel to bomb blockaded ghettos and impoverished refugee camps with impunity, as well as protecting Israeli war criminals, who have the blood of 1,400 Palestinians freshly on their hands, from any condemnation or responsibility.
Later in his speech, Ahmadinejad addressed the creation of the State of Israel by the United Nations in 1948, after the post-WWI British Mandate. "As was the case after World War II, armies occupied other territories and people were transferred from territories," he said. "In reality, under the pretext of compensating for the evil done in the name of xenophobia, they in fact set up the most violent xenophobes, in Palestine."
"The Security Council made it possible for that illegitimate government to be set up. For 60 years, this government was supported by the world. Many Western countries say they are fighting racism; but in fact support it with occupation, bombings and crimes such as those committed in Gaza. These countries support the criminals," Ahmadinejad continued.
Any informed reader of these statements would find little with which to quibble or disagree. The well-known studies of Israeli historians such as Benny Morris, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappé, and Avi Shlaim attest to the injustice sanctioned by the British and American governments, affirmed by the United Nations, and carried out by Zionist terrorist militias such as Irgun, Haganah, Palmah and Lehi. The waves of illegal Jewish immigration from Europe and Russia to Palestine are well documented and not a debatable issue.
Ahmadinejad stated the obvious by telling the gathering of UN delegates, "Following World War Two they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering...and they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the Occupied Palestine. And in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine."
The age-old axiom of Palestine being a "land without a people for a people without a land" has been discredited so many times that even mentioning it here seems redundant and obvious. It is no myth that over 750,000 Palestinians, the indigenous people of the region whose ancestors had lived and worked on the land for centuries, were driven from their homes through violence and fear following the implementation of Plan Dalet and the horror of Deir Yassin. It is not a matter of opinion that the State of Israel was originally created on 56% of Palestine, despite Jewish residents representing only 32% of the population and owning only 7% of the land at the time. It is historical fact. By July 1949, after a year of aggressive expansionism, the borders of Israel encompassed 78% of Palestine. Eighteen years later, Israel seized control of the remaining 22%, which it has brutally occupied ever since. The dispossessed, disenfranchised, and dehumanized Palestinians penned up in the Occupied Territories suffer from apartheid in the West Bank, and starvation, accented with psychopathic massacres, in Gaza.
Ahmadinejad knows all of this. He also knows that the Zionist enterprise to establish an ethnocentric state in Palestine had little to no support in Europe, the United States, or even in the world's Jewish community prior to the Holocaust. The fact that Israel is the product of post-WWII guilt by Western world powers and that the atrocities committed against the European Jews during the war are constantly used to justify the creation of the state of Israel are not controversial statements. Why, then, did 23 European delegates to the Durban II conference stage a walk-out during Ahmadinejad's speech as soon as he mentioned the use of the Holocaust as a pretext for the creation of Israel? The French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei revealed the delegates' refusal to even listen to criticism regarding Zionism and the Jewish state, as if any dissent is off-limits, when he told the Associated Press, "As soon as he started to address the question of the Jewish people and Israel, we had no reason to stay in the room."
Why is Ahmadinejad condemned as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier when it is perfectly clear that he condemns the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews as "evil done in the name of xenophobia" and "the dire consequences of racism in Europe"?
Is Ahmadinejad wrong to question the establishment of an exclusively Jewish state on Palestinian land in response to the genocidal acts of Hitler's Germany? Should it not be pointed out that a "Jewish" state, by definition, is racist and exclusionist, lest the nobility of Zionism be in doubt? Why would addressing the creation and ongoing support of an ethnocentric government that engages in selective democracy, institutionalized militarism, immoral occupation, illegal colonization, and systematic ethnic cleansing be deemed counter-productive at a conference devoted to opposing racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance?
"The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces," Ahmadinejad said, clearly demarcating the distinction between the 19th century colonial ideology of Jewish nationalism and the Jewish religion. Nevertheless, British ambassador Peter Gooderham called these remarks "anti-Semitic."
Because Ahmadinejad called for an "end to Zionism," countless news agencies erroneously report that he seeks the "destruction of Israel." His speech was called "offensive, inflammatory, utterly unacceptable" and "reprehensible" by dedicated Zionist and British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called it "an intolerable call to racist hate," while the US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff described the speech as "vile and hateful." The Vatican called it "extremist and unacceptable" and the President of the European Jewish Congress, Dr. Moshe Kanto, condemned it as "revisionist history and lies."
Perhaps Ahmadinejad's speech let too many cats out of what many hope are hermetically sealed bags. The cowardice displayed by the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Poland by boycotting the conference from the outset, as well as the embarrassing walk-out by 23 attending delegations, proves that the Western world would rather demonize a fearless truth-teller who refuses to be muzzled, than recognize the racism and injustice enabled by its own support and silence. There was no annihilationist or violent rhetoric in Ahmadinejad's speech, despite what one might read in the mainstream press. Opposing Zionism is not a threat of military action, but rather a call for political reform.
Dorothy Thompson, the German-American journalist and anti-Nazi activist, once wrote, "Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light." In his bold and uncompromising Durban II address, President Ahmadinejad, long cast by the West as the Iranian bogeyman, has done his part to illuminate the truths about Zionism and the hypocrisy of its supporters.
The boycotts, protests, "spontaneous" walk-outs, and other forms of pro-imperial theatre that are already defining the Durban II conference prove one thing: alethophobia, the fear of the truth, is alive and well in the West.
UPDATE: See my response to a fellow blogger regarding this speech, in the comments section below.