Despite a nearly endless barrage of reporting on Iran's nuclear energy program, the US government's push for a new round of sanctions, and on-going efforts to foment regime change in the Islamic Republic, all had been relatively quiet on the Ahmadinejad front in the Western press for some time.
The mainstream media's favorite scapegoat, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, resurfaced on Saturday amidst reports that he called the attacks of September 11, 2001 "a big lie." According to the immediate and rabid response of virtually every Western news network around, this was simply the latest insane claim of the same raving madman who has previously threatened to wipe a foreign state off the map and denied the Holocaust.
Yet, as with those other mistranslated or misunderstood statements, this new claim hardly stands up to even the most cursory scrutiny, as it has been reported with little accompanying context and comparison. According to a translation by Reuters, Ahmadinejad, addressing the staff of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, stated that, "The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan." PressTV translated the President as saying that the circumstances of 9/11 were a "big lie intended to serve as a pretext for fighting terrorism and setting the grounds for sending troops to Afghanistan."
Most of the press, including CBS, Huffington Post, and Fox, ran with an Associated Press report by Ali Akbar Dareini entitled, "Iran's Ahmadinejad: Sept. 11 attacks a 'big lie'" while CNN and Ha'aretz reprinted the AP with some slight variations like using the headline "Ahmadinejad Calls 9/11 'A Big Fabrication'."
Robert Mackey, writing for The New York Times editorialized that Ahmadinejad told Iranian intelligence officials that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City was "staged."
By reporting that he called 9/11 a "lie" or "fabrication," the press has completely subverted the meaning of Ahmadinejad's actual statement. Headlines and ledes like the ones printed by the mainstream media give the intentionally misleading interpretation that Ahmadinejad claimed that 9/11 didn't actually happen. But the full quote obviously reveals something quite different. The events of 9/11 - that hijacked airplanes were flown into buildings, killing tens of hundreds of people - is not questioned or denied by Ahmadinejad in these statements. The attacks, in and of themselves, are not debated or disputed. What Ahmadinejad says is that the event itself was the result of, as PressTV reports, a premeditated "scenario and a sophisticated intelligence measure," that was subsequently used as an excuse to justify the so-called "War on Terror" and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the official story, the 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 hijackers, none of whom were from Afghanistan. 15 were Saudi Arabian, two were from the United Arab Emirates, one was Egyptian, and one Lebanese. None of them lived in Afghanistan. They lived in Hamburg, Germany. They didn't train in Afghanistan, but rather in Sarasota, Florida. They didn't go to flight school in Afghanistan, but in Minnesota. The attacks were reportedly planned in many places, including Falls Church, Virginia and Paris, France, but not including Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, the United States began its illegal bombing campaign in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.
Despite repeated offers by the Taliban leadership to apprehend and hand over bin Laden for trial (with or without actual evidence linking him to 9/11), the US refused to even respond to such offers and continued its devastating air strikes. By early December 2001, over 6,500 tons of munitions had been dropped on Afghanistan by US-led NATO forces, including approximately 12,000 bombs and missiles. By the end of March 2002, over 21,000 bombs and missiles had been dropped and well over 3,000 Afghan civilians had been murdered in these air strikes. In the first two months alone, these civilians were killed at an average rate of 45 per day.
After a relentless misinformation campaign reliant on associating Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks, the United States illegally invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003. During the very first month of the assault, US forces dropped almost 30,000 munitions and fired 300,000 bullets. In that same time, according to conservative estimates, US air strikes and ground troops murdered over 7,000 Iraqi civilians.
By September 2003, 70% of Americans still believed that Saddam Hussein "was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Considering these facts, it hardly seems a stretch to state that 9/11 was used as a pretext by the US government to carry out predetermined foreign policy goals.
In short, President Ahmadinejad does not claim that 9/11 itself is a lie. He never has. In May 2006, in a letter written directly to George W. Bush, Ahmadinejad states, clearly and unequivocally,
"September Eleven was a horrendous incident. The killing of innocents is deplorable and appalling in any part of the world. Our government immediately declared its disgust with the perpetrators and offered its condolences to the bereaved and expressed its sympathies."Ahmadinejad's words echo those of his predecessor, President Mohammad Khatami, who in the wake of the attacks declared, "On behalf of the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic, I denounce the terrorist measures, which led to the killing of defenseless people, and I express my deep sorrow and sympathy with the American people." Furthermore, Iran was one of the first countries to hold candle-light vigils in solidarity and sympathy with the victims of the attacks.
What Ahmadinejad does claim, however, is that the official story of the events - publicly memorialized in the publication of the US government-sponsored The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) - is dubious, incomplete, and may very well have been the result of well-calculated misinformation and deliberate action (or, perhaps, inaction on previously obtained intelligence) by the US government. This is neither a new revelation for Ahmadinejad nor for the world community in general. In his letter to Bush, Ahmadinejad wrote,
"Could it be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services - or their extensive infiltration? Of course this is just an educated guess. Why have the various aspects of the attacks been kept secret? Why are we not told who botched their responsibilities? And, why aren't those responsible and the guilty parties identified and put on trial?"In questioning the job done by American intelligence agencies, and questioning the US government's official version of events and responsibility, in the lead-up to September 11th, the Iranian President isn't alone.
Esfahan is Half the World, and Half the World Questions the 9/11 Story
To read the hysterical reports about his recent 9/11 comments questioning the accepted story of the event, one would think that Ahmadinejad is voicing roundly rejected, widely unpopular, and insanely outrageous conspiracy theories, devoid of any reasonable evidence or public support. This is hardly the case.
In fact, Ahmadinejad is in the company of more than half of planet Earth, half of New Yorkers, and almost half of all Americans. His views are not particularly uncommon, let alone unique. They surely don't demonstrate a lunatic fringe viewpoint, but rather an opinion well within the public discourse, though not often discussed by Western media.
Whereas the 9/11 Commission was officially "created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002...to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks," a plurality of the public believe this goal was not successfully accomplished and have doubts about the Commission's findings.
An August 2004 Zogby poll, conducted right after the Commission's report was made public and just days before the Republican National Convention was held in Manhattan, found that over 49% of New York City residents and 41% of New York State citizens say that at least some US government officials "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act."
Another Zogby poll from May 2006 found that 42% of Americans believe that "the US government and its 9/11 Commission concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts their official explanation of the September 11th attacks" and said "there has been a cover-up." Another ten percent of respondents were unsure. The same poll found that 44% of Americans believe that "the Bush Administration exploited the September 11th attacks" in order to advance its own foreign policy agenda in the Middle East, namely, "to justify the invasion of Iraq."
Furthermore, 45% of those polled agree that "so many unanswered questions about 9/11 remain that Congress or an International Tribunal should re-investigate the attacks, including whether any US government officials consciously allowed or helped facilitate their success," while eight percent remain "unsure."
A Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll from July 2006 discovered that "More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East."
The next year, in May 2006, a Rasmussen poll revealed that "overall, 22% of all voters believe the President [sic] knew about the attacks in advance," while "a slightly larger number, 29%, believe the CIA knew about the attacks in advance."
Between May 2002 and October 2006, polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News found that upwards of 79% of the American public believed that "When it comes to what they knew prior to September 11th, 2001, about possible terrorist attacks against the United States," members of the Bush Administration were either "mostly telling the truth but hiding something," "mostly lying," or "not sure." In those four and a half years, the number of respondents convinced that the government was "mostly lying" grew by 20%.
A September 2008 World Public Opinion survey, asked "16,000 people in 17 countries who they thought was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington." The results showed that "majorities in only nine of the 17 countries believed that al-Qaida was behind the attacks." In response, WPO director Steven Kull stated,
"Broadly, I think what this tells us is that there is a lack of confidence in the United States around the world. It is striking that even among our allies, the numbers that say al-Qaida was behind 9/11 do not get above two-thirds, and barely become a majority. So this is a real indication that the United States is not in a strong position to, in a sense, tell its story. The American narrative is not as powerful in the world today."Evidence aside, the mainstream media presents Ahmadinejad's recent statements as if they represent an outlandish theory based upon nothing more than paramount insanity.
Wiping Context Off the Map
Disingenuously reporting that Ahmadinejad called 9/11 a "big lie" without exploring the context his statement, notably his claim that 9/11 was used as a "pretext" to carry out the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, is much akin to headlines announcing that Ahmadinejad threatens to "wipe out" Israel without presenting the statement in full. For instance, a Jerusalem Post article from December 12, 2006 and entitled "Ahmadinejad: Israel will be 'wiped out'" states in the first paragraph that the Iranian President "vowed once again that Israel would be 'wiped out.'" Only later in the piece does writer Herb Keinon reproduce the entire quote, which reveals a contextually vital qualification:
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom...[elections should be held among] Jews, Christians and Muslims so the population of Palestine can select their government and destiny for themselves in a democratic manner."Keinon, along with other reporters and wire services hyping this story, lifted the quote from the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), yet the actual IRNA report quoted Ahmadinejad as saying, "As the Soviet Union disappeared, the Zionist regime will also vanish and humanity will be liberated." No mention of Israel being "wiped out" is present in the report. That is the fabrication of the journalists and copy editors themselves.
Similarly, press reports from the previous fall, which sparked the entire "wiped off the map" fiasco, failed to tell their readers the whole story. In that speech, analyst Arash Norouzi explains, "Ahmadinejad declares that Zionism is the West's apparatus of political oppression against Muslims. He says the 'Zionist regime' was imposed on the Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure domination of the region and its assets." Apparently, in his reading of history, Ahmadinejad was simply reiterating the suggestions of Zionism's founder Theodor Herzl. In chapter 2 of his 1896 manifesto, Der Judenstaat, Herzl wrote,
"We [Jews] should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. We should as a neutral State remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence."Ahmadinejad reminded his audience that, while the eventual weakening or complete dissolution of America's hegemony over the Middle East via its colonial-settler garrison state may be unthinkable or unimaginable to some, "as Khomeini predicted, other seemingly invincible empires have disappeared and now only exist in history books." He listed the Shah's tyrannical monarchy in Iran, the repressive and expansionist Soviet Union, and the Iraqi dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, as examples of "regimes that have collapsed, crumbled or vanished" in only the past three decades. In conclusion, Ahmadinejad repeated Khomeini's prescient view that the political demise of the Zionist government of Israel would soon follow: "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."
Moreover, reading the text of Ahmadinejad's October 26, 2005 speech where he first referenced the phrase, as translated in The New York Times, clearly gives lie to the claim that Ahmadinejad was threatening the genocidal destruction of a nation-state and its entire population. Quite the contrary, in fact. Ahmadinejad clearly stated, "The issue of Palestine is not over at all. It will be over the day a Palestinian government, which belongs to the Palestinian people, comes to power; the day that all refugees return to their homes; a democratic government elected by the people comes to power."
Of course, all we've ever heard from Western press reports is that Ahmadinejad threatened to "wipe Israel off the map," an idiom that doesn't even exist in the Persian language, and that was the end of the discussion.
Confusing "Pretext" with "Pretense"
When Ahmadinejad speaks about historical events acting as pretexts to subsequent injustices, he is not claiming that the first event never happened, but simply stating that the event served to justify what followed. This pretext, then, is the exploitation of terrible tragedies as an excuse, motive, and ostensible reason ascribed to explain what historically occurred next. Using horrific events to nefarious advantage is what Naomi Klein has essentially defined as "The Shock Doctrine." This is what Ahmadinejad has spoken about when he uses the term "pretext," which is why, in his speech on Saturday, he stated that "Depredation, bullying and killing the reality of humanity are the outcomes of the capitalist way of thinking."
Unfortunately, the media has decided to equate the term "pretext" with "pretense" and insist that they are both identical synonyms for a claim, invention, myth, fabrication, or lie. With this in mind, it is easy to see how the demonization campaign of Ahmadinejad has been so successful.
This deliberate misinterpretation is not at all new. Even though it is commonplace in the press to insist that Ahmadinejad is a virulent anti-Semite who believes the Nazi Holocaust never happened, this is an absurd suggestion unsupported by the facts.
At last April's Durban II conference, Ahmadinejad addressed the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 by stating, "Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless on the pretext of Jewish sufferings. 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."
He continued, "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."
The media reported that Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a "myth," a spurious claim seemingly supported by a pre-staged walkout by attending European delegations. But the usage of the word "pretext" is obvious to anyone willing to actually read.
While attending the opening of the United Nation's 64th General Assembly Session in September 2009, Ahmadinejad was interviewed by Steve Inskeep, host of National Public Radio's Morning Edition program, who asked him about his thoughts on the Holocaust. While Ahmadinejad responded that the Holocaust itself "is a historical event," he wondered why "this specific event has become so prominent" in the policy decisions of Western politicians and asked whether "this event effect[s] what is happening on the ground this day, now?"
He continued, "What we say is that genocide is the result of racial discrimination...and I can see that genocide is happening now under the pretext of an event that happened 60 years ago...Why should the Palestinian people make up for it?"
Again, the use of the word pretext here clearly refers to using Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity as a justification for the subsequent ethnic cleansing, dispossession, displacement, disenfranchisement, occupation, and continued "slow genocide" of the Palestinian people.
Ahmadinejad's 2009 comments repeat remarks he previously wrote back in early September 2006, in a letter sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In it, Ahmadinejad stated, "World War II came to an end with all its material and moral losses and its 60 million casualties. The death of human beings is tragic and sad. In all divine religions and before all awakened conscience and pure nature of mankind and the sense of right and wrong, the life, property and honor of people, regardless of their religious persuasion and ethnic background, must be respected at all times and all places."
By accepting the 60 million death toll of World War II, how could Ahmadinejad be denying the mechanized genocide of millions of European Jews? He continued,
"Honorable ChancellorIf Ahmadinejad's point still isn't clear, he elaborates:
I have no intention of arguing about the Holocaust. But, does it not stand to reason that some victorious countries of World War II intended to create an alibi on the basis of which they could continue keeping the defeated nations of World War II indebted to them. Their purpose has been to weaken their morale and their inspiration in order to obstruct their progress and power. In addition to the people of Germany, the peoples of the Middle East have also borne the brunt of the Holocaust. By raising the necessity of settling the survivors of the Holocaust in the land of Palestine, they have created a permanent threat in the Middle East in order to rob the people of the region of the opportunities to achieve progress. The collective conscience of the world is indignant over the daily atrocities by the Zionist occupiers, destruction of homes and farms, killing of children, assassinations and bombardments.
Excellency, you have seen that the Zionist government does not even tolerate a government elected by the Palestinian people, and over and over again has demonstrated that it recognizes no limit in attacking the neighboring countries."
"Using the excuse for the settlement of the survivors of the Holocaust, they encouraged the Jews worldwide to migrate and today a large part of the inhabitants of the occupied territories are non-European Jews. If tyranny and killing is condemned in one part of the world, can we acquiesce and go along with tyranny, killing, occupation and assassinations in another part of the world simply in order to redress the past wrongs?"The question is not whether the Holocaust happened or not, rather, it is how that horrendous tragedy has been exploited in order to justify the establishment of a "Jewish State" in Palestine and rob indigenous Palestinians of their own rights to self-determination. Ahmadinejad refers four times in the letter to "survivors of the Holocaust." The issue is not to call history into question, but rather to explore the consequences of historical acts.
In mid-December 2005, early in Ahmadinejad's tenure as president, he employed the rhetorical device of asking a question in order to prove a point. "If the killing of Jews in Europe is true," he said at a conference in Tehran, "and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?" He repeated this question a few days later at a rally in southern Iran, and reiterated his position in early 2006.
In comments reported by Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Ahmadinejad asked rhetorically, "Don't you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of their [the Europeans'] aims in creating a regime of occupiers of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]?" Clearly, Ahmadinejad is affirming the Nazi "genocide" - which he called a "human tragedy" - and noting that the subsequent promotion of Zionism - which he called a "Western ideology and imperialistic idea" - and encouragement of Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine constituted another form of ethnic cleansing.
In early August 2006, Ahmadinejad was interviewed on the CBS program 60 Minutes by veteran journalist Mike Wallace. A heavily-edited, hour-long version of the discussion, featuring overdubbed narration by Wallace, was broadcast nationally. In response to Wallace's question about Ahmadinejad's supposed proposal to "wipe Israel off the map" (which Wallace claimed the Iranian President has "said time and again"), Ahmadinejad replied, "I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government." Wallace then editorialized (via post-production voice-over) that this "fabrication" followed the Holocaust, "which he's said may also have been fabricated," and continued, "Last December, Ahmadinejad said the Europeans had created a myth of the Holocaust."
The interview made headlines around the world and Ahmadinejad's reputation as a genocidal threat to Israel and a confrontational denier of the Holocaust was cemented in the minds of Western audiences. But those threats and denials came from Wallace's voice-over, not Ahmadinejad's actual words.
A few days after the CBS hatchet-job was broadcast, and at the request of Ahmadinejad himself, the complete, unedited, 90-minute interview was shown on C-SPAN. Thus, it became clear what had been deliberately omitted from the widely-seen 60 Minutes version. Apparently, Ahmadinejad's response to Wallace's question about Israel was truncated mid-sentence and his subsequent explanation was cut outright. This is what he actually said, but which CBS refused to show:
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government and I have talked about the solution. The solution is democracy. We have said 'allow Palestinian people to participate in a free and fair referendum to express their views.' What we are saying only serves the cause of durable peace. We want durable peace in that part of the world. A durable peace will only come about with once the views of the people are met.No military threats, only a call for democratic elections and a government that represents the will of the people. But none of that made it into the final cut of the interview shown on CBS.
So we said 'allow the people of Palestine to participate in a referendum to choose their desired government,' and of course, for the war to come an end as well. Why are they refusing to allow this to go ahead? Even the Palestinian administration and government which has been elected by the people is being attacked on a daily basis, and its high-ranking officials are assassinated and arrested. Yesterday, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament was arrested, elected by the people, mind you. So how long can this go on?
We believe that this problem has to be dealt with fundamentally. I believe that the American government is blindly supporting this government of occupation. It should lift its support, allow the people to participate in free and fair elections. Whatever happens let it be. We will accept and go along. The result will be as you said earlier, sir.
Rather than allow Ahmadinejad to speak for himself, Wallace and his production team at CBS decided to create their own narrative, shaped by decontextualized quotes, selective editing, and subjective voice-overs by the interviewer. As a result, the interview that aired was little more than deliberate anti-Ahmadinejad demonization, anti-Iranian propaganda, and purposefully obfuscated what the Iranian President had actually said to his interlocutor in order to further propagate a false narrative of Iranian threats to Israel and Holocaust denial. In response to a question about the severity of the editing of Ahmadinejad's response to Wallace's Israel question, Robert G. Anderson, the producer of the interview segment, reportedly stated, "I made that edit and I stand by it and completely disagree with your misinterpretation."
As a result of this undeniable censorship and intentional obfuscation of truth in service of propaganda by a mainstream media outlet and respected reporter, Mike Wallace won his 21st Emmy Award for the Ahmadinejad interview.
In an interview with TIME magazine published on September 17, 2006, Ahmadinejad stated, "Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way."
Shortly thereafter, on September 19, 2006, Ahmadinejad sat down with NBC's Brian Williams in New York City and was asked directly about his views on the Holocaust. The Iranian President once again spoke of the "60 million people [who] lost their lives" in World War II and of the Holocaust as a historical event that occurred in Europe, continuing, "The Palestinian people, their lives are being destroyed today under the pretext of the Holocaust. Their lands have been occupied, usurped. What is their fault? What are they to be blamed for? Are they not human beings? Do they have no rights? What role did they play in the Holocaust? Some attempt to sort of change the subject."
In a portion of the interview edited out of the transcript posted by MSNBC, Ahmadinejad also told Mr. Williams, "You might argue that the Jews have a right to have a government. We're not against that. But where? At a place where their people will accept that people will vote for them and where they can govern. Not at the cost of displacing the whole nation and occupying the whole territory."
Ahmadinejad has also repeated his belief that the political fate of Israel/Palestine should be put to a vote when interviewed on CNN. "The Palestinian people should decide what to do," he told Anderson Cooper during the same visit to New York, continuing, "And among Palestinians, there are Jews, Muslims and Christians."
Likewise, in an interview with the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth the same day, when asked whether Iran seeks to "wipe Israel off the face of the Earth," Ahmadinejad said, "Our suggestion is very clear: Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted." When pressed by Weymouth for more, the Iranian President replied, "Do you respect the right to self-determination for the Palestinian nation? Yes or no? Is Palestine, as a nation, considered a nation with the right to live under humane conditions or not?," adding:
"The politicians in the United States should allow the Palestinians to vote, and then we'll all respect the results. They won't even accept a small Palestinian state. That's why we think the root cause of the crisis must be addressed. Jews, like other individuals, will have to be respected. It's not necessary to occupy the land of others, to displace them, to imprison their young people and to destroy their homes and agricultural fields and to attack neighboring countries.When confronted by Weymouth about his views on the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said, "We know this was a historical event that has happened."
In a February 13, 2007 interview with Diane Sawyer broadcast on Good Morning America, Ahmadinejad rhetorically asked, "Why in the name of Holocaust we allow people to occupy the land [in Palestine] and make refugees and kill children?" He added, "[W]hat we have said about Palestine, it's quite clear, based on the charter of the UN, based on international regulations, we say let Palestinians decide...Please allow the Palestinians to decide. Please respect their decision. But please give them the opportunity for decision-making."
He also repeated the official Iranian position that there be a referendum to decide to the future governmental structure in what is now Israel and Palestine: "We believe that in Palestine, there should be a referendum and Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, any Palestinians, and this is based on international regulations, and I think it's their right to determine their future. Any decision made by Palestinians must be respected, and I think this is a very clear proposition."
During his appearance at Columbia University in September 2007, Ahmadinejad referred to the Holocaust as "a present reality of our time, a history that occurred" and continued:
"...given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?Ahmadinejad's use of the conditional word "if" does not call the "historical event" into question, but rather acts as an analytical jumping off point that leads to his "then" clause which questions how the established "reality" of what happened in Europe can be used to justify the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn't have any problems.
And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world in many parts of the world. They don't have any serious problems.
But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime?"
He later sums up his perspective on the matter this way: "I am not saying that it [the Holocaust] didn't happen at all. This is not that judgment that I am passing here. I said...granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?"
This acknowledgement of past wrongs and questioning the legitimacy of their consequences was echoed in February 2007 by Ali Akbar Velayati, a close advisor to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei. Speaking with European journalist Bernard Guetta, Velayati explained that "all the inhabitants - Muslims, Jews, and Christians - of that territory we call Palestine must express themselves democratically with respect to its future. It's for democracy to settle this problem."
Addressing the claims of Holocaust denial, he stated, "One may wonder about that genocide's number of victims without denying that it took place, and, may I remind you on this topic, that it was committed by Europeans, Nazis, and that the way to that massacre had been prepared by all the European persecutions of the preceding centuries, beginning with those organized by Spain?"
When asked directly whether he believes "the [Nazi Holocaust] genocide is a historical reality," Velayati was clear: "Yes," he said, "but we do not agree that this reality should be used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians."
Oddly enough, these sentiments find common ground with the admissions of Zionist leader and Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion. In his 1978 memoir, founder and longtime president of the World Jewish Congress Nahum Goldmann recalls a late-night conversation he had with Ben-Gurion in 1956 regarding the 'Palestinian problem' in Israel and the Zionist reliance on military might to maintain control and superiority over the native population. During the discussion, Ben-Gurion stated:
"There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their [the Palestinians'] fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there." (The Jewish Paradox, p.99)Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has always made a stark distinction between Jewish people and Zionists. He has said on numerous occasions that his opposition to a Jewish State is a political and ideological one, and not to be confused with a violent ultimatum or military threat to Jews or Israelis.
Early in the October 2005 speech that set off this entire controversy, Ahmadinejad articulated his views on the "the true origins of the issue of Palestine." He asked, "Is it a fight between Judaism and other religions? Is it the fight of one country with another country? Is it the fight of one country with the Arab world? Is it a fight over the land of Palestine? I guess the answer to all these questions is 'no.'"
In an interview with TIME magazine, this distinction was made clear: "Zionists are different from Jews," he told Scott Macleod.
Speaking to the press at the United Nations on September 21, 2006, Ahmadinejad stated, "Jews are respected by everyone, by all human beings," continuing, "Some people think if they accuse me of being anti-Jew they can solve the problem. No, I am not anti-Jew, I respect them very much." He then plainly explained his point of view: "Let us remember that there in Palestine there are Muslims, Christians and Jews who live together," he said, later adding, "We love everyone in the world - Jews, Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims, non-Jews, non-Christians... We are against occupation, aggression, killings and displacing people - otherwise we have no problem with ordinary people."
In late 2006, the Iranian president stated his belief that that "vigilant and just human beings will not blame the Jews for the crimes committed by the fake Zionist regime and its supporters in the occupied territories."
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said that Iran has "no problem with people and nations" and that Iran does "not have any confrontation with anyone. We seek relations based on respect and justice."
During a September 20, 2007 CBS interview with 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley conducted in Tehran, Ahmadinejad stated that "We are friends with all people, Jewish people, Christians, different people of different faiths. We are, well, we're in contact with them. Here in Iran there are Jewish communities; there are Christian communities; we're all friends."
Four days later, at Columbia University, he stated "We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran, leaving peacefully, with security." A year later, in a 2008 CNN interview with Larry King, he stated quite clearly that "we don't have a problem with the Jewish people."
Just to be extra clear, Ahmadinejad declared, "We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt," reiterating his belief in self-determination of all people based upon elections: "We believe that all the people who live there [in Israel and Palestine], the Jews, Muslims and Christians, should take part in a free referendum and choose their government."
During the Scott Pelley interview, Ahmadinejad explained, "We are opposed to Zionism, occupation, terrorism, dropping bombs on behalf of people when they are inside their own homes, killing men, women, and children...What we are saying, our solution for Palestine is a humane one. We are saying that you should allow the Palestinian people to participate in a fair and free election and determine their own fate. Whatever decision they take, everyone should go with that."
Ahmadinejad has often repeated his belief that true representative democracy in Palestine should replace the current state of Jewish ethnocracy, second-class status for Palestinian citizens living in Israel, and the US-bankrolled military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. On behalf of the Iranian government, he declared in 2007,
"Our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal. What we say is that to solve this 60-year problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself.A year later, Ahmadinejad said the same thing during an interview with NPR, emphasizing that political systems such as Soviet Communism and Zionist nationalism are not eternal or indestructible while underscoring his desire for change via peaceful and democratic means rather than violent or forcible military action as suggested by the erroneous "wipe Israel off the map" claim. After repeating the official Iranian call for all residents of Palestine to participate in a "free referendum to decide the future and the nature of its government," he continued:
This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.
Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.
We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation."
"Let me create an analogy here — where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear — but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future."In an interview with Democracy Now! in late September 2008, Ahmadinejad repeated his stance on the issue. "We believe that people have to decide and choose their own fate, the right to self-determination. If they would like to keep the Zionists, they can stay; if not, they have to leave," he said, adding, "Wherever people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it's very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums."
The Iranian president's desire to see democratic elections determine the future government for all those living together in historic Palestine was even once again repeated in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009, as he called for the "restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people by organizing a referendum and free elections in Palestine in order to prepare a conducive ground for all Palestinian populations, including Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in peace and harmony."
Even during his widely lambasted Durban II speech, Ahmadinejad clearly demarcated the distinction between the 19th century colonial ideology of Jewish nationalism and the ancient Jewish religion, stating, "The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces."
Despite the fact that Ahmadinejad called for an "end to Zionism," countless news agencies erroneously reported that he sought the "destruction of Israel," and numerous commentators, including British ambassador Peter Gooderham, called these remarks "anti-Semitic."
In his piece about Ahmadinejad's 9/11 statement on Saturday, The New York Times' Robert Mackey, reminded his readers about comments made by the Iranian President during an International al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally on September 18, 2009, a national celebration in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in opposition to Zionism. Mackey, who refers to Quds Day as "Iran’s annual anti-Israel day," writes that Ahmadinejad told the crowd that "The pretext for the creation of the Zionist regime is false...It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim." Again, the pretext of the Holocaust is not at all the same thing as a lie.
The Holocaust, an historical occurrence admitted to by its own perpetrators in Europe and widely described as the systematic and mechanized murder of millions of Jews (as well as millions of homosexuals, Romani gypsies, Communists, political prisoners, and trade unionists), is not being called a lie in this statement. It is the pretext for the establishment of Israel - that Jewish suffering in Europe somehow outweighs or justifies the subsequent Palestinian suffering in Palestine - that is referred to as a lie, not the events of the Holocaust itself.
Considering that the indigenous people of Palestine bear no responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the consequence of the Holocaust, however, as it was used to justify the creation of a "Jewish State" in Palestine, is what Ahmadinejad states is based on a "mythical claim." This becomes quite clear by listening to the very next line of Ahmadniejad's speech, unreported by Mackey or anyone else in the Western press: "The occupation of Palestine has no connection with the issue of the Holocaust."
Later in the Quds Day speech, Ahmadinejad once again made sure to distinguish between Judaism and Zionism:
"The Zionists have no faith. It is a big lie that the Zionists should be considered tantamount to the Jews or the Christians. Zionists are not Jews nor Christians, and, rather, the Zionists seek to destroy all the values brought about by the divine prophets...the basis of Zionism is to destroy human culture and human values and the values of all nations."Iran itself has an ancient community of over 25,000 Jews, the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East after Israel itself. Ciamak Morsadegh, the Jewish Iranian parliamentarian and community leader, has also noted this clear distinction between religious faith and culture and violent, ethnocentric nationalism. In 2007, while chairman of the Tehran Jewish Committee, Morsadegh declared, "If you think Judaism and Zionism are one, it is like thinking Islam and the Taliban are the same, and they are not." A year later, he criticized Israel's policies towards Palestinians, especially in Gaza, saying it showed "anti-human behavior...they kill innocent people," and continuing that the Jewish community in Iran does "not recognize a government or a nation for the Zionist regime."
"A New Pearl Harbor"
That Ahmadinejad - along with millions and millions of others around the world - would find the official story of 9/11 suspicious is not without good cause.
A year before the September 11, 2001 attacks, neocon think tank Project for a New American Century, published a 90-page manifesto for a imperially dominant American Empire, urging "that America should seek to preserve and extend its position of global leadership by maintaining the preeminence of U.S. military forces." Among its aims, the report, entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century, calls for the United States to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars" and achieve "a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity."
PNAC's members, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Eliot Abrams, Zalmay Khalilzad, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Norman Podhoretz, John Bolton, Scooter Libby, and Richard Perle, believed that "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." Maybe those many PNAC members who, later that year, were subsequently appointed to top level positions in Bush's new administration didn't want to wait that long for such a galvanizing moment in order to pursue their own agenda of unilateral preemptive invasions of Middle Eastern countries.
When Ahmadinejad speaks of 9/11 as involving a "complicated intelligence scenario and act," shouldn't the media perhaps contextualize his statement by discussing the exaggerated and manipulated 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident which was largely responsible for launching the American military campaign in Vietnam, the 1954 Israeli false flag operations known as the Lavon Affair conducted against Egypt, or the planned, but never implemented, Operation Northwoods scheme in 1962 concocted by the U.S. Department of Defense to instigate a war with Cuba (one of the plans consisted of hijacking an airplane and blaming the new Castro regime)?
IranAffairs' Cyrus Safdari reminds us of "Emad Salem, an undercover FBI informant who had infiltrated the group that carried out the first WTC bombing back in 1993. He was smart enough to record his conversations with the FBI. Turns out, he specifically warned the FBI of the bombing, and offered to replace the bomb material with a harmless substance, but the FBI said no." What about the completely bogus, but thoroughly hyped, "Newburgh bomb plot" to bomb synagogues in Riverdale, NY and fire a missile at a US military jet, which was entirely set up by FBI informant Shahed Hussain?
What about the 2007 statement by National Medal of Science laureate Lynn Margulis in which she referred to 9/11 as a "new false-flag operation, which has been used to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as unprecedented assaults on research, education, and civil liberties"? Or former CIA Middle East operative Robert Baer, who has written, "Until we get a complete, honest, transparent investigation - not one based on 'confession' extracted by torture - we will never know what happened on 9/11." Or former senior CIA official Bill Christison, who wrote that there is a "strong body of evidence showing the official US government story of what happened on September 11, 2001 to be almost certainly a monstrous series of lies." What about the other CIA officials who question the official story?
What about the Guardian report from November 1, 2001 which revealed that, according to French intelligence officials, "Two months before September 11 Osama bin Laden flew to Dubai for 10 days for treatment at the American hospital, where he was visited by the local CIA agent"?
What about the mysterious collapse of Tower 7, Able Danger, the failure to scramble jets, the myriad National Security experts denied, ignored, or censored from the 9/11 Commission report, the hundreds of professional architects and engineers calling upon Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the World Trade Center, deception and non-cooperation by the Department of Defense, whistle-blowers like Coleen Rowley, supposed short-selling and text message warnings, or the five dancing Israelis seen watching and videotaping the attacks from New Jersey's Liberty State Park across the Hudson River?
What about the British intelligence report, entitled "Responsibility for the terrorist atrocities in the United States," which purports to provide evidence that "Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terrorist network which he heads, planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September 2001, yet begins with the following disclaimer: "This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in a court of law"?
What about the BBC report, entitled "The investigation and the evidence," which concludes, "There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks...At best the evidence is circumstantial." And what about the fact that, soon after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban leadership repeatedly offered "to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral Islamic country for trial, if there is proof of his crimes." In response, George W. Bush declared, "We know he's guilty. Turn him over." As such, the US government refused to provide any evidence of bin Laden's guilt, stated that the Taliban offer was "inadequate" and instead "dispatched war planes and ships towards Afghanistan."
What about the evidence that, in no verified audio or video tapes, has bin Laden actually claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet has even been quoted as stating, "I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act...we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed."
What about the fact that Osama bin Laden is, to this very day, not specifically wanted in connection with the 9/11 attacks, according to the FBI's own Most Wanted List?
As a result, is there not plenty of dubious information and spurious evidence surrounding the official story of the September 11 attacks to warrant some sort of suspicion, regardless of what you may personally think actually happened? In this way, with his recent comments, President Ahmadinejad has given voice to the majority of the world. But clearly, for fear they might stumble upon some uncomfortable truths, it appears easier for the mainstream media to decontextualize his statements and label him a crackpot conspiracy theorist who is a danger to the American way of life, thus leading the United States down the path to attacking a third Middle Eastern country, than to do its own job.
By misrepresenting the country of Iran, its people, its system of government, its culture, its religion, its elected and unelected leaders, the Western press has already set the stage for an attack on the Islamic Republic. Because of the media's sensational and propagandistic reporting, 71% of Americans already believe that Iran currently possesses nuclear weapons. 90% think that the power of Iran's military poses either a critical or important "threat to U.S. vital interests" (despite the fact that Iran's military budget is literally one hundred times smaller than that of the US). 59% of American citizens even support unilateral, preemptive US military action against Iran regardless of whether economic or diplomatic efforts achieve the government's desired effect.
Perhaps, as was seen with the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the press is doing exactly what the US government wants it to do.