Ahmadinejad once again fails to call for the annihilation of Israel

by Juan Cole (source: Informed Comment)
Saturday, February 27, 2010

I saw Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN Friday afternoon. Oren said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had called for the annihilation of Israel, and was therefore speaking of genocide.

It is dreary to see this constant drumbeat of dishonest propaganda. Whatever one thinks of Ahmadinejad or the Iranian regime, one should not misrepresent their statements, since that will lead to bad policy-making.

The Washington Post also wrote, "Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, spoke of Israel's eventual "demise and annihilation". In fact, Ahmadinejad never mentioned Israel as a country at all, and spoke only about what he called the 'Zionist regime.' He favors an admittedly odd form of the 'one state solution' in which Palestinians and at least some Jews would all vote for the same government.

So this is what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday at a press conference in Damascus:

"Iran, Syria, the Palestinian Resistance and Lebanon are ready to meet any conditions, and we hope that the enemies of the nations of the region will change their course and instead walk beside regional states in cooperation. Insofar as the Zionist regime threatens Lebanon and Syria and prominent personalities of these two countries every day, it must accept its end and grant in their entirety the rights of the Palestinian nation."

That is, Ahmadinejad began by offering an olive branch to any former enemies that wanted to make peace. But he characterized the 'Zionist regime,' i.e. the Israeli government with its current ideology, as intrinsically belligerent, and insisted that this 'regime' must 'accept its own end' and grant Palestinians their full rights (presumably, citizenship and property rights, which they now lack).

Ahmadinejad seems to see Zionism as an ideology as essentially unwilling to allow Palestinian human rights, and so calls for it to acquiesce in its obsolescence.

Ahmadinejad did not mention Israel and did not call for any genocides, or anyone to be killed, or war. He asked Zionists to see that their ideology has no future. In the past he has compared his vision of the fall of what he calls the Zionist regime to the fall of the Soviet Union, which happened peacefully and with no annihilation of the population.

Personally, I see Zionism as just a garden variety form of modern romantic nationalism not different in any way from scores of other nationalisms (including Arab nationalism, Serbian nationalism, and Iranian nationalism).

Zionism constructs Palestinian-Israelis as second-class citizens, and attempts to deny Palestinians in the Occupied Territories basic rights. But other nationalisms are also guilty of exclusions, though there are unique aspects to the Zionist project. Shiite-tinged Iranian nationalism insists that the head of state be a Shiite ayatollah and disallows Sunni Iranians, perhaps 10-15% of the population, from serving even as elected president, and Sunni provinces such as Baluchistan are the most deprived of resources and services. Only civic nationalism of the American and French varieties has universalistic aspirations, and even there it is flawed by a latent privileging of some groups within the nation (Protestant whites in the US, secular-minded native-born French of Catholic extraction in France).

Ahmadinejad may be blinkered and hypocritical, but he did not call for the annihilation of or genocide against anyone.

Only committed Zionists would see a one-state solution as the 'annihilation' of Israel.

In any case, now that a two-state solution has been made virtually impossible by Israel's determined colonization of the West Bank, a one-state solution is the most likely outcome of what will probably be a 50-year struggle for basic Palestinian rights to citizenship in a state. The rest of us are going to be mightily inconvenienced by this unnecessary and stupid conflict, and the inconvenience will only be increased by equally stupid propaganda from unreliable narrators like Oren.

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