Iran or Israel: Which is more deserving of censure? On the one hand, as the French news agency Agence France-Presse reported last week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling Israel “a cancerous tumor” that, he threatened, will “soon be excised.” He added: “The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists. . . . With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists.”
On the other hand, the AFP article goes on to say: “Israel has been employing its own invective against Iran and its leaders, invoking the image of Hitler and the Nazis on the eve of World War II and accusing Tehran of being bent on Israeli genocide.”
So let’s place these statements on the scale. Dehumanizing Israelis, likening them to a disease, vowing to exterminate them . . . well, that does sound a tad extreme. But the Israeli response . . . well, it is pretty darn insulting! And really, what is the basis for the Israeli charge?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that Ahmadinejad’s words are identical to those used by Nazi propagandists? For example, in 1941 Hitler ordered the excising of what he called
“the Jewish cancer” from Germany. After that came the murder of six million European Jews — genocide.
Ahmadinejad also accused “Zionists” of having started World War I and World War II — just as Hitler blamed the Jews for these conflicts even as his troops were raping Czechoslovakia. Still, does that justify drawing a comparison between Iranian Islamists and German Nazis?
Logically, of course it does, but in AFP’s eyes, no. How to explain this departure from reality and morality? Several possibilities come to mind.
It could be that AFP reporters and editors are simply ignorant — that they have no idea what the Nazis said, believed, or did. I’m sure these journalists attended good schools (not everyone uses a word like “invective”), but perhaps they majored in 17th-century French literature and know nothing of modern history. The one lesson they have learned: It’s gauche, a faux pas, to call someone a Nazi, or to compare someone with Hitler — even when such a comparison is justified.
A second possibility: Multiculturalism requires moral equivalence — which means no Third World society can ever be described as in any way inferior to any Western society. So if Iranians are to be criticized for threatening to kill Israelis, then Israelis must be criticized for something.
A third explanation: To acknowledge that Iran’s rulers are akin to Nazis and are threatening genocide carries disagreeable policy implications. Among other things, it suggests that Iran’s rulers should, at all costs, be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. But anyone who says that risks being labeled a warmonger, a neoconservative, or something equally unfashionable.
There is this possibility, too: The AFP article expresses anti-Israelism and, perhaps, also, the most ancient and durable of biases. Don’t get me wrong: Not everyone who criticizes Israel is a Jew-hater. Not everyone who hates Israel is a Jew-hater. But all Jew-haters do criticize and hate Israel.