Thursday, December 14, 2006

Explaining Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust conference

To understand the Holocaust conference, most Westerners have to understand one or two other things first.

1- Iran makes Israel nervous. Iran does not border Israel, but is able to establish relations with groups that do. What that means is that Israel cannot seize land from Iran and really does not have a good way to pressure the country. Iran, compared to Israel's neighbors, therefore has an advantage in an assymetrical struggle with Israel. This means that as long as Iran is not ruled by the Shah, or by an unpopular pro-Western dictator, supporters of Israel want to see Iran isolated and contained to whatever degree is possible under any available pretext.

2- Iran is ruled by true believers. There is a cousin to fatalism, which is the belief that all you have to do is tell the truth as you believe it and God will take care of everything else. Ahmadinejad knows that there will be negative press about the conference, but for a religious true believer, in the long term, God will ensure that following this course benefits Ahmadinejad and Iran.

Ahmadinejad's speeches and actions are consistently skewed by supporters of Israel to provide a pretext for increasing Iran's isolation. On the other hand, Iran philosophically cannot retract or hesitate to make statements it sees as true out of fear of the reaction.

Ahmadinejad's basic thesis is that the story of the Holocaust is wrongly used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians. Further, there is a general atmosphere of political intimidation has arisen around discussions of the Holocaust. This atmosphere -- in which there are places where you can legally write a book directly encouraging people to join the Nazi party, but you cannot write a book questioning the number of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust -- victimizes the Palestinians, the Arabs and the Muslim world for whom a main basis for their oppression is a taboo subject.

In true believer thinking, there will initially be a lot of screaming as these taboos are faced head on, but the taboos will break and Iran will be stronger in the end. Belief in this is related to faith in God.

Ahmadinejad has not publically expressed any theory about how many Jews were killed by Germany in WWII. There is a magic number of 6 million that Ahmadinejad has not explicitly endorsed but he has also never said that the actual number was less.

Ahmadinejad made a statement that the West has elevated the story of the Holocaust above the story of God and the prophets so that it is possible to actually be imprisoned in the West for denying the first story. Maybe Ahmadinejad used a term in Farsi that corresponds to "myth", maybe the folks at MEMRI chose the most provocative possible translation. The point of the sentence in any event is not that the story of the Holocaust is not true. The point of that statement is that the West is hypocritical in assigning the questioning of the story of the Holocaust, and only that story, a status other cultures assign only to blasphemy against God.

So now when we read the word Ahmadinejad in the Western press, we read "myth, myth, myth, myth, myth". From that word we are told that Ahmadinejad claims no Jews were killed. He never made that claim. Then we are told that Ahmadinejad believes that if Jews had been killed it would have been a good thing. Ahmadinejad has consistently said the opposite. We are told that Ahmadinejad intends to use nuclear weapons to wipe Israel off the map. He has said many, many times that Israel will be wiped off the map by refugees returning and voting for a non-Zionist state. He has compared his expected dissolution of Israel more than once to the dissolution of the USSR and of the Shah's government of Iran.

But we never read a response to Ahmadinejad's real points. Is there, and should there be a special status for the story of the Jewish Holocaust that does not extend to, for example the story of slavery, the stories of other genocidal events, the stories of other victims during World War II or the stories of victims of other political movements, for example those victimized by the Zionist political project? Secondly, does the Holocaust justify the position that Palestinian refugees should never be able to return to Israel, and if so, how?

The point of the Holocaust conference to true believers is that the West may avoid Ahmadinejad's real points for as long as it can. But eventually, through Iran's steadfast faith in God and the truth, the West will be forced face his real points. When the actual points Ahmadinejad is trying to make are addressed, Ahmadinejad's position on those points will then win, making Iran stronger than ever.

No comments: