Thursday, July 23, 2009

Iran: Extremist, Terrorist, Repressive Dictator? Ok! Doesn't Hate all Israelis? Fire him!

In a rather amusing example of how the Israel issue works in the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority world, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a problem. He appointed an aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as first vice president.

Now this appointment isn't being questioned because Mashaie is someone who has faced charges of corruption and incompetence.

Nor is it in trouble because Mashaie, who is about to take what is technically the third highest position in Iran (after supreme guide and president), has experience only as an aide to Ahmadinejad.

Nor is the issue the fact that Mashaie is the president's in-law. His daughter is married to Ahmadinejad's son.

Nor is it that the leadership has been involved in stealing an election and suppressing peaceful mass demonstrations.

No, the problem is that Mashaie once in an excess of public relations' oriented enthusiasm said that Iran's government doesn't hate Israel's people, only its governments, policies, and the existence of their state.

This rather minimal gesture at trying to show that the Iranian regime isn't intent on genocide has made Mashaie a pariah in many circles.

But if Mashaie was wrong to say that, this means that Iran's government does hate each and every individual Israeli. This says something rather significant about its intentions if it should ever get nuclear weapons.

Of course, this is not atypical in the region. In a July 16 Washington Post op-ed widely hailed as a paragon as moderation, Bahrain's crown prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa writes:

"An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only one he hears. Just as an Arab might be forgiven for thinking every Israeli wants the destruction of every Palestinian."

Not so. The former point is based on facts. Hatred is the only voice that Israelis hear because 99 percent of the time that is the only voice that is spoken. If you survey Arab media, schools, mosque sermons, and government statements that is almost all you see. Every exception is so rare as to be prized and exhibited.

An Iraqi member of parliament who visits Israel faces an assassination attempt and expulsion from the legislature. Palestinian Authority media, schools, and mosques daily exalt terrorism.

If, however, one were to look at the equivalent institutions and voices in Israel, it is the exact opposite.

So if in Iran it is forbidden to say: I don't hate all Israelis, and if equivalent rules apply to Arabic-speaking states, it is not hard to figure out where the responsiblity lies for the absence of peace and the persistence of violence.

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