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Stumbling in Iran’s Footsteps

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ghoncheh Tazmini

Active ImagePresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the United Nations conference on racism prompted not only a walkout of delegates but an international uproar. Accused of presenting a speech that served to divide and incite rather than find constructive solutions to racism, the president was impugned for failing to appreciate that Israel is the ‘guarantor of right and freedoms’. Let us give some perspective to this internationally-orchestrated spectacle.

The first principle here is freedom of speech. The Iranian president had every right according to international norms and standards to raise legitimate questions about Israel’s behavior in the international arena and its handling of the Gaza war, which had a disturbingly high number of civilian casualties. Instead of honoring those lives that were lost in the Gaza Strip and acknowledging the heinous crimes committed against innocent civilians, the international community showed utter disregard by simply walking out or refusing to send delegates to the conference in the first place. By expressing disdain for Ahmadinejad’s courage to speak of matters that ruffle international feathers, the world powers were in effect discounting the reality of a war that remains all too fresh in the minds of the families that have lost loved ones.

Second, if the conference on racism was the wrong platform for President Ahmadinejad to voice his opinions and concerns about Israeli aggression, then pray, do tell, where is the appropriate forum for raising concerns about Israel’s behavior? If anything, an emergency summit should have been held immediately after the 22-day Israeli offensive in Gaza to investigate the abuses and crimes committed by Israeli soldiers. Why was there no independent inquiry? And whatever happened to those human rights groups that seem to be so preoccupied with monitoring Iran almost microscopically? The very least the world powers could have done was honor the dead (as it so frequently does when it comes to Israeli deaths) by listening to the only world leader who demonstrated courage to speak up. The international community needs to ask itself a simple question: What are we exactly protesting here by walking out? The truth? A misconception? If the latter is the case, then why not stick around for the conference and confront and debate what you believe is a fallacy?

It is regrettable that the Obama administration did not send a delegate to the conference. If a dialogue is to take place between the two countries, it is not going to be all peaches and cream, it is going to be one where all grievances will be aired, even the ones Israel does not like. It would have been a far more effective strategy had the world powers, including officials of the Obama administration, been present to debate and deliberate over the communiqué until the end. Nonattendance did nothing to promote human rights and or combat racism, or defend Israel.

A third point is that during his four years in office, President Ahmadinejad has been berated for ‘picking on’ Israel, but in all of his speeches and discussions there has been one overriding message: Does the world (particularly the Palestinians) have to pay for the Jews’ misfortunes? While the international community continues to ignore this question, and to censure the Iranian president, the Israelis cannot help but expose themselves for what they really are all by themselves. Israel is Israel’s worst enemy, not Iran.

Fourth, let us speak of double standards. For 30 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been vilified by the international community. Iran has had to tolerate the ongoing rants and accusations of world leaders. All of a sudden, the tables are turned and an Iranian leader appears on the world stage holding up a mirror in front of the world powers reflecting a very unflattering image. It is tough being in Iran’s shoes, even if it is during a 30-minute speech; it is even harder to imagine 30 years of criticism and condemnation. The delegates would be walking out, but they would be stumbling in Iran’s footsteps!

Source: Tehran Times

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