The other day we ran a repudiation of Ahmadinejad's speech in Geneva by Bruce Wolman. As a Jew, I took comfort in that; but this site is not about comfort. We aim to be a place where dialogue occurs across national, ethnic and religious lines in a new world. Today we run a vigorous defense of Ahmadinejad by Mohammad of Vancouver, our Iranian-Canadian correspondent.
The history of imperialism and colonialism that takes up nine paragraphs of Ahmadinejad's speech--and Bruce emphasizes quantity-- is a very relevant historical grounding of the problem of racism in post-colonial and neo-colonial times. I do not need to tell you how historically-rooted in colonialism are the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tortures at Abu Ghareib.
Racism involves all the things Ahmadinejad talks about. As any theorist of critical race theory would tell you, it is about imperialism, colonialism, the late capitalist economy, globalization, transnational spheres of hegemony; and yes Palestine is still a colonized land and we all stand in solidarity on this.
Bruce, I understand your frustration. Denial of the Holocaust is "bad." Mentioning of the wordis often followed by an obsessive search and research into deciding whether it was denied, questioned, undermined, etc. And I acknowledge, references to the Holocaust in Ahmadinejad's speeches in the past and at the Durban 2 Conference on Racism have not been free of tension. Let's leave aside the old debate on the act of denial of the Holocaust and the meaning of it and stick to the very exact concern of: how did Ahmadinejad used the term Holocaust in this speech.
For all of you who do not speak Farsi, I have to emphasize, even when Ahmadinejad seems to be demeaning the memory of Holocaust, even when he seems to be belittling the memory of millions of lost Jewish lives, he does so with ambiguity. Compare that to the direct, offensive and aggressive rhetoric of Bush (axis of Evil, threat of military action), Olmert and Lieberman (constantly referring to nuclear bombs and the specific threat of the annihilation of Iran as a nation in defense of Israel (Hilary Clinton). And Bruce, do you criticize Israeli leaders for comparing the the nation of Iran to Nazi Germany?as , threat of military action) and the use of
There are a lot of criticisms of Israel in this blog and elsewhere, and people are all so busy tracking Israel’s actual crimes that they don’t get to get offended by Israel’s words. In that category, Israel gets to run free in a sea of smear, libel and unfair comments about everyone. From anti Semite bent on the destruction of Jewish people. When was the last time anyone took offense at these outrageous statements? Why do we tolerate Israel’s not so ambiguous distortion of truth, but can’t even take our time to fact check our own work when we take offence against Ahmadinejad?to Richard Falk, from Mearsheimer to Ahmadinejad, everyone is an
In the past, Ahmadijead has had two strategic goals for questioning the Holocaust. The first one is to show to Iranians and Muslims the limits of freedom in the West. He invokes Holocaust to show to his primary audience, Muslims throughout the world, that the west is not fully free, therefore why should Muslims adapt to limitless Western-style freedoms? This strategy is a challenge, not to Jews or the memory of Holocaust, but to the seculars within the Islamic world who constantly contrast Islam with the limitless and ideal freedoms in the West.
Another reason for using Holocaust is to challenge the West’s, and Israel’s, monopoly on contemporary history. By questioning Holocaust, not only does he challenge the West’s hold on the notion of history, he also challenges the central role of World War 2 and its consequence as the implicit pretext injustice, racism and war crimes today. He positions himself against all those Arab leaders in the past or today who have never questioned the legitimizing narrative of the World War 2 as a basis for the creation of Israel, and comes out as a historical hero.
I personally use this argument constantly, that Israel is abusing and has abused the memory of the Holocaust. This idea was the exact same idea that Ahmadinejad used when using the term Holocaust in his speech. This shows that he actually toned down the questioning of the Holocaust and only talked about the abuse of Holocaust by. How could this mild insult put him in a spot equal to Netanyahu?
As to the facts, we have one copy of the videotape version of the live speech in Farsi, an English translation provided by the Iranian delegation, a Persian text of the speech from the Iranian news agency, and a BBC PDF file with the letterhead symbol of Islamic Republic of Iran (Allah) accompanied by a rather sentimental font indicating that it is either an official fax from Iranian officials that was not intended for delivery (it says on the file "please check against delivery") and that has possibly leaked out, or is a fake. "The most controversial and frequented reported line, a clear denial of the Holocaust," as Bruce has argued comes from this last version (and not the link he has provided as evidence). The word Holocaust is accompanied by two "clearly" or "seemingly" (take your pick) problematic adjectives: "ambiguous and dubious."
According to Bruce, and not the article he links to as evidence, there was a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who supposedly talks Ahmadinejad out of using "problematic" adjective and the speech changes to the one that we have on the video. And the speech that we know of through the video is not a denial of Holocaust speech.
Even if, Bruce is right and that Ahmadinejad has dropped the two "problematic" adjectives prior to his speech, I still have a hard time accepting Bruce's main thesis that this guy is a warmonger sitting close to the Zionists of them all Mr. Netanyahu. Ahmadinejad did not deny the Holocaust in his speech. Even if he had intended to accompany the "question" of the Holocaust with adjectives of "dubious and ambiguous" he did not do so. The mere fact that he has not done so is a sign--and it is a very important signifier that is misread here by Bruce. It is not Ahmadinejad who denied the Holocaust, it is your assumption that he must be a denier that is making him into one and putting his name beside that of Netanyahu.
We look for hate in fear/hope of finding it, and fighting it. Yet, how this hate is articulated determines its badness. The word Holocaust out of Ahmadinejad's speech, the Holocaust that he is not denying, is not the same Holocaust of World War II in which undeniably six million Jews, homosexual, gypsies, communists, mentally and physically challenged people were executed in gas chambers. As I tried to describe earlier, Ahmadinejad's Holocaust is the Holocaust of western rhetorical strategy.
This is not so different from what anti-Zionists in the west and historians like Finkelstein have been saying, that Israel’s Holocaust is not the same as the Holocaust of 6 million Jews, because Israel has for a long time used Holocaust as ato advance its positions. If Ahmadinejad also uses a Holocaust rhetoric to question the basis of the Zionist system in Israel and the legitimacy of the Western hold on current events based on their monopoly of the history of the World War 2. And Israel uses a Holocaust rhetoric to legitimize racism, land grabbing, occupation and war crimes.
In one simple word, Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust is a signifier of him as a radical leader and it stands for his transgression of international political norms, the ones that the world hegemonies are imposing on him, his people and the people of the "southern" countries. His actions are partly anti colonial in our neocolonial times. His speech is indicative of his concerns for those people who have been denied their international rights by the powerful nations of the "North."
The Holocaust rhetorical strategy brings him into limelight, where he can address the material concerns of Iranians, Palestinians, and the rest of the "South." The badness of the articulation of this rhetorical strategy is much different from that of the neo-Nazis who use the frank and unambiguous denial of the Holocaust in order to redeem themselves from the burden of the actual crimes of Hitler done in the past. If their rhetoric intends to erase history, Ahmadinejad’s seek to reorient it and re-contextualize it in relation to the Palestine and the Muslim Middle East.
least the fair thing Bruce can do is toconcentrate on the content of
speech. At that level Ahmadinejad's speech deserves to be hailed as a
courageous challenge to European Powers and USA, which have found
comfort in their defense of Zionism, for their continued racist
towards the Muslim world
and the south. Elsewhere in Ahmadinejad's speech he articulates the
course of action for anti racists; and this is not the elimination of
the Jewish state, but curbing the excess of Zionist power. Why aren't
we seeing an opening in this very claim? Why look for anti-Semitism in
a speech that starts with praise for Moses and ends with stressing the
need to work with Every country, we assume Israel included, to solve
the problems of racism? Who are we really mad at here? Doesn't our
reluctance to accept Ahmadinejd stem from our disappointment at
ourselves for our historical failure in providing any alternative to
the dominant Zionist discourse on Holocaust?
Aren’t we upset that while we were sleeping, the people and the leaders of the south are developing rhetoric and skills to corner Israel and the western colonial governments and their flawed sense of morality?