On several occasions in recent weeks President Ahmadinejad has shocked the world by first calling for Israel to be wiped off the map and then by questioning the holocaust and calling for transfer of Israel to Europe. These remarks have led to worldwide criticism and will no doubt be exploited by nations that wish to stop Iran's nuclear program. Aside from damaging Iran's image in the world community such remarks are morally indefensible and historically inaccurate. There is ample evidence of the Nazi Germany's genocide against the European Jews and the denial of holocaust can only be interpreted as a sign of ignorance and ethic hatred.
I believe that the occupation of Palestinian lands that Israel captured after the 1967 war, is wrong and should come to an end. However support for the Palestinian cause is no excuse for denial of holocaust and hostility toward the Jewish community worldwide. It is equally wrong to call for the destruction of Israel and claim that Jews have no right to live in the land that is now known as Israel. Again, there is strong historical evidence that Jews lived in Jerusalem and the areas around it for centuries before the Roman Empire forcefully drove them to other parts of the world. Furthermore, the return of Jews to Israel began well before the Second World War and the Holocaust. Besides, Israel is a nuclear state and enjoys the full backing of the United States. Iran does not have the means to destroy Israel and even it did it would face a devastating retaliation.
Both Palestinians and Jews have a rightful historical claim to the combined land of Israel and Palestine. It is precisely because of these legitimate rights on both sides that a two-state solution is the only viable solution to the current Arab-Israeli conflict. Just as it is wrong for the extremist Jews to call for the expulsion of all Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories, it is also wrong for Muslims, particularly high ranking politicians, to call for the expulsion of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Such statements will only inflame religious hatred and push more people into extremist camps on both sides.
Iranian intellectuals and politicians who support the Islamic regime and those who oppose it should unite in rejecting President Ahmadinejad's remarks. They should do so on both moral and strategic grounds. Iran has a moral duty to support the Palestinian demand for an independent and viable state but it should choose a rational strategy to achieve this goal. Expressions of ethnic hatred toward Jews as an ethnic group will not advance the cause of Palestinians. Instead Iran should work closely with other Muslim countries, particularly the Arab world to help the Palestinian cause in a coordinated and collective manner. While Israel's decision to leave the Ghaza strip was a positive development for Palestinians, the road ahead for liberation of West Bank and realization of a just two-state solution is far more difficult.
From a strategic point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad's remarks are damaging to both Iran and the Palestinian cause. By provoking an international backlash against Iran, these statements increase the likelihood of economic sanctions and even military strikes that will weaken Iran both economically and militarily. How can a weak Iran be a useful ally for Palestinians? Furthermore if these remarks become an excuse for foreign aggression against Iran's security and territorial integrity, the public opinion inside Iran might become less supportive of the Palestinian cause.
*Nader Habibi is an economist and manages the Middle East and North Africa division of Global Insight economic consulting firm.
... Payvand News - 12/22/05 ... --