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June 02, 2008

Anti-Semitism and Middle East Policy
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

One other element from John McCain’s speech that is worth further exploration today is his use of Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic rhetoric to disqualify negotiations.

It's hard to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad  would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another.

Taking aside for a second the fact that Ahmadinejad does not run Iran’s foreign policy and that Obama’s position is not that he would meet with him, there is a bigger question here. 

If America’s policy in the Middle East was based on not talking to leaders who have made outrageously anti-Semitic or anti-Israel comments, we would have no policy at all.  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who McCain praised in his speech today, blamed Israel for the 2006 war with Hezbollah calling it an “operation of mass destruction.”   The Iraqi Speaker of the Parliament accused the “Jews” of being behind violence in Iraq.  Yet John McCain says that we should work with these people.

Saudi King Abdullah made this statement in 2004 as Crown Prince when discussing the internal Al Qaeda threat in Saudi Arabia:

"They got their boldness from Satan. They are Satan's helpers. They are the hangers-on of Satan and of imperialism... But I tell you that you can be 100% sure that, Allah willing, this country will be victorious, whoever the faction that turns against it may be. But we are convinced that Zionism is behind everything. This has been established, I am not saying by 100%, but by 95%."

And yet Saudi Arabia remains one of America’s closest allies in the region.

And here is what Bashar Al-Assad had to say about Jews and Israelis. They “try to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality with which they betrayed Jesus Christ and in the same way they tried to kill the prophet Muhammad.”  Yet, Israel is currently in negotiations with his government.

The ugly and unfortunate reality is that offensive anti-Semitic language is prevalent throughout the Middle East.  But even the Israelis have recognized that if they want to get things done, they have to deal with these regimes.  That is why are they are talking to Syria.  That is why they use backchannels to communicate with the Saudis.  That is why they made peace with Jordan and Egypt.

Alas, if the use of deplorable anti-Semitic rhetoric were a standard by which the U.S. decided who it would and would not deal with in the Middle East, we’d have no Middle East policy at all.  But apparently in John McCain's world that standard only applies to Iran.


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Ahmadinejad has been Iran's greatest gift to US hardliners. He provides them with a ready-made excuse for not dealing with Iran diplomatically.

So now it's "Anti-Semitism and Middle East Policy"

You're accepting McCain's allegations as truth, without considering that McCain is nearly always wrong. Where is the evidence that Ahmadinejad has made "anti-Semitic rants" and threatened to start a holocaust? In fact he, like other Middle Eastern leaders, has decried not Jews but their malignant government (Iran has a large and flourishing domestic Jewish community) and the charges that he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map" have been thoroughly disproven by Juan Cole and others.

Truth is the first casualty in war, and the untruths about Iran, including its "development of nuclear weapons," have become a torrent of lies which should not be repeated as truths.

On the other hand, according to the US State Department, anti-Israel comments are now to be considered as anti-Semite, so there you go. We must pledge allegiance to the Star of David or be considered anti-Semitic. All hail the State of Israel, and let all of Palestine fall under its power. To wish otherwise (horrors!) is being anti-Semite.

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