What They Are Saying Week of Dec. 29, 2005

Excerpts from international writers with commentary on issues relating to the Middle East, Israel and world Jewry:

Roots of Denial Run Deep in Iran

Columnist Jeff Jacoby writes in The Boston Globe (www.boston.com) on Dec. 18 about the extent of Holocaust denial in Iran:

"Once again, the president of Iran repeated his foul lie.

"On Dec. 14, in a speech broadcast live on Iranian state TV, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands that the Nazi destruction of European Jewry never happened.

" 'They have created a myth with the name of 'Holocaust' and consider it to be above God, religion, and the prophets,' he said. It was the second time in a week that Ahmadinejad had dismissed the most infamous genocide of the 20th century as a fairy tale. 'Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces,' he snorted in Mecca on Dec. 8, when he addressed an international summit of nearly 50 Muslim heads of state. 'We don't accept this claim.'

"Ahmadinejad's bottom line doesn't change. As he put it in October, Israel must be 'wiped off the map.' And, vowed the president of the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism, 'a new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world.'

"Thus, Ahmadinejad promises a second Holocaust even as he denies the first one, and because his manner is so bellicose and crude, his words make news. But there is nothing new about them. Iran's theocratic thugs have been threatening the Jewish state with genocide ever since Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Tehran 26 years ago.

"Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom Western journalists strangely describe as a 'moderate,' explained in 2001 how a nuclear weapon would settle Israel's hash once and for all: 'The use of a nuclear bomb against Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it would only damage the world of Islam.' The same Rafsanjani once took to the airwaves to explain that 'Hitler had only killed 20,000 Jews and not 6 million.' Holocaust denial and calls for a new Holocaust are two sides of the same coin.

"That coin – virulent anti-Semitism – circulates throughout the Muslim Middle East, not just in Iran. Ahmadinejad's ugly outpourings were condemned in the West, but they provoked almost no protest in Arab and Muslim countries, where Jews are routinely portrayed as evil subhumans fit only for extermination. In much of the Islamic world, Jew-hatred saturates the airwaves, spills from the mosques, fills the classrooms, permeates the press.

"Obsessive anti-Semitism almost always characterizes the most dangerous threats to America and the West. Nazism, Communism, Islamofascism – one thing they have in common is intense anti-Semitism.

"Which is why Ahmadinejad's strident rhetoric should be setting off urgent alarms. Dictators who talk about wiping nations from the earth generally mean what they say."

Is Bush Feeding the Arab Crocodiles?

Columnist Sidney Zion writes in the New York Daily News (www.nydailynews.com) on Dec. 8 that President Bush's terrorism radar skips Israel:

"President Bush, in back-to-back speeches defending the Iraq war, has crossed Israel off the list of countries hit by Islamic terrorists.

"In his address yesterday to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Bush said: 'The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on Sept. 11, blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, killed workers in Riyadh and slaughtered guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan.'

"In Annapolis, he listed the same countries, adding the massacre of Iraqi children and their parents, who had just been hit outside an Iraqi hospital.

"How could Israel fail to make the president's cut? Especially yesterday, after a suicide bomber killed five and wounded 60 in Netanya on Monday. Not to mention that Israel has been the prime target of terror forever.

"Is this an oversight by Israel's greatest friend in the White House? Or could it be an effort to appease the Arab world?

"In 11 speeches in the past three months in which Bush has talked about terror, he only mentioned Israel three times – once before Jewish Republicans. On Dec. 7, he left them out again. 'The enemy must be defeated on every battle front, from the streets of Western cities to the mountains of Afghanistan to the tribal regions of Pakistan to the islands of Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa.'

"I think Bush put a blue pencil through Israel, and I think he did it because he's in big trouble with the war and all he can think about is appeasing the Arabs.

"He likes to compare himself to Winston Churchill. The president should keep these words of his in mind: 'If you feed the crocodiles, you'll be his last meal.' "

Spielberg Makes a Humdrum Film

Literary editor Leon Wieseltier writes in The New Republic (www.tnr.com) on Dec. 19 about Steven Spielberg's new film:

"The real surprise of 'Munich' is how tedious it is. For long stretches it feels like 'The Untouchables' with 11 Capones. But its tedium is finally owed to the fact that, for all its vanity about its own courage, the film is afraid of itself.

"It is soaked in the sweat of its idea of evenhandedness. Palestinians murder, Israelis murder. Palestinians show evidence of a conscience, Israelis show evidence of a conscience. Palestinians kill innocents, Israelis kill innocents. All these analogies begin to look ominously like the sin of equivalence, and so it is worth pointing out that the death of innocents was an Israeli mistake but a Palestinian objective.

"No doubt 'Munich' will be admired for its mechanical symmetries, which will be called complexity. But this is not complexity, it is strategy. Munich is desperate not to be charged with a point of view. It is animated by a sense of tragedy and a dream of peace, which all good people share, but which in Hollywood is regarded as a dissent, and also as a point of view. Its glossy caution almost made me think a kind thought about Oliver Stone. For the only side that Steven Spielberg ever takes is the side of the movies.

"The screenplay is substantially the work of Tony Kushner, whose hand is recognizable in the crudely schematic quality of the drama, and also in something more. The film has no place in its heart for Israel. It cannot imagine any reason for Israel beyond the harshness of the world to the Jews.

"When [the movie's protagonist] Avner's reckoning with his deeds takes him to the verge of a breakdown, he joins his wife and child in Brooklyn and refuses to return to Israel, as if decency is impossible there. No, Kushner is not an anti-Semite, nor a self-hating Jew, nor any of those other insults that burnish his notion of himself as an American Jewish dissident. He is just a perfectly doctrinaire progressive.

"The film proclaims that terrorists and counterterrorists are alike. 'Munich' prefers a discussion of counterterrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion. This is an opinion that only people who are not responsible for the safety of other people can hold."



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