According to the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran radio, Nov. 4, the supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i appeared to distance himself from the statement of hardline Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Khamenei said: “neither throwing Jews into the sea nor setting the Palestinian territory on fire is in accordance with our Islamic principles.”
They [the West] were thinking that Palestine was a forgotten land and called it no-man’s land. Some people’s negligence helped them establish this wrong illusion too. But, it is not like this today. Today, the Palestinian nation stands firmly and the heart of Muslim nations are overwhelmed with Islamic zeal towards holy Qods [Jerusalem] and the whole of Palestine.
The world of Islam should never forget Palestine. It is a big mistake to think that the Islamic states’ retreat in the face of Arrogance [the West] will silence the Palestinians. You can see that the hegemonic government of United States of America is now coveting the Middle East as a result of such retreats. They want a Middle East that is completely in their hands.
There is no such thing today. The silence of Islamic states and their retreat from political and international fields will make the enemy bolder day after day. What we say, with respect to Palestine, is something logical and acceptable.
Dozens of years ago, [Egyptian strongman] Jamal Abd-al-Nasir, who was considered to be the most popular Arab figure, said in his slogans that he would throw the usurper Jews into the sea. Years after that, Saddam Husayn, who was the most hated Arab figure, said he would set half of the Palestinian territory on fire.
We do not agree with either of those comments. Neither throwing Jews into the sea nor setting the Palestinian territory on fire is in accordance with our Islamic principles. What we say is that the Palestinian nation should be given its rights. This country belongs to the Palestinian people. Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. The future of Palestine should be determined by the Palestinians too. This is a test to see the genuineness of those who claim to support democracy and human rights. Palestine is a test for those who claim to support democracy.
The Palestinian nation – the people to whom Palestine belongs, including Muslim, Christian and Jewish, and those who historically own the land and history and geography confirm their ownership – should vote and express their opinion in a referendum observed by the world.[…]
According to BBC monitoring of the French paper Le Figaro on Nov. 4, Ahmadinezhad’s remarks were more about domestic power struggles than an increased belligerency towards Israel:
Western states “must not play into the hands” of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, a commentary in Le Figaro warns. The president’s anti-Israeli remarks “oblige the international community to act with greater clarity and resolve” but stopping there “would be tantamount to ignoring the main phenomenon… the new president’s growing isolation” among top clerics and “his deliberate adoption of a tactic of constant provocation”. The paper says “his ultimate target is not so much the state of Israel as his own colleagues”, Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i. The paper lists a number of factors which “indicate a strong wish on the president’s part to engage in dispute with his pro-reform predecessors, but also with the theocratic structure initially established to counter Khatami’s liberalism”. The paper adds that “this structure is now retaliating to obstruct Ahmadinezhad’s fundamentalist and militant Islamism, as far as it can”.
Ahmadinezhad’s remarks were made to a student conference, “World without Zionism” held in Iran. The conference includes creative pursuits:
Daily: Students to depict “World without Zionism”
Tehran Oct 19, IRNA
The Union of Islamic Students Associations and Iran’s House of Cartoons are jointly sponsoring a global competition on caricature, painting and graphic design under the main theme of “A World without Zionism,” a morning English-language daily said on Wednesday.
Students between the ages of 7 and 18 can submit their art works to the organizing committee of the competition at this address: Tehran, P.O. Box 5745-774, or e-mail them to email@example.com by November 21, Tehran Times announced.
The competition will also focus on the themes “A World without America,” “A Mirage Named Zionism,” “The Wishes of a Palestinian Student,” and “The Intifada,” noted the paper.
The daily went on to say that the international invitation to artists is posted in Persian, Arabic and English at the website of Iran Photographers’ House.
In addition, 13 selected cartoons by students from China, Argentina, France, the Netherlands, Brazil, Iran and the United States on the theme “Palestine and the Occupier Zionist Regime” are on view at the site, according to Tehran Times.
The fruits of these endeavors are to be shown on the website zionot.com.
Palestinian reaction to Ahmadinezhad’s remarks have been unenthused. “We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and … we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “This is unacceptable.” Walid Salem, a former Palestinian political prisoner, asked, “do Ahmadinijad and others of his ilk think that this kind of propaganda helps Palestinians?” (Mideastweb, Nov. 1) And Palestinian historian Dr. Nur Masahla of the University of Surrey, author of several books on Palestinian refugees, had this to say in an Oct. 28 letter to the UK Guardian:
The appalling comments on Israel made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Israel should be wiped off map, October 27) are both empty rhetoric and highly damaging to the Palestinian cause. I believe we (Palestinian Muslims and Christians) should always make a clear distinction between our political struggle against institutionalised racism and ethnic cleansing in Palestine-Israel and the fact that we and the Israelis would, ultimately, have to live together as equal citizens under some form of secular democracy – and not wipe each other out.
Muslim fundamentalists (Ahmadinejad included) have miserably failed to understand the reality in historic Palestine: in the process of brutal colonisation of the country, a Hebrew-speaking “nation” has emerged, with its own distinct language, culture and flourishing literature. There are 5-6 million Hebrew-speaking Israelis and no one has the right to talk about wiping them out. Acknowledging the current bi-national reality is something completely different from legitimising the colonial process by which this reality has come about. The fact that the Israelis are trying quietly, but systematically (although not always successfully), on the ground to do to Palestinians in the West Bank what Ahmadinejad seems to suggest should be done to Israel should only encourage us to seek an alternative vision, away from political Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism.
See our last post on Iran.