Thursday, October 27, 2005

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How crazy is Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad?

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had some lovely words for Israel yesterday, according to the FT's Gareth Smyth:

Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s fundamentalist president, on Wednesday declared that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and warned Arab countries against developing economic ties with Israel in response to its withdrawal from Gaza.

His remarks, delivered at a conference in Tehran entitled “A World without Zionism”, led to diplomatic protests by the UK, France and Spain, while Shimon Peres, Israel’s deputy prime minister, said Iran should be expelled from the United Nations.

In Washington, spokesmen for the Bush administration said the statement underscored US concern over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

The most depressing sentence in the story? "US analysts noted that the president’s remarks were not a departure from hardline Iranian rhetoric and did not represent new policy." Well that's a relief.

Whenever political leaders start talking crazy talk, some political scientist like me usually comes out of the woodwork to explain the underlying rationality of such a move. After reading this Financial Times piece by Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, however, I'm beginning to wonder about Ahmadi-Nejad's competence:

Complaints about rising chicken prices during the holy month of Ramadan mark the first widespread disquiet about president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, just two months after he became Iran's president.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, last week acknowledged public concerns in Friday prayers, saying it was "unfair to drag the government to the table of expectations after only two or three months". Private business was wary of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's rhetoric even as he won June's landslide election victory, but is now approaching a crisis of confidence. "Name me one sector that is working," says a government official.

The Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) has dropped 20 per cent since the election, with the Tehran price index (Tepix) closing on Monday at 10,014, perilously close to the psychological 10,000 mark level. Yesterday the exchange was closed for a public holiday.

A sense of malaise in the economy has resulted both from Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's statist rhetoric and from tension with Europe and the US over Iran's atomic programme. Hossein Abdeh-Tabrizi, secretary-general of the TSE, has linked falling share prices to the nuclear issue. Business circles welcomed the new government's economic team and applauded parliament's plan to reduce subsidies on the sale of imported petrol, but Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has himself spread confusion over the government's direction. The president reacted to falling share prices by calling on public bodies, which own about 80 per cent of shares, to control the decline. At the same time, the commerce ministry banned cement exports to help meet domestic demand, hitting the cement companies which comprise about 30 per cent of the bourse. "The government seems to jettison long-term policies [favouring the market] for short-term reasons and so it's not clear where it's heading," says an economy analyst.

Iran's private businesses are also worried about possible UN Security Council sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme. Questioned last Thursday by reporters, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad refused to deny that Tehran is blocking letters of credit for companies from South Korea, the UK, Argentina and the Czech Republic, countries that last month voted for a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency finding Tehran in "non-compliance" with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. "Economic relations have to be balanced with political relations," says Mr Ahmadi-Nejad.

South Korean direct and indirect exports to Iran and its investment - mainly in the oil and auto sectors - were about $3bn in 2004. "When you compare this with Korea's $55bn trade surplus with the US, it's hard to see what Iran thinks it can achieve from such pressure on Korea," says the analyst.

I can't see the rationale either. Maybe these kind of sanctions weaken Ahmadi-Nejad's domestic political opponents, but in a country like Iran there are better ways of weakening one's political opponents. Even in a world of $60 oil and the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, this kind of political behavior is not heakthy.

So is Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad crazy like a fox -- or just crazy? Discuss.

posted by Dan on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM


I'd be surprised if this a diversion attempt to make up for bad economy. New governments should not resort to such tactics, because they have a long term ahead of them to try economic policies and make things right. Rally-round-the-flag effects will not last long and while they last they will scare economic actors away, making long-term economic recovery even harder.
On the other hand, if this government has already given hopes up on improving the economy, then everybody (the government, Iranians and the rest of the world) is in big trouble.

posted by: Kerim Can on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Ok Dan, fine. He probably is not an economic mastermind, but the sentiments he represents are vastly popular and legitimate in Iran. That he wants to lower the price of basic commodities in a country with deep poverty is pretty normal thing really. It would be easy to find some poor person who has paid a month’s wage for a good iftar meal, and get a quote from them saying something like “I can’t afford to feed my family, I have a PHD by end up driving a taxi…” and so he obviously want to play to that situation. That some corrupt big business man says his policies are a problem does not say much. On the general issue, maybe price controls are a problem, but I would like to see you tell that to someone who is hungry. Like telling African governments to pay back their debts when their people are dying…

In respect to South Korea, what other leverage does he have? Especially when his country faces a possible sanction. I mean, they are not the USA, he is not going just go invade every country he doesn’t like…

And lastly, Israel does exist as a country now, but that does not mean it is legitimate. Its birth was and is still a massive injustice against the Arabs. It will never cease to amaze me that the Jewish people, who have suffered so much in their history, can then so easily and endlessly totally destroy the lives and society of another people. It is sick really. And so what do you expect after 60 years of destruction? You want the people of the region to act like nothing happened? Why don’t you ask the Jewish people to forget their history too, forget the their suffering and just deal with it. Only, the Jewish people are no longer suffering such injustices. Now they are the oppressors. Hell will freeze over before they take responsibility for the horrors they have caused. At least the Germans admit their wrongs, and pay for them.

And for god’s sake, the hypocrisy of the world. Israel has vast stocks of nuclear weapons, has invaded its neighbors, destroys refugee camps on a daily basis, laughs at international law, but yet there is hardly a peep about them. When Sharon calls Arafat a “terrorist” it is accepted as normal. But when Bush and Sharon (literally war criminals) are called the same, those speaking are said to be insane. Iranians are dangerous, Israelis and Americans are not. Israel defends itself and the USA “liberates” people, everyone else are terrorists…. It is complete bull. Seriously, be real. If you are going to call people out, why don’t you look in the damn mirror first.

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

The Washington Post had a good article a couple weeks ago, pointing out that Iran's top cleric doesn't trust Ahmadinejad and is appointing moderates to supervise and restrain him:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Shiite Muslim cleric who holds ultimate authority in Iran, has altered the country's power structure by granting a relatively moderate panel new authority to supervise an elected government increasingly dominated by religious hard-liners.
... Rafsanjani lost last June's presidential election, but Khamenei's new decree, made public Oct. 1, gives Rafsanjani at least nominal supervision over the administration put in place by the winner, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

..."This is more than symbolic. This is the leader saying, 'We're moving too far right,' " said Karim Sadjadpour, who follows Iran for the International Crisis Group, a research group based in Brussels.

...Ahmadinejad's cabinet nominations also drew criticism, and some ridicule. Parliament rejected four of his choices, including the nominee for Iran's vital oil ministry. The candidate had claimed to have a doctorate from an American college that turned out to be an on-line degree.

"Ahmadinejad has already shown that he needs a lot of supervision," said a professional political analyst in Tehran, who asked not to be named because his employer had not authorized his remarks. "Just last week his government sent two 'double urgent' bills to the parliament. He gets so excited."

posted by: Carl on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

That statement is nothing new, and I find the media's ignorance shown by the coverage of this most recent event to be a more important story. Iran elected a terrorist to be their president, it's good to see them reaping what they've sewn.

posted by: Justin on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Crazy like a fox? Not!
Whenever ideologues run an economy they drive it into the ground when they step away from the base of the economy. Here in the USA it is the religious base and the K-Streeters of De Lay are now falling out over the nomination of Miers. For him it is the merchants of the bazaar.

posted by: Robert M on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

I think it's fair to assume that Ahmadi-Nejad's hatred of Jews is genuine. His desire for Iran to be a great power and evident ignorance of the most basic economics is also genuine. The extent of his authority within the Iranian government is less clear; it may actually not extend as far, overall, than Khatami's did.

Literal insanity is highly unlikely, but the intemperate nature of Ahmadi-Nejad's remarks is useful, as it underlines the central reason for nuclear non-proliferation: the more nations have nuclear weapons, the more likely it is that one or more of those weapons will go off. As European nations proceed with the United States and other countries in its relations with Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program, there is always a risk that their resolve will flag; as time goes by the threat will be questioned, doubts about Western "inflexibility" will be raised, temptations to weaken a united front will grow. Ahmadi-Nejad has helpfully reduced this risk. He may even have raised doubts in Moscow as to how much to help a country whose president sounds as if he not only wants to have nuclear weapons but to use them as well.

So it may be that Ahmadi-Nejad will deserve our thanks. That is true even if his remarks fail to impress on notoriously obtuse American policymakers that a united front is not just a question for the West. For Iran as well, maintaining support across the political spectrum for any government's program over time would be difficult. Ahmadi-Nejad's apparent interest in a foreign policy of confrontation that threatens war, risks isolation, and diverts oil revenues away from the needs of Iran's poor while the economy declines should provide opportunities for the West to undermine him and the clerics he depends on. It may be expedient for us to treat the statements of Iran's president as indicative of his desire to take his country off a cliff, but while it certainly makes sense for us to treat him and certain factions within Iran as our enemies we should not forget that Iran as a nation has many reasons to want to be a normal country, not a zealot state. Normal relations between Iran and the rest of the world may not be possible under its current government, but while Iran is permanent its government need not be.

posted by: Zathras on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

We cant let this guy (or his ilk) have nuclear weapons. At the end of the day if it means a shooting war in the Straights of Hormuz so be it.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

from FT: Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is granted an apparent room for manoeuvre by oil income - expected to reach $45bn in the current Iranian year - that makes up 80 per cent of export earnings and 60 per cent of government income. -

Let's do the math. $45B is 60% of government income. Total income is $75 BILLION TOTAL. Iran now has 70 million people. This is only $1072 per citizen! That is the amount of money Iran has to spend IN TOTAL every year for bureaucracy overhead, infrastructure and citizen welfare/handouts.

I think this simple calculation shows that there is simply no way to meet the expectations of the Iranians. There is simply not enough money to go around despite the oil windfall. A typical problem in a welfare state.

posted by: John Sobieski on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Ahmadi-Nejad is a throwback. Anyone who has been paying attention to Iran in anything like a serious manner should know how deeply unpopular the radical ideologues are in Iran today. His presidency is based on nothing more than recycled slogans from the early 1980s, and his interest in establishing an Islamic state is no less intense. Fortunately for us, the vast majority of Iranian society has moved well beyond that point. Unfortunately for us (and most Iranians), the small minority have all the guns and are fiercely determined to use them in order to stay in power.

The leftist/nationalist/Islamist slogans that Ahmadi-Nejad is trying to use are well-worn and bankrupt--in part because of the gross incompetence of the managers of the Islamic Republic and in part because of the insincerity of those who utter them. That is, they (and here I mean the radical Shi'a Islamists that remain in control of the regime today of which he is part of the younger generation) have used leftist/populist economic rhetoric when it has suited them, but only to help their friends. In point of fact, most Iranian subsidies--and they amount to over $10 billion annually--go to the relatively well-off, not the poor.

They have sounded nationalistic themes when it has suited them (as in the Iran-Iraq War or now with the nucleare issue) because they know it resonates in a country as fiercely nationalistic as Iran. But they have also shown that they want to submerge Iran's national identity in that of the broader Islamic "nation"--a concept that is anathema to most Iranians who treasure all of their history, including the pre-Islamic era. Iran's rulers know that there is a limit to how much more Palestinian they can be than the actual Palestinians, who after all have done nothing for Iran--aside allying themselves with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

In short, the uproar over this is somewhat surprising. What did anyone expect from this guy? We should prepare for more of these ill-considered remarks, but be aware not to make any more of them than they actually are. After all, we are dealing with folks who will pay any price to survive in power. And mark my words, this includes walking back from any confrontation in order to do so. At heart, they are cowards and bullies.

posted by: BMR on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]


Do you think we could get Khameni to appoint a moderate supervisory council in the USA? Who says the Iranians have nothing to teach us.

Mark Buener,

Shooting war with Iran? Don't hold your breath cuz it aint gonna happen. The only way we could pull that off if is the Iranians seriously
misstepped vis-a-vis Iraq and we seem to have a monopoly on that. Without the full backing of the country and a WWII like public effort (including plenty of tax hikes) you can forget a war with Iran or Syria.

The fact is in 20 years Iran WILL have a modest nuclear arsenal. Our best hope is that the political culture by that time is mature and self interested enough to recoil from the tens of millions of fatalities that would result from a nuclear exchange with Isreal/USA. The focus of our policy with Iran should be on pushing back the day they have reliable bombs as far as possible and ensuring in the meantime that considerable top-down political maturation ensues. Unfortunatley, overexertion on the former risks failing at the latter.

posted by: Michael Carroll on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Somewhat offtopic, but cement companies make up 30% of the bourse?

Where is that domestic demand coming from? I doubt it is improved building codes after the 12/2003 Bam earthquake, but I could be wrong.

posted by: Chrees on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Iran elected a terrorist to be their president

For what its worth, there seems to be no basis for the claim that Ahmadi-Nejad was involved in the taking of American hostages in the embassy crisis. At least, if there had been evidence available with the CIA (and remember that those involved in the taking didn't exactly conceal their identities at that time), we would have seen it being proclaimed from the rooftops.

On the other hand, you have to wonder when Khamenei is being presented as the voice of reason in Iran ...

posted by: erg on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

There is nothing quite as stupid as the Iran/ US stand off. Two countries who can both give the other something in friendship are squabbling over history. Niether side will acknowlege the wrong they did to the other. So either side wants war. And for what? Its quite pathetic.

Maybe the next president of the US will have brains enough to sort it out. We'll just have to hang in there till this one gets out.

As for nuclear proliferation control - what are we talking about here? Is there a concerted effort internationally to formulate a treaty of some kind? Is there a plan? Is GW fighting to get a international consortium to discuss a planetary agreement?


So how can the US justify denying others nuclear weapons when has its own and is not ready to make a covenant?

Dumb. But thats us nowadays.

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Among all the comments posted, some people are expected to be stupid. But Zathras you are usually fairly moderate generally, that is why is it surprising that your comments are as stupid as they are.

for example, did you even listen to more then one word of his speech? i am sure you didn't. you probably just read one sentence saying that was covered in the western press. And from that you conclude that his "hatred of Jews is genuine. " That is a joke. Do you know that Zionism is an ideology? it is not representative of the entire people. For that matter, had it been Chinese or Brazillians who took over Palestine (and not Jews), I am sure that the anger at zionism would be transfered. The reason I am mad is because they have destroyed the Palestinians, not because they are Jewish. And i know that is generally true of most other Arabs and Muslims. I do not know the personal feelings of Mr. Ahmadinejad, but i find it very unlikely that he is anti-semitic.

For that matter, again, it is the USA that has destroyed Iraq and killed over one hundred thousand people there. Yet because Bush is powerful he is welcomed in world capitols. If anything he is a vicious war criminal and should be rotting in prison, not welcomed. Iran's President only said a couple words and he is seen as such a great threat. You talk about Iran making nuclear weapons (though you have absolutely no proof), but Bush has them and wants to make more "mini nukes" and he wants to torture people every chance he gets, yet bush is welcomed and you act like Iran is the threat!

The hypocrisy is beyond belief. It is out of control nationalism like this that is the reason for the world's countless genocides and atrocities. Believing this sickening racism that the west is superior to all, while it continues to slaughers the weak. Let's be real, for god's sake. Not just take one sentence out of a long speech about how the Palestinians are suffering, and act as though the world has come to an end, all the while USA kills and threatens and destorys in the name of peace.

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

"The fact is in 20 years Iran WILL have a modest nuclear arsenal. Our best hope is that the political culture by that time is mature and self interested enough to recoil from the tens of millions of fatalities that would result from a nuclear exchange with Isreal/USA."

Im less concerned with 20 years than the next 5-10. I think you understate the dangers and the costs of a nuclear Iran. While we may rely on MAD to prevent an actual exchange between Iran and Israel (and even that is a pretty dangerous bet) there are other scenarios not so pleasant:

-The leverage Iran will have with a nuclear deterrant. This is already the most egregious and boldfaced terrorist supporting state in the world. Imagine when they are immune to conventional military strikes and embargos.

-The posibility of a weapon falling into the hands of a suicidal terrorist organization or individual. Speaks for itself. If some zealot manages to smuggle a nuke out of Iran and detonates it in Las Vegas, do we melt 50 million Iranians in response? And what happens if we dont?

-Hand in hand with the last problem, if Iran does get an arsenal, it immediately becomes in the United States, the West, and the Worlds best interest for the current regime to remain stable. We will be unable to support democratic uprisings, and possibly even reforms do to the clear and present danger of a dying fundamentalist regime allowing a nuke to slip out to a terrorist. What do we do if there is a democratic revolution in Iran and a week later an Iranian nuke devastates NYC?

If we think our choices are bad _now_, we had better take into account how bad they will be later. Hoping for a miraculous positive turn of events within Iran is not a strategy.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

I thank ok for sharing that hissy fit with us. On the whole, I think it would be best to wait for the president of Iran to make the case that his remarks were taken out of context. They seemed clear enough to me.

Ahmadi-Nejad is what he is, which is first of all an enemy of this country. I propose to treat him as such, and further to regard his violent rhetoric as a weapon that can be used against him and his clerical enablers in the Iranian government. If he wishes to be regarded differently, his way is open.

With respect to the Palestinians I have no comment, except the commonplace that the destruction of Israel is not on the table, has not been for half a century, and will not be in the future as far as the United States is concerned. With respect to those who wish Israel destroyed only hating Zionism and not Jews, I do not believe it. Honestly, I don't think many people do. Human gullibility has limits.

posted by: Zathras on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

I can not belive what I just read. This Irainian extreemist has call for the destruction of another country. And someone who posts under ok supports it??? This president of Iran is ruining economicly, politicly, and morally Iran. The world can not sit idle and let him spew his hatred. He must be punished and if the real ruler the ayatolla won't do it then its time for the Irainians to growup and deal with the problem ASAP...

posted by: CloneDNA on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Do you think that the people of the middle east would be equally mad if the Japanese were the ones who had destroyed Palestine? I am sure they would. If i read my history correctly, the muslim countries have a far greater history of tolerance toward Jews then the Western ones do.

And does your view of "the destruction of Israel" include a one state solution that allows Palestinians to have the same rights as Jews? Because Zionism explicitly includes that other people are inferior ("chosen people") and have less rights as Jews ("Jewish State"). And so, if your disbelief is that people would be mad at this, especially when it has literally destoryed their lives and put them in cages and refugee camps and such, then i challenge your view that "human gullibility has limits."

I was not arguing that I agree with what he said, but that it sickens me that the west and Israel talk so wildly about "terrorism" even though they are criminals themselves. when i agrued that you did not listen to his speech, it was because you accused him of having an "intemperate nature", but i listened to some of his talk and he was very composed. His lecture was about the pilght of the Palestinians and how it was important for the region to have solidarity with them. He blamed Zionism, which is accurate. He never said that "the Jews" should be killed, nor do i believe he said anyone should be killed (though i didn'e listen to his whole talk).

Again, Iran is not the agressive country in the world or in the middle east. And it continues to shock me that the people doing the attacking can call others a threat.

He might be an enemy of the USA Gov., but if you are such a nationalist that that automatically proves to you that he is wrong and evil, they you have a serious problem.

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

"And does your view of "the destruction of Israel" include a one state solution that allows Palestinians to have the same rights as Jews? "

Strange then, that the current state of Israel is a one state solution that allows Palestininas to have the same rights as Jews.

And speaking of aggressors, how many times has Israels neighbors attacked her? Please stop lecturing us about criminality. You clearly have no distinction between the criminal and the cop.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Given that Iran's international position is best strengthened by pandering to European anti-Americanism and thus splitting the EU from the US, Ahmadinejad's rhetoric would seem strange.

However, if you assume that real action from the EU and the US against Iran is not going to happen, and the only immediate prospect is more negotiations, then such rhetoric carries little penalty. Furthermore, it makes sense to stake out as strong a position as possible.

That way, at the appropriate time, he can graciously concede that his opponents have souls and their children can be allowed to live if they convert to Islam, and the appropriate audiences will optimistically declare this to be "progress."

The result is that he will have bought Iran several more years towards the development of nuclear weapons, strengthened his domestic base, and he can always hope that America's strength will erode with the passing of years until forceful action against Iran is made impossible.

posted by: Mycroft on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

From the posts above, americans on both sides of the so-called political divide want to go to war in the ME in a big way.

I can not understand how Israel can be considered a straight forward democracy as we like to think we have in the west. Israel is not fo the enjoyment of anyone but jews. Palestinians may not vote because they do not live in thier homes in Israel. Thier country is the greater Palestine that they were driven out of. They are not allowed to return because that would mess up the Zionists' racial gerrymandering. If they had the right to return to thier homes the jews would be voted out of power - so the palestinians may not return. Who finds this to be a plausible democracy? Is it impossible for Americans to see how arabs find this deeply insulting? Is it really beyond comprehension? Because if it is, Americans really do not get it and when americans don't get it, they go to war.

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

From the posts above, americans on both sides of the so-called political divide want to go to war in the ME in a big way.

Many people think the US has unfinished business with Iran, and when considered in light of Iran's apparent nuclear ambitions, prefer that it be taken care of sooner, rather than later.

Israel and the palestinians is completely unrelated to that business.

posted by: rosignol on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

I think the most telling sign of this story is how the USA media related the issue, the threat wasnt only against Israel:

"To those who doubt, to those who ask is it possible, or those who do not believe, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible."

"His eminency also said that the occupation regime of Qods [Jerusalem, or Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt."

In a very interesting article in Asian Times

The only other thing to refer is the "*****" - i am using his own words - of ok comments. Without Israel there will not be Palestinians at all. The plight of Palestinians is that they were used by Syrians, Egyptians and Jordanians in beginning and choosed the path of war in recent times.

posted by: lucklucky on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

We seem to have handed Iran a lot of power in Iraq. They are more closely allied with Russia, China and SCO. They even plan an oil bourse.

Reasons for hubris.

Pragmatically the rhetoric can be useful because toing it down is a cost free concession.

posted by: vour on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Come on exclab, at least try to show some intellectual honesty. There are over a million Israeli Palestinians with the same rights to citizenship. How many Jews live in the Arab states? How many have the right to vote there? When do the tens of thousands of Jews that were ethnically cleansed from every other nation in the Middle East 60 years ago get their right of return? 150,000 were tossed out of Iraq alone.
And your reference to 'greater Palestine' is interesting, and as racist as Zionism seemingly. Are you refering to Trans-Jordan or some mythical Palestinian state?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

The real "pretend" state in the ME is
'Saudi' Arabia. Just imagine something
called 'Rockefeller' America.

SA was totally stolen from it's rightful
Bedoin owners by a small family. Who, to
this day, enslave all the inhabitants
of the area not of that family.

Yet not a word of it from the anti-Israel
posters above. OK and EXCLAB excel in
mindless recitation of the post-modernist
anti-Semitic crap they have learned. A
good demonstration of rote memory skills.

But nothing of actual intellectual heft.

I would give them a D+.

posted by: Ted on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

I also find it extremely odd that the nation in the Middle East established by the United Nations is castigated as having no right to exist, while all the others were created by a stroke of a British pen are considered so sacrosanct that the idea of dividing Iraq has become anathema.

And people wonder why rabid anti-Israelis are suspected of hidden motives.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

If i read my history correctly, the muslim countries have a far greater history of tolerance toward Jews then the Western ones do.

Apparently, you don't.

posted by: Justin on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

ok said - "Israel does exist as a country now, but that does not mean it is legitimate. Its birth was and is still a massive injustice against the Arabs. It will never cease to amaze me that the Jewish people, who have suffered so much in their history, can then so easily and endlessly totally destroy the lives and society of another people. It is sick really. And so what do you expect after 60 years of destruction?"

This comment from ok follows upon his/her outrageous justifications of the homocidal remarks by Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad to the effect that Israel should be wiped off the map.

I'm sorry but no matter what economic and other hardships you cite, that is no grounds - zero, none - for trying to explain away a call for genocide directed against the Jews, who Ahmadi-Nejad refers to as our "historical enemy" in terms reminiscent of Hitler's demented rationales for the gas chambers.

Your view that Israel is illegitimate is based on propaganda you have obviously swallowed hook, line and sinker. Since 1517 these territories were under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire actually - not “Palestinians”. When the Turks lost to the British, they signed the Treaty of Sevres (1918) and surrendered control of their territories outside Turkey. The land was thus uncontested, notwithstanding this British "paper claim".

There were very few indigenous Arabs in the region. The British Consul, James Finn, wrote in 1857 that "the country is to a considerable degree empty of inhabitants". Many Arabs who passed through the region were itinerant or used as "buffers" by tribal leaders. To call them a settled population is absurd.

The Jewish people didn’t simply annex this land in some unilateral way. Due process was exercised by international bodies of the day. The League of Nations proclaimed that the Jews had a valid, pre-existing RIGHT to this territory.

We see precedents right here in Canada, as I'm sure you do in the U.S. also, for this kind of thing. When natives for example are able to prove an ancestral claim to land and take it to court, they often win. The rights of the Jews in this instance are based upon so many legitimate claims that it would take a book to cover all of them.

If you want to argue about legitimacy, then you have your work cut out for you. Start with North America ... and proceed to the tribal arguments in Africa over “stolen” land. I come from Northern Ireland, my ancestors were Scottish planters who had a long ancestral connection to Ulster, through war and settlement. According to your line of thinking perhaps the Scots/Irish have no right to be in Ulster; Turks have no right to be in Cyprus; Europeans perhaps have no right to be in North America. This is a redundant argument because civilization has grown on waves of war and conquest. Even early pre-European peoples such as the Mohawk and further south, the Aztec, were aggressive and predatory toward their neighbors.

So why do you focus on Israel and the Jews, who have a greater right than most to their ancestral land? The return to Zion is even written into the ritual of Yom Kippur and the Passover Seder.

Another point you neglect, is that Israel is a democracy in a region dominated by quasi-dictatorial and theocratic regimes. Israel has a free press. Even the Canadian Muslim writer, Irshad Manji, who spent time living in Israel, described the Israeli press as “ferociously free” and spoke highly of Israeli democracy.

You say that Jews are persecuting Palestinians, but recently we saw Gaza handed back and Israeli forces evicting their own. In the aftermath of the withdrawl we see arab fighters using Gaza - not as a platform to negotiate a resolution - but as a shooting gallery to attack Israel.

The bottom line is - the Jews are in Israel to stay and the sooner people like Amahadi-Nejad embrace that reality, the better the prospects for genuine stability.

The Israelis have repeatedly demonstrated their prowess in wars against Arab states that wanted to obliterate them and that confers a right; a right that has historically been exacted by the victors in almost any war you care to cite.

Rather than ask for Israel to surrender territory, maybe you should focus on a different kind of robbery - the robbery of freedom and justice in arab lands where people are persecuted for seeking democratic rights and freedom of expression. Many Arab reformers are working courageously to bring about these changes, and I applaud them. Many of these reformers would seek to broker a new peace with Israel and grant it recognition.

You on the other hand, are identifying with a part of the Arab world that is reactionary, quasi-fascist and regressive. Such people will never win. The future in the Middle East is for the brave and the free, both Jew and Arab, who are prepared to co-exist and transcend these ancient divisions.

Thank God fro courageous Arab voices who have the guts to speak out against the mind-set represented by people like Ahmadi-Nejad - people like the Iraqi journalist Aziz Al-Hajj who recently had this to say ...

"Islamic-Arab terrorism has turned into the greatest danger in the world, and threatens civilization, security and life everywhere. It is today the symbol of evil, religious fanaticism, and moral degradation, and it is the essence of political crime..."

posted by: Aidan Maconachy on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Israel was a horrendous mistake obviously. Yes the UN sanctioned it as a part of a colonial continuity. The people who lived there were just coming out from under the heal of the Turks when Western money and power began making its own plans for a country that did not belong to them in any other way than thier own presumtion. The land of Israel was created when not one of its future neighbors wanted it to exist. Nor was their opinion considered important. In time it served the west's need to apease it's guilt. So they dumped it in the ME and left it. The war that has gone on since is completely predictable. It will not end until one side exterminates most of the other.

Comparisons to Canada and the US and native treaties in those countries are ironic because of course the only reason the same thing that is happening in Israel is not happening in the US and Canada is that the previous owners of those countries were slaughtered and wiped out by disease. The Levant religions are not religions of peace as they constantly insist. They are acquisitive violent religions. Let the best one win.

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

exclab said - "Yes the UN sanctioned it as a part of a colonial continuity. The people who lived there were just coming out from under the heal of the Turks when Western money and power began making its own plans for a country that did not belong to them in any other way than thier own presumtion."

The Arabs who lived in this region consisted of a total population that was less than a suburb of Toronto - 250,000 max. Moreover they didn't regard themselves as "Palestinians" because no Arab state akin to "Palestine" ever existed.

The Peel Commission, which first recommended the partition of Palestine, was told the following by a local Arab leader named Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi ...

"There is no such country as Palestine! 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria."

Why did Abdul-Hadi say this? He said this because there was NEVER any understanding on the part of area Arabs that Palestine was a state belonging to them. This land wasn’t viewed as an integral entity. Let me quote from a statement put out by the Arab Higher Committee at the United Nations in May of 1947 ...

"Palestine is part of the Province of Syria politically. The Arabs of Palestine are not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity."

Fact is, Arab jingoism in regard to Palestine didn’t really become a hot button issue to “punish” Israel until after the 1967 Six Day War and Israel’s seizure of the West Bank. It was then that Arab politicians began the propaganda designed to discredit the state of Israel - propaganda that you appear to fully endorse.

Look, citing evil Western ambitions in the creation of Israel is wholly inappropriate and offensive to the memory of millions of Jews who were decimated in WW2. This was not an act of imperial aggrandizement, it was a humane gesture to return a people to their ancestoral lands; a people who had just been ravaged by the holocaust.

It's incredible to me that you try to make Israel into some discredited entity hatched by imperialists when the very Arabs you are defending supported the Nazis, and were thus complicit in the murder of the Jews. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem publicly supported Hitler. By contrast some 30,000 Jews from the region joined the allies to fight the Axis powers.

posted by: Aidan Maconachy on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

The arabs were 250,000? So what? They were living there. Who cares if Palestine didn't exist. That was thier home. Perhaps they would have liked to have country. Who knows? The fact is that land was not a European bonbon to bestow upon a section of its own population that it had abused for centuries. Surely somewhere in Europe would have been appropriate for the Jews,since is it was the Europeans who created the problem in the first place. No, they did not give up any of thier own land; they gave the jews someone else's land. Crocadile tears.

Who is this Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi? Did he speak for everyone in the area? He was the spokesman for Jerusalem, West Bank, desert, ect? No. I didn't think so.

Who cares who the arabs' leaders supported in the war. That has nothing to do with the issue. If Israel is way of punishing Arabs for a misplaced allegiance, why isn't the Jewish home land in Italy or Germany?

And as for the Israel being a homeland for the Jews a thousand years ago - my ancestor was kicked out of scotland 300 years ago. Can I go back and get his land? Can the native americans have the plains back? Shall we give Europe back to the celts? Can the Berbers have Algeria and Morroco back? The Basque claim to thier area of northern spain is older than the jewish claim to Israel. When do they get thier country? And what race on earth except maybe the Japanese gets have its own state? An Ethnocracy? No one. Its a lousy way to run a country. It definitely isn't the american way. Why do americans embrace it?

THere is only one thing that can be said. Jewish children live in Israel now. Its not their fault their ancestors made such a lousy choice. Palestinian children live in Gaza. Arafat is not thier fault. Somehow they should be allowed to live were they are; children of either side. But I'm afraind that isn't going to happen. And that two state solution has all the chance of snowball in hell. And everyone knows it.

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi wasn't some itinerant shepherd, he was actually an important delegate in the negotiations between the U.K. and the Arabs re Palestine.

He is named in the "Report of a Committee" set up to study the correspondence between Sir Henry Mcmahon (British High Commissioner in Egypt) and The Sharif of Mecca.

Here is a direct passage that names Abdul-Hadi ...

"At a meeting of the Arab and United Kingdom Delegations to the Conferences on Palestine, which was held at St. James's Palace on the 15th February, 1939, it was agreed that a Committee should be set up to consider certain correspondence, commonly called the "McMahon-Husain Correspondence"

His Excellency General Nuri al-Sa'id, Prime Minister of Iraq, (replaced after the first two meetings by:

His Excellency Sayyid Taufiq al-Suwaidy, Leader of the Iraqi Delegation after the departure from London of General Nuri al-Sa'id),

His Excellency Abdul-Rahman Bey Azzam, Egyptian Minister in Baghdad and Jedda,

Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Palestine Delegate,

Musa Bey al-Alami, Palestine Delegate,

Mr. George Antonius, Palestine Delegate and Secretary-General, Arab Delegations, with the following as adviser:

Sir Michael McDonnell formerly Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Palestine."

Your comments about your Scottish ancestors land and other retroactive claims are dismissed by you as hopeless. Actually, while the native peoples of America have suffered many injustices, there have also been many legal settlements (I'm speaking of Canada now) that have been favorable to their claims.

The other point you conveniently avoid is that there were Jews who remained in the region (they didn't all move to Europe enmasse). Also the notion that Jewish return to the region started in the 1940's is incorrect. It actually began in the 1880's.

Your determination to present the creation of Israel as some kind of scandal or crime overlooks certain key historical truths. The Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate AND let us not forget ... the partial United Nations resolution of 1947; also the admission of Israel to the United Nations in 1949 - not to mention the recognition of Israel by a great many other states.

You know, I'm not a Jew, nor Israeli and certainly no Zionist extremist. I'm a N.Irish Brit who is now a proud Canadian, and in reading over the comments in this room I am frankly dismayed by the implicit anti-semitic tone in some of the remarks.
I'm not referencing you specifically exclab but speaking in general about the tenor of some of the remarks on the thread.

I am a supporter of Arab reformers in the Middle East. I have a great deal of respect for Islam and its traditions. The fight as I see it as one interested in the spread of freedom and democracy in this region, is to struggle to rise above the impasse created by ancient hates and rivalries.

Calling for the destruction of Israel, may be viewed as a mere poltical gambit by some of the more cynical. But this comment by Ahmadi-Nejad goes deeper than mere brinkmanship. This remark reflects a central and frightening reality - namely that a country presently hell bent on acquiring nukes incubates a genocidal hostility toward the Jews.

The culture that represents such thinking isn't opposed only by Israelis and the Western allies, it also opposed by increasing numbers of Arab commentators who understand the futility of engaging in that kind of end game.

It amazes me though that there are still those who dig deep to furnish justifications that will explain away the psychotic rhetoric of Ahmadi-Nejad.

posted by: Aidan Maconachy on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

"The arabs were 250,000? So what? They were living there. Who cares if Palestine didn't exist. That was thier home"

And now there are 5 times that many in the recognized state of Israel living as citizens, voting, serving in the Knesset. Where is the problem?

"fact is that land was not a European bonbon to bestow upon a section of its own population that it had abused for centuries"

Strange point considering this is a thread about Persian interest in rewriting the Arab map. Why dont the Iranians offer the Palestinians a homeland? And what of the indigenous Jews? Jews were the majority ehnicity in Jeruselem for centuries.

"And as for the Israel being a homeland for the Jews a thousand years ago - my ancestor was kicked out of scotland 300 years ago"

Do you not understand how utterly circular your arguement is?! How about this: this issue is nearly a hundred years old already, if you and your ancestors, the native americans, the basques, etc dont get to erase nations based on past injustice, why do the Palestinians?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Of course - no one gets thier land back. Thats civilization. One of civilizations foundations is unrepentant ultra-violence. I accept that. I am a beneficiary of that. What I object to is the tacit support of Israel and the enormous amount of aid it recieves from my tax dollar. I object to the coming war in which my country will support Israel for reasons I find farcical. And they don't even support the US! They spy on us!

I also don't believe in bringing democracy to the ME. I think we have done enough bone-headed adjusting in the that area of the world. I think we should leave them alone.

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

first of all, the 250,000 number is a lie. Even teh admitted zionist benny morris says the number is 750,000-700,000 that were made refugees in the 47-48 war. That does not include refugees from other wars. just to be clear.

and Mark, you are wrong about the idea that palestinians in Israel have equal rights to Jews. it is not true. In many ways they have similar rights, but that does not mean it is equal. Just to give you a couple examples: marriage law and schools and other such things as building homes and moving and securing permits and traveling. but i am too lazy right now to look for the background information, which is very freely available. So, your judgement that palestinians have the same rights as jews in Israel is just flatly wrong. It is true that there are way they are the same, just as there were ways in the 50's that black people were the same as whites in the USA, but that does not mean that they have equal rights, because they did not.

Next, i support the general points that exclab made, but he vastly understates the problem. it is not only those who have been kicked out of their homes (who he again understated by about 300%), but also those they have been dominating for about 60 years that are a problem. no only do the israelis restrict the rights of people they themselves consider citizens of their own country, but they vastly limit the freedom of those they occupy and attack on a daily basis. what's more, if you want to suggest that Israel does not include the west bank and gaza strip and east jerusalem (well, and golan and the farms), then it should stop controling them and eliminate all the settlements in them. if that happened, then you may have some ground to stand on by saying they have equal rights.

as for your question about how invaded who, it is as follows:
-47-48 war, draw, no countries existed, fighting broke out... but if you want to say the arabs started it, i would say you are wrong, just look at the british reports. not to mention, the settlement from the 1880 on that was intended to displace the arabs, not live with them..
-56 war, israel invaded egypt
-67 war, israel invaded egypt
-war of attrition, well, that is mixed, since israel was illegally occupying egypt at the time (not to mention attacking the USA, USS liberty)
-73 true, israel was attacked first, but it was really an extention of the 67 war
-81 israel attacks iraqi nuclear facility
-82 israel invaded lebanon
-plus numerious other attacks on neighbors from israel. it is the aggressor in almost all cases, the one clear counter example is the 73 war.

as for when the name "palestine" came to existance, it was the romans who gave the land that name. the lies are too much.

i could invent any sort of lie.
israelis eat childern... they bombed themselves in argentia... they did this, they did that... and it would be impossible for people to find evidence against them because it is impossible to prove or disprove every stupid thing people say.

the overall point is that israel has destroyed arab society to a large degree. it has not come clean, will never admit a wrong or even try to work to solve the problems it caused. in stead, like an child, it blames everyone else and trys to cover up its own crimes.

and to hell with the saudis. i know no arab who supports those bastards. so they can be wiped off the map too. and i mean their oppressive government, not their people. just as i mean with israel.

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Aidan Maconachy makes some great points, for example..."Arab jingoism in regard to Palestine didn't really become a hot button issue to "punish" Israel until after the 1967 Six Day War and Israel's seizure of the West Bank." This is a correct statement.

posted by: Zak on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

oh, yeah, and i hope those palestinians with voting right in the state of israel do vote to make it a country for all its people. It should be a country with e-mail rights for all. not the bull that it is. and other palestinians in camps should ahve the right to live on their own land. whether that is in israel or not, they were ethnically cleansed. it was a war crime. they have the right of return. just as jews have the "law of return".

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

And by the way

nowhere do I say I support the current leadership in Iran. Nor am I an anti-semite. When ever anybody critisizes Israel they get called anti-semite. Even when jews critisize Israel they get called anti-semite. Its like white people not being allowed to say nigger but being allowed to laugh at black comedians who use the word. Critisizing Israel makes Anglos uncomfortable. And its dumb.

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

umm, that was a type-o.
rights for all. including email rights!

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Ok, do you support the right of Jewish return to Arab nations? Or recompensation? your last couple posts are so riddled with (to be obscenely charitable) 'innacuries' i dont know where to begin nor do i have the inclination. If anyone reading this thread is questioning i urge them to do the barest research themselves to decide who prompted the various multi-national invasions of Israel over the years. 5 minutes should be ample.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

if jews want to return to arab countries, they should be free to do it. if they had money or land or things stolen from them, they should be paid compensated.

arab countries should do that regardless of the situation of the palestinians.

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Excellent. As soon as that gets straightened out the same can be done for the Palestinian right of return. Keep me posted.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]


I knew a palestinian professer who worked for a university for palestinians in Israel. Classes were held at undisclosed locations. Students were alert by phone half an hour before class where to go. The library had to be moved every week. By this method, for awhile they were able to teach math and keep ahead of Mossad.

If Israel is what it says it is, an open society - why is there a star of David on the flag?

posted by: exclab on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

good point mark.

and i did notice some mistakes i made, like the liberty was attacked in the 67 war, i was just writing and didn't notice where i put that.

posted by: ok on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

I agree Mark - "riddled with inaccuracies" about covers it.

I've stated my case.

I notice Mahmoud "Dolf" Ahmadi-Nejad has repeated his call for the destruction of Israel today at a rally featuring a MILLION of his fellow haters who were all chanting "death to Israel". Once wasn't enough. He clearly needs to ensure we all get it.

People shouldn't be deceived by this. There is an influential minority of informed Iranians who see through and around this thug. Even Shi'ite clerics like Hossain Khomenei, the grandson of the late Ayatollah, would distance himself from this BS.

What is astounding however, is there are liberals in the West who are attempting to give this psycho some kind of deeper validity.

posted by: Aidan Maconachy on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

BMR said - "Ahmadi-Nejad is a throwback. Anyone who has been paying attention to Iran in anything like a serious manner should know how deeply unpopular the radical ideologues are in Iran today. His presidency is based on nothing more than recycled slogans from the early 1980s, and his interest in establishing an Islamic state is no less intense. Fortunately for us, the vast majority of Iranian society has moved well beyond that point. Unfortunately for us (and most Iranians), the small minority have all the guns and are fiercely determined to use them in order to stay in power."

This is one of the most insightful comments in here, and I wanted to second BMR's view before quitting the thread.

He is indeed a throwback. There is a lot of division among Iranians about this man's leadership.

Ahmadi-Nejad makes Khatami seem personable, almost cuddly!

posted by: Aidan Maconachy on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Can someone please explain to me why we as Americans should even give a shit about this? When did Israel become the 51st state? What did they ever do for us, that we should consider going to war to back them up? Why can't we mind our own damn business?

posted by: Firebug on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Worked well for us in 1941.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

Well it's perfectly clear that exclab and ok have one of 2 things hate for Israel , hate for america or both. If they didnt have they would talk about the most strange entity in region Jordan Kingdom... But for some strange reason they are fixed in Israelis. Why?
is that because it is supported by America? Is that because Israel was the first country to reject Socialism after second world war?

posted by: lucklucky on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]


The last time I checked the US went to war
to liberate Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

None of those countries are Israel.

Please provide some examples of when the US
went to war to support Israel.

Did you forget to take your medications today?

posted by: ted on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

If Israel is what it says it is, an open society - why is there a star of David on the flag?

If Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland are open societies - why is there a big honking sideways cross on their flags?

posted by: rosignol on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]


posted by: FFF on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

FFF, please make an effort to find your way back to reality. Part of the reason we fear lunatic fundamentalists who advocate the _destruction_ of our country (as well as Israel) is because so many of the supposed moderates refuse to condemn the indefenseable.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.27.05 at 12:59 AM [permalink]

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