Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has come to New York, the city with the largest Jewish population in America, to again express hatred for the Jewish people and threaten the United States with possible nuclear weapons.
He has a charming smile. And he seems to love getting the podium here to deliver hate speech against various groups and leaders.
In this city where thousands of Holocaust victims and their children and grandchildren still live, he doesn’t hesitate to say that he is not anti-Semitic. He only hates Jews, you might say, selectively. “How come,” Ahmadinejad asked, “when it comes to the Holocaust, so much sensitivity?” The Iranian leader insisted he wasn’t anti-Semitic, “just anti-Zionist.”
Zion, as used in the Bible, is a synonym for Israel. In one of the psalms are the words: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”
For neither Christians nor Jews should Zion be considered a dirty word. It is embedded in the history of the two religions. Some years ago, a Soviet Union delegate tried to get the UN to vote that Zionism is racism. New York Senator Patrick Moynihan nailed that idea, as he decried the anti-Semitism implied by this notion.
Ahmadinejad has proclaimed: No Zionists were killed in the World Trade Center because “one day earlier they were told not to go to their work place.”
If we had a chance to question Ahmadinejad face to face, we’d ask him about his denial that the Holocaust ever took place: “Would you be willing to fly to Krakow in Poland and visit Auschwitz, the place where millions were gassed to death? There are still large quantities of human hair there and shoes. If you can’t fit that into the your busy schedule, would you be willing to visit the Holocaust museum right here in New York, down at the Battery? There are a few exhibits there that might stir your interest---would you be willing to visit this museum?
“You say that the Iranian government made a ‘huge’ humanitarian move in freeing American Sarah Shourd. Will you act to accomplish the freeing of her companions, Shane Bauer, Sarah’s fiancé, and Joshua Fattal?”
This is a fantasy interview. But the Iranian leader is no fantasy. His government has suppressed dissenters. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have arrested and, in some cases, killed many in the Iranian opposition.
Executions by stoning are still carried out in Iran. But Ahmadinejad says “this is an ancient method that needs to change.” That can’t be too reassuring for those who might face that method.
The Iranian people have a beautiful and ancient culture. Those I've come to know are intelligent and warm. Persian poetry is beautiful. But Ahmadinejad is one of the exceptions. He’s not a nice guy.