April 22nd, 2009
07:07 PM ET

Ahmadinejad ... too much to bear?

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Octavia Nasr
CNN Senior Middle East Affairs Editor
AC360° Contributor

I have no clue how Day 2 of the UN Anti-racism conference in Geneva went. Reporting about the conference itself is scarce, almost non-existent. There is, however, a whole lot of reaction to a speech in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a “racist regime.” And, this is keeping the media across the Middle East and the world very busy. It took one speech to turn the world’s focus from racism to a race to condemn or condone the controversial Iranian leader.

From Israel, the response was swift, direct and angry. Israeli newspapers flashed headlines such as “Thank you, from Israel” as they reported on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s gratitude to states that “shunned the UN conference” and those who “walked out on Ahmadinejad.”

Israeli media also showed video of a verbal assault by members of the Iranian delegation to Durban II against Nobel Prize Laureate and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel. In the video, Iranians are heard calling Mr. Wiesel a “Zio-Nazi.”

There were also reports highlighting Knesset member Reuven Rivlin who sent letters to his counterparts around the world warning them of “Hitler’s return.” This time he has a beard and speaks Persian the letter reportedly said.

An opinion editorial in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth slammed Switzerland and mocked the country’s reputation of neutrality. Under the headline “The Neutrality of Evil” Hanoch Daum wrote a scathing open letter to the Swiss President. Citing the Holocaust Remembrance Day, Daum wrote, “During the Holocaust, very few Jews managed to escape from Switzerland. In principle, you agreed to take in almost no refugees (being a neutral country and all,) and almost everyone who managed to get in was transferred to detention camps.” “You are certainly adorable and peace-loving people, Mr. President,” Daum continued. “For that reason, we were not surprised by the lovely gesture […].The oh-so-creative idea to invite Iranian President Ahmadinejad to your country and grant him such respectable platform.”

In Iran, it was all “Hail to the chief!” The Iranian news agency Fars News published headlines such as, “Freedom-lovers Everywhere Proud of Ahadinejad’s Defense of the Oppressed.”

And another read, “Ahmadinejad Sullied Zionism in the Heart of Europe.”

In Iran’s state-run Kayhann daily newspaper it was all about Durban II and President Ahmadinejad’s role in it. One headline said, “Ahmadinejad's Comments [in Durban II] Greeted with Thousands of Applause."

Another one said, “"Welcoming Ahmadinejad, Showing Hatred for Racist Israel."

On the Arab media front, there were those who cheered Ahmadinejad such as the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. In his Opinion piece, Editor-in-Chief Abdel Bari Attwan hailed Ahmadinejad as the “leader who dared go where no Arab leader had gone before.”

But from the Saudi-owned Asharq Alawsat newspaper, an opinion by Tareq el-Hamid expressed concern over the Iranian president’s speech as he “champions the Palestinian cause.” El-Hamid questions, “How many palm trees did Iran lose for the sake of Palestine? What did Ahmadinejad actually do for the Palestinian cause? He’s trying to gain Arab support through this rhetoric to elevate his profile for future negotiations with the US,” al-Hamid concluded. “And he lacks sincerity towards the Palestinian people and their plight.”

Lebanese political cartoonist Stavro captured the essence of this entire saga. With Ahmadinejad sitting on the shoulders of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and commandeering him on top of a globe. In a clever play on words, Ki-Moon says of Ahmadinejad, “For real.. He’s unbearable!!!”

Find Octavia's report on Day One of the conference here.

Filed under: Iran • Octavia Nasr
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Heather,ca

    Im Jewish and I love how people use word Nazi so loosely against us. Its a mental illness. It makes no sense,neither does calling Israel racist. I guess that speaks of ignorance and that speaks for itself.

    April 23, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  2. Heather,ca

    Being Jewish,I just love how people use word Nazi so loosely against us , not even making any sense at all. Its just mind blowing and calling Israel racist. I guess that ignorance speaks for itself.

    April 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Ethan

    What this guy said at the U.N. was just wrong. It is terrible to say that the west only used the holacost to set up a racist state is wrong. 6 million people is a lot of people dead. If you have ever watched the movie Shindler's list you truly realize this at the end of the movie. I also think it was right that people who represented the west countries walked out and it should send a message to Iran.

    April 22, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  4. Gabriel Roberts

    One of Einstein's last calls to the world was for us to remember our humanity and treat eachother as brothers. if we didn't forsake our hatred and blind disregard for others we would be doomed, but if we recognized our human condition, the road to paradise was laid out.

    I'm personally disappointed that world leaders behave in this manner.
    it's a real shame.

    April 22, 2009 at 8:13 pm |

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