Between good and evil - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad versus Tony Blair
7 April 2007
Gilad Atzmon provides a thought-provoking analysis of the dispute between Britain and Iran over the captured British naval personnel, arguing that, in this particular “clash of cultures”, it is the West which has shown itself as having “lost touch with the notions of empathy and ethics”.
The main British editorials seem to agree that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won points in the latest round with Britain. I find this rather disappointing. With over 650000 innocents dead in Iraq and a war against Iran on the horizon, it is about time British columnists stop telling us about tactical gains and losses. Instead, they should once and for all endorse a humanist and ethical discourse grounded on genuine responsibility.
The battle between Ahmadinejad and Blair is not a political or diplomatic one. It is not about points. It is actually a clash between cultures, a fight between humanism and cold pragmatism. In this battle, it is Ahmadinejad, not Blair, who reminds us of where goodness rests. Seemingly, a man who has been repeatedly presented by our deluded Western media as a”radical”, “fundamentalist” and “Islamic fascist” has proved beyond doubt that it is he who actually understands the meaning of forgiveness and grace. It is Ahmadinejad who has pardoned the enemy. It is Ahmadinejad who has evoked some prospects of a peaceful future.
Britons and Americans should ask themselves whether they can recall Bush or Blair meeting with any of the many illegally detained Guantanamo Bay inmates? Britons may also want to ask themselves when was the last time their prime minister was seen chatting with any of those who have been detained without proper trial?
My usual Zionist-conservative critics will undoubtedly accuse me of equating “innocent” naval personnel with “murderous, bloodthirsty terrorists”. I would suggest that they bear in mind that it is “us” who label others as “terrorist” as much as it is “us” who generously accord ourselves the badge of “innocence”. I would also suggest to my possible critics that, within the so-called “clash of cultures”, it is again “us” who launched an illegal war. It is “us” who are legally and morally responsible for the on-going genocides in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is “our” democratically-elected governments that support the Israeli atrocities in Palestine. It is “our” leaders who are the terrorists who refuse to talk to the so-called “enemy”. It is “our” leaders who fail to offer any hope for peace. Instead, they are preparing us for many more conflicts to come. More importantly, I would suggest to my critics that, in the eyes of an Iranian, the captured naval personnel are part of an invasion army that is destroying Arab and Muslim states.
I wonder how the majority of British people would feel if Iranian naval commandos operated in the English Channel and stopped every Western vessel and searched it for possible military hardware? I wonder also how the British would feel if the democratically-elected Iranian government interfered with the British Parliament’s recent decision to spend billions of pounds on a new Trident, a weapon designed for the indiscriminate killing of millions of people. Obviously, there is no need to elaborate on these rhetoric questions - the answers are clear. The vast majority of Britons would not accept anyone interfering in British politics or in the United Kingdom’s territorial waters. Yet, for the majority of Westerners, constant intimidation and destruction of Muslim or Arab states is simply business as usual.
To be sure, I do not know where exactly the 15 British naval personnel were captured. I am far from qualified to say who is telling the truth about this saga, whether the seamen were captured in Iranian or Iraqi waters. Reading what some expert commentators have written about the subject, I believe that no one has a definitive answer to offer. In fact, many British papers have now adopted the notion of “caught in disputed water” in order to disguise their premature judgments of some days previously.
However, the issue here has nothing to do with the truth. The question that should be asked is why it is so difficult for us Westerners to accept the possibility that the truth of the “other” might be slightly or even very different to ours. I find it quite disconcerting that the British media willingly and blindly bought the British government’s account of the naval dispute while dismissing the possibility that the Iranian account of the incident may also have been valid.
At the end of the day, the fact is that Blair’s and his government’s record of telling the truth is not very impressive. In the last five years, the British government has managed to lie more or less about everything, from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to the claim that Iraq could deploy these imaginary weapons in 45 minutes.
It would be fair to comment that, as much as Blair can hardly tell the truth, President Ahmadinejad has yet to be caught telling a lie. Although Ahmadinejad may be unpopular in Britain, he is far from being a fraud. Unlike Blair, who has been generous enough to admit that the Iranian people have some past to be proud of (“we respect Iran as an ancient civilization, as a nation with a proud and dignified history” - Tony Blair, 4 April 2006), Ahmadinejad insists that Iranian people are not only entitled to a present, but also to the prospect of some future.
President Ahmadinejad, whom some of us call an ”Islamic fascist”, actually believes that the Iranians are a people that is equal to any other. Thus, he genuinely believes that, as with more or less every Western country, Iran and its people are entitled to benefit from atomic energy and nuclear research. Is this an outrageous aspiration? I would suggest that, considering that Western governments are becoming increasingly enthusiastic about atomic energy, it is basically impossible to produce any ethical argument against Ahmadinejad on that matter. Moreover, bearing in mind the Israel’s nuclear might, there is not a single moral argument for preventing any of Israel’s neighbours from having at least a similar deadly capability.
Ahmadinejad doesn’t shy off. He says what he believes to be right, He believes, for instance, that if the Europeans feel guilty for their past crimes against the Jews, it is the Europeans who should face their past and take responsibility for the Jews rather than dumping them in the Middle East at the expense of the Palestinian people. Again, this thought is rational as well as impeccably ethical. Whether we like its implication or not is a different matter. Ahmadinejad may be seen by some as a Holocaust denier, yet as far as I can see he is one of the very few statesmen who manages to internalize the real meaning of the Holocaust. He says “No” to racism. Accordingly, he believes that Israel, as a “Jews-only State”, is a racially-orientated, nationalist entity that has no right to exist. Ahmadinejad has never called for the liquidation of the Israeli people but rather for the dismantling of the Zionist apparatus. Again, I see nothing ethically wrong with that.
In the last days, Ahmadinejad proved again that, as far as humanism and peace seeking are concerned, he is ahead of his Western rivals. It would seem that we have a lot to learn from our Muslim brothers. In this cultural clash, it is us, the West, who have lost touch with the notions of empathy and ethics. May I suggest that it is not Blair and Bush who should be blamed for this but us, the people, who are collectively failing to listen to the cry of the “other”. Instead of blaming Blair and his shrinking circuit of supporters, it is us, the silent crowd, who should launch into a process of self searching. If humanism, rationality, analytical thinking and ethics have been seen as Western cultural assets at a certain stage, it is currently the so-called Muslim “fundamentalists” who are grasping the real meaning of those qualities far better than us.
Ahmadinejad is there to remind us all what grace is all about. Seemingly, it is Ahmadinejad who evokes the feeling of goodness and it is Blair who couldn’t match it. It was Blair who couldn’t even summon the minimum of dignity and kindness to salute his foe. British columnists should know better. Ahmadinejad did not win by points. It was not about winning a political battle. This was just another chapter in an ongoing clash between civilizations, between good and evil. At least for the time being, we are stuck with Bush, Blair and their Zionist-conservative philosophy, not exactly a civilized philosophy and not remotely a a carrier of “goodness”.
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born musician and writer, and a proponent of a secular and democratic one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which the two peoples live in one state as citizens with equal rights and responsibilities.
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