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Nima Shirazi
Nima Shirazi
Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. His analysis can be found at www.wideasleepinamerica.com.
Racism and ignorance know no nationality
Iranian government officials often make bigoted, ignorant statements - but so do many in Israel and the US.
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 11:57
Ehud Barak reportedly described the Shia concept of taqiyya as giving leaders 'permission to lie' [GALLO/GETTY]

In late June, when Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi spouted anti-Semitic comments at a Tehran forum marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, his offensive rhetoric was rightfully ridiculed and condemned. Rahimi declared his belief that the Talmud, the central holy scripture of Judaism, "teaches [Jews] how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother", and also to "destroy everyone who opposes the Jews". Jews, according to Rahimi, "think God has created the world so that all other nations can serve them".

Midway through his speech, Rahimi decided to distinguish between Jews who "honestly follow the prophet Moses" and the Zionists who are "the main elements of the international drugs trade".

"While the Zionists utilise the narcotics to devastate other societies," Rahimi stated, "they safeguard their own society against such drugs" - noting incorrectly that "you cannot find a single addict among the Zionists. They do not exist". 

Commentary such as this should be called out for what it is: racist, ignorant, and appalling. Yet, Rahimi's tirade was also disingenuously elevated to the level of an Iranian government official statement, and used as "proof" that the Iranian government was not merely vehemently anti-Zionist, but venomously anti-Semitic.

So if the bigoted comments of government officials are evidence of a country's inherent backwardness and barbarism, one must wonder what all those who were so offended by Rahimi's comments about the holy scripture and belief system of the Jewish people have to say about the comments and actions on July 17 of Israeli Knesset Minister and Meir Kahane devotee Michael Ben Ari.

"Rahimi's tirade was ... used as proof that the Iranian government is not merely vehemently anti-Zionist, but venomously anti-Semitic."

'The King's Torah'

After all Knesset members received a new edition of the New Testament, gifts from of a Christian Israeli publisher, Ben Ari (who is also leading the staggeringly racist pogroms against Africans living in Israel) reacted by tearing the Bible to shreds and throwing it in the trash, making sure to have the episode photographed. He then proudly sent the pictures to the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv .

Ben Ari was quoted as declaring: "This abominable book [the New Testament] brought about the murder of millions of Jews in the Inquisition and autos-da-fé." He added: "This is a provocation by church missionaries and there is no doubt that this book and those who sent it belong in the garbage can of history."

The Jewish Daily Forward, in its report on the incident, appropriately asked: "Does one dare imagine what the reaction would be from Jews if a non-Jewish Knesset member, or perhaps a politician in another country, publicly destroyed and disposed of a volume of Talmud?"

For all the condemnations of Rahimi's statement regarding Jewish doctrine, it seems that no one has attempted to trace the comment back to its possible (and, I stress, possible) origin in the much publicised writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an Israeli settler who lives in the illegal West Bank colony of Yitzhar near Nablus, whose ultra-fundamentalist Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva has received a massive amount of funding from the Israeli government.

In November 2009, Shapira published The King's Torah, which - according to Ha'aretz - "describes how it is possible to kill non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law)". Ma'ariv reported that "the book contains no fewer than 230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guide for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew" and states that, as non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature", attacks against them curb "evil inclination".

Shapira's book lists hundreds of sources from the Bible and religious law, as well as quotes from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the fathers of religious Zionism, and Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, a dean of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, the stronghold of national-religious Zionism located in Jerusalem.

According to Shapira and his co-author Rabbi Yossi Elitzur: "In any situation in which a non-Jew's presence endangers Jewish lives, the non-Jew may be killed even if he is a righteous Gentile and not at all guilty for the situation that has been created … When a non-Jew assists a murderer of Jews and causes the death of one, he may be killed, and in any case where a non-Jew's presence causes danger to Jews, the non-Jew may be killed..."

"'One must consider killing even babies,' the book says, 'because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents.'"

Even innocent civilians and children are determined to be legitimate targets for murder. "One must consider killing even babies," the book says, "because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents."

Recently, an investigation into allegations of racism, bigotry and calls to violence found within The King's Torah was officially closed.

Islamophobia has also reached high levels within the US government.

Asleep to the danger

In October 2009, US congressmen Sue Myrick (Republican-North Carolina), Paul Broun (Republican-Georgia), John Shadegg (Republican-Arizona) and Trent Franks (Republican-Arizona) issued a call for a federal investigation into the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for placing interns in the Committees on the Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security. The call was triggered by a book named Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamise America, by Dave Gaubatz, an anti-Islamic activist who posed as an intern for CAIR in an attempt to prove that the group is trying to infiltrate Congress.

Myrick also wrote the forward to Gaubatz's book, in which she avers that radical Muslim terror agents live among us and are "carrying out their subversive plan". She continues: "America is asleep to the danger that confronts us. Since the 1960s there has been a concerted effort on the part of radical Islamists to infiltrate our major institutions."

Myrick writes of "their secret plot to take over the United States from within", establish "an impressive infrastructure of support", and "to infiltrate all areas of our society" in order to replace the constitution with "Sharia law". She urges government officials "to stop hiding behind political correctness and keep the American people informed" about "the threat to our sovereignty and our way of life", concluding: "We Americans must wake up before it is too late!"

When asked about potential "domestic security threats" back in 2003, Myrick replied: "Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country."

In 2011 in Yorba Linda, California, an US-Muslim group held a fundraising event for relief work in the US, attended by local families and their young children. Outside, an appalling anti-Muslim protest raged. Among the speakers addressing the crowd were California Congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller and Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly.

Pauly described the Muslim charity event as "pure, unadulterated evil" and after boasting that her son was serving in the Marine Corps, said: "As a matter of fact, I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise."

Royce told the rabid, hateful crowd: "I'm gonna say this too, a big part of the problem that we face today, is that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticise others' positions no matter how odious, and what do they call that? They call that 'multiculturalism'. And it has paralysed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgment we need to make to prosper as a society." One need only think about where Anders Breivik's views on "multiculturalism" led him to see how dangerous this sort of talk actually is.

Miller, who said he was there to support the protest and hand out American flags, told those gathered: "I am proud of you, I'm proud of what you're doing, I'm proud of this country and what we believe in, and let's not let people who disagree with us destroy it."

Net of suspicion

 Inside Story Americas - The US military's 'anti-Islam classes'

The country Miller is so proud of is the one in which Peter King holds congressional hearings encouraging racial profiling, inciting Islamophobia, and promoting vicious stereotypes of an already targeted, terrorised, and tormented minority community. It's the nation that reacts to the perceived threat of Muslim-American terrorism "by casting a wide net of suspicion over entire communities based solely on their religious beliefs, race, or national origin" and conducts secret, illegal surveillance of those communities.

It's where the "future leaders" of the most powerful and aggressive military on the planet have been taught "that a 'total war' against the world's 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from Islamic terrorists" and that "using the lessons of 'Hiroshima' to wipe out whole cities at once" and "targeting the 'civilian population wherever necessary'" may be required. It's a country whose secretary of defence hand-delivered to the former president a daily report of critical, classified military intelligence with cover sheets featuring Biblical quotes to emphasise the Crusades-like effort of US soldiers in the Middle East.

Iranian Vice-President Rahimi's comments about the Talmud are unacceptable. So are Ben Ari and Shapira's interpretations of both the Torah and New Testament. The same goes for Binyamin Netanyahu's incessant repetition that the Iranian government is inherently "irrational" due to its faith, and Ehud Barak's misunderstanding of the Shia concept of taqiyya, which he erroneously described to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an April interview as "a kind of permission, from heaven, to the leader to lie [and] mislead partners as long as it's needed in order to reach the objective, the political objectives of the movement, the group or the tribe or the clan or the nation".

So next time the media overreacts to something blurted out by some Iranian official, let's make sure to remember that Iranians certainly have no monopoly on ignorance. There's plenty to go around.

Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. Read more of his analysis at wideasleepinamerica.com

Follow him on Twitter: @WideAsleepNima

1923

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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