Publications & Statements by Imam

11/05/05: Place anti-Israel remarks in context


Detroit News Faith and policy
Place anti-Israel remarks in context

Controversy has surrounded President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran since making a highly criticized speech about Israel at a Teheran conference entitled "A World without Zionism." As an American Muslim, I would like to provide my personal opinion on some context of what the Iranian president meant when he reportedly said Israel is a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map." My point is not to defend what he said, but to clarify some politicial double standards related to this issue.

During the eight years of the Khatami presidency in Iran, he tried repeatedly to engage the world and especially Israel in a meaningful dialogue about the Palestinian issue. But Israel remained hostile to Iran, and on numerous occasions threatened Iran with military and possibly nuclear attacks. Why was there no similar media frenzy when Israel called for regime change in Iran?

Ahmadinejad, like many Americans, objects to Israel's hostile behavior against the Palestinian people. After almost 60 years of United Nations resolutions on the occupation, Israel continues to refuse to abide by international law.

Admadinejad's statement reflects the growing frustration of billions of people who are weary of Israel's refusal to fulfill its legal obligations to the Arabs. Israel continues to stockpile more than 200 nuclear missiles and refuses to sign a nuclear nonproliferation agreement. We are faced with a nuclear proliferation crisis that threatens the safety not only of Palestine, but every country within reach of Israel's weapons.

Radical words can hurt feelings, yet Israel's policy in the region has caused more than merely hurt feelings. Because Israel was created by war and the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes, of course those benefiting from these tragedies will react with guilt-related panic when call for justice for Palestinians.

It is very clear that Ahmadinejad was not making an anti-Semitic statement. Jews live in Iran and have representatives in the Parliament. The Iranian president was referring to Israel's unjust political system.

In fact, the Iranian president's quip can best be understood in the American context of the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Americans fought a civil war and struggled for a century to end racial discrimination. "One man, one vote" worked for us here in the United States, and it is worth a try in the Holy Land. Rather than exaggerate the significance of a few angry words, we must remain focused on the keys to peace and prosperity. Iran's provocative words offer a basis for a real dialogue and lasting peace. We must deal with Israel honestly and stop walking on eggshells.

Israel must end the property confiscation of ethnic groups considered "inferior" to Jews. Israel must stop instigating violent conflicts in the Muslim world. Israel must return the occupied territories back to its original owners.

The tensions between Iran and Israel will cease with Israel's fulfillment of its humanitarian and international obligations.

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi heads the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.