October 28, 2005
The same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared at a conference in Tehran entitled “The World without Zionism” that Israel should be destroyed, an Islamic Jihad suicide attacker murdered at least five people in the Israeli city of Hadera. No doubt Ahmadinejad had this kind of thing in mind when he stated that “there is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world”: if he condemns attacks against civilian non-combatants, he has kept it to himself.
Imagine if George W. Bush had announced that he intended to wipe Iraq, or any other nation, off the map: the domestic and international outcry that would follow would effectively end his presidency. But in the context of Israel the world has always had a higher tolerance for such talk. The Hamas Charter states that its goal is to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” and quotes Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan Al-Banna: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” Hamas attacked Israel with 113 suicide bombers from 1993 to 2005 in pursuit of this end. Yet some Western analysts have actually advocated Hamas’ inclusion in the political process in the Palestinian Authority, as long as the group renounces violence. Is the obliteration of Israel more acceptable if it takes place without violence?
And of course, Ahmadinejad wasn’t saying anything new, as he himself made plain by invoking the Ayatollah Khomeini: “As the Imam said,” the President reminded his hearers, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” In 1979, not long after the triumph of his revolution, Khomeini dedicated the last Friday of Ramadan as an international day of jihad against Israel — making it particularly fitting that Ahmadinejad reiterated this lust for genocide and terror during Ramadan.
Ahmadinejad also made it clear that, like Hamas, he did not view the Palestinian conflict with Israel as one of nationalism, but of religion: “Anybody who recognizes Israel,” he warned, “will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury, any (Islamic leader) who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world.” It is unfortunate but true that many officials and observers in the West will be puzzled by his view that recognition of Israel would amount to defeat for Islam; although the President has begun recently to refer to the jihadists’ goal of establishing a unified caliphate under Sharia law, the totalitarian, supremacist, expansionist jihad ideology that Ahmadinejad and his ilk espouse has still received scant attention given its increasingly central role in so many world conflicts. Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and innumerable others believe that any land — not only Israel, but Spain also — that has once belonged to the House of Islam belongs to it forever. Non-Muslims may live in such lands, but only as dhimmis, protected people, subject to various forms of legal discrimination and harassment; they have no right to govern such lands. This is why Ahmadinejad views Israel as a “stigma,” and will, like Hamas, accept nothing short of its total destruction.
But this time the reaction has been different. Instead of ignoring Ahmadinejad’s call to destroy Israel, as they have so many such calls in the past, at least some Western leaders were swift to rebuke the Iranian President. Said White House spokesman Scott McClellan: “The Palestinian Authority needs to do more to end the violence and prevent terrorist attacks from being carried out. The terrorist attacks that take place only undermine the leadership of President Abbas and undermine his principle of one authority, one law, one gun.” Of course, even Abbas has not been unambiguous in his opposition to suicide attacks such as the one in Hadera on Wednesday. He attributed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to suicide bombings: “We must remember,” he told supporters, “that our achievements are the result of the sacrifices of the martyrs” — that is, suicide bombers. “The martyrs have paved the road for us. The sacrifices of the martyrs, the wounded and the detainees, made the occupation leave Gaza and evacuate the settlements. This step will be followed by further withdrawals from the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
But Ahmadinejad may have inadvertently initiated a shift in the prevailing winds. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was dismayed: “There has been a long time in which I have been answering questions on Iran with everyone saying to me: ‘Tell us you are not going to do anything about Iran.’ If they carry on like this, the question people are going to be asking us is: ‘When are you going to do something about this?’ You imagine a state like that, with an attitude like that, having a nuclear weapon.” He condemned the call for Israel’s destruction: “I have never come across a situation (where) the president of a country (says) they want to wipe out -- not that they’ve got a problem with, or issue with -- but want to wipe out another country. This is unacceptable, and their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issue isn’t acceptable. If they continue down this path, then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world’s security and stability. How are we going to build a more secure world with that type of attitude? It’s a disgrace.”
Exactly so. And Blair was not alone. Jacques Chirac said that Ahmadinejad’s words were “completely irresponsible.” Even Kofi Annan issued a statement reminding UN members that “Israel is a long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member.”
The Iranians, however, were unrepentant. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced that demonstrations would be held on Friday — the last Friday of Ramadan, which Khomeini had directed be set aside for such activities — to show popular agreement with Ahmadinejad: “The world,” he predicted, “will see the anger of the Islamic world against this regime.” And other Muslim states declined comment, although Ahmadinejad’s words were splashed across front pages all over the Islamic world.
Ariel Sharon has issued a call of his own: expel Iran from the UN: “A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations.” If Ahmadinejad and his gang are to see that the anger of the civilized world against his criminal regime is genuine, world leaders should heed Sharon’s recommendation -- and also work quickly to defuse Iran’s nuclear program. Otherwise Iran’s Thug-in-Chief will almost certainly use those weapons to make sure that there is indeed a “world without Zionism” – and since the jihad Israel faces is the same jihad that threatens so much of the world today, this great “victory for the Islamic world” will only herald even larger cataclysms to come.
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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.