let’s talk about intolerance

tonight on al jazeera’s “inside story” sohail rahman started off with a question for his guests–my friend sayyed mohammad marandi as well as ramu damodaran and shai franklin–with a question about whether or not mahmoud ahmadinejad’s speech at the united nations world conference against racism hijacked the conference. he should have asked about the pre-conference hijacking of the event by zionists and their allies around the world who boycotted the conference. their attempt at controlling other nations and their discourse on racism is the real issue. but with rahman’s second question he was getting at one of the core issues here: he asked about intolerance to ahmadinejad in terms of free speech and also in terms of addressing racism itself. indeed, when we have intolerance for speech we don’t like–particularly when it addresses subjects like racism–we defeat the purpose of dealing with racism itself and are acting in an intolerant fashion. here is the episode:

given that zionism is racism, something that al jazeera knows all too well, i find it disturbing that they allowed a professional zionist like franklin on its show. this is like having a discussion about racism in united states and inviting a member of the ku klux klan to join in (and franklin on slavery in the united states and what he thinks the u.s. is doing is equally deceitful). because while i speak about intolerance in relation to speech we don’t like above, i do not include racist speech in that. i do not include speech that is used in order to demonize and eradicate a people, which is the essence of zionism. franklin characterized ahmadinejad’s speech as anti-jewish, in contradistinction to both ahmadinejad’s careful language to speak about zionism–not judaism or jews–and marandi’s on the show. but franklin is not so careful. like many zionists he prefers to blur the lines between jews and zionists in order to suggest that if you are anti-zionist then you must be anti-jewish or anti-semitic. here is the part of ahmadinejad’s speech he seemed to object to:

World Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religions and abuses religious sentiments to hide its hatred and ugly face. However, it is of great importance to bring into focus the political goals of some of the world powers and those who control huge economic resources and interests in the world. They mobilize all the resources including their economic and political influence and world media to render support in vain to the Zionist regime and to maliciously diminish the indignity and disgrace of this regime.

This is not simply a question of ignorance and one cannot conclude these ugly phenomena through consular campaigns. Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their political and international supporters and in respect with the will and aspirations of nations. Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and to move towards reform in current international mechanisms.

There is no doubt that you are all aware of the conspiracies of some powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this conference. Unfortunately, there have been literatures and statements in support of Zionists and their crimes. And it is the responsibility of honorable representatives of nations to disclose these campaigns which run counter to humanitarian values and principles.

It should be recognized that boycotting such a session as an outstanding international capacity is a true indication of supporting the blatant example of racism. In defending human rights, it is primarily important to defend the rights of all nations to participate equally in all important international decision making processes without the influence of certain world powers.

all of ahmadinejad’s statements above are facts. he is not speaking of an anti-jewish conspiracy as franklin would have us believe. rather, he is discussing the reality that many of us are up against when we try to fight zionism and its colonial rule over palestinian land. indeed, the very fact that zionists have such control is connected to the fact that so many powerful ex/neo colonial rulers walked out of the durban 2 conference in geneva. it is related to why it is so difficult to challenge the dominant deceitful narrative about palestine in the media. these are facts. one perfect example is a headline today by roger boyes in the times online reads “israel: iran trying to do ‘what adolf hitler did to jewish people'” and concludes by stating:

“Israel can never live with the idea that Iran will hold a nuclear bomb because we have heard what the President of Iran and other leaders there have said: that Israel has no right to exist and that Israel should be wiped off the map and that they will do everything to destroy Israel.”

first: read my post the other day about the zionist entity’s plans to wipe iran off the map. second: this extreme hyperbolic rhetoric is a complete misrepresentation of the truth. what anti-zionists want–from ahmadinejad to myself–is the end of a jewish state. we want palestinian refugees to return to their homes. but zionists don’t want to talk about the historical context or these political rights or the racism that keeps them from allowing palestinians to finally receive some justice. so instead they continually pervert reality and make claims to distract us from the facts. in the end what this does is continues to promote intolerance. the bloggers at pulse contextualize this gross misrepresentation of ahmadinejad:

Ahmadinejad has a habit of upsetting the West, this time outrageously explaining how Palestine WAS wiped off the map. Only to be followed by a shameful shower of Nakba deniers walking out in disgust.

The Iranian president was famously misquoted as saying he wanted Israel wiped off the map, a phrase repeated often and attributed to him incorrectly. It was repeated so often in Israel that it became lexicon and one cabinet minister, Meir Sheetrit, slipped up, revealing his true feelings when he said ”we must take a neighbourhood in Gaza and wipe it off the map”. A year later and more than ONE neighbourhood has disappeared.

of course the racism of wiping palestinians off the map is not allowed to get talked about. if you do you are racist. how’s that for intolerance?

but the most interesting development in relation to ahmadinejad’s speech is the response to it by palestinian civil society asking him to put his money where his mouth is:

Palestinian civil society groups called on Tehran to cut ties with two French companies profiting from work in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

A day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took center stage as a critic of Israel at a UN conference in Geneva, the Palestinian Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) criticized Iran for business ties with Veolia Environment and Alstrom.

According to the Tehran Times, the Tehran Municipality is involved in negotiations with Veolia Environment for the development of the city’s urban transport system.

Alstom has a headquarters in Tehran and received a number of large contracts, including a 192 million euro contract with Iran’s state railways in 1999 and a larger 375 million euro contract to supply 50 turbo compressors to Iran in 2002.

The two firms are the investors behind the Citypass consortium that won a 2002 tender issued by Israeli authorities for a light rail line that connects Jerusalem to settlements in the occupied West Bank. The consortium is responsible for construction, operation and maintenance of the system for a 30-year period.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) called on Tehran to “take the necessary steps to ban Veolia and Alstom and their subsidiaries from any contracts and operations in the country.”

Veolia and Alstom have already been targeted for boycott in countries across Europe. In 2006 the Dutch ASN Bank decided to exclude Veolia from its portfolio on account of the firm’s actions in occupied Jerusalem. In 2008, the company lost its bid to for a contract with Stockholm for eight years, worth 3.5 billion euro, partially due to a strong public sentiment against the company due to its involvement the Jerusalem rail project.

Later, the Swedish national pension fund AP7 blacklisted Alstom, partially for its Jerusalem involvement.

Less than a week ago Veolia lost a contract worth 750 million euro in Bordeaux, France after to pressure from pro-Palestine activists.


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