Well score another PR win for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in pursuit of his principal aim — shoring up his domestic political base by keeping Iran’s international relations in a state of permanent crisis.

His speech to the Durban II Conference — already depleted by half a dozen boycotts — had them running for the exits faster than the “The Australian Film Finance Corporation Presents” slide. The Czech Republic, that whacko group of climate change deniers and eurosceptics (or was that the last Czech govt?), isn’t coming back at all, after Ahme… MA’s racist, hate-filled tirade against Israel in the first session. The others who walked out include most of Europe, plus St Kitts and Nevis, who must have presumed it was something about whaling they’d been bribed to vote against.

So what was it MA said? IranTracker is going to run a full transcript tomorrow, but the BBC has a selection of quotes:

The victorious powers [of the world wars] call themselves the conquerors of the world, while ignoring or down-treading the rights of other nations by the imposition of oppressive laws and international arrangements.

Fair enough. Iran declared itself neutral in WW2, so the USSR and the UK invaded it to get its oil, and stop Hitler getting it. After that, the US and UK staged the 1954 coup, killing nascent democracy in Iran and putting the Shah on their backs:

Following World War Two, they resorted to making an entire nation homeless on the pretext of Jewish suffering. They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine. In compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive, r-cist regime in Palestine.

Well not initially. In fact the UK tried to stop Jewish immigration to the Mandate, which prompted a brutal guerrilla campaign against them, which persuaded them they were better off without the place. After that, fairly true — Truman unilaterally recognised Israel once the uprising had hit its straps. No-one can look at the mass murder of Palestinians in 1948 and conclude it was anything other than cruel and racist:

It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide, whilst the awakened consciences and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutality and the bombardment of civilians of Gaza.

Genocide? Well according to the Raoul Lemkin definition of genocide as adopted by the UN, the term includes the attempt to destroy the capacity of a people to reproduce itself as a distinct entity, and you’d have to say the settlements policy has been a pretty good go at that:

Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were] a clear example of egocentrism, racism, discrimination or infringement upon the dignity and independence of nations.

Seems a pretty reasonable assessment, buttressed by the dozens of books from Ghost Wars to Fiasco, laying out the full disaster:

Today, the human community is facing a kind of racism which has tarnished the image of humanity. In the beginning of the third millennium, the word Zionism personifies racism, that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide hatred.

Whether or not it was racist to begin with, one can’t really deny that Zionism as is has given a license to dehumanise the Palestinian population — actually, it’s the kind of opinion you’d see in Haaretz on a fairly regular basis.

The last bits start to get a bit paranoid:

Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their supporters of political and international means … Governments must be encouraged and supported in the fight aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and moving towards reforming the current international mechanisms.

You are all aware of the conspiracy of some powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this conference … It should be recognised that boycotting such a session is a true indication of supporting the blatant example of racism.

God, you can see the diplomats thinking, as if anyone’s going to believe the Zionists run everything! They’d never fall for that. So it won’t be a problem if we stage a mass walk-out, on behalf of a country we don’t represent. We’re fighting racism after all, in the name of liberal human rights, like free speech — so let’s make it clear that the one thing that can’t be discussed in unauthorised terms is Zionism and Israel.

One can presume that millions of people watching the proceedings on a portable TV in cafes from Rabat to the Karichi Ramada just had every crackpot fantasy about Jewish influence confirmed to their satisfaction — “he criticised Israel — and all the Europeans walked out!”

Of course there may have been other stuff in there about blood in the matzos and horns etc, the full Borat, but one presumes that those quotes would have been circulated. The absence of them suggests that MA’s scarcely original attack on a political movement as contrary to the spirit of the conference was simply beyond their capacity to vigorously contest in their own speeches.

And of course you have to have a bit of a grim humour bypass to not get a chuckle out of countries like Austria, Romania, Lithuania and others walking out in high dudgeon that MA had “insulted the Jews we didn’t manage to exterminate”. MA’s analysis is spot on. Europeans did kill the Jews. When the war stopped, they started killing them all over again. Israel-Palestine simply got the problem out of Europe, which could then lecture the world about human rights.

With this move — obviously carefully planned, and probably anticipated by the Obama administration, hence the late pull-out of the US — MA completed the quinnella he started on with his nasty-minded ‘Holocaust cartoons’ competition in response to the Danish Mohammed cartoons — bringing the West’s lecture about free speech, need to tolerate offensive etc etc, way up short.

This current move positions Iran as the leader of those willing to talk back to the West — a sharp contrast to the Portuguese water dogs in Baghdad and Kabul, and the decadent collaborators in Riyadh and elsewhere (whose state media would, anti-Semitism wise, give MA a run for his money — but not enough to earn a disinvitation from the G20).

There doesn’t seem much doubt that MA really does believe a lot of the cod anti-Semitism about global Jewish cabals, and he appears to be a Mahdist (believing that a twelfth hidden Mahdi/disciple of Mohammed’s will return to Earth) on a scale about equal to Ronald Reagan’s “I believe we will see Armageddon in our time” or Mitt Romney’s belief that Jesus lived in the US, as revealed by “angels in a series of (lost) gold plates” — but a tricky character nevertheless. And as with other adversaries, the West will construct him as a booby believing in 72 virgins, rather than seeing a canny politico, schooled in a politics pretty similar to that of the West’s — coalition building, parties, preselections, backroom deals etc.

Mahdis aside, there’s one obvious reason for MA’s feistiness — he believes an Israeli attack on Iran is inevitable, and he wants it, when it comes, to register as an attack by the West on the East, not as a local skirmish. He wants every Muslim to feel it as an attack on them personally. What then happens to the tail-wagging regimes? What happens in the cities of the West? We may find out.

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey