Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did it again. Indeed, it is a little hard to believe that a man who manages to combine venom and imbecility with such great talent was invited to address the UN’s anti-racism conference. Yet each new “gem” he offers appears to reflect not only his own irrationality, but also the utter hypocrisy of those who defended their decision to invite him on the grounds of “freedom of speech,” “neutrality,” and similar nonsense.
Indeed, freedom of speech is a sacred value, particularly in those parts of the globe we normally refer to as the developed or Western world. However, this freedom is part of a much broader system of civil rights, such as equality and freedom of religion, which the citizens of these states enjoy. It is unfathomable that someone will demand to be granted the rights associated with this value system while not subscribing to it himself.
In blunter terms, the shameless tyrant from Tehran demands for himself the Western rights which he prevents from his very own citizens.
Even if we falsely presume that Ahmadinejad has the right to express his views publically, it would have been proper for Iran’s president to make his way to the nearest street corner (in line with the security considerations of the Geneva police) and offer his wisdom to passersby. Nobody ever determined that the honorable UN is obligated to actively promote anyone’s freedom of speech.
In fact, the UN’s anti-racism conference is ostensibly the leading global event of its kind; hence, when it grants someone the right to express his views there, it declares that such opinions, even if unpopular, would still significantly contribute to the global debate on the subject. Yet did Ahmadinejad’s speech in Geneva contribute anything meaningful to such discussion?
Did his statement, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day no less, that Israel is a “racist Jewish state established on the basis of World War II” encourage the elimination of global racism? Did his previous declarations that “there are no homosexuals in Iran” prompt us to discover new insights about our world? Can a person who views the Holocaust - the most widely documented crime in human history - as a false claim that calls for “new research,” offer any meaningful inputs to a genuinely intellectual discussion?
The answer is of course a resounding no. Such man, described by some of those who spoke with him in New York last year as “incredibly shallow,” has nothing to contribute to a conference whose declared aim is to fight racism. Moreover, Ahmadinejad had already expressed the drivel he uttered there on numerous previous occasions, with the knowledge that the international media would eagerly cover his diatribes. it appears that Iran’s president is quoted more than almost anyone else on this earth, yet nonetheless, UN conference organizers felt an irresistible urge to let him babble at the Geneva forum as well.
Regrettably, there are quite a few elements within the UN that warmly embrace Ahmadinejad’s words, or at least feel that his incisive message requires in-depth discussion. Yet this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all: It is precisely the organization that makes pretenses of promoting tolerance and peace which has been doing the exact opposite for a while now.
It is easy to guess what a brave student in Tehran, who risked his life protesting against Ahmadinejad, thinks when he sees the very same Ahmadinejad warmly received in Switzerland. The message to such student, and there are thousands of them in Iran, is terrible, and the insults that such student likely hurled at conference organizers are very well warranted. Unfortunately, unlike Ahmadinejad, such student would not be allowed to express his views in Geneva.