When Evil Is Applauded

Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Einstein was referring to the world’s deafening silence that allowed Hitler and the Nazis to systematically slaughter six million Jews and five million non-Jews.

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
—2Thessalonians 2:7

“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
—Romans 1:32

Today, however, silence isn’t necessarily the issue. During his visit to the United States in September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is deeply infected with anti-Semitism, was met with well-organized, vociferous protests by Jewish, Catholic, Evangelical and other groups.

No, today, the world is a dangerous place because evil is applauded at the United Nations, given airtime on U.S. national television and radio, honored by an interfaith gathering at a prestigious hotel, and, most alarming of all, given serious consideration for inclusion on the U.N.’s most powerful body, the Security Council.
Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly on September 23, the Iranian president would have made chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels proud. Among his many offensive remarks was the odious canard that “a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists” control the financial and political centers in Europe and the United States. He also disputed the legitimacy of the State of Israel, referring to it as “a cesspool.”

Thirty minutes of vile, unadulterated anti-Semitism, and what was the reaction of the assembled delegates? More than a few applauded, sending an explicit message of approval to a man whose views are antithetical to the very values expressed in the U.N. Charter, among them world peace, tolerance, and respect for human rights and human dignity.

While in New York, Ahmadinejad was also interviewed on National Public Radio and on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” No surprises here either: Ahmadinejad once again questioned the historicity of the Holocaust and claimed that Zionists, Palestine’s “uninvited guests,” are warmongers.

To be sure, the Western world needs to monitor Ahmadinejad’s abhorrent regime. But must we give him a soapbox from which to promulgate his hateful propaganda and his historically preposterous views? After all, given his frequent inflammatory rhetoric, his pursuit of nuclear weapons and his threat to “wipe Israel off the map,” he’s doing just fine making the headlines on his own.

But even more disturbing than the media raising Ahmadinejad’s profile was a late September dinner reception honoring him at the Manhattan Grand Hyatt, an event organized by several religious groups, including the World Council of Churches. Two days after his anti-Semitic tirade at the U.N., Mennonite, Quaker and other pacifist Christian leaders deemed it appropriate to break bread with the Iranian leader, conferring on him the prestige of their respective church bodies.

This was no one-time display of moral hypocrisy. In February 2007, a 13-member Christian delegation, including representatives of the National Council of Churches USA, visited Ahmadinejad in Tehran. At a subsequent press conference, the NCC’s Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana observed that “Mr. Ahmadinejad comes across as a religious man,” adding that the delegation had been reassured that Iran has no intention of acquiring or using nuclear weapons. (See, Neville Chamberlain, “Peace For Our Time”).

If Ahmadinejad could be embraced by American church leaders, was it so unthinkable that the government he heads could win a seat on the U.N. Security Council when a slot opened up for an Asian country this fall? Apparently, it didn’t matter that Iran has an abysmal human rights record, that it serves as a major source of funding and arms for Hamas and Hizballah, or that it has hosted a conference for Holocaust deniers. Nor did it trouble the Muslim and non-aligned nations that voted to elect Iran to the council that its president has called for the destruction of a fellow U.N. member state.
There’s little consolation in the fact that in the end Iran was defeated by Japan for the council slot. Indeed, what an absurd irony that a country, which has thumbed its nose at the International Atomic Energy Agency in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, could even be considered for membership on the very body that has imposed sanctions on it for those violations!

Though it’s encouraging that some Western leaders – the British and German foreign ministers and American secretary of state among them – have refused to remain silent in the face of Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic rants, it simply isn’t enough. What good are forceful condemnations if 32 U.N. member states voted to include Iran in the U.N.’s most influential body, in effect rewarding, if not also legitimizing, its rogue behavior?

An international community ready to confront Iran would look and feel different. We would witness, not applause, but a walkout staged by a majority of the diplomats when Ahmadinejad speaks at the U.N. Larry King would interview, not the Iranian president, but Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief U.N. nuclear inspector, who would present compelling evidence of Iran’s clandestine nuclear programs. Liberal church leaders would gather, not to pay tribute to a tyrant, but to hold a vigil protesting Iran’s crackdown on political dissidents.

And, most significantly, the Security Council, rather than acting like helpless bystanders, would refer Ahmadinejad to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for inciting genocide. •

Robert Horenstein is Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland in the U.S.

  1. Ernest Gregoire, 31 October, 2008

    I am 61 years old, and in all my life, I have not seen such an outpouring of hate, murder, and evil!

    The daily headlines read like 2nd Timothy 3.

    Know this also, that in the last days grievous times will be at hand.

    For men will be self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unyielding, false accusers, without self-control, savage, despisers of good, traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; even turn away from these.

    For of these are those who creep into houses and lead captive silly women loaded with sins, led away with different kinds of lusts, ever learning and never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth.
    (2 Timothy 3:1-7 MKJV)

  2. becca, 04 November, 2008

    I’ve been around some awful things in my life but I never imagined this world would be this bad, this fast. Amen to you Ernest.

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