The UN, Ahmadinejad, and atonement
The United Nations is failing yet again, this time vis-à-vis Iran and the egregious Ahmadinejad
Most of us would probably like to believe that in this modern age we are better prepared than our grandparents and great-grandparents were in the task of avoiding the kind of mass carnage which the League of Nations failed to prevent and which shocked the world into dissolving that body and establishing the United Nations in its place in the aftermath of the Second World War.
As the preamble to the United Nations charter reads:
"We the peoples of the United Nations determined: to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…"
However, on Wednesday this coming week – a mere 67 years since those fine words were written – the President of Iran will yet again stand on the UN podium.
Chillingly, the very body established as a result of the world bearing witness to the consequences of racial hatred and genocide will host an anti-Semitic denier of that same genocide.
Shockingly, the representative of a regime which, according to the founder of “Genocide Watch”, Professor Gregory Stanton, has already taken six steps along the eight-step route to perpetrating yet another genocide, will be allowed to address the family of nations as an equal – despite the fact that the UN's own Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide makes incitement to genocide illegal.
"Talk of genocide”, Stanton said — of removing a cancer or crushing a cockroach — is never just talk. “One of the best predictors of genocide is incitement to genocide,” he said, “and I believe that is exactly what Iran is doing today.”
Iran, he said, has classified and symbolised Israel through exclusionary ideology and hate speech; dehumanized it – “overcoming the normal human revulsion against murder” — by portraying the potential victims as a “cancer” in need of eradication; organized fanatical militias (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps); polarized the society by repressing dissent and arresting moderates; prepared for the killing by denying a past genocide and by constructing weapons of mass destruction; and, through global terrorism, even begun the seventh of his eight stages: extermination.
No doubt, as in the past, representatives of some Western nations at the UN will express their opposition by walking out of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech and some indignant op-eds will be written in Western newspapers.
But none of that, of course, has had the slightest effect in changing the actions of the Iranian regime. For every UN representative who has walked out of one of Ahmadinejad's speeches, there are many others who afford his regime legitimacy by remaining seated.
Ironically, the day that Ahmadinejad is to address the UNGA this year is, according to the Jewish calendar, the most solemn day of the year – the Day of Atonement; a day of reflection and personal accountability.
As heirs to the determination of the UN's founders to ensure that "never again" should be more than just rhetoric, we have already been unsuccessful numerous times in places such as Rwanda and Darfur.
The repeated failure of too many UN member states, crippled by cultural relativism, to engage in real reflection upon the message that they send to Iran by making do with selected symbolic walk-outs, and half-hearted, badly implemented sanctions means that the United Nations continues to tread in the footsteps of its failed predecessor, the League of Nations.
Canada appears to understand that, with former minister Irwin Cotler describing Ahmadinejad's upcoming address to the UN General Assembly as a “cruel parody of law and justice that will put us on the wrong side of history”.
It is high time that other nations joined Canada's stance.
Hadar Sela is an Anglo-Israeli writer and blogger living in Israel
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