By Gilad Atzmon
The main British editorials happen to agree that Ahmadinejad has won points in this latest naval round. I find it rather disappointing. With over 650.000 innocents dead in Iraq and a war against Iran on the horizon, it is about time British columnists stop telling us about tactical gains and losses. Instead they should once and for all endorse a humanist and ethical discourse grounded on genuine responsibility.
The battle between Ahmadinejad and Blair is not a political or diplomatic one, it is not about points. It is actually a clash between civilizations, a fight between humanism and cold pragmatism. As it emerges, in this battle, it is Ahmadinejad rather than Blair who reminds us where goodness rests. Seemingly, a man who has been repeatedly presented by our deluded Western media as a’ radical’, ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘Islamofascist’ has proved beyond doubt that it is actually him who knows what forgiveness and grace are all about, It was Ahmadinejad who has pardoned the enemy, it was Ahmadinejad that evoked some prospects of a peaceful future.
Brits and Americans should ask themselves whether they can recall Bush or Blair meeting with any of the many illegally detained Guantanamo Bay inmates? Brits may also want to ask themselves when was the last time their Prime Minister was seen chatting with Abu Hamza or alike? My usual Ziocon critics would obviously blame me for equating here ‘innocent’ naval personnel to ‘murderous blood thirsty terrorists’. I would suggest to them to bear in mind that it is ‘us’ who label others as ‘terrorist’ as much as it is ‘us’ who generously entitle ourselves as ‘innocent’. I may as well voluntarily suggest to my possible critics that within this so called ‘cultural clash’, it is again ‘us’ who launched an illegal war, it is ‘us’ who are legally and morally responsible for the on going genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is ‘our’ democratically elected governments that supports the Israelis atrocities in Palestine. It is ‘our’ leaders who happen to be the terrorists who fail to talk to the so called enemy, it is ‘our’ leaders who fail to offer any hope for peace. Instead they just prepare us for many more conflicts to come. More importantly, I may suggest to my critics that in the eyes of an Iranian, the captured naval personnel are part of an invasion army that destroys Arab and Muslim states.
I wonder how the majority of British people would feel about a bunch of Iranian naval commandos operating in the English Channel stopping every Western vessel and searching its belly for some potential military goods. I wonder as well how would some Brits may feel about the Iranian democratically elected government interfering with the British Parliament’s recent decision to spend dozens of billions on a new Trident, a weapon designed for indiscriminate killing of millions. Obviously there is no need to elaborate on these rhetoric questions, the answers are clear. The vast majority of Brits wouldn’t accept anyone interfering neither with British politics nor with the Kingdom’s territorial water. Yet, for the majority of Westerners constant intimidation and destruction of Muslim or Arab states seems to be nothing other than business as usual.
I better admit it; I do not know where exactly the fifteen British sailors were captured. I am far from being qualified to say who tells the truth about this saga, whether the seamen were captured in Iranian sea or was it in an international water. Reading some expert commentators about the subject, I tend to believe that no one has a clear-cut answer to offer. In fact, most British papers have now adopted the notion of ‘caught in disputed water’ just to disguise their premature judgment some days ago.
However, the issue here has nothing to do with truth. The question to be asked here is why is it so complicated for us Western people to accept the possibility that the truth of the other may be slightly or even very different to ours. I may admit that I find it rather concerning that the British press willingly and blindly bought the British government account of the naval dispute while dismissing the possibility that the Iranians may have had an adequate argument to offer.
At the end of the day, we may have to face it, Blair and his government’s record for telling the truth is not very impressive. In the last five years the British government has managed to lie more or less about everything; whether it was Iraqi WMD, 45 minutes of deployment of those imaginary weapons, whether it was a fantasmic pretext for an illegal war.
It would be fair to comment that as much as Blair can hardly tell the truth, President Ahmadinejad has yet to be caught telling a lie. Ahmadinejad, though being rather unpopular in Britain, is far from deceiving his listener. Indeed, he has some harsh things to say. Unlike Blair who was generous enough to admit that the Iranian people have some past to be proud of (“we respect Iran as an ancient civilization, as a nation with a proud and dignified history” Tony Blair, 4.4.06), President Ahmadinejad insists that Iranian people are entitled as well for a present and even for a prospect of some future.
The President whom some of us call ‘Islamofascist’, believes actually that the Iranian people are equal human beings. Thus, he genuinely believes that like more or less every Western country, his country and his people have the right to benefit from atomic energy and nuclear research. Is it that outrageous? I may suggest that considering Western governments are becoming increasingly enthusiastic about atomic energy, it is basically impossible to produce any sufficient ethical argument against Ahmadinejad on that matter. Moreover, bearing in mind the Israeli nuclear might, there is not a single moral argument for preventing any of Israel’s neighbors from having at least a similar deadly capacity.
Ahmadinejad doesn’t shy off. He says what he believes to be right, He believes for instance that if the Europeans feel guilty for their past crimes against the Jews, it is the Europeans who should face their past and take responsibility for the Jews rather than dumping them in the Middle East on the expense of the Palestinian people. Again, this thought is rational as well as implacably ethically grounded. Whether we like its implication or not, is a different matter. Ahmadinejad may be seen by some as a Holocaust denier, yet as far as I can see, he is one of the very few statesmen who manages to internalise the real meaning of the Holocaust. He says No to racism. Accordingly, he believes that Israel, the ‘Jews only State’, a racially orientated nationalist entity, has no right to exist. Ahmadinejad has never called for the liquidation of the Israeli people but rather for the dismantling of the Zionist apparatus. Again, I see nothing ethically wrong with that.
In the last days, Ahmadinejad proved again that as far as humanism and peace seeking are concerned, he is ahead of his Western rivals. Seemingly, we have a lot to learn from our Muslim brothers. In this cultural clash, it is us, the West who have lost touch with the notions of empathy and ethics. May I suggest that it is not Blair and Bush who should be blamed, it is us the people who are failing collectively to listen to the cry of the other. Rather than blaming Blair and his shrinking circuit of supporters, it is us, the silent crowed who should launch into a self searching process. If humanism, rationality, analytical thinking and ethics have been seen as Western cultural assets at a certain stage, it is currently the so called Muslim ‘fundamentalists’ who grasp the real meaning of those qualities far better than us.
Ahmadinejad was there to remind us all what grace was all about. Seemingly, it is Ahmadinejad who evokes the feeling of goodness and it is Blair who couldn’t match it. It was Blair who couldn’t even recruit the minimal dignity and kindness to salute his foe. British columnists should know better. Ahmadinejad didn’t win by points, it wasn’t about winning a political battle. This was just another chapter in an ongoing clash between civilizations, between Good and Evil and as it seems, we are stuck at least momentarily with Bush, Blair and their Ziocon philosophy, not exactly the civilized one and not remotely the carrier of ‘goodness’ so to say.
-Gilad Atzmon is an internationally acclaimed jazz musician whose CD Exile was selected by the BBC in 2003 as Album of the Year. He was born in Israel and served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), and is now living in self-exile in the UK. Visit his web site at: www.gilad.co.uk. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org