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Monday, October 31, 2005

'Wiped Off the Map'

Harold's List
October 31, 2005; Page A16 Wall Street Journal

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to a Tehran stage last week to deliver remarks at a conference titled (in English, so there be no mistaking his gist) "A World Without Zionism." The Jewish state, he said, "must be wiped off the map," adding for good measure that countries that recognize Israel would "burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury."

So what else is new? Iranian leaders have been calling for Israel's destruction for decades. At the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, Iranian booksellers were peddling the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," one of Adolf Hitler's inspirations and probably the most notorious anti-Semitic tract in history. Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments were celebrated by the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, who said Israel's "existence is illegal." Former President Ali Rafsanjani, seen in some diplomatic circles as a pragmatist, also lent his support. "Even in Europe," he said, "the majority of the population is strongly critical of Israel, but they are afraid to express their views." Which, sad to say, is probably true.

More notable has been the intensity of Western reaction. German parliamentarian Friedbert Pflueger called the Iranian comments "barbaric"; Kofi Annan expressed "dismay," possibly the harshest word he knows. In France, a Foreign Ministry spokesman described Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech as "a new and important element," which his country would have to take into account in future negotiations with Tehran. We fail to see what's new, but we're glad the French are taking notice.

The most incisive comment came from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?" he asked. In Washington, as in Jerusalem, policy makers have been pondering that question for years. It's past time others ponder it, too.
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