The West has a peculiar attitude to global problems. In addition to its favourite bogey—war on terror—there is much talk about human rights, respect for the rule of law, the will of the “international community” and fighting racism yet it remains in denial about its own misdeeds. Only others indulge in human rights violations, not the superior breed that resides in the West, is the mantra that is peddled assiduously to reinforce these myths. Western governments violate every law yet deny doing anything wrong. The Western media, part of the same game, play a major role in such mythmaking.
This was most recently on display at the anti-racism conference, the Durban Review Conference held at the UN European headquarters in Geneva from April 20 to 24. Canada and the Zionist state of Israel, had announced in advance they would boycott it because of concern that Israel would be condemned for its behaviour. The US, Australia and the Netherlands also joined the boycott list. While it is understandable why Israel would boycott the conference because it was clear it would be condemned for its atrocious record against the Palestinians the most recent example of which was evident in Gaza but what reason did Canada, the US, Australia or the Netherlands have to boycott unless they were in the pocket of Israel? After all, they do not represent Israel’s interests nor did peoples in these countries elect their governments to protect or serve Israel’s interests?
First, let us understand the purpose of the just-concluded conference. It was a follow-up to the one held in Durban, South Africa in 2001 under the title, the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. During that conference, American and Israeli delegates walked out when representatives of countries from the South and non-governmental organizations condemned racism, colonialism, the slave trade and Zionism by naming the perpetrators of such behaviour. There was also a strong case made for the rights of the Palestinian people suffering oppression and tyranny at the hands of the Zionist occupiers. An interesting feature of the Durban conference was the presence of the Orthodox Jewish group, Neturei Karta that joined non-Jewish human rights activists in condemning Zionism as racism.
The West’s modus operandi at such fora is clear: it must set and control the agenda or it will denounce the event as biased and unfair. This is what happened in Geneva. Western governments were aware that they would not be able to control the agenda so some of them boycotted the conference even before it started while others staged an orchestrated walk-out during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s speech when he condemned Zionism, colonialism, the slave trade and racism. Commenting on the staged walk out of some Western delegates, the Israeli musician and writer, Gilad Atzmon, wrote: “What we saw… at the UN Anti Racism Forum was crude collective institutional Islamophobic racism in its making, a coordinated show of rabid western chauvinism. A bunch of European diplomats behaving as a herd of sheep, exhibiting complete denial of the notion of freedom of speech and the culture of debate. Eloquently and profoundly, President Ahmadinejad was stating the full truth and expressing some universally acknowledged facts. Israel is indeed a racist state!”
It is rare that the West is unable to control the agenda. How did this come about and what forced them to stage a walk out? The truth is that unlike other third world countries, the West is unable to bully the Islamic Republic of Iran into falling in line. In fact it is because of Iran’s complete independence that it is able to stand up to the West that gives strength and courage to other countries also to stand up for truth and justice. Pakistani ambassador Munir Akram admitted that what President Ahmedinejad said in his speech finds resonance with the Muslim masses.
What did President Ahmedinejad say that some Western delegates found so offensive? Was it his mention of the centuries-long suffering inflicted by the West on other peoples, slavery and the slave trade, the struggle for independence by people in Asia and Africa, the European-instigated world wars, the wars imposed on Afghanistan and Iraq or creation of the UN Security Council with the victorious powers granting to themselves veto power? He asked to thunderous applause whether the right of veto by five countries was “in conformity with the recognized principles of justice, equality before law, love, and human dignity?” At a conference called to review racism, racial discrimination, injustice, violation of human rights and humiliation and subjugation of the world’s majority by the West, was it not appropriate, indeed essential, to raise these issues? He said: “The Security Council is the highest decision-making world body for safeguarding international peace and security. How can we expect the realization of justice and peace when discrimination is legalized and the origin of law is dominated by coercion and force rather than by justice and right?”
But it would appear it was his mention of the creation of the Zionist state of Israel in Palestine using the suffering of the Jewish people in Europe as a pretext that irked the Europeans so much. Europe’s problem was transferred to the Muslim world to make the Palestinians suffer. President Ahmedinejad said: “Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation [Palestinians] homeless on the pretext of Jewish suffering. And they sent migrants from Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And in fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive, racist regime in Palestine.” Some Western journalists [Oakland Ross of the Toronto Star, April 21] living up to their traditional dishonesty, even alleged that President Ahmedinejad had once again denied the Holocaust in his speech. While the paper published a correction the following day, it was tucked away in a small corner that most readers would clearly have missed.
Ordinary people even in the West—whether Christians, Muslims, Jews or of no particular faith—have started to realize that their governments and the media are completely biased and pro-Israel. This was most clearly evident in the attitude of most Western governments and media during Israel’s murderous onslaught on Gaza a few months ago. Some of them have also started to question whether the accusations made against President Ahmedinejad are based on the same distortions that Ross made in his April 21 article in the Star.
Let us consider some of the other points made in his speech. The European colonialists have a horrible record of mistreating indigenous populations in the Americas, Australia and Africa. The British and French perpetrated genocides against the First Nations in North America. Of the original indigenous population of some 40 million 500 years ago, today they have been reduced to barely two or three million on remote reservations. This genocide was perpetrated despite the First Nations welcoming and sheltering European settlers. It was no different inAustralia where Britain sent its hardened criminals to punish them. True to form, the British criminals proceeded to decimate the Aborigines. Other Europeans were no less beastly, whether Germans, Dutch, Belgians, Spanish, Italians or Portuguese, to name just a few. Most of them were also involved in the slave trade taking millions of Africans from their homeland toAmerica. These Africans were brutalised, turned into slaves and forced to work on plantations. The European slave masters have not apologised for this barbarism much less pay compensation to the descendants of slavery so far.
Highlighting the misdeeds of Europe and America was obviously considered an affront. For too long the West has lectured others about their misconduct; now they themselves were in the dock, thanks to the courage, honesty and integrity of Ahmedinejad. What other Muslim leader would be able to speak with such clarity? But it was his mention of the Zionist entity that touched a raw nerve. It was created to assuage Europe’s guilt in mistreating the Jews but the price was exacted from the Palestinians. Throughout history, Muslims have treated minorities living in their midst with fairness and respect, whether Jews or Christians, and far better than Europe or Russia ever did. Muslims did not do this as a favour; it is a religious obligation. Jews and Christians are accorded status of ‘People of the Book’ and the noble Qur’an urges kindness and respect in dealing with them.
If other Muslim leaders were to stand up and speak truth to power, they too, would earn the respect of people worldwide. That, however, would only be possible if they rule according to the consent of the governed in their societies. The masses in turn would provide them support and cushion them from the disruptive policies and conspiracies of the West. Iran’s 30-year example has shown that it is possible to stand up to the West. True, it is not without its price but self-respect and dignity do not come free. The choice Muslim rulers have to make is whether they wish to live with honour and dignity or as slaves of the West suffering abuse and humiliation. We witness this most clearly in the policies being pursued by the rulers inPakistan and in Saudi Arabia. Even when mid-level American and British officials arrive in Islamabad they demand the government do this or that as if they are masters of the country. Perhaps they are when the rulers act with such subservience. The Saudis have for decades pumped millions of barrels of oil to keep the price of oil low so that Americans can continue to live their extravagant lifestyle. Why should the resources of the Ummah be spent on maintaining the ostentatious lifestyle of the profligate Americans? If the Saudis were free, they would have stood up for the rights of Muslims but in reality they are slaves of America. Only truly free people can hold their heads high and speak and uphold the truth.