Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Freedom of Speech She Denies to Her Own People

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It has some brief quotations from the text of the speech Sarah Palin was going to give at the United Nations to protest the appearance there of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Does participating in a protest rally make her one of those violent left-wing wackos? Where were the police when these tree-hugging liberal Nazis were bringing chaos and terror to the streets of New York?) But Hillary Clinton withdrew from the rally when she learned of Palin's intended appearance, so Palin was disinvited. The rally went on without either of them.

The text of Palin's speech was released, and has been posted at Haaretz. It's standard US screeching, denouncing Ahmadinejad as a "dictator" and of wanting to be "an agent in a 'Final Solution' - the elimination of the Jewish people. ... On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech - a right he denies his own people." Given the repression and police violence against peaceful demonstrators at the Republican National Convention (which is not without precedent in the US), Palin really is in no position to cast the first stone.

As so many people have pointed out, Ahmadinejad is not a dictator. He was elected to office, and isn't even the chief political force in Iran. Granted, elections aren't always a guarantee of democracy; as Chris Floyd noted ironically,
I'm well aware that Iran's nominal democracy is highly circumscribed, with potential candidates rigorously vetted by unelected elites, pruning anyone who might seriously challenge the system, thus leaving voters with a very limited choice between safe, "serious" Establishment figures. I agree that it would be just awful to live under a system like that!

How strange it all is. Consider this fact: There is a Jewish member in the Iranian parliament, a legislature elected by universal suffrage for men, women and every ethnicity and religion. Is there a Jewish member in the Iraqi parliament, which was established and is maintained by American guns? No; but the American-backed Iraqi parliament has just formally condemned one of its members for the heinous crime of attending a conference in Israel. They lifted his immunity, which could be tantamount to a death sentence in the Hobbesian hellhole that the American invasion has created there. In other words, in Iran, a Jew can be a member of the government; but in Iraq, a member of government cannot even meet a Jew without official condemnation.

Is there a Jewish member of the Saudi parliament, a legislature elected by universal suffrage for men, women and every ethnicity and religion? Oh wait; the Bush Family's longtime business partners don't have one of those. Is there a Jewish member in the parliament of America's staunch ally, the authoritarian regime in Egypt? No. Is there a Jewish legislator in the kingdom of Kuwait, run by yet another gang of Bush Family business partners? No. In the United Arab Emirates, launching pad for U.S. military adventures throughout the region? No. In Libya, the Anglo-American oil barons' new best friend? No.

For Sarah Palin -- or for Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose speech would no doubt have been equally honest and subtle -- to denounce Iran as a threat to world peace, in view of the US' track record in aggression and terrorism, is ... well, business as usual. Or maybe I'm just missing the irony in Haaretz' article -- maybe the speech was their own satirical send-up of the wacky new Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. No one could actually have meant to utter such tripe, could they? Maybe Haaretz is the Israeli equivalent of The Onion.