The chilling statement by the new President of Iran calling for Israel’s being wiped off the map has been rightly denounced by Western leaders including the Russian Foreign Minister who just happened to be Jerusalem at the time. We Jews have heard this kind of rhetoric before and what followed was the slaughter of 6 Million, including some in my own family. To be sure the sentiments expressed by its President are not new to Iran which, beyond anti-Israel statements has been a long term financial and “spiritual” supporter of the most radical and violent opponents of Israel. Suicide bombers photos are plastered on billboards as heroes.
The question is when are the leaders of all our wonderful Arab and Muslim allies going to speak out and denounce the Iranian President’s statement. What about the recently “re-elected” President of Egypt a country with whom Israel has signed a peace treaty or the seemingly progressive King of Jordan or George Bush’s hand holding buddy the new king Saudi Arabia or the General-President of Pakistan? But their silence is only a symptom of a much greater and more pervasive problem. We live in a world where either out of fear or perhaps an absence of their own moral compass people who claim to be leaders, especially in the mainstream (whatever that is) sit by while extremists take center stage and use the microphone for unchallenged vitriol and misinformation.
I listened with frustration tonight to a joint interview with Republican Senator Brownback and Democratic Senator Richard Durbin. They were talking about Harriet Miers and Brownback kept on saying the American people had given George Bush a mandate to select a rightist ideologue (my translation of his somewhat less specific words) for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. He repeated over and over again that the majority of Americans not only wanted but were demanding that. Not once did Durbin challenge this claimed majority, not once did he demand accuracy. And so we’re governed by lies and our world is the captive of whoever can yell then the loudest. What has happened to our collective sense of decency, to our sense of responsibility? I’m still waiting for the religious community to really speak out on Abu Ghraib and to denounce torture done under the pretext that we’re fighting terrorists and the ends do justify the means. I’m waiting to really hear a contrary religious voice – I mean really hear it – on issues like the right to choose or to die. I’m waiting for someone not merely to say that Pat Robertson (or his like) is out of line, but that he doesn’t speak for evangelical religion much less for any kind of religion.
Sure the President of Iran’s statements were shocking and despicable. But consider the source. The audible silence of those who claim to be the good guys or the whimper that claims to be a voice usually virtually whispered in places where they are least likely to be heard – the “between the two of us, but you know I can’t say that in public – that’s what really hurts. And that’s what likely will do us all in.