September 30, 2009

Nazis Yes, Neda No

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a document outlining plans for the Auschwitz death camp as he addresses the 64th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES POLITICS)

As the U.S. prepares to sit down with Iran to press for nuclear sanctions, I’m still thinking about the speech — and the dramatic photo op — Netanyahu provided the U.N. last week.

Excoriating Iran’s Ahmadinejad as a Holocaust denier, Netanyahu drove home his point by holding up a Nazi floor plan of Auschwitz. (Here’s a closer view.) The plans, dating to 1941, were donated to Israel last month by the German publisher Axel Springer Verlag which purchased them after their discovery in a Berlin apartment last year.

In offering up an image highlighting the impact of a delegate walkout before Ahmadinejad’s General Assembly speech, what I missed was the political framing around the action. A reader, Michael M., had this to say in reply.

What’s most distressing about the walkout (actually about the media’s coverage of it) is that the Holocaust denial story completely overshadowed — in fact eliminated from the media conversation — the fact that Ahmadinejad is, for all intents and purposes, the orchestrator of a coup d’etat, a military/paramilitary takeover of Iran that took even the religious clerical leadership by surprise.

Only looking back did I see how much the media got caught up in the Holocaust story, with this — according to Reuters — actually serving as the basis for the walkout.

I have to agree with Michael. Although the Holocaust denial is not to be trivialized, the fact the media, as well as leading U.N. member countries got so caught up on the Holocaust denial as opposed to getting up in arms over the extreme repression of democratic rights, free speech and free elections taking place in Iran right now smacks of accommodation as well as collusion with Netanyahu.

Given the action in Gaza earlier this year and Netanyahu’s tacit support of illegal settler activity, it’s hard not to see the gesture above as employing an oversized emotional trump card — part of a bait-and-switch to maintain the Israel/Palestine status quo.

(image: Ray Stubblebine/ 64th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2009)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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