Modern Israel, Medieval A'Jad


The big news in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's speech was of course the drawing of the red line … some months hence.

I find myself brooding though on something that was not news at all: Netanyahu's emphatic identification of Israel with modernity, the rights of women, of free thought, and of technological advance.

Netanyahu's words made extra impact when watched side by side with the speech the day before of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, presumably Ahmadinejad's last to the United Nations. This year, the Iranian president seemed comparatively subdued. His tirade against Zionism was relatively brief; his excursion into 9/11 Trutherism, elliptical. He refrained from Holocaust denial and ravings against homosexual plots. Yet even so, Ahmadinejad did reveal the cast of mind that Netanyahu would so eloquently warn against the next day:

The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified.

Ahmadinejad's speech emerged from a kind of dream landscape, half-remembered bits of history jumbled with myth and fantasy, in which the Crusades led to colonialism 500 years later; in which the only wars worth mentioning are those fought by western powers; and in which merely

Thousands of years has passed since children of Adam (peace be upon Him) started to settle down in various parts of Earth.

In the thick of this obscurantist word soup, it is almost a relief to bump into technocratic jargon:

The Non-Aligned Movement as the second largest trans-regional group after the UN, held its 16th summit in Tehran with the motto of "Joint Global Management", cognizant of the importance of this issue and the shortcomings of the current mismanagement in the emergence of crises and problems afflicting the world today. During the Summit, participating Heads of State and representatives of more than 120 countries underscored the necessity of a more serious and effective participation of all nations in the global management.

"Joint Global Management!" No, I don't know what that means. But even in its gobbledygook, it feels more like something from the real world than e.g. this:

The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the Devil.

That last line seems unfortunately not merely a figure of speech.

One of the most central questions in the Western debate about Iran is the question about the worldview and intentions of the Iranian leadership. Are they at bottom rational, as we would understand rational? Or are they gripped by some kind of apocalyptic delusion, some dream of messianism achieved by global destruction? The prime minister of Israel came to New York to warn of the worst. The president of Iran seemed once again arrived to confirm those warnings.