WASHINGTON (BP)–Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demonstrated again Sept. 23 why he is “the potential Hitler of the 21st century,” Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land said.
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, Ahmadinejad repeated his attacks on Israel, saying the Jewish state is guilty of “inhuman policies” in its occupation of Palestinian territories. He said the Palestinians were victims of “genocide” at the hands of the Israelis.
Although he did not repeat his previous denials of the Holocaust and calls for Israel’s annihilation, the Iranian president told the U.N.: “It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the U.S., to attain its racist ambitions.”
Ahmadinejad’s criticism of Israel prompted a walkout from several delegations, including those of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Australia, according to Agence France-Presse, a French news agency. Israel and Canada boycotted the entire speech.
The speech by the Iranian president, who was re-elected to a second term in disputed balloting in June, reiterated how dangerous he is, Land said.
“If he lived in a civilized nation, he would be institutionalized,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Unfortunately, he lives in a country where he runs a barbaric dictatorship that clearly, clearly does not have the support of the majority of the Iranian people.”
Ahmadinejad ignored the controversy over the poll results and the protests by tens of thousands, telling the U.N. it was “a glorious and fully democratic election.” He described Iran’s militant Islamic regime as “one of the most democratic and progressive governments of the world.”
He said Iran is committed to participating “in the process of building a durable peace and security worldwide for all nations based on justice, spirituality and human dignity, while being dedicated to strongly defending our legitimate and legal rights.”
The number of protesters killed and jailed in the aftermath of the announced election results is in dispute. In late July, the British newspaper The Guardian reported the Iranian regime said there were 30 fatalities, as well as 150 people still detained after 2,500 were arrested. The Guardian said its sources showed different results: 80 dead and 750 still in jail. There may have been many more deaths, according to the report.
“The Iranian people, in their brave protests against the fraudulent election which gave him another term, showed that the people themselves have a heart for democracy,” Land told Baptist Press. “Let’s not forget: All of their protest signs were in English. They were appealing to us, and unfortunately our present administration turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to their protests, thus further emboldening Ahmadinejad.”
Critics charged President Obama at the time with what they described as a timid response to Iran’s crackdown on the protests.
“If no one else understands that [Ahmadinejad] is the potential Hitler of the 21st century, the Israelis do, and they will act accordingly,” Land said. “They learned in the 1930s that when it comes down to it, they can only trust themselves.”
Adolf Hitler’s German Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s killed about 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
Obama also received some criticism earlier Sept. 23 for his comments about Israel in his first speech as U.S. president to the U.N. General Assembly.
The president said a Palestinian state should be established to end “the occupation that began in 1967,” when Israel won the Six-Day War.
He also said: “The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians…. [A]nd nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security.”
John Bolton, ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush, told National Review Online: “The most significant point of the speech was how the president put Israel on the chopping block in a variety of references, from calling Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegitimate to talking about ending ‘the occupation that began in 1967.’ That implies that he supports going back to 1967 borders. Obama has a very tough road ahead. He is frequently taking the side of the Palestinians, who don’t have a competent leader who can make hard decisions and compromises in the future.”
In his speech, Ahmadinejad did not comment on Iran’s nuclear capability and the concerns of many countries about his regime’s development of nuclear weapons.
Land and 47 other religious or conservative leaders sent a letter to Obama and Congress Sept. 22 urging immediate action to prevent Iran from developing such weapons. They called for a boycott on arms sales to the regime and economic sanctions on firms that conduct oil-related business with Iran.
That letter followed by only four days one from the European Centre for Law and Justice that urged the U.N. human rights office to hold Iran and Ahmadinejad accountable for recent human rights abuses.
Iran is one of only eight countries to be classified by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
Compiled by staff of the Baptist Press Washington bureau.