Yesterday’s rally at the UN, sponsored by organizations including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and UJA Federation of New York was striking for many reasons, not least of which was the number of signs, and the nature of the rhetoric, which compared the Iranian President to Adolph Hitler. Don’t get me wrong, Ahmadinejad is a bad guy. His apocalyptic vision is fueled by a toxic mix of absolutist belief, hatred of the US, Israel, and any other force for liberal democracy (no matter how badly implemented at times), and a romanticized vision of massive violence in the pursuit of victory. But he is not Hitler, and when we claim that he is, it deflects from the real issues at hand.
Rather than delineate all the ways in which the analogy is flawed, just read the words of Elie Wiesel, who implored the gathered audience not to make the comparison – and who might want to make it more than Wiesel?

Instead of attending the opening ceremony at the United Nations, Ahmadinejad should be on trial in an international courtroom for “propagating genocidal policies,” Wiesel said. “He’s not Hitler – nobody is Hitler,” added the noted Holocaust survivor.

You don’t have to be Hitler to be worthy of opposition. I know that people play the “Hitler card” to claim the moral high ground and build support for their cause. But it actually does neither. It simply whips people into a frenzy and creates the opportunity to point out the false analogy and use its falseness as an excuse for not opposing a truly dangerous world leader.

Are we really ready to declare WW III? If Ahmadinejad is Hitler, then that is the thing to do, and we should do it now. And anyone who uses the analogy should admit that they are politicking for war. It may come to that, but until it does, we should lay off the language which contributes to having that war. One wonders if those making the analogy are any less eager for that kind of battle than the Iranian leader. It’s not that the two sides are morally equivalent, but if some of us are as excited by the prospect of a good vs. evil smack down, we are not so different from the forces we oppose.
And it would be helpful if Governor Palin, who published the remarks she would have given at the rally had she not been dis-invited, watched her own language in that regard as well. I deeply appreciate the decades of support that John McCain has shown for Israel, and I believe that Palin shares those views. But if she thinks that building consensus against Ahmadinejad requires painting him as Hitler, she is wrong. In fact, she may be instigating a war that will kill the very Israelis who are our nation’s allies.

On the other hand, it makes me sick when Voice of America covers the rally and quotes one person who attended, a person who compares the Iranian and American Presidents. That is so wrong, it’s not even wrong! But it smacks of the same inability to make distinctions. Opposing George Bush and Opposing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not require that they be equally bad. And just as the group that sees the latter as Hitler, endanger us with their hysteria, the group which sees him as Bush endanger us with their complacency and moral relativism.
Ultimately, the most dangerous thing about Ahmadinejad is his fanaticism, his inability to see any way other than his own, or any facts which don’t affirm that which he already believes. Effectively opposing him requires that we not fall in to that trap on either the left or the right. Effectively opposing him requires not that we make facile comparisons which build a sense of our own moral/political correctness, but that we keep asking the world if they would really like to live a country like Iran. If they would not, then they should figure out how to shut this guy down and do it.
More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts
Close Ad