Rudd government reignites campaign against Iranian president

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Antony Loewenstein, author of My Israel Question, writes:

In late 2006, hardline Zionists in Israel and the United States raised the possibility of indicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” against the Jewish state.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that, “Iran is a danger to the entire world, because it envisions a 1,000-year Islamic Reich based on nuclear weapons.” A key problem for the case, casually slipped into the Jerusalem Post, was that, “the court is problematic for Israel — it has stipulated that settlements are tantamount to war crimes — and Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statue upon which it is based.”

Before last year’s Australian election, the then Labor opposition advocated chasing Ahmadinejad in a shameless ploy for the paranoid, Jewish vote. The fact that the case had zero chance of success and was being pursued by leading, discredited neo-conservatives – including former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who again recently advocated “responsible” bombing of Iran — appeared not to bother Kevin Rudd.

Perhaps most concerning was his acceptance of the widely mistranslated Ahmadinejad comment about wanting to “wipe Israel off the map”. In fact, he said nothing of the sort. The Iranian leader is certainly prone to making outlandish comments about Israel and denying the Holocaust, but that’s no more offensive than a host of Israeli leaders advocating the elimination or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

It appears that the Rudd government is still on the case. Yesterday’s front-page story in The Australian breathlessly reported that Attorney-General Robert McClelland is “currently taking advice” on the possibility of pursuing Ahmadinejad. McClelland told the paper that this course of action was preferable to “wholesale invasion of countries”. Well, yes, but what about direct engagement?

Iran’s regional challenge to the American and Israeli-imposed status-quo is the great untold story of the last eight years.

Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan backed the move and Rudd told Sky News that Ahmadinejad’s comments had a “roll-on effect across the Islamic world, particularly those who listen to Iran for their guidance”.

Crikey asked the Attorney-General’s office to clarify the latest developments and a spokesman from his office said that, “the Government strongly supports maintaining pressure on Iran to act as a responsible member of the international community.” Furthermore, “like many in the community, Labor has long expressed abhorrence at the remarks of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. We believe the international community should do all it reasonably can to pressure Iran to be a more responsible global citizen.”

Questions about the pressure from the local Zionist leadership on the government went unanswered.

A Sydney-based ALP source told Crikey that pursuing Ahmadinejad was a pet project for Rudd, not unlike his slavish motion in parliament in March celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary. The source said that, despite the opposition of many in the ALP, the motion was written with the involvement of the country’s leading Zionist lobby, AIJAC, and was initially far more congratulatory before being tempered.

Regular, public displays of affection for the Jewish state are an article of faith across the political divide. Zionism has become a religion. As we’ve seen with Barack Obama, support for the Palestinian cause virtually guarantees political oblivion.