Leaders from all across the world responded harshly Thursday to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call to "wipe Israel off the map".
Ahmadinejad also directed his wrath at countries like Egypt and Jordan which have formal relations with Israel, and other Islamic countries moving toward accommodation.
"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury," he said at a "World without Zionism" conference.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon instructed Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman to take action in order to remove Iran from the international organization. Sharon was prompted into action by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who sent a missive in which he wrote, "It is inconceivable that the head of a nation that is a member at the UN would call for genocide. His call stands against the UN charter and constitutes a crime against humanity."
Peres, who addressed his remarks to Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, said that the severity of Ahmadinejad's comments only underline the danger in light of Iran's attempts to develop nuclear weapons and acquire long range missiles.
Reacting to the Iranian president's speech, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar "speak openly about destroying the Jewish state ... and it appears the problem with these extremists is that they followed through on their violent declarations with violent actions."
Ebrahim Yazdi, a former Iranian foreign minister, said Ahmadinejad's remarks harmed Iran. "Such comments provoke the international community against us. It's not to Iran's interests at all. It's harmful to Iran to make such a statement," he said.
Although Arab governments maintained silence Thursday over the call by Iran's new president for Israel to be "wiped off the map," but analysts said Tehran's Arab rivals may quietly be pleased to see the radical regime further isolated by its extremism.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Cabinet officials said Cairo would have nothing to say on the address.
Egyptian government officials played down the importance of the speech, saying it was intended for a conservative Iranian audience who remained faithful to the thinking behind the 1979 revolution.
With so many conflicts in the Middle East, "the region is in a mess. We really don't need one more," said one official on condition of anonymity, hoping the issue would go away.
Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher also declined comment, apparently to avoid further aggravating relations with Iran, which the kingdom has accused of interfering in Iraq to strengthen the Shi'ite influence in the Middle East.
Analysts said Amadinejad's uncompromising line highlighted Iran's differences with other Middle East governments and will make it easier for the international community to take a tough line against Iran for its defiant nuclear policy.
Mohamed Wahby, a former diplomat and member of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs, said it was a mistake to remain quiet about the speech, which he said undermined Mideast peace prospects.
"Recognizing Israel as an integral part of the Middle East is no longer in doubt," he said, saying Iran was only encouraging hard-liners on both sides.
Mustafa Hamarneh, head of the Strategic Studies Center at the University of Jordan, agreed that Amadinejad was out of step, especially with the Palestinians. "He's an ideologue who shot from the cuff; it was not a studied statement," Hamarneh said.
Iran's threatening stance also was counterproductive to its own interests, said Wahby, reinforcing the notion that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons despite claims that it is meant exclusively for peaceful power generation.
"Such statement by Tehran will encourage Israel to cling to its nuclear arsenal," Wahby said.
In Iran, most newspapers carried coverage of Ahmadinejad's statement, and some ran stories covering the subsequent protests from other countries. Officials could not be reached for comment.
But hundreds of thousands of Iranians are expected to denounce Israel and back Ahmadinejad's comments across the country Friday during the annual al-Quds - Jerusalem - Day protests.
Mustafa Alani, an analyst from the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, said Arab states will see Ahmadinejad's speech as showing up the Iranian regime to be "illogical, irrational."
"The Arab countries have benefited," Alani said. "They will never issue a statement, but they are happy that he proved the Iranians, on the regional level, are not rational."
In addition, several world governments issued statements criticizing the Iranian's remarks, including the US, Britain, France, Spain, Canada, Italy and Germany.
Both the United Kingdom and Germany summoned on Thursday representatives of the Iranian Embassy to underline their countries' opposition to the Iranian president's remarks.
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had also asked Germany's Embassy in Iran for a report on the situation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Elmar Eich said.
The latest nation to join the international chorus blasting Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, Italy on Thursday echoed earlier statements by its ally in Iraq, the US, saying the remarks confirm concerns over Tehran's nuclear program.
The Italian Foreign Ministry "has expressed discomfort and concern to the Iranian ambassador in Rome," a ministry statement said. A ministry official said the ambassador had not been summoned.
"The contents and tone of such unacceptable statements confirm worries over the political positions pursued by the new Iranian leadership, especially concerning the nuclear dossier," the statement said.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said he believed that Ahmadinejad's words speak for themselves, "highlighting our concerns of an Iranian nuclear capability."
In Madrid, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos summoned Iran's ambassador to protest Ahmadinejad's comments. Moratinos said he rejected the remarks in the strongest possible terms.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said he learned about Ahmadinejad's comments from news reports that indicate the Iranian president called for Israel's destruction and said the conflict in the Middle East would result in a fight between Jews and Muslims.
"If these comments are correct, they are unacceptable. I greatly condemn them and have asked for the Iranian ambassador in Paris to be summoned to the Foreign Ministry to demand explanations," Douste-Blazy said.
The British Foreign Office said "Ahmadinejad's comments are deeply disturbing and sickening."
UN Sec.-Gen. Kofi Annan also expressed his dismay at the Iranian president's hostile statement.
Send us your comments >>
Steven Husch, Malibu, CA
: I will always support Israel and do anything I can to help defend her against the terrorist nations out to destroy her.
Ditlef Chr. Jacobsen, Oslo, Norway
: Amadinejah's statement is unbearable and totally unacceptable and can not be tolerated. Iran should be expelled from the UN but also all other non-democratic nations who are against Israel. The international community must wake up and start to understand that Iran is a real threat to Israel and to the rest of the world. This without giving in to pressure from the Arab world. It is crucial now for the international community to support Israel. I do I have been there eight times and I love Israel very much, the only true democracy in the Middle East. I wish Israel great Shalom!
Eric, Alexandria, VA, USA:
I believe that George Santenanya said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. The early Romans persecuted the Jewish race; Hitler wanted to destroy the Jewish race and failed. Since Jews have been alive, it seems they have been targeted for destruction to no avail, much to the chagrin of their enemies. The Islamic extremists will learn as well. Everyone who has tried to eradicate the Jewish race has failed miserably. Conceding more land to the Palestinians will only lead to further aggression towards Israel. Remember what Hitler said about the Sudetenland (the modern day Czech Republic
). He wanted those lands and said he would stop once he acquired them. Well, the more one gets, the more one wants. It appears that Islamic nations will not cease until Israel is pushed into the sea. I guess they won't stop trying because it isn't going to happen.
Ahmadinejad didn't commit a faux pas, he said out loud what he and others are merely thinking. All the nations in the Middle East seem to be powerless to destroy the smallest nation of Israel. Read your history and you will see that Israel has not been and will never be destroyed.
Cristovao Ramos, Lisbon, Portugal:
In fact it is a shame that a head of state should call upon destruction of another state and its people.
From my point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad is playing with fire and he is the one who is going to burn.
At this moment, I remember the song of Ten Thousand Maniacs which says: "Talk, talk about it. You talk as if you care, but when your talk is over tilt that bottle in the air".
Empty words from an empty bottle.
Certainly a distasteful comment but not outside of the realm for many who dear not speak the painful truth. Israel creation in 1948 wiped Palestine of the map. The daily brutalization of the Palestinian people is a constant reminder of this fact. Yes - the comment was in poor taste but Israel is no position to assume any high moral ground. The world is now awaiting for American Neo-conservatives and the Israeli government's push to isolate and further demonize Iran. Thus, the Middle East opera continues; Act V, Scene IV.
Vittorio Roggero, Orange, CA:
First, let me say to the writer Grant Hughes: Aren't you foolish to make such ignorant public statements? I believe the Palestinians are inherently good people but their leaders are incapable of organizing themselves into a viable government that will control terrorists and fanatics. Israel has the right to defend itself and should continue to do so aggressively. The Palestinians have had every opportunity to rise above the terrorism and wars they have launched against Israel, which is a peaceful democratic country. Concerning Iran, it is no surprise that its leaders make these types of hateful and dangerous comments. Iran is governed by a group of fanatics that suppresses the freedoms of its own people. These comments are a warning and we all need to take action to stop them.
Semsem, New York, USA:
Mr. Hughes of the UK says that Israel wiped out Palestine off the map.
This is a blatant lie. The Jews wanted two States
; a Jewish and an Arab one.
It was the Arabs who wiped Palestine off the map by attacking Israel, and Jordan who then gobbled up the West Bank.
HT distorts history by saying that Israeli Jews are all from Europe
Enough of the lies. Half of Israelis are Jews from Arab countries who were forced by the Arabs to flee to Israel after 1948.
We already know that the Muslims hate Israel. Some are more vocal; some are two faced and say they are not against Israel, while they secretly fund terrorism.
The thing that concerns me is this: Why now? Have they made a break through in their weapons technology? Does their president know that Iran has mounted a nuclear warhead to a missile capable of reaching Israel? Something has emboldened the Iranians to pursue Jihad. I bet it is that they have nuclear capability and now they intend to use it. They just couldn't wait. I say preemptive strike, take them out!
Daniel Arkin, Los Angeles, USA:
To Grant Hughes:
The painful truth is that Arab rejection to Partition in 1947 wiped "Palestine" off the face of the map. That same fact gives Israel the absolute moral high ground -- it was the Hebrews who said YES to living in peace, while it was the Arabs who said NO to any idea of peaceful co-existence, then or since. I defy you to deny, distort or whitewash the historical fact of who was for peace & who was against it!
Jerry Konefsky, Philadelphia:
Imagine Sharon making a speech like the Iranian President. The entire world would condemn it. Aid would be suspended. Massive arm sales to Arab countries would be made in order that they could defend themselves. A vote at the UN would be taken and passed to remove Israel from the UN. etc. etc. on and on until Sharon was removed and Israel punished until or almost until its extinction.
This is the world today and I dare anyone to deny this scenario happening. Israel stands alone and will stand alone until the West gets it.
Myron Berliner, Diamond Bar, CA, US:
Ahmadinejad's comments should not be taken lightly. Iran has a record of war that reveals a country that sent waves of child soldiers over known mine fields to blow themselves into heaven and also clean out the minefields. How will they be when they go nuclear?
Abe Krieger, Philadelphia, PA:
Thanks, Iran, for revealing your true intentions to the world.
Nuclear power for electricity? I don't think so.
The only question is: Will the US invade Syria
or Iran first?
Dr. Itamar Bernstein, Herzlya, Israel
The question in my opinion is not what the Ahmadinejads say, but what the Sharons will do to eliminate the real, existential threat to Israel, which the crazy theocracy in Iran creates.
Appeasement must stop, and some form of action should be taken as soon as possible. Here are my suggestions:
First, the best form of action would be to bomb these crazy Mullahs out, and send as many as them as possible personally to Muslim heaven. This can be done by bombing them from the air at their known residences and cars. Such action may well catalyze a pro-democracy revolution in the country. When Iran becomes democratic, it would live in peace with the world, Israel included.
Second, if such surgical action against the heads of the regime doesn't work, the nuclear installations should be taken out, by military action. Preferably from the air, and if impossible, by land. Since the US army
is presently overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan
, other countries should help. Israel could offer several divisions, to operate under a US air
umbrella. This in my opinion would be much easier militarily than politically, but should be seriously examined.
Third, Israel could use as a strong, efficient deterrent - an unequivocal clarification that if Iran ever uses nuclear bombs on Tel Aviv
, the foremost religious symbols of Islam would be pulverized, in addition to other retaliatory actions.
If push comes to shove, and none of the above measures are timely taken, substantial parts of Iran would have to be wiped out. This may cause the death of millions of Iranians, against the interests of both Israel and Iran. Israel should never be forced to even get close to this doomsday scenario.
Colin Beck, Surrey, Canada:
Mamoud the Mau Mau started a prison riot, and had to stick his stuck down the toilet just to survive. He's a mental disorder grounded in a delusion. What's he doing out and about leading the lads from the Strange Ways Asylum through the streets of Tehran? They say that it's the custom in Iran that everyone has his own personal probation officer; not because it helps, but only because it takes two dim wits to make one complete half wit.
It seems to me that the Iranian leader is sincere about what he says and upon being capable he shall give actions to his words. He looks dangerous and fanatic. With nukes he will fulfill his statement. Both by himself, as well as giving nukes to the terrorist on a secret basis.
Iran is already fermenting terrorism in Palestine and elsewhere.
Brock Davis, Amman, Jordan:
As much as I know this should not be said, I do know that these are the facts: Iran wants Israel of the map. Iran wants to destroy, obliterate, erase, the Israeli country. Why the world news channels have made such a huge deal out of this comment is beyond me. This is nothing new. The fact is, Iran is developing nukes, and will use them if need be. The western world - Are you all stupid? I know that the whole world thinks Iran possesses these weapons, but nothing is done about it. How foolish are all of you? Would all of you feel better after a year of delay of action until they are all hidden? As an Arab, I would take these extreme recent words seriously. I hate war. I've seen it all my life. Very few of us, like myself, want peace and quiet. The others, the Arab world, want destruction. Don't take these words lightly. US, it's time to leave Iraq and get onto Iran. Us in the Arab world have no patience for the Iranians. They have not done one thing ever to better this planet. I have been in Israel before and the people there are nice people who want peace. Iran does not. I think words like " rid Iran from this planet" sound so much more appealing to me.
Alan, Phoenix, USA:
This is the typical Middle East where everybody behaves like a crybaby who deserves a bottle. The Israelis, up until 1993, were definitely the most mature, most intelligent, and the most assured nation in the region, but sadly, ever since Oslo and now gasbag's Gaza
follies, they too have regressed.
did NOT wait until Iraq's nuclear facilities were up and running. He took a big risk, but thankfully we had a good and decent President and Secretary of State at that time who clearly understood what he did.
Now gasbag Arik, fresh from sending 50,000 big boys to ethnically cleanse Gaza of innocent Jews, not baby killers, is whining about Iran. Maybe it is high time that gasbag and his cronies chose to do what prime minister Begin had the courage and intelligence to do 24 years ago. Unfortunately, in an Israel that prefers making deals with the PLO, COURAGE AND INTELLIGENCE are in short supply.
Or are you waiting for President Bush
to pull your chestnuts out of the fire?
p.s. Begin knew the threat Khomeini
was and even offered to "terminate" the weirdo before he flew back to Tehran. Unfortunately lilly-livered Jimmeee Carter and Chirac's Vichyite
predecessor D'Estaing talked (read: threatened) Begin out of doing what would have been a mitzvah.
Faux pas, probably yes according to today's standards in politics. As an Arab, however, I can tell you that the firm belief of the majority of Arabs is that the plan that was put in place at the end of the 19th century and according to which immigrants coming from Europe were to replace the people that lived in Palestine was a highly immoral one.
That plan was carried out and there is an ugly idea of exclusivity that defines it: An immigrant from the Ukraine
is allowed to go to a place where a Palestinian once lived and may still have a house or ruins of a house while that Palestinian cannot. Palestinians are just locked outside. Those that live inside will always have to remain a minority "de gr ou de force", i.e. whether they like it or not.
Yes, the whole thing has its ugly side, and if one day they decided to make it one country for everyone and not an exclusive state for whatever religion or race, I'll be the first one to applaud. The facts on the ground are showing us every day that injustice cannot prevail forever. I sincerely hope it does not.
Y. Ben-David, Rehovot, Israel:
Adolf Hitler, in a speech in January 1939, several months before the start of the Second World War, stated bluntly that in the event of war, the Jews of Europe would be destroyed. Just like today, everyone said, "he doesn't mean it literally", "he made a mistake", "this doesn't represent what Germans really feel", etc. In other words, everyone was afraid to confront the actual meaning of what he said and found excuses to ignore it. This is what this article is doing with this modern, express threat. They claim in the article that it "'doesn't really express what the Iranian leadership thinks". I am afraid that it does, in fact it reflects what much of the Islamic world, including the so-called "moderate Palestinians" think. The very existence of a "dhimmi" Jewish state is an affront to Islam and no believing Muslim can ever reconcile himself to any Jewish state, no matter how small it is. It may be that elements in the Iranian leadership feel that it might hurt Iran's diplomatic position to say this explicitly, but they certainly agree with the sentiments. I should also like to point out that he stated this after Sharon destroyed the Jewish communities of Gush Katif. Sharon, Peres and the Left feel that if Israel makes enough gestures by destroying Jewish communities, the Arab/Muslim world will reduce its hostility. In fact, Sharon's despicable act only INCREASES their hostility and makes them think that more terror will cause Israel's ultimate collapse to come sooner, as Iran's President stated. It is time for everyone to wake up and see that Israel's appeasement of Arab/Muslim terror is a disaster.
Jay Grossman, Monsey, NY, USA:
The Europeans reacted quickly to this outrage. But I can't help wonder why we haven't heard from Kofi Annan. If PM Sharon had issued a call for the destruction of a member state of the UN, I doubt there would have been any time lost before Annan issued a condemnation and a call for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to sanction Israel.
I guess we can infer from Mr. Annan's silence his true feelings towards Israel. Either that or he is simply ineffective in standing up for what's right.
Jonathan, Marseille, France:
I don't think Iran would dare throw a nuclear missile on Israel.
I think Israel has the capability to use their anti-missile system. If Iran managed to do damage to Jerusalem it would be to wipe the Temple Mount
off the map. I think the Muslim world would not tolerate such an action from Iran.
Lior, London, England:
So, how does Ahamdinejad think he will "wipe Israel off the map" without bitter bloodshed? With growing Westernization and an increasingly educated population - the vast majority of which is of fighting age - it surprises that he won the presidential election at all. But if he has forgotten, the young Iranians have not that a bitter war was fought with Iraq a little under a generation ago and they have no intention of doing the same. To lead Iran into a war with Israel - or America - would entail arming and training the bulk of the Iranian population that hates the rule of the ayatollahs and would, sooner rather than later, turn into a revolution against them. The Iranian regime dare not risk it - which is why they seek a nuclear military capacity, which represents war in the hands of the select and trusted few. Stop the nuclear build up - but do not fear a conventional war. Ahmadinejad doth protest too much.
Huub Schaab, Netherlands:
Iran's president may have played into Israel's hands. Faux pas or not, it shows the true face of Islamic fascists of his kind. It is high time for all freedom-loving countries to show the world in deeds not just words, how to put an end to this threat.
Sid Hale, Massapequa Park, New York, USA:
Living in the United States
and in the comfort of my own home I am bewildered that a leader of a nation such as Iran can be permitted to spew this much hate. It is appalling. Not far from where I live is The United Nations building
and I pray that in the next few day's someone from other nations will speak out about Iran's President's remarks and at the same time defend Israel. The other side of the coin is what to do with the Palestinians. How can Israel coexist with a nation that has no backbone and is not willing to exist with Israel, is beyond me. Our only hope is that G-D will come up with a solution.
No one took Hitler at his word early on. These people "mean business." Do you not think they might not engage in a suicide mission, at the national level, to promote their Muslim agenda? I think they would. They must be stopped immediately, by whatever means necessary.