Ahmadinejad UN racism conference 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper on Tuesday accused Iran of being all talk and no action after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the Durban II racism conference in Geneva while a Qatari newspaper defended him as having spoken the truth.
The relatively few editorials and opinion pieces published about the Iranian president's speech on Monday, which prompted delegates from more than 20 countries to walk out of the hall, appeared to follow the script of the pro-Iranian and Western-backed anti-Iranian camps, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad said Zionism must be eradicated and said that Israel, "a most cruel and oppressive, racist regime," was created from the "pretext of Jewish suffering."
It is clear that the speech was aimed at bolstering his popularity on the Arab and Islamic street, "but what will these words add to the Palestinian cause, or to the rights of occupied Arab territories?" wrote chief editor Tariq Alhomayed, of the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, in an article that ran on Tuesday.
"Ahmadinejad already promised us that he would drive Israel into the sea, and he has said more than he should have, so what can he gain by adding to all this?" he wrote. "Rather all that Ahmadinejad did yesterday was prompt the international community to rally around Israel and boycott the conference for Israel's sake. Indeed, those that did not boycott the conference [initially] walked out in protest."
Alhomayed wrote that Arabs have fought six wars with Israel, suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties, had their lands and cities invaded and lost a large amount of wealth. He suggested that "talk" from leaders such as Ahmadinejad was not enough to resolve the crisis.
"What has Iran lost for the sake of Palestine?" he asked. "Has Teheran put its troops on the battlefield to face off with Israel?... We need action, and the actions that we witnessed yesterday were drowned out by the uproar created by Ahmadinejad's speech, the Western countries' boycott due to this address, and all that occurred surrounding this issue."
Western-backed Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia have long been wary of Iran's intentions and its desire to spread its influence and Shi'ite ideology.
Tensions escalated when an Iranian official was quoted as saying in February that Bahrain was the 14th province of Iran until 1970 - a statement Bahrain officials considered to be an "infringement of sovereignty."
Although the statement was disavowed, as not representing official Iranian views, Arab countries considered it to be a reflection of Iranian ambitions in the region. In a further sign of deterioration, Egypt has accused the Iranian-backed Hizbullah of organizing a terrorist cell to plot attacks in the country, a charge which the Shi'ite organization denies.
Meanwhile, an opinion piece in Tuesday's edition of the Qatari newspaper Al-Raya defended the Iranian president's speech, saying it did "not exceed the truth that peoples of the region know."
Ahmadinejad did not brush aside the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the author wrote, adding that the international community did not apply them when it came to the Palestinian, Arab or Muslim peoples, "because that is considered harming the holy cow, which is Israel."
Ahmadinejad "did not take the conference hostage and did not use the platform of the conference to launch a hate-filled speech, as the French foreign minister said, but he placed his finger on the truth of the crimes that Israel committed and which the Western countries were silent about," the Al-Raya piece said.
Qatar has increasingly sided with the Iranian axis, particularly during Israel's three week military operation in the Gaza Strip against Hamas.
AP contributed to this report.