French President Francois Hollande (L) welcomes his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani for a meeting during the 70th UN General Assembly on September 27, 2015, in New York.
(photo credit: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)
Europeans tripping over themselves to sign lucrative deals with Iran is painful to watch. Doing it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day can shake one’s faith in humanity.
In Rome a contingent led by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed deals with their Italian counterparts valued at about $18 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Italians exhibited an embarrassing keenness to please that went beyond self-effacement and approached self-annulment. In preparation for a meeting with Rouhani and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome’s Capitoline Museum, famous artworks depicting nudes were hastily covered up so as not to offend the fundamentalist sensibilities of the Islamic Republic’s head of state.
This spineless deference to the tastes of a religious fanatic and the literal blotting out of one’s own cultural tradition was sickening to see. For extra measure the Italians refrained from serving wine at the meal, once again kowtowing to the Muslim zealots.
What were the Italians thinking? Most likely those who did the covering up and whisking away of the wine are party to the vogue belief in progressive circles that there is such a thing as “the right not to be offended” and that one must uphold this “right” even if by doing so one tramples in the process real rights such as freedom of artistic expression.
Europeans seem to have forgotten how such freedoms were earned after a long and bloody battle with sectarian reactionaries. How else could they so easily give them up? Rouhani expressed his thoughts on the matter in a meeting with Pope Francis. Referring to the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, whose editorial board and artists were summarily executed by Islamic fanatics a year ago, Rouhani said freedom of expression “doesn’t mean offending that which is sacred to other people’s faith.” It was hardly surprising to find Rouhani on the side of the zealots.
Rouhani’s next stop was France, where car makers, airport operators and construction firms eagerly awaited Iranian signatures on lucrative deals. No matter that the chosen day for wheeling and dealing happened to fall on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Unlike the Italians, who were hypersensitive to the aesthetic and culinary preferences of Iranian fanatics, the Iranians had no qualms about foisting their cultural preferences on others – particularly their thoughts about Holocaust remembrance. As Rouhani touched down in Paris on Wednesday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, was busy uploading a video to his official Internet site that blamed Europeans of covering up the “truth” about the Holocaust – namely, that it did not happen the way the Jews say it did.
Khamenei’s Holocaust-denial rant was accompanied by pictures of what appeared to be killed or injured Palestinian children. The message was clear: By upholding the “lie” of the Holocaust, Europeans were perpetuating a regime in Israel that intentionally kills innocent children.
Iran, by the way, is preparing for a state-sponsored Holocaust cartoon contest in June called the 11th Tehran International Cartoon Biennial. Judging from submissions of previous years, the goal is to generate propaganda saying Israel exploits the Holocaust and exaggerates its dimensions while it commits its own “holocaust” against the Palestinians.
For instance, one cartoon shows a flag of Israel that when peeled reveals a Nazi flag underneath. Another cartoon shows a Der Stürmer-style Jew using Palestinian blood to fuel a Holocaust fire.
The winning drawing in 2015 was of an Israeli crane erecting a wall around the Dome of the Rock. The Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp is featured on the wall in the cartoon, by Abdellah Derkaoui of Morocco.
The president of a state that sponsors these sorts of cartoon contests and that is led by a fanatic religious leader who belittles the memory of the Holocaust is hardly the type of guest France should greet on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It makes the wrong impression.
There might be reason for hope, though. A meeting with French President François Holland and Rouhani slated to take place at the Elysee Palace was dropped at the last minute because the French refused to cede to the Iranian president’s demand that wine be left off the table.
At least the French have their priorities straight