Ha’aretz’s man in America, Shmuel Rosner, thinks that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University was a win for the Iranian president and a clear loss for Israel. He explains that Ahmadinejad’s speech, and the accompanying controversy, helped to underscore his message, namely, as Rosner puts it, “It is not Iran versus the world, but Iran versus Israel.”
The protesters outside only served to reinforce his claims, as many were Jews wearing skullcaps who carried signs protesting his Holocaust denial and calls to wipe Israel off the map. To many, this serves as further proof that Iran is only a problem for Israel, or at most for the Jews.
Ahmadinejad aimed precisely for that. “It’s the Israelis, stupid” was his primary message. Forget about the “Palestinian problem,” Ahmadinejad was telling his listeners. “Instead, we need to solve the Israeli problem — and finally bring peace to the Middle East.” While he did not explicitly reiterate his calls for Israel’s destruction, in practice, the message could not have been clearer.
The pro-Israel camp consoled itself with the knowledge that those who are familiar with the regional complexities, and with Tehran’s antics, will surely realize the absurdity of Ahmadinejad’s proposal.
But the average American is not familiar with the regional complexities. He is tired of the region’s fighting. To him, Ahmadinejad’s idea may sound tempting.
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