TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

Khatami and Nasrallah: More Culture and Politics

The fabled Shiite crescent stretches majestically from Mohammed Khatami’s unctuous propaganda of dialogue to the brutal rejectionism of Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah. The cultural message of the tyrant-as-intellectual is exposed by the latest outbursts of the Islamic fascist. Khatami’s “dialogue of civilizations” means Nasrallah’s anti-western attacks, including a hostility to the Lebanese government reminiscent of earlier fascist extremists’ opposition to the “system” of Weimar Germany.

First, Khatami at Harvard. In the meantime, we are learning more about the event and how bad it truly was. The former president used dialogue to deceive, while hiding behind the protection of language difference: he spoke in Farsi, with an English translator. This allowed him to please the crowd in Cambridge without offending his friends back in Teheran. As argued by Amir Taheri,

For example, Khatami would speak of khoshunat, which means “roughness,” but the interpreter would translate it into “violence” or even “terror.” Thus, the Harvard audience would think that Khatami admits that there may be terrorism in the realm of Islam – while back in Tehran, he would appear talking only about “roughness” and “coercion.”

His responses to questions about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not mention him by name—in Khatami’s Farsi answers. He could therefore seem to distance himself from Ahmadinejad’s positions in English, while in fact affirming them in Farsi. Quite a “dialogical” position!

Just as he refrained from apologizing for the taking of hostages at the American embassy in 1979—and as former President he would have had the appropriate standing for such a symbolic gesture—he of course avoided any self-criticism about his own sanguinary record in Iran.

There was no mention of the 1,347 men and women executed during his two terms. And when it came to the murder of intellectuals and journalists by his henchmen, he pretended that other organs of the Islamic Republic had been responsible, without his knowledge. An Iranian student raised the murder of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi – and Khatami, with a broad smile, said he wasn’t quite sure how the poor woman had died in one of his prisons.

What a friendly old man. The lack of human empathy is stunning. He has a peculiar knack for promoting dialogue, as we know from Iran:

He spoke a great deal about the need for dialogue, tolerance and understanding. But he made no mention of the fact that he had closed down 150 Iranian newspapers, imprisoned scores of journalists and unleashed his Hezbollah hounds to crush the student revolts against his regime.

One might have expected a different display of solidarity from US academics or the press corps.

But did somebody say “Hezbollah”?

Not long ago the press was celebrating Hezbollah as the backbone of Lebanese reconstruction, one happy social welfare state-within-a-state, a well-run soup-kitchen with guns. But while Khatami was off displaying a playfully post-modern grasp of “truth” at Harvard, Nasrallah has turned out to be one unhappy camper in Beirut, unleashing a verbal onslaught against the Lebanese government. In an interview on Al-Jazeera and reported in Le Monde on Wednesday, Nasrallah makes it clear that Hezbollah is now waging a campaign against the Lebanese government, even though it simultaneously participates in that government.

In fact, he literally attacks the Lebanese government of a “stab in the back,” during the recent war:

Il a accusé la majorité politique d’avoir “poignardé dans le dos” sa formation durant la guerre.

This is just too obvious; the phrase derives from the early Nazi opposition to the Weimar Republic, the accusation that the representatives of the government had betrayed the nation and stabbed it in the back. Now that same rhetoric comes from Hezbollah and is directed against Siniora. Evidently the goal Nasrallah pursues is not strengthening the Lebanese state, but smashing it. In the same vein, he declared Tony Blair’s recent visit to Lebanon “a national humiliation.” Nasrallah prefers an impoverished and demolished Lebanon because his goal is not a thriving and prosperous society but the opposite: the chaos out of which violence can emerge perpetually. And this, Nasrallah’s really existing extremism. is the genuine content of Khatami’s deceptions

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