*Heroic Flexibility* - Iranian Reaction To Rouhani U.N. Speech

Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly
Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly

PARIS – It was indeed a different face for Iran at this year's United Nations General Assembly. Back in Iran, and elsewhere around the world, news outlets and regional analysts Wednesday were measuring the potential geopolitical significance of the first big strides onto the world stage made the evening before by newly elected Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.

In Iran, the President’s declarations were duly welcomed, as was a perceived change of tone toward Iran from other world leaders. IRNA cited the conservative parliamentary Speaker Gholam’ali Haddad-Adel as saying that Rouhani’s declarations were intelligent, “considered and timely,” adding that the change of tone toward Iran indicated a recognition of its sense of “resistance” and “authority.”

Haddad-Adel said any sustained dialogue between Iran and the United States would depend on keeping this “correct” tone and removing “contradictions” in decision-making in the United States, a reference to the influence he observed as being wielded there by Israel and its partisans.

A commentator in the reformist daily Shargh observed that the change of tone was attributed to Iran’s perceived moderation since Rouhani became President and for the regime’s new posture, dubbed “heroic flexibility” and approved by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Another commentary in Shargh observed that the would-be “historic” meeting of Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama that did not occur indicated the sides’ pervasive caution based on the diplomatic standoff of the past three decades. It observed however that the “positive atmosphere” persisted so far.

The conservative newspaper Resalat cited a conservative parliamentarian and cleric Hojjatoleslam Ruhollah Hosseinian as saying “everyone must back” the President should he decide “for any reason” to “engage in discussions” with the United States. He said he doubted Mr Rouhani would start any talks without consulting with Supreme Leader Khamenei and “receiving his permission.”

Allusions were made in several papers to the economic benefits for Iran of a détente with the West, and hopes expressed that the domestic currency market would stabilize. The conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami warned however in an editorial that politics were unpredictable and the public should not be led to believe that “if certain relations were renewed” or agreements reached, “all problems will immediately be resolved.”

A senior general separately said that the President had defended “revolutionary” positions and “abandoned reformist slogans,” Fars news agency reported. General Hassan Firuzabadi, head of the armed forces joint command, said the Presidential speech at the UN had shown once more the “reasonable” nature of Iran’s Shia clerics.

Global media outlets highlighted the new tone, with El Mundo concluding that the day’s events represented the “greatest” rapprochement between Iran and the US since Iran’s 1979 revolution. But the Spanish daily also noted that a much-anticipated encounter between the US and Iranian presidents did not materialize, even though the United States had sought the meeting. In the end, it was seen as “hasty” in Iran, given three decades of mutual suspicions and Iran’s entrenched anti-Western rethoric.

Radio France Internationale noted that Rouhani’s moderate tone “left room for hope” for further dialogue. Le Monde called Mr Rouhani the most “courted” statesmen at the UN that day, and observed that the “curiosity” he prompted among delegates was “itself a victory” for Iran’s diplomacy, heralding a “spectacular return” from international isolation that was “inconceivable” under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The French daily remarked on Rouhani’s pledge that Iran would act “responsibly” over regional security, an allusion to its role in Syria.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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