In one of the most obviously insulting gestures the United Nations has heaped on the Jewish people, and there have been many, the decision to host Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at the UN General Assembly on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, ranks among the very top. What I'd like to know is why the United States, by far the largest supporter of the UN, allowed this to happen. As President Obama makes yet another apology for the film trailer which insulted the Muslim people, the ironic double standard of this slap against the Jewish people cannot be ignored. We deserve an apology too. More than that, Ahmadenijad's speech ought to be postponed.
Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, introspection and repentance. According to our faith, it is the last day of the year for people to have their prayers heard by God before the Book of Life is sealed for another year, and our fate is determined. We Jews celebrate the day by removing ourselves from the ordinary observances of life, by turning off our devices, by sitting and standing in synagogue most of the day in solitary thought and prayer. While on an ordinary day, we might want to tune in to this man's lies in order to rebut them, on Yom Kippur we are uniquely severed from the everyday chatter, unable to quickly respond in the media as we would normally do. By allowing this man to speak tomorrow, the UN, with the tacit help of the U.S., has quite literally forced some of us to choose between our faith and our desire for to disperse the truth.
Let's not forget what Ahmadinejad stands for, because his particular brand of antisemitism goes way beyond the bounds of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. In denying the historical fact of the Holocaust, of the millions of innocent victims who died in the gas chambers, Ahmadinejad is a standing insult to all humanity -- an example of how we can never learn from our past -- a living reminder that the same spirit of genocide that animated the Nazis 70 years ago is alive and well. He is repugnant, and the idea that no one in the United States State Department or White House had the guts or sensitivity to deny this man the added publicity of speaking on our holiest day of the year insults me not only as a Jew, but as an American.
Real friends do not let others insult their friends. Not when the insult is totally avoidable, not when a well-placed phone call would have been all that was necessary to stop it from happening.
You have to hand it to the powers that be. They know what we Jews are about. They know we don't blow up embassies and kill ambassadors when we are grieved. We don't storm consulates and vow to execute citizens because we are insulted. Instead, we speak up peacefully, hoping that our speech will change the world. In the most ironic double standard of all, if the world were really scared of the Jews, they would never dare to insult the Jewish people this way.
So as President Obama spoke yesterday with his usual eloquence to implore the world to recognize the value of free speech here at home, I couldn't help wondering:
Is it just the Muslims who can't be insulted?