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Iranian Santa

Admittedly, my being Israeli and gay does not increase my likelihood of wanting to hear a Christmas greeting by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Though I do not know whom he hates more -- gays or Israelis -- I happen to belong to both groups. So there's very little doubt as to how he feels about me.

And there should be little doubt as to how I feel about him. Nor should there be any doubt as to how Britain's Channel 4 feels about him. Or so I thought.

In a controversial move, Channel 4 invited the Iranian president to deliver an alternative Christmas speech, to be aired shortly after the Queen's. Channel 4 news chief Dorothy Byrne was quoted as responding to criticism by saying that "as the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential."

Byrne is, of course, correct. Ahmadinejad is powerful. Which is exactly what makes him dangerous. And it is also why Channel 4's decision to turn him into a legitimate and harmless figure, a Persian Santa if you will, is so outrageous.

But Byrne errs in saying that "this message continues a long tradition of offering a different perspective on the world around us." She is confusing reporting on different perspectives with displaying them.

Indeed, to uphold its professional duty, Channel 4 is required to rigorously track Ahmadinejad's "different perspective" and tell us about it. It should send its top reporters to Tehran and ask him difficult questions about his positions and how he proposes to promote them in the Middle East.

In fact, Ahmadinejad's public statements are outrageous enough to put him in the headlines on a daily basis. Ahmadinejad, in all honesty, is a household name not because of its catchy ring but rather due to the man's knack for making good quotes.

Among his finer statements are "Israel should be wiped off the map" and "we do not have homosexuals in Iran." And this is why Channel 4 invited him to address the British nation. They wanted a celebrity, and Ahmadinejad is a sure bet.

To be sure, I do not think Channel 4 supports the destruction of the State of Israel, nor the execution of homosexuals. No. The problem is that Channel 4's officials think that public statements by a leader of a country on the verge of acquiring nuclear capabilities are a joke. And therein lies Channel 4's biggest lie.

Channel 4 invited Ahmadinejad to speak not because it wants to offer viewers "a different perspective," but because it believes this different perspective is a ridiculous joke, and not something that can ever be implemented with, say, nuclear arms.

That is the true message that Channel 4 is airing for the holidays. And it's a far cry from a Christmas greeting.

This article was originally published in Haaretz and appears here with its permission.