The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Israel and Iran.
Note that word—”eliminated.” When Iranians talk about Israel, this intention of a final solution keeps coming up. In October 2005, Mr. Ahmadinejad, quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini, said Israel “must be wiped off the map.” Lest anyone miss the point, the Iranian President said in June 2008 that Israel “has reached the end of its function and will soon disappear off the geographical domain.”
This pledge of erasing an entire state goes back to the earliest days of the Iranian revolution. “One of our major points is that Israel must be destroyed,” Ayatollah Khomeini said in the 1980s.
Former Iranian President Akbar Rafsanjani—often described as a moderate in Western media accounts—had this to say in 2001: “If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.”
So for Iran it is “not irrational” to contemplate the deaths of millions of Muslims in exchange for the end of Israel because millions of other Muslims will survive, but the Jewish state will not.
The world’s civilized nations typically denounce such statements, as the U.S. State Department denounced Mr. Ahamadinejad’s on Monday. But denouncing them is not the same as taking them seriously. Sometimes the greatest challenge for a civilized society is comprehending that not everyone behaves in civilized or rational fashion, that barbarians can still appear at the gate.
The tragic lesson of history is that sometimes barbarians mean what they say. Sometimes regimes do want to eliminate entire nations or races, and they will do so if they have the means and opportunity and face a timorous or disbelieving world.
As much as I like Ron Paul’s foreign policy positions, this worries me. A lot. Getting Iran wrong is deadly. If it is “just rhetoric”, I feel like it would be appropriate for the rest of the world to send a strong signal that there’s no such thing as “just words”. Rhetoric matters and deadly rhetoric may need to be responded to with deadly force.