Excerpt of the exchange between President Ahmadinejad and Mr Coatsworth at Columbia University:
MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, your statements here today and in the past have provoked many questions which I would like to pose to you on behalf of the students and faculty who have submitted them to me.
Let me begin with the question to which you just —
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: (In English.) It is one by one, one by one.
MR. COATSWORTH: One by one, it is, yes. (Applause.)
The first question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran living peacefully with security. You must understand that in our constitution, in our laws, in the parliamentary elections, for every 150,000 people we get one representative in the parliament. For the Jewish community, one-fifth of this number they still get one independent representative in the parliament. So our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal.
What we say is that to solve the 60-year problem we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.
We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, I think many members of our audience would be — would like to hear a clearer answer to that question, that is — (interrupted by cheers, applause).
The question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state? And I think you could answer that question with a single word, either yes or no. (Cheers, applause.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: And then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn’t really a free flow of information. I’m just telling you where I — what my position is. (Applause.)
I’m asking you, is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no. (Laughter, applause.)
There’s a plight of a people.
MR. COATSWORTH: The answer to your question is yes. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, thank you for your cooperation.
It is — we recognize there is a problem there that’s been going on for 60 years. Everybody provides a solution, and our solution is a free referendum. Let this referendum happen, and then you’ll see what the results are. Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future. And then what you want in your mind to happen, it will happen and will be realized. (Applause.)
A quite amazing exchange indeed.
Coatsworth is repeatedly clearly conflating two different questions:
- the existence of the state of Israel
- the nature of the state of Israel
These are two very different issues. Nobody has ever challenged the right of Germany, Russia or South Africa to exist as a state. However, that does not imply that a Nazi, Soviet Communist or Apartheid regime in these countries had a “right to exist”. Coatsworth calls Israel a “Jewish state” overlooking the fact that according to the 2006 CIA World Factbook, quoting 2004 data, Jews account for only 76.4% and non-Jews account for 23.6% (mostly Arab). Thus, as long as Israel will remain an officially “Jewish state” 23.6% of its citizens will have their basic civil rights denied.
Also, can you imagine Iran declaring itself an “Aryan state”! Just imagine the comparisons with Hitler if that happened!
If one thinks of “Jewish” as an ethnicity, any “Jewish state” is an officially racist state, and if one thinks of “Jewish” as a religion, then any “Jewish state” is a theocracy. Either way – it is not a democracy, much less so the ‘only democracy in the Middle-East’.
The solution proposed by Iran, the self-determination of *ALL* the peoples of Palestine regardless of the ethnicity or religion is, in fact, the only democratic one. The fact that this solution would entail the loss of the Jewish character of the state of Israel is only an inevitable consequence of the racist/theocratic foundation upon which this state was built and as long as this foundation will remain there shall be no peace in the Middle-East.
Isn’t this the same tactic used by those who say Hamas has never recognized Israel’s right to exist. By right to exist what is meant is Israel’s right to exist as Jewish dominated state within whatever borders it defines. Israel demands this right to exist be acknowledged before it recognizes Palestine’s right to exist as a sovereign state and before any of its borders are to be defined. Making such a demand before negotiations can begin is not a serious bargaining position.