Apart from vomitoriums and orgies, what did the Romans do for us?
Ancient Rome provides a handy non-offensive stereotype for us to define ourselves against
Saturday October 29, 2005
^^^^^Human Interest, good read^^^^^
Can't find it.
Jihad and jingoism on Iran's streets
Robert Tait in Tehran
Saturday October 29, 2005
Carrying a large Palestinian flag and decked out in a chequered kaffiyeh and black Arabian chador, Monir Kohandani looked every inch the committed freedom fighter and willing martyr deified by Iran's Islamic regime.
But as she participated along with thousands of others in yesterday's annual al-Quds (Jerusalem) day march - organised by Iran's ruling mullahs in a show of religious strength against Zionism - it was unclear whether she appreciated the stakes involved in the cause for which she was marching.
Asked for her views on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remark that Israel "must be wiped off the map", Ms Kohandani, a 21-year-old law student, was unreflecting. "Whatever he says is right, his words are Islam's words," she said. "Israel is of no importance to Iran. We don't believe in it as a country. The word 'Israel' doesn't exist on our maps. We write Palestine instead."
Ms Kohandani's response represents the unyielding view of regime loyalists on Israel, to whose destruction Iran has been committed - at least rhetorically - since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Yesterday that commitment was under scrutiny as never before from a world outraged at the spectacle of a head of state apparently calling for another country's annihilation.
In the face of the regime's uncompromising stance, many Iranians are uninformed about the nuances of the conflict. Talk of Israeli "massacres" of Palestinians is commonplace.
Pro-regime artwork plays a role in this interpretation. Huge murals depicting perceived Israeli atrocities are plastered on walls across Tehran. One of the most striking portrays the death of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Durra, killed in the crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Gaza five years ago.
Otherwise, the Iranian public is reliant on a diet of propaganda fed by the state-controlled media. Yesterday, that diet was served up in giant platefuls. Throughout the day, state television ran a harrowing series of images of Palestinian suffering. There was no mention of the international condemnation triggered by Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks.
Instead, the focus was on Tehran University, where tens of thousands congregated in an apparently monolithic endorsement of their president's position. They had been ferried in by dozens of buses provided by the government.
Many demonstrators, including young children, carried banners repeating Mr Ahmadinejad's words. Another banner read: "The only way to combat the Zionist enemy is resistance and Jihad." Organisers handed out carrier bags emblazoned with a burning Star of David and stating: "Yesterday Lebanon, today Gaza, tomorrow Palestine."
For the regime, the turnout may have been the perfect riposte to the outcry. Yet among some present there was an awareness that the president's comments needed clarification. "He didn't mean wiping the Jewish people off the map. We don't have a problem with them," said Muhammad Ali Chitsaz, 36, a dentist. "We can have peaceful coexistence with them. What we are against is their treatment of the Palestinians. They should allow the Palestinians to return to their homeland and then decide the government on the basis of who is the majority."
Some Iranians, indifferent to a conflict they see as the business of Jews and Arabs, think Mr Ahmadinejad has his priorities wrong. "Rather than paying attention to Israel, we should be asking how economically corrupt people have managed to penetrate our system," said Pezman Noghreyi, 27.
Others fear a backlash from the US and Israel. "We need to maintain our relations with the outside world," said Hamid, 25, a designer. "If the UN can convince the Israelis to treat the Palestinians better, so that there weren't any more massacres, that would be better than wiping them off the map."
Muhammad Motamedi, 55, a consultant at a research institute, said Mr Ahmadinejad had been misinterpreted. "What he meant was that today's government of Israel should be wiped off the map, not the nation of Israel," he said. "But it is possible that his comments are going to play into the hands of Bush and Sharon."
Hamed Babayi, 27, an agricultural engineering student, said he was "proud" of the president. "I am proud of him because he is speaking strongly against superpowers like Israel and America. I have promised myself that I would go to war against Israel, America or any other country that attacks Iran. We should wipe not only the government of Israel, but also those of America and Britain off the map. But we don't mean their people."
Galloway is the only UN OFF angle the Guardian pursued.