Until Friday’s presidential vote in Iran, the smarty-pants view in Jewish circles was this: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be a menace, but at least he’s a Holocaust-denying menace who rarely wastes the opportunity to call Israel a cesspool of racism. With him as the public face of the Islamic Republic, few could fail to misunderstand the threat of a nuclear Iran.
But three days of violent crackdowns by police against opposition protesters in the wake of Ahmadinejad’s contested victory have, we can assume, disabused anyone watching of any misconceptions about the nature of Iranian democracy. Opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi reappeared this morning, after a weekend in which he was apparently held under house arrest, but the promise of an investigation into vote fraud drew a skeptical response from The New York Times, which has dispatched executive editor Bill Keller to the scene: “It was unclear whether the aim was quelling protests or a genuine re-examination of an election whose official results [Ayatollah Khamenei] had already approved.”
But rather than going in for the jugular—say, by adding organizational heft to anti-Ahmadinejad protests by Iranian expats in New York yesterday—Jewish groups have limited themselves to calling for renewed international pressure on Ahmadinejad and the regime that backs him. The quiet is strange, since the same groups weren’t shy about saying exactly what they thought of Ahmadinejad during his visit to the United Nations last fall—and, after all, it’s not as though he could like Jews, or Israel, any less than he already does.