August 3, 2012

Blame it on my upbringing, or what I learned in school, or what I saw when I visited the Dachau concentration camp in 1968. The Holocaust was the most evil event of the 20th century.

So it is abhorrent to me that a government in today’s world would advocate a repeat of that horror. And it is almost beyond belief that the rest of the world would hear such an outrage and look the other way.

I am referring, of course, to the leaders of today’s Iran and the global ho-hum response to the most virulent form of state-sponsored anti-Semitism since Nazi Germany.

I say this as a great-grandson of slaves, as the son of parents whose potential was stifled by unrelenting racism, as a man whose youth was stymied by Jim Crow and racial prejudice, as a father who aches with anger and sorrow that he has failed to give his children and grandchildren an America that will not regard their skin color as a blemish on their humanity.

And yet I know in my heart that we are not the only ones to bear the cross of bigotry and hate.

Iran is more than a threat to a piece of geography called Israel. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the greatest threat to Jews to emerge in the past 70 years.

By any measure, I am not a Jew. I was not born to a Jewish woman. I was not raised nor educated as a Jew; therefore I do not, as Adam Garfinkle might argue, see the world through the eyes of a Jew, evincing Jewish moral sensibilities or exhibiting any sign of Jewish historical memory.

But I do have the power of recall, and I do, as a non-Jew, recognize vicious anti-Semitism when I see it. The Iranian government is as anti-Semitic as the Third Reich.

Listen to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you hear strains of Adolf Hitler. Read, for example, this from Ahmadinejad’s recent address in Tehran to ambassadors of Islamic countries:

It has now been some 400 years that a horrendous Zionist clan has been ruling the major world affairs. And behind the scenes of the major power circles, in political, media, monetary, and banking organizations in the world, they have been the decision-makers, to an extent that a big power with a huge economy and over 300 million population, the presidential election hopefuls must go kiss the feet of the Zionists to ensure their victory in the elections.”

And this: “The Zionist regime is both the symbol of the hegemony of the Zionism over the world and the means in the hand of the oppressor powers for expansion of their hegemony in the region and in the world.”

Ahmadinejad’s call for the annihilation of Israel echoes the Fuehrer’s call for Jewish extermination: “Any freedom lover and justice-seeker in the world must do its best for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the path for the establishment of justice and freedom in the world.”

Ahmadinejad was playing catch-up to his vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, who this year set the standard for hatred of Jews. Speaking at a U.N.-sponsored conference on the illegal drug trade in June, Rahimi said, according to the New York Times, the Talmud teaches to “destroy everyone who opposes the Jews.”

“Zionists,” he said, are in firm control of the drug trade. Rahimi reportedly told stories of gynecologists killing black babies on the order of Zionists, and he claimed that the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was started by Jews.

The international focus today is on Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Tehran to Israel. That is too narrow a view.

It ignores the wider threat of Iranian-sponsored anti-Semitism to Jews everywhere. Iran’s bigotry has a global dimension. And that poses a moral challenge to the rest of the world.

We did not stop the greatest atrocity of the 20th century. What of the next?

President Obama has said that he “will always be there for Israel,” and Mitt Romney said much the same. What about the rest of the world?

Iran violates national sovereignty in order to kill Jews.

The fingerprints of Iran were found in attacks on Jews in Bulgaria, India, Thailand and Georgia. Contending that Iran’s threat is mainly to Israel is to ignore reality, unpleasant and challenging though it may be.

If we are to honor the pledge of “never again,” will we be up to preventing the potential genocide of the 21st century?

kingc@washpost.com