Arab governments appeared reluctant Thursday to condemn Iran’s president for calling the Holocaust a “myth” used by Europeans to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world.
While official Arab reaction in such cases is usually slower than international reaction, any issue involving a defense of Israel is a thorny one for Arab governments, who risk appearing to side with Israel against a Muslim nation.
The comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, broadcast live Wednesday on state-run Iranian television, drew quick condemnation from Israel, the European Union and the United States.
However, in the United Arab Emirates, the top three Arabic-language newspapers buried the remarks deep in their Thursday editions, with no commentary. Newspapers in the country are government-controlled.
In neighboring Saudi Arabia, government-controlled newspapers picked up the statements from international news agencies and ran them on inside pages. They did not comment on them.
Arabic language newspapers circulated widely in the Arab world, such as the London-based Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat, carried the news on their front pages, but also without editorials.
A few years ago, under the leadership of former president Mohammad Khatami, Iran made strides to repair and strengthen ties with its Arab neighbors. But Ahmadinejad’s ultraconservative positions and rhetoric dating to the 1979 Islamic revolution has again made Arab states view Iran with caution.
Still, Arab governments are loath to appear to support Israel against Iran, especially at a time when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq remain unresolved.
Yes, we couldn’t have that…