Dear President Lula

David Harris Blog: Dear President Lula

 


Dear President Lula
David Harris
Executive Director, AJC
May 4, 2009

Dear President Lula,

Why?

Why would such a respected world leader welcome an international outcast like Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Brasilia on May 6?

Why would you confer your considerable international legitimacy on such an individual - within weeks, no less, of a walkout by dozens of nations during Ahmadinejad's hate-filled speech in the halls of the UN in Geneva?

Why would your nation, which has admirably forsworn nuclear weapons, seek at this moment expanded ties with Iran, which indisputably aspires to nuclear weapons capability - and the means to deliver them?

Why would Brazil, an active and admired member of international organizations, conduct business as usual with Iran, which has ignored legally binding UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program and been criticized by the International Atomic Energy Agency for its failure to cooperate?

Why would peace-loving Brazil embrace a regime which has been a leading force for conflict and instability in the Middle East and beyond?

Why would Brazil host an Iranian leader who is establishing strategic beachheads in Latin America - from Venezuela to Nicaragua to Bolivia - that raise the specter of increased regional violence and terrorism?

Why would your nation, the second Western Hemisphere country to abolish capital punishment, pursue ties with a regime that has used the death penalty widely, including for minors? Iran executes children despite the fact that it is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which proscribe death sentences for crimes committed by those under the age of eighteen. Apropos, crimes punishable by death in Iran include, believe it or not, adultery and homosexuality.

Why would Brazil welcome the leader of a nation directly implicated in the murder of 85 people in the 1994 terrorist attack against neighboring Argentina, and which has steadfastly refused to turn over the five Iranian citizens wanted by Interpol for crimes against humanity?

Why would Brazil, home to one of the world's largest and most vibrant Baha'i communities, estimated at 55,000 members and scattered across the country, receive the leader of a regime that has relentlessly persecuted its own Baha'i community?

Why would Brazil, where many survivors of the Holocaust found a new start, open its doors to the world's leading Holocaust denier?

Why would Brazil, which has enjoyed longstanding bilateral relations with Israel, receive an Iranian leader who repeatedly calls for a world without Israel?

Why would Brazil, known the world over for its openness, pluralism, and spirit of mutual respect, and home to the second largest Jewish community in Latin America, find common cause with a regime that can only be described as the antithesis of these proud values?

Why would Brazil, a full-throttled democracy, want to deepen links with a regime that jails dissidents, independent journalists, and women's rights activists?

Why would you, President Lula, a former union leader in a country where trade unions are an integral part of the social fabric, sit down with the leader of a nation that hasn't been kind to those aspiring to your former job? As one who himself was imprisoned for union activities years ago, isn't your place alongside those in Iran seeking the same rights that you helped achieve in Brazil, and not with those who suppress their efforts?

Mr. President, Brazil today is an influential voice on the international scene. In that spirit, your country speaks often of the need for a new global order, one that takes more fully into account the aspirations of countries which had been marginalized in international decision-making to date. Such a view is understandable.

But shouldn't another and no-less-important factor also be taken into account?

Iran wishes to have it both ways.

It wants to be able to boast of its expanding ties with respected countries like Brazil and point to the welcome its leaders receive in key capitals. In doing so, it, too, claims to be building a new global order.

But, at its root, the global order Iran envisions contradicts the foundational beliefs and values of countries like Brazil.

Iran prizes despotism, not democracy; confrontation, not cooperation; repression, not rights; fundamentalism, not freedom; and medievalism, not modernity.

So, while both you and Ahmadinejad may say that you seek a new world order, aren't your visions totally at odds?

And aren't you unavoidably rewarding a regime and its leader whose behavior, in fact, merits ostracism?

Truth be told, a warm reception for Ahmadinejad in Brasilia makes the work of those seeking to persuade Iran of the need to change its dangerous course still more difficult.

For many friends of Brazil, then, May 6th is a painful date.

To think of Brazil hosting the Iranian president - an individual guilty of incitement to genocide, human rights violations, denial of the Holocaust, and support for deadly terrorism - for friendly discussions on expanding ties is, frankly, beyond comprehension.

What a sad day, President Lula!

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