Iranian President Kicks Up World Cup Storm

By Forward Staff and JTA

Published June 16, 2006, issue of June 16, 2006.
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For months some Jewish organizations and communal leaders in America and Europe have been protesting the prospect of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attending the World Cup in Germany.

The argument is that Germany is no place for a leader who denies the Holocaust and calls for Israel’s disappearance. Ahmadinejad doesn’t necessarily agree.

Iran has been sending mixed signals about the president’s plans, with the latest word being that he would show up if his country’s team makes it out of the qualifying round (unlikely after being drubbed 2-0 by Mexico).

German politicians and leaders of the country’s Jewish community felt no need to wait for Ahmadinejad to make up his mind. They joined about 1,000 people at a rally in the city of Nuremberg before the game against Mexico to protest his Holocaust comments.

German Jewish leaders — including the newly elected president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany — are suggesting that the Iranian president should not enjoy traditional diplomatic immunity should he decide to come to Germany, where denying the Holocaust is a crime.

However much the Shmooze sympathizes with the anti-Ahmadinejad fever, we wonder if all the efforts to keep him away from the world’s most popular sporting event are misguided.

Ever since Ahmadinejad’s election last year, America and its Western allies have been struggling to settle on a clear strategy for dealing with the confrontational leader, especially as he seems bent on a showdown over Tehran’s nuclear program and establishing himself as the leader of the Muslim world.

As it turns out, according to the translation service Memri, a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia recently warned that watching soccer could be hazardous to your metaphysical health. Instead of protesting, maybe Jewish groups should be getting the Iranian leader front-row tickets to all the games.

But enough about Ahmadinejad.

David Beckham, probably the greatest Jewish soccer player ever, was responsible for the lone goal in England’s 1-0 victory over Paraguay on June 10.

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