THE TALMUD, the canon of Jewish religious law, “teaches them (the Jews) how to destroy non-Jews” and Zionists “incite the global drug trade and addiction in a bid to annihilate non-Jewish communities”. These declarations, by the Vice-President of Iran, Mohammed-Reza Rahimi, shocked participants at an international anti-drug conference in Tehran in June.
Those, on the other hand, who carefully watch the rhetoric and behaviour of the Iranian leadership were not surprised. Anti-Semitism is deeply embedded in the elite of this Islamic state, so deeply as to be part of the state’s raison d’etre. The regime propagates and exports Jew-hatred using the state-run media, websites, films and international fora. In a state-sponsored movie, an Orthodox-looking Jewish rabbi teaches his grandson to kill Palestinians; in a TV series, fiendish Israeli doctors steal their eyes. At the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2005, classic texts of anti-Semitism, including the long-discredited hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purporting to show a Jewish scheme for world domination, were on display at the Iranian stand.
Since the collapse of the communist bloc, Iran is the only state to make anti-Semitism official policy, based on the theological legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini, the ideological ‘father’ of the 1978 revolution, who belonged to a strand of Shia Islam that considers all infidels, especially Jews, to be impure and unclean. The regime co-operates with groups in Europe on both the radical right and radical left that promote Jew-hatred, and the favours are returned: the Hungarian far-right Jobbik party recently demonstrated in protest against the US-led sanctions on Iran. The ideology can take on a violent dimension, as when, in 1994, the regime’s agents bombed the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, killing dozens of people.
An integral part of this anti-Semitism is the official policy of denying the Holocaust. It was the theme of a major conference in Tehran in 2006 and a follow-up exhibition there in 2007. It permeates the statements of Iran’s political leaders, army generals, clerics and ambassadors. In July 2011, its ambassador to Uruguay Hojatollaji Soltani mused thus in Montevideo: “maybe a few thousand died… but 2 million, 3 million, 6 million? This is a lie.”
What is the rationale for this seemingly insane denial of an event for which the empirical evidence is overwhelming? In the twisted logic of the leadership, the establishment of the state of Israel is seen as the outcome of the guilt feelings produced among Europeans by the Holocaust. Deny that it ever happened and you remove simultaneously the reason for the ‘guilt’ and the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. This is further developed by turning the charge of genocide against the Jews, demonizing them as the agents of a ‘holocaust’ against the Palestinians. Moreover, the virulence of Iran’s anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in leading the campaign against the Jewish state enhances the regime’s authority in the Muslim world.
“Demonisation and de-legitimisation”
Anti-Semitism/Holocaust denial are but one component of a three-part strategy, providing ideological support for the other two – (i) the development of a military nuclear capacity and (ii) the promotion of terrorism by its proxies, Hizbullah (currently with 60,000 rockets targeted on Israel) and Hamas, both committed to Israel’s destruction. As in 1930s Europe, demonisation and de-legitimisation are the precursors of the (intended) annihilation.
It is part of officially declared Iranian policy to eliminate Israel. The 2005 declaration by President Ahmadinejad that Israel must be “wiped off the map” was downplayed by those in the West who prefer to turn away from unpleasant realities. However, the same threat has since been repeated often. Only last December, Ahmadinejad declared that “all the problems in the world” are caused by US power and the existence of Israel.
Nor can such threats be disregarded as the ravings of an isolated madman. The Supreme Ruler, Ali Khamenei, echoing Ayatollah Khomeini, this year called Israel “a cancerous tumour [that] will be removed”. Other leaders have echoed him. Long before the 1978 revolution, Khomeini had condemned the founding of Israel as a conspiracy against Islam and called the land of Palestine an Islamic Waqf (trust) in which an infidel state can never be allowed to exist (the same principle as laid down in the Hamas Charter).
Iran’s regime is dangerous, not only to Israel, but to Iran’s neighbours in the Arab Gulf and even more to its own people, who, since the rigged 2009 elections, have suffered a further loss of their civil rights along with the world’s highest per capita execution rate.
What can be done in the face of such a serious threat to peace? Citizens of democratic and free nations need to educate themselves about the dangers arising from the Iranian regime’s activities and demand that their leaders expose and reject them. In particular, its declarations of intent to eliminate Israel must be roundly condemned.
Only one country in the world calls for the annihilation of a fellow member state of the UN. Unfortunately, only some have yet condemned it for doing so.
Boaz Modai is Israel’s ambassador to Ireland.