Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, recently took to Twitter and compared the creation of the State of Israel to the COVID-19 virus. He wrote: Some argue that the Zionist regime is a reality that the region must come to terms with. Today the #Covid_19 is a reality; should it be accepted or fought?! The long-lasting virus of Zionism will be uprooted thanks to the determination and faith of the youth. #Covid1948.
Although Mr. Khamenei is not a doctor, I would agree with his diagnosis, but not his prognosis. I agree with Mr. Khamenei that Israel may be a virus, but not the type he is referring to. In medicine, there are many types of bacteria and viruses—some of which are bad for us, like COVID-19, and some good for us. Bacteriophages (or “phages”), for instance, are viruses that infect and destroy specific bacteria. Mr. Khamenei can thank these therapeutic phages for treating his streptococcus and other bacterial pathogens.
To determine whether Israel is a harmful virus, as Mr. Khamenei suggests, let’s take a look at what Israel has contributed to the world, and compare Israel and Iran in a few key metrics of a healthy society to see which country is the harmful virus that needs to be eradicated and which is the good virus helping the world become a better place.
To start, Israel has invented Azilect to treat Parkinson’s and Copaxone to treat multiple scleroses. I am sure that Mr. Khamenei would be delighted to know that his USB and the first VoIP were developed in Israel, too. Not to mention drip irrigation, Waze, Wix and many more medical devices and discoveries. I think it’s safe to say that Israel has been saving lives of many people around the world thanks to these inventions.
When Ali Khamenei became president of Iran (1981-89), the country’s GDP per capita (current USD) was ranked 55th in the world. Under his presidency, Iran’s ranking dropped to 72nd place. How did Israel perform between those years? They were stagnant at 35th place.
In 1989, Khamenei became the Supreme Leader of his country. While Israel’s ranking has risen from 1989 to 2017 (the last year the World Bank has data on Iran) from 35th place to 25th, Iran continued dropping to 107th place worldwide.
When looking at other metrics, such as the ranking of happiness and life expectancy, it seems that Israel has a healthy society—certainly healthier than Iran’s. Out of the 153 countries that were examined, Israel is positioned in 14th place, Iran is listed as 118. Similarly, the UNDP ranked Israel’s life expectancy at 19th place, ahead of Iran in 75th.
I would therefore suggest that Mr. Khamenei stop tweeting from his cell phone, which most likely has a chip, technology or cyber-security system that was developed in Israel, and start working on fixing his society. He can start by abandoning his nuclear program, defunding terrorist activities that destabilize the region and adopting some human rights, an invention which happens to be rooted in ancient Persia by Cyrus the Great, but were clearly forgotten under Mr. Khamenei’s leadership.
Benjamin Weil is director of the Project for Israel’s National Security for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C. He formerly served as the international adviser to Yuval Steinitz, a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet.
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