(January 22, 2020 / JNS) Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist’s terrorist, who was directly responsible for numerous acts of terrorism against the West and Israel and, more importantly, had the resources of a state at his disposal in his project to develop asymmetric warfare assets throughout the Middle East. He was quite successful in building up Hezbollah in Lebanon into what is arguably the first truly existential threat to the Jewish state since 1973. He was in the process of doing the same for Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Syria when U.S. President Donald Trump wisely put an end to his mischief.
But he had another goal, apart from weakening Iran’s rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel, getting control of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and forcing the United States out of the region. That was to target the Jewish people worldwide. In addition to attacking Israeli diplomats in several locations, Soleimani’s terrorists murdered Jews in Argentina, Bulgaria, Panama and Lebanon. Of course his prime Jewish target was Israel, and although his support for Hezbollah plus various Palestinian factions can be seen as part of Iran’s struggle to dominate the region, it can also be understood as part of an overall anti-Jewish project.
Israel, as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, well understands, is the locus of Jewish power in the world. Expressing this idea in 2018 with typical anti-Semitic imagery, he tweeted that Israel “is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.”
The supposedly moderate Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has used this metaphor, as did his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian officials have likened Israel to a dog, and their expressions of hostility toward Israel are far more vicious and “personal” than those directed at their other regional adversaries. The regime regularly holds Holocaust cartoon contests despite the fact that Western countries, even those relatively hostile to Israel, find this kind of anti-Semitism offensive, damaging the image of a modern, progressive nation Iran wants to project.
This is an anti-Semitic regime, and inviting and subsidizing visits from members of the anti-Zionist Jewish Neturei Karta faction—representatives of which attended Soleimani’s funeral—can’t wash it away.
In Lucy S. Dawidowicz’s The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, one of the theses is that Hitler’s ravings against the Jews were more than, in Irving Howe’s words, “mere bait for the masses,” but rather “the Nazis’ deepest, most ‘authentic’ persuasion.” The murder of millions of Jews was not an epiphenomenon of Hitler’s expansionist aggression, but rather one of his main war objectives.
It seems to me that the hostile expression of the Iranian revolutionary regime toward Israel is like that. In this case it draws its hatred from the well of Islamic doctrine rather than the combination of crackpot economic and racial theories that fueled Hitler’s, but it is still significantly more than just propaganda to support practical geopolitical ambitions. As with Hitler, the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is not an epiphenomenon; it is the “authentic persuasion” of Khameini (and of Soleimani, too, until Trump’s Hellfire missiles came along).
It’s instructive to note that the Quds Force commanded by Soleimani, which is responsible for covert operations and unconventional warfare (read: terrorism) throughout the world, is named after al Quds, Jerusalem. It’s an obsession with them.
The statements of the Jew-haters in Iran are more honest and straightforward than those of the Palestinian Authority or the still more disingenuous BDS Movement. Ahmadinejad famously threatened that Israel “would be erased from the map,” not that Israel would be forced to “end the occupation.” It’s often said that one of the most important lessons of the Holocaust was that when Jew-haters make threats, it’s foolhardy to ignore them. Therefore we must not ignore the nuclear threats of the Iranian regime.
You may notice that I say “the regime” and not “Iran.” This is because while the regime in Tehran pumps out anti-Jewish propaganda daily, the Iranian people are arguably the least anti-Semitic in the Middle East. So says the ADL’s Global 100 poll, which found that “only” 60 percent of Iranians showed anti-Semitic attitudes or beliefs. This compares to 93 percent for our Palestinian peace partners, 74 percent for the Middle East and North Africa as a whole, 19 percent for countries in the Americas, and a worldwide average of 26 percent.
Iranians are far less anti-Semitic than Jordanians (81 percent) and Egyptians (75 percent), with whom we are supposedly at peace. Yes, 60 percent is a high number, but given the conflict and the regime’s propaganda, it is surprisingly low.
Iran was a highly developed country before the 1979 popular revolution, with a relatively well-educated and liberal population. The government of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was an absolute monarchy (shah means “emperor”) in which dissent was harshly suppressed; but when it was overthrown by a popular revolution, many commentators—and probably many Iranians—were surprised to see it replaced by an Islamic regime that was no less harsh. The shah had been a relatively enlightened king, a modernizer who improved the economy and introduced women’s suffrage. The new regime quickly established clerical rule and decreed mandatory hijab for women.
Today the Islamic regime is in trouble, its economy devastated by sanctions, and popular anger has risen against the choice of the regime to spend large amounts of money to develop militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, fight a hot proxy war against Saudi Arabia and a warm one against Israel and develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Although the regime has been successful in getting Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis and others (Palestinians, too) to die for it in its military adventures, it has to arm and pay them.
Probably a majority of the money it is spending on military programs goes for its strategic encirclement of Israel and the provision of arms with which to try to neutralize Israel’s great military advantage. It’s probably reasonable to count a large part of the expensive nuclear and missile programs as Israel-related as well. So if it should happen that the Iranian people overthrow the Islamic regime, it will be in part because of the regime’s irrational anti-Jewish obsession (and in part because of the actions of Donald Trump).
And this brings up an interesting parallel. Some historians think that Hitler’s obsessive desire to kill all Jews led to his irrational and disastrous decision to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. Others point out that the diversion of resources to murdering Jews greatly damaged his war effort and even led to his defeat on the critical Eastern Front.
It would be particularly ironic if the most dangerous and destabilizing force in the world today—the primary source of the unending misery of the Middle East—were to founder, like Hitler, because of its obsessive Jew-hatred.
Victor Rosenthal was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., lived on a kibbutz through the 1980s and returned home to Israel in 2014 after 26 years in California. He writes at the Abu Yehuda blog.
This article first appeared on AbuYehuda.com.
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