Friday, September 26, 2008

Next year on Jerusalem Day

Iran Early Bird

Iran marks Jerusalem Day with calls for the destruction of Israel and Zionism

Today (September 26) sees Iran and the rest of the Muslim world mark Jerusalem Day (Al-Quds Day), which, since 1979, has been celebrated in Iran every year on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, in keeping with a decision by then Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian government to mark all Muslims’ yearning for “the liberation of Jerusalem.” Khomeini’s doctrine remains the anchor that dictates, defines and shapes the present-day objectives of the revolution and the endeavor to achieve them, including those concerning Israel; and Jerusalem Day is marked with mass parades (in general, participants are recruited and transported to the parades by the regime and its mechanisms) at which senior Iranian leaders deliver rousing addresses complete with slogans denouncing Israel and Zionism (“the regime occupying Jerusalem”), calls for the destruction of Israel, and slurs against the United States (“Death to Israel.” “Death to America.”). To mark Jerusalem Day, Iran customarily issues new postal stamps bearing slogans in support of “the liberation of Palestine and the armed struggle.”ran also helps to organize rallies and demonstrations to mark Jerusalem Day among Shia communities in the Gulf States, particularly Bahrain, where a Shia majority is ruled by a Sunni minority, as well as Kuwait, Lebanon (fiery addresses by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the spirit of his patrons in Tehran) and other places. The past year has seen a rise in tension between the Shia and the countries in which they live on the backdrop of the Shias’ increased sense of confidence; this boosted confidence stems from the strengthening of Iran and also the liberation of the Shia in post-Saddam Iraq and the revival of the traditional Shia centers in Najaf and Karbala.

During the course of the week, a plethora of Iranian officials made statements on the significance of Jerusalem Day, calling for mass participation in the events scheduled to mark the day worldwide. The subject was also the focus of last Friday’s (September 19) prayer gatherings throughout Iran, and most prayer leaders referred to Jerusalem Day in their sermons, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who led the prayers in Tehran, declaring that “Palestine remains the central issue in the region,” and that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians “serves as proof of its weakness in the face of the daring of the Palestinian and Hezbollah fighters.”

Khamenei also commented on the affair of Deputy President Mashaeei, who spoke out recently in favor of ties with the Israeli people. Khamenei defined the deputy president’s statements as “mistaken,” adding that “the people of Israel are exploiting the lands of the Palestinians and serving as agents in the hands of the Zionists and the occupiers of Palestine.”

For his part, the prayer leader in Qom, the seat of the religious establishment, stressed that “the Zionist regime was established for the sole purpose of serving as a counterbalance to Islam,” warning that the governments of the West that support it “are trying to face up to Islam and the Muslims.”

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar called on all Muslims worldwide to participate in rallies and marches out of sense of religious-like duty, commenting that widespread participation is the best way “to demonstrate unity among all Muslims and their support for the innocent Palestinian nation.” According to Najar, “On this day, the Muslims demonstrate their rage against the crimes of the Zionist regime with the use of rousing slogans.” Najar added that this year, the rallies would be attended by millions of demonstrators from all walks of life, and the young generation in particular.


Khomeini’s doctrine (“the eradication of Zionism is essentially a prerequisite for the resolution of the problems currently facing Islam”) continues to guide the revolution’s second generation, almost like “a fixed constant” that cannot be deviated from, undermined or questioned, and must be constantly and actively pursued. This doctrine views the fight against Israel not as a standalone struggle, but instead as part of an ongoing campaign “of hundreds of years between Western arrogance, which planted the Zionist entity in the heart of the Muslim world, and the Islamic world.”

Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad’s vitriolic address to the UN General Assembly this week (September 23) clearly reflects Iran’s perception of Israel and the West that supports it:

“In Palestine, 60 years of carnage and invasion is still ongoing at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists. They have forged a regime through collecting people from various parts of the world and bringing them to other people’s land by displacing, detaining, and killing the true owners of that land... while some hegemonic and bullying powers support them. The Security Council cannot do anything and sometimes, under pressure from a few bullying powers, even paves the way for supporting these Zionist murderers. It is natural therefore that some UN resolutions that have addressed the plight of the Palestinian people have been relegated to the archives unnoticed.

“The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the United States in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner. It is deeply distressing to witness that some presidential or premier candidates in some big countries have to visit these people... This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and threats of the Zionist network against their will.

“Today, the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse, and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters.”

In many ways, Ahmadi-Nejad faithfully represents Khomeini’s doctrine, and, unlike his “moderate” predecessors, even takes the trouble to frequently repeat it. Speaking, for example, at the “World without Zionism” conference in October 2005, shortly after his election as president, Ahmadi-Nejad said that the Imam Khomeini had issued an order to “wipe the occupying regime off the map” and had “focused his war on the frontrunner among the enemies of Islam – the regime occupying Jerusalem.” According to Ahmadi-Nejad at the time, “the wave of awakening in Palestine and the Islamic world will eradicate this shameful stain of Zionism from the Islamic world.”

The spirit of the times

The harsh anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric of Ahmadi-Nejad and his followers are not the fruits of the Iranian president’s mind. They are, in fact, the re-hashing of the original revolutionary slogans, molded to suit the spirit of the times and tied both to the new geopolitical reality that is emerging in the region, in particular, and the world, in general, and also the fundamental overriding framework that guides Iran – hostility and suspicion towards the West (primarily the United States and Britain) and Israel (which they “planted” in the region).

Khomeini’s activist-oriented take on Shia Islam and the revolution it stirred among the Shia are enjoying revalidation; and for the current leaders of Iran (and particularly Ahmadi-Nejad with his messianic beliefs), Khomeini’s doctrine serves as the link between the country’s success on the national level (the nuclear program, the fall of Saddam and the Taliban, Hezbollah’s “victory” in Lebanon) and the religious dimension (the hand of the Mahdi), thus strengthening their internal belief and conviction in the righteousness of their path. The belief in Iran is that the realization of Khomeini’s “prophecies” on the fall of the Soviet Union and the toppling of Saddam means that his predictions regarding the destruction of Israel are destined to materialize too, and that the leaders of Iran have the power to make it happen.

An activist approach

As part of the complex array of Iranian activities designed to export the revolution and promote the revolutionary ambitions of the Islamic regime in Tehran, the negation of the State of Israel (“the Zionist regime,” “the regime that occupied al-Quds”) serves as an opportunity for Iran to demonstrate an activist approach with respect to the Palestinian problem, which, in itself, constitutes fertile ground for the implementation of the vision of the father of the revolution, Khomeini, in a pro-active manner. Iran actively aids (financing, training, weapons) Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their struggle against Israel; and by means of this aid and the harsh anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric, Tehran tries – with some success – to reach out to large audiences in the Arab and Muslim world that do not support the “weakness and passivity” of their leaders when it comes to dealing with the Palestinian issue. Jerusalem Day, towards the end of Ramadan, serves as a golden opportunity for Iran to demonstrate deeds and rhetoric. For Iran, the struggle against Israel essentially constitutes its only common denominator with the predominantly Sunni Arab world, allowing it to bridge to a certain extent religious-ethnic differences (Arab-Persian, Sunni-Shia) above the heads of the Arab leaders.

The “pretty wrapping” approach

When dealing with the West, Iran tries to present its radical ideological messages in “pretty wrapping” (although in this regard, too, there has been a shift, with the messages to the West today no less blunt than those intended for Arab ears). The so-called “Iranian peace plan” touted by various Iranian officials this week calls for a just and permanent solution to the Palestinian problem. By means of this solution, which effectively means stripping Israel of its Jewish character through the right of return, Iran seeks to present an enlightened image, calling under its peace plan for the return to Palestine of all Palestinian refugees and a referendum on the desired form of government. According to the Iranian plan, voters in the referendum will include “the true residents of Israel” – Muslims, Christian and Jews (aside from those who moved to Israel after 1948 and displaced the original residents), with the Palestinian government that emerges to “decide the fate of the Jews who arrived in Palestine over the past 50 years.”

This year’s Al Quds Day is not expected to bring any surprises. Calls for the destruction of Israel and “death to the United States” (and Britain perhaps too) will be heard throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and Iran will continue its march forward towards nuclear armament. On Jerusalem Day in 2005, Ahmadi-Nejad called on the Palestinians “to hang on wisely for a short while; and if we get through it successfully, the process of the destruction of the Zionist regime will be simple and quick.”

Next year on Jerusalem Day?

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