Ever since 2013, when Hassan Rouhani became the President of Iran and Javad Zarif became Foreign Minister, there has been a myth that is prevalent among many western analysts that these two men represent the new moderate face of Iran. After all, Rouhani’s predecessor was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was notorious for his blatant and crude denial of the Nazi Holocaust. Yet, the facts don’t support this perception of moderation, especially on the issue of regime anti-Semitism.
In a January 8th hearing of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Elan Carr, the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism was asked about Iran. He said, “Iran is not only the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it is the world’s chief trafficker in anti-Semitism”.
Since Hassan Rouhani became President in 2013, the regime continues to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and sponsors Holocaust cartoon contests. Even in the midst of the Coronavirus that has decimated its population, Iran’s Ministry of Health found time to sponsor a cartoon contest that included many anti-Semitic cartoons.
On April 13th, Sharon Nazarian, the Senior Vice president for International Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), wrote on Twitter, “At a time when it should be focused on saving lives, #Iran’s health ministry sponsored a cartoon contest on #COVID19. As you could imagine, some of the submissions we found were horrifically and sadly unsurprisingly anti-Semitic”.
Beyond cartoon contests, there is no doubt that threats to commit genocide against the world’s only Jewish state are the most extreme form of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, many Western analysts routinely underestimate the serious nature of these threats by Iranian leaders.
In 2018, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria hosted Elliott Abrams, former Undersecretary of Defense, on his Sunday morning talk show, The Global Public Square. In a discussion about Iran, Abrams pointed out, “Their hatred of Israel does seems to be irrational.” Zakaria instinctively responded, “I would argue that’s actually a clever public relations ploy of trying to win some Arab mass support. They don’t do very much about it”.
The facts do not support that claim.
Just last September, Major General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) threatened Israel’s destruction saying, “This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream but it is an achievable goal”.
This was not just an empty threat. Iran’s loyal proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon is the perfect example of the serious nature of Iran’s intentions.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah routinely threatens the destruction of Israel. In a speech in 2018 he said, “We do not want to destroy or kill or throw anyone into the sea. Get on your planes and boats and go back to the countries you came from… The day of the great war is coming”.
To achieve this goal, Iran provides Hezbollah with the means to wage war on Israel through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Since the 2nd Lebanon War in 2006, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with more than 130,000 rockets and missiles. Over the past several years, Iran has been working to upgrade the accuracy and range of this vast arsenal in what Israeli military leaders call the Precision Missile Project.
If that’s not enough, in January 2019 the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) revealed that it detected six Hezbollah terror tunnels dug under the Lebanese border with Israel. In a briefing to the recent AIPAC Policy Conference, IDF spokesman Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus explained the purpose of the plan. He said, the goal was to provide “…underground paths for hundreds of elite terrorists from Lebanon to get inside Israel with the aim of killing Israeli civilians and abducting our soldiers”.
Then there are Iran’s ongoing efforts in Syria. Over the past several years, Iran has been working to build a vast military infrastructure in Syria to create a platform to launch a future war against Israel together with Hezbollah in Lebanon. As Major General Amos Yadlin (ret.) former chief of Israeli military intelligence said, “The next war won’t be the 3rd Lebanon war. It will be the first northern war”. Israel has been pushing back against this effort with hundreds of air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
When the dots of this threat matrix are connected, all of these developments have created a very dangerous situation.
The lethal combination of Iran’s regime anti-Semitism, its support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons, must not be dismissed. That is why the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) provides detailed resources on Iran’s threats to Israel on its website.
The lessons of history should be a clear guide when it comes to Iran.
In 2016, on the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials, Professor Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former Minister of Justice wrote, “The Holocaust succeeded not only because of the industry of death — of which the crematoria are a cruel reminder — but because of the Nazis’ state-sanctioned ideology of hate. It is this teaching of contempt, this demonizing of the other, this is where it all begins”.
Since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, Iranian leaders have been obsessed with demonizing Jews, demonizing Israel, and denying the Holocaust. That is why we must take seriously Iran’s threats to the existence of the Jewish state of Israel, work to end Iran’s support for terrorism and ensure that it never acquires nuclear weapons.