On September 30th, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that the destruction of Israel had become an “achievable goal” thanks to Iran’s advances in technology. Major General Hossein Salami was quoted by the Guards’ news site as saying “This sinister regime must be wiped off the map, and this is no longer a dream but an achievable goal.”
This statement is the latest in a series of statements from senior Iranian officials over a span of forty years centered on the destruction of Israel. The first came from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1980s who harbored a paranoia of a world run by Zionists. President Ahmadinejad referred back to this statement in 2005. In a Friday sermon on December 15, 2000, the Iranian supreme leader Khamanei declared: “Iran’s position, first expressed by the Iman (Khomeini) and reaffirmed several times, is that the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region.
Former President and Head of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that wiping Israel off the face of the earth was not unreasonable in 2000.
After Major Salami’s statement on September, the Jerusalem Post has presented to the German Canceller Angela Merkel’s government the question of whether or not the statement is antisemitic. The German foreign minister condemned the statement, in both German and English, in the strongest possible terms, labelled it as an anti-Israel statement and declared that Israel’s right to exist is non-negotiable. He urged Iran to maintain peaceful relations with all countries in the region. However, Germany has not taken the step of boycotting Iran. Instead, they maintain trading links with Iran, even in light of the recent US sanctions placed on the country known as the main sponsor of terrorism in the world. Merkel’s administration has declined to condemn the statement as antisemitic.
The question of whether “wiping Israel off the map” constitutes an anti-Israel or an antisemitic sentiment remains an unanswered and often-raised question. The Iranian regime uses cunning and doublespeak to imply the statement as being simply anti-Israel and thus deflects accusations of anti-Jewishness. The regime highlights the fact that Iran still has Jewish residents, one that is allowed to worship in synagogues and has considered one of the largest Jewish communities in the Middle East. Although, Before the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, the number of Jews in Iran was around 80,000. Now only 7000-9000 Jews live in Iran.
Israel is one of the few states in the world to have been founded on religion. This religious origin makes distinguishing between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attacks difficult.
Iranian antisemitism has traditionally had religious roots and was spread by the clerics, inherited from early Islam. Unlike European antisemitism, it does not explicitly call for the destruction of all Jews but operates in a more clandestine manner. Iranian anti-Semitism asks Jews to be low profile and live under control of Muslims, which is exactly what is happening in Iran right now.
The European type of anti -Semitism sees the Jews as a powerful elite who run the world, which is the exact rhetoric periodically employed by Ahmadinejad and other Iranian authorities. This type of antisemitism was imported from Nazi Germany, especially via the close co-operation of both states before and during the Second World War. Iranians, who had suffered bad blood with both Great Britain and Russia, sought the co-operation of the Germans in education and engineering projects. In return, the Nazis used a shortwave radio station called Radio Zeesen to spread their hateful propaganda. Since Iranians didn’t have any notion of race, the Nazi Germans tried to inject their type of ant- Semitism into the traditional religious anti-Semitism used by clerics. The radio channel was very popular in Iran during the war and prior to this the only antisemitism to be found in Iran was that which was spread periodically by clergies. Now with the help of the popular radio channel, the traditional Iranian anti-Semitism was connected to the Nazi conspiracy theories of Jews controlling the world. The conspiracy theory of Jews controlling the world, the banks and wielding ultimate power links both the Nazi regime and the present Iranian regime. According to the political scientist Mathias Kuntzel, interestingly, the founder of Islamic republic, a young Khomeini was a keen listener of Radio Zeesen and interested in its conspiracy theories. He used it to form his hatred of Jews and Zionism later on.
In modern Iran, there are two types of anti-Semitism, one for domestic use which is the old traditional, religious anti-Semitism that allows Jews to live in Iran and keep a low profile. The other type is the Nazi-like Anti-Semitism that is often expressed by the Iranian authorities, in relation with conspiracy theories of Jews running the world. The second type is the one that often talks about annihilation of the Jews and Israel. The antisemitism of the Iranian regime is primarily an export through their foreign policy and their statements regarding Israel. Iranian Jews also do not conform to the stereotype so often promoted by the regime of Jews running the world. Many thousands have fled since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, during which a number of Jewish business owners were executed, and consequently the remaining Jewish population has no power at all. They live quietly and completely under the power of the regime.
Following the end of the Second World War, many Jews emigrated to Israel to escape the hatred they had endured. Now, their descendants and in some cases even themselves are the focus of the Iranian regime’s fury and hate that speaks of the annihilation of the very state they fled to. It is important to address this hate to exactly what it is. An antisemitism, dressed as critic to state of Israel, expressed by the Iranian regime.