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The Elephant in the Room

Andreas Benl, 21, Nov. 2012

Gaza and the challenge of the Iranian regime


We still do not know all details about the newest military clash between Hamas and Israel. But it is already clear that without Iranian weapons a similar escalation would not have been possible. Yet the hand of the Iranian regime is hardly analyzed in the reports of Western media. Some even claim that the role of the Islamic Republic can't be so important in the actual Gaza conflict since Hamas has positioned itself on the anti-Assad side in the Syrian civil war.

It is true that the dictatorship in Teheran and its proxy Hezbollah saw a dramatic loss of prestige and credibility in the last year due to their massive support to the genocide perpetrated by the Syrian regime. The civil war in Syria has been a dramatic political "accident" for the Iranian Islamists. Until the uprising against their ally Assad, they were able to paint every protest against their enemies - the pro-Western autocrats in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere - as an "Islamic Awakening". But the slaughtering in Syria pulled the revolutionary, "freedom-loving" mask off the Iranian regime. Suddenly, it was impossible for the Mullahs to hide behind popular protest in the Arab world. It became clear that their pan-Islamic solidarity was only meant to expand their influence in the Middle East.

But the alliance between different Islamist factions in the Middle East has never been based on theological grounds. Al Qaeda is responsible for the killing of thousands of Shiites in Iraq. But that has never been a cause for the Iranian regime to stop its logistical support for Sunni Jihadists - as long as they were fighting the common enemies USA and Israel

In fact, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have always been the main tools for the Mullahs to expand their influence in the Middle East and globally. Concerning this matter, the regime has always been very flexible ideologically: besides its Sunni Islamist rivals, it has hosted left-wing anti-imperialists, anti-Zionist Rabbis and Neo-Nazis on its conferences against Israel. That's how the Islamic Republic has positioned itself on top of the anti-Semitic International. This regime is the only one which has the will to invest all its national resources and international alliances in the fight against Israel without any hesitance or compromise and to terrorize all opponents of this policy.

Anti-Israeli agitation has been the common denominator of all reactionaries in the Middle East for more than six decades. If people want to find a better life in this region, they first must question this tragic history - in their own interest.

Israel and Iran are the two ends of this political and ideological constellation. And on both sides, it is not easy to accept this condition: 

Anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism brought together Leftists and Islamists in the revolution of 1979 in Iran. For a long time, it has been a taboo for secular opponents of the Islamic tyrants to mention this convergence, which was an important ideological playground for the Islamists to establish their dictatorship. But the spell was broken at the "Al Quds" day during the uprising of the Iranian freedom movement in 2009, when people massively countered the anti-Israeli rallying cries from the regime loudspeakers with their own slogans against the Islamic Republic and its supporters. This does not mean that there is consensus among the enemies of the Iranian regime regarding Israel and the assessment of anti-Zionism. But the debate about the anti-Israeli roots of the regime has become more intense these days and that is certainly good news.

For Israel and the global pro-Israeli community, the conflict with Israel's Arab neighbors has been the most important experience for decades. But the creation of the Islamic Republic changed the game. Suddenly a regime which did not share at all the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict entered the scene and tried to dominate it on purely ideological grounds. Ironically, this ideological character of the conflict has been understood by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who as a statesman by definition should be dealing with states rather than with political movements. Nonetheless, he has constantly made a difference between the Iranian regime and the secular Iranian opposition. But his insights are not common sense. On the one hand, the fundamental conflict between the Islamist regime and its opponents has enough covering neither in Israeli nor in other Western media. On the other hand grassroots initiatives like the Facebook campaign "Israel loves Iran" do not clarify which side they are on in the asymmetric war the Islamic Republic started in 1979 against its opponents in Iran and which is getting crueler every day.

On both sides, three basic attitudes can be observed: Denial - silence and ignorance - and reflection.

The Iranian denial faction consists mainly of so-called reformist Islamists and old-school leftists who already have garnered the defeats their homologues might witness in Arab countries in the future. 33 years of Islamist dictatorship have proven that there is no such thing as a democratic Islamism. Nor is there any possibility to topple the regime, if some of its basic principles are shared by its opponents.

Then there are parts of the opposition which are serious in attacking the foundations of the regime but still remain defenseless against the regime-propaganda when it comes to Israel.

The vanguards in the assault on the ideological bases of the regime are without doubt the ones who do not fear to question all of its sanctuaries - including anti-Zionism.

On the other side, not long ago, many friends of Israel thought it would be a good idea to focus on the threat the regime poses to the West and see solidarity with the Iranian opposition only as a tactical issue. This attitude has changed, but still the temptation persists on both the Israeli "peace" and the "hawk" camp to describe Iran as a monolithic society instead of perceiving the antagonism which divides this country. This negligence of the politico-ideological character of the anti-Israeli policies of the Islamic Republic may lead to ignore the crucial role it has played in the sabotage of all initiatives for peace in the Middle East in the last decades. 

It seems to be easier to talk about a seemingly eternal conflict between Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians. Saul Singer, former editorial page editor of the Jerusalem Post has opposed this view by pointing to the possible consequences of an end of the Mullah's reign of terror: "The collapse of the Iranian regime would open the greatest opportunities ever for ending not just the 'current round' but the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole."

It is not about proclaiming total harmony between the interests of Israelis and Iranians. But the Iranian regime has always closely linked together its fight against the Iranian opposition, human rights and secularism and its war against Israel.

The question is if the Israeli and Iranian enemies of the IRI can face this challenge and reach some kind of mutual understanding. It should not be that difficult.

Let me add my personal perspective: This conflict is not confined to the Middle East. It is mirrored by the disgusting anti-Israeli resentment and the sinister silence about the heinous atrocities of the Islamic regime in the West and in the German society where I am living. Appeasement towards the regime in Tehran and its proxies has bitter consequences for the Western societies which practice it. Parts of the population which are identified as Muslims have been segregated in several European societies. Not by "Islamophobia", as Islamists and cultural relativists claim, but by governments accepting self appointed Islamist community leaders (which have never been elected by their supposed Muslim followers) as intermediaries. Equal rights for all are challenged by the introduction of elements of Sharia family law. And freedom of speech is threatened in the name of religious tolerance. 

Everyone who opts for true progress should raise his voice against the unholy alliance between so-called progressives and religious fascists. The real racists are the ones who turn a blind eye to the crimes of Islamists in general and the Iranian regime in particular in the name of a false understanding for alleged cultural differences. I have a personal interest that this shameful alliance comes to an end.

Anti-Semitism and cultural relativism won't disappear on the day the Islamic Republic falls - but the end of the Mullah's regime will be a decisive blow to these two sides of a barbaric mindset.

The author is founding member of the German chapter of the European coalition Stop the Bomb.