Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants Jews to know he and his regime have nothing against them and they have no reason to fear him.
Speaking at the 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference in Teheran on Nov. 15, Khamenei told the audience that Jews do not need to be concerned about Iran’s threats to “wipe Israel off the map”:
“The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews]…. Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu… We are not anti-Semitic. Jews are living in utmost safety in our country. We only support the people of Palestine and their independence.”
That is very good to hear. However I do have a few questions and concerns for the Ayatollah:
If that is the case, why do Iranian military leaders constantly threaten to destroy Israel in a very violent way? For instance, why did Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), say in September that “Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel” and “bits and pieces of Tel Aviv” will end up in “the lower depths of the Mediterranean Sea.” And why did his boss, IRGC commander Major General Hossein Salami, say in the same month, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime…. This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal.”
Moreover, why do the groups that Iran supports, arms, trains and commands say things which make it very clear that they do have a problem with Jews. Why did Hamas leader Fathi Hamad say in July, “Oh, you seven million Palestinians abroad… There are Jews everywhere! We must attack every Jew on planet Earth – we must slaughter and kill them?” Why did Khader Habib, a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, say on Nov. 12 that unless the Jews of Israel leave, “you will have nothing but slaughter at the hands of the mujahideen. We will slaughter those who do not leave with our own hands?” And why did Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s most important proxy, say in 2003 that it would be a good thing if the world’s Jews “all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide?”
And if Iran’s only problem is with Israel and Zionism, not Jews, why does Iran openly promote Holocaust denial – sponsoring Holocaust denial conferences and cartoon competitions to mock the Holocaust? And why did you personally, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, mark Holocaust Memorial Day in 2016 by releasing a Holocaust denial video featuring famous deniers like David Irving, in which you said “No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust. It is not clear whether the core of this matter is a reality or not.”
And if the Jews of Iran are so safe and content, why are they leaving? Why were there around 80,000 Jews in Iran in 1979, when the Islamic revolution took place, around 40,000 in 1998, and probably fewer than 10,000 today? Don’t these Jews know how safe they are in Iran?
A UAE Breakthrough?
In another sign of growing ties between Israel and the conservative Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reportedly signalled that it will soon be allowing Israeli tourists travelling on Israeli passports to visit the country.
Israel will participate in the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, which will take place from Oct. 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021. This in itself is not necessarily a huge breakthrough because, as host, the UAE would be expected to let all countries participate and have indeed said they invite participation by “every country in the world without exception.” This includes Israel – with which the UAE still has no formal ties (though Israel does have a diplomatic presence in Dubai accredited to the International Renewable Energy Agency headquartered there).
The breakthrough is what UAE officials are saying about what will happen after the Expo. An unnamed UAE official associated with the Expo management told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that “[the] Expo could be a pilot during which Israeli tourists will be allowed to enter the country. But even after the exhibition closes, the UAE authorities will leave the gates of the country open to Israeli tourists.” This has reportedly been confirmed by a US source close to the UAE Government.
This latest opening comes in the wake of both considerable covert cultural and business interactions between Israel and the UAE, and some more overt signs of thawing relations – such as the open Israeli participation in sporting competitions in the UAE in recent years. Indeed, Israel’s national anthem “Hatikvah” was played in an Abu Dhabi arena for the second time on Nov. 16, after 17-year-old Israeli Alon Leviev took gold in the junior category at the Ju-jitsu World Championship there. The first time came last year when an Israeli won a Judo competition in Abu Dhabi.
While full diplomatic relations may not come in the immediate future, it is clear that long-standing taboos against contact with Israel or Israelis are disappearing fast in the Persian Gulf. Expect the trend to accelerate and spread to more states in coming years.