Ahmadinejad, Israel, and Mass Killings

[Middle East Strategy at Harvard] Ze'ev Maghen - Ahmadinejad's recent words reducing Israel and its people to the status of a disease should serve as a wake-up call, but this is not a particularly noteworthy rhetorical escalation. Iranian leaders and Islamists in general have been speaking this way about Israel for a long time: Khomeini himself was particularly volatile and vulgar on the subject, and many of the "reformists" who still claim to follow his "line" are not so easily outdone in this area themselves. The premier difference between previous governments and the present one in this connection is not one of intent or aspiration, but one of perceived ability to prevail. A variety of regional developments have contributed to the genuinely held outlook among members of Ahmadinejad's administration that Israel has deteriorated from a potent nemesis to a "hollow tree" that the "combined breath of the world's fasting Muslims [during Ramadan] can easily topple." Few motifs have been as ubiquitous in the media of the Islamic Republic over the last several years than what is described as the implosion of the "Zionist entity": every ill plaguing Israeli society, including (believe it or not) the decline in Sabbath observance, is reported with relish as an indication of the increasing demoralization of the eternal foe. If Iranian words lead to Iranian actions in the near future where they did not do so in the past, it is a result of the expanding belief among Iranian leaders that they can threaten Israel and chip away at its security with relative impunity. This perception must be changed by transforming the reality that led to it - by restoring to full throttle Israel's deterrent power. This, in turn, will bring about a softening of the rhetoric, which is a reflection of the reality and not vice versa. Most Iranians have imbibed throughout their lives the notion - the "absolute truth" - that Zionism is a source of profound evil. When the time is ripe - and it will be soon - the decades of propaganda pounded into the brains of Iranians and other Muslims will be reactivated in order to create an atmosphere conducive to the eradication of an entire population. Here in Tel Aviv, we haven't slept well for a while now. The writer is lecturer in Persian language and chair of the department of Middle Eastern history at Bar-Ilan University.

2008-02-22 01:00:00

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