Iranian army's special forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013
© AFP
Iranian army's special forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013
Last updated: March 25, 2014
Mr. Ziabari – the complaints come from Arabs, fellow Muslims, not “Zionists”

“They burn Iranian and Hezbollah flags in Syria and Lebanon, not Israeli flags”

Banner Icon On March 24, Your Middle East published an op-ed by Iranian journalist Khourosh Ziabari, blaming Israel for stirring animosity between Iran and the West. Today, Israeli professor Josef Olmert replies to that article. Share your views too in the comment field below!

Kourosh Ziabari is a respected Iranian journalist, so when he refers to the nuclear standoff with Iran as a ''manufactured'' crisis by the ''little Satan'' Israel he surely deserves an answer, and one which should be in the tradition of Your Middle East, that of free, honest debate, but still one which pulls no punches, politely, but firmly so.

This piece by Ziabari is a significant contribution to any discussion about Iran and its Middle East policies, particularly the rhetoric used against ''the Tel Aviv regime'' (typically, Ziabari claims fairness and honesty and expects the same towards him, but he cannot bring himself to call Israel by its name...interesting!).

Throughout the long and well-written piece, Ziabari mentions nothing about Iran's policy towards Israel. No word about the huge volume of statements by each and every President of the Islamic Republic against Israel and its very existence, starting with Banisadr, all the way to President Rouhani, let alone the statements of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

"This piece by Ziabari is a significant contribution to any discussion about Iran"Iranian Presidents have differed from one another on various issues, except one, that of the unmitigated, rabid hatred of Israel. Iran has no part in the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as it has no border with Israel, it is not an Arab nation, and traditionally, Jews and Persians got along very well. But then, this is the Islamic Republic and the hatred to Israel is grounded in their Islamic beliefs as they understand them, though certainly not shared by all Muslims in the world.

So, Ziabari devotes not one word to that, nor to statements like ''Israel is a cancer'', ''the Zionists are vermin'', and ''Israel should be removed off the map of the world''. No word about President Ahmadinejad, no word about Holocaust denial and a conference organized by the government in Tehran, in which K.K.K leader David Duke was a welcome guest.  No word about all that, so the uninformed reader can really believe that there is a ''manufactured'' crisis, a ''Zionist plot'' against the peace-loving Islamic Republic. Really Khourosh Ziabari? Is that ''manufactured'' to relate to all this, when you are in Jerusalem, and simply accepting Iranian statements and actions at face value? Simply believing the rulers of the Islamic Republic? Does Mr. Ziabari suggest that Israel should not believe his leaders, does he suggest that the leaders are liars? Well, I and many others DO believe them.

I do believe them ALSO because I see what the peace-loving Islamic Republic is doing all over the Middle East, and how its unjustified interference in Syria, for example, is causing such a huge slaughter of Muslims by other Muslims. They burn Iranian and Hezbollah flags in Syria and Lebanon, not Israeli flags.

I can quote here Maged Mandour, an Egyptian scholar, writing in Open Democracy on 16 January 2014, that ''Iran has lost the sympathy of a large mass of Sunni Arabs who now see it as a Persian Shiite state, supporting the Shiites in a sectarian war.'' Indeed, this is what it is, a merchant of death and terrorism all over the Middle East, in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the Sinai desert. So much so, that Sahar Zubairy wrote on October 2009: ''Got a Shia Rebellion? Solution: Blame Iran''. And why not? Blame Iran because this is the nature of a rouge state, to interfere violently in neighboring countries, and the complaints come from Arabs, fellow Muslims, not from'' Zionists''.

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So, I really have to apologize for interfering in the Sushi war (Sunnis-Shiite) in the Middle East, which is, to a large extent, the product of Iranian policy. But if the Iranians do it to their Muslim brothers outside of Iran, as well as doing it to religious and other minorities inside Iran (gays, for example...remember President Ahmadinejad’s “Iran have no gay people”...), why won't I believe that they mean business about Israel as well? And all this is absent from the article of my esteemed colleague, Kourosh Ziabari.

It is definitely not serious to ignore, as Mr. Ziabari did, the fact that Israel's concerns about the Iranian nuclear program are shared by many Arab countries, not least among them Saudi Arabia. Are they also in the ''Zionist'' pocket?

Saudi Arabia's veteran Foreign Minister, Saud Al Faysal, warned on 25 May 2013 against the danger of Iran's nuclear program to the region's security and said that Iran should not threaten its neighbors. Another Saudi Prince, Al Waleed Bin Talal, NO friend of Israel and the Jews (he is the Prince whose 10 million donation to New York City after 9/11 was rebuffed by then Mayor Giuliani because of the Prince's outrageous statements), told Jeffrey Goldberg, on 22 November 2013, in Bloomberg TV, that ''publicly'', Arab states will condemn an Israeli strike against the Iranian nuclear program, but ''privately, they would love it''.

So, what is NOT in the article is enough to render it irrelevant, but what about what de facto IS there?

"Israel's concerns about the Iranian nuclear program are shared by many Arab countries"Mr. Ziabari relies heavily on the historian Gareth Porter, an historian who wrote a book denying the Genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's. Well, he may be in that case the right person to ignore genocides, and for him threatening to ''wipe Israel off the map'' may not be considered a threat of genocide, but not so to the Israelis and many others.

Ziabari is right though that Israel wants to prevent a nuclear Iran, exactly for all the above reasons. He is wrong when he thinks that this is ONLY Israel which has this in mind, and consequently he misses the main point about the Iran talks with the 5+1 group, which seeks to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear, exactly in line with Israel's demands for the international community.

Yes, there are differences of tactics and style between Israel and the group negotiating with Iran, but some sophistication and subtlety are required here; Yes, the Israelis overplay the level of these differences as part of a well-known diplomatic tactic – raise your voice and with it raise the stakes…somewhat manufactured, but effective. Already now there is a majority in the American Congress against lifting the sanctions against Iran in their entirety, and after the mid-term elections, this majority is likely to increase, so much so that even a presidential veto will not work. Other countries also express similar views, and they are waiting for convincing, VERIFIABLE evidence that the nuclear program is off. And verification is the name of the game, and in its absence, no final deal will be struck with Iran.

That said, I personally hope that the crisis can and will be resolved peacefully, and I give it a good chance.

I also hope that Iran will abandon its current role as the spreader of mayhem, destruction and death in Syria, and will return to an agenda of looking after the problems of the Iranian people. In that case, Israel could be of help, and if Mr. Ziabari does not believe me, he is advised to go to Kazwin province in Iran, and some elders there will tell him one or two things about how good it was to be assisted by Israeli experts.

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