The Story Behind Netanyahu’s Video Messages To Iranians

It has been a few years since the Israeli prime minister chose to “speak directly” to Iranians. From speaking to BBC Persia in 2013 on how he wants the Iranian youth to wear jeans – which led to a mockery of his words on Twitter by Iranians – to his recent messages on how Iranians are manipulated by their government because, says Netanyahu, they are poor and troubled when they are in Iran but become rich and successful when they leave.

This seems to have become a strategy for Netanyahu: to bolster an Iranian identity and sell it as distinct from the government in order to weaken the current establishment, pretending that this is for the betterment of Iranians themselves. He apparently thinks it is working, since the videos keep being created. In them, he relentlessly seeks the attention of the Iranian people. He even seems to sacrifice his downtime in the plenum to read about Iran.

Essentially the message of these videos are: “You Iranians are good; you have an ancient civilization; you were better, you can be better, you deserve better.” One has to admit that this is a smart method of persuasion; Iranians historically resist their governments (an often well-intentioned resistance which can, however, be on idealistic and unrealistic grounds). Additionally, life in Iran is in no way getting better with the recent financial instabilities as a result of Trump’s policies. Iranians – particularly the Iranian opposition inside Iran – believe that as a country they can be better, and in their minds they do not define themselves by violence, nor do they normally associate with or are they represented by the current waves of violence across the region. So what better than giving them a bit of pep talk on the premises they agree on in order to influence them?

However, it is from a bit of distance that one must try to find the true colours behind this faux-friendship of Netanyahu with the Iranian people. The videos are one angle of this pentagonal effort. Nested in another angle is Netanyahu’s televised message of “Iran lying about its nuclear deal” to further lure and ease the way for the Trump administration to pull out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In another angle one can find Netanyahu partnering up with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to lobby against the Iranian nuclear deal – a deal that was created by a branch of the Iranian government, the executive branch, whose head is elected by the Iranian people. But there is a contradiction here. The JCPOA, hence presented itself as a truly democratic piece of work from inside Iran. It was proposed by a government elected by Iranians and it is premised on dialogue, partnership, transparency and mutual collaboration. On top of it all, its implementation was benefitting the Iranian economy and consequently the Iranian people. Why then deprive a great nation with a great civilization from this democratic and economically prosperous effort, while pumping the Iranian people up in video messages as being a great nation that deserves better?

One sees at the same angle the conditions put forth by Pompeo as the result of the negotiations of the aforementioned three parties (the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel), a 12 point list of demands from Iran. One need not be a political analyst to immediately figure out that the conditions are created to please Israel and other lobbying groups against the JCPOA. This list could have easily had a 13th point mentioning demands to improve human rights in Iran. There is, after all, no word count limit for a list of demands made by the United States.  The fact that there was no mention of the Iranian people shows that their intentions were never about the Iranian people. It is obvious that even if it did include it one is obliged to doubt its sincerity. Let’s face it; Pompeo would never call for “crushing” the Burmese government on the grounds of human rights violations.

It doesn’t end here. In another angle of this pentagonal effort we see Netanyahu partnering up with Giulliani and Bolton to continue the bolstering of the rhetoric of glorious pasts to call for regime change in Iran. Giulliani and Bolton then group up with the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which is very much hated by Iranians because of their atrocious terrorist activities in Iran.

Granted, Netanyahu’s videos might get picked up by certain groups of Iranians who cannot see past the videos and through the pentagon; those who see in their Iranian identity a need to be purified based on its Aryan non-Arab race; those who – because of an absence of media literacy – cannot realise the vested interests of other governments in provoking instability in Iran; and those who are anti-religious (in their words anti-Mullah, anti-Islam, forgetting that institutionalised religion and religious government extend far beyond the history of Islam in Iran). In other words, those who do not see the complication in the world – on the grounds mentioned above – might find these videos cautiously appealing.

Netanyahu’s policy to inflate populist ideas about glorifying Iranians is thus to ensure that those other efforts in this pentagon can be accepted as “well-intentioned” by the Iranian people.

This is the ground on which these videos are made. Admittedly, again, it can be seen as a smart move on the part of the Israeli prime minister. Given the fact that dissent and social unrest has been and is being engineered by the US (through currency wars), engineering a further weakening of the government’s credibility in this way might seem lucrative.

But here is where Netanyahu got it wrong. On the list of books that he is reading on Iran, he and the other lobbying groups need to include references that also depict how Iranians value their tendency to unify, unite and leave aside many of their differences (their euro-centrism, their infatuation with the west, their religious differences, their religiosity, their backgrounds, their extreme discontent with the government, their “Aryan-ness”, their love affair with Hollywood, etc.) in dire circumstances.

Here is the (second) rub for the Israeli prime minister – if the act of injustice is committed by a foreign power, the rate of unification of Iranians can triple. The reason is simple but seemingly ancient and historically internalised. Not surrendering to a foreign power is/has been the key to Iranians’ survival. This indeed has not always been the case, this is not, however, about not ever having surrendered. But the idea has a historical and normative weight that, more often than not, manages to pierce through divisions and differences.  Netanyahu needs to read about stories/legends of women and men who outdid themselves in order to safeguard Iran’s lands from foreigners. Old habits die hard.

Along this line, I recommend to the Israeli prime minister reading the tweets of Iranians today to see how this insight is being held up (e.g. #StopMeddlingInIran). Perhaps combing through today’s spontaneous hashtags (not the mass retweets by paid bots) should be added to his reading list, to inform himself on how Iranians have a habit of reminding one another that they have survived tyranny and oppression by centuries-old perseverance and wisdom, not by the fetishisation of deferring their troubles to another nation or to seek help from outside.

Going through these tweets showcases the inefficacy of pumping populist ideas for an Iranian audience. Sooner or later Iranians will wake up to the phenomenon of their resistance being used and hijacked by foreign governments to advance their own interests. On the bright side, however, Netanyahu and the Trump administration are only expediting the formation of this awareness.

By Nicola Nasser, via Middle East Monitor

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