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Friendly stance
Friendship with Israel could have benefits

By Amir
August 20, 2001
The Iranian

What goes on along that Mediterranean coastline, is far from toping the list of Iran's most important national priorities. Israel is not a threat to the national interests of Iran. But I would even go further: a friendship with Israel could benefit the national interests of Iran in real terms.

A friendly stance towards the Israelis would not only buy lobbying power and influence for Iranian interests in Washington, but as the most advanced technological country in the region, open trade and relations with Israel might score Iran further technological know-how, such as desert irrigation and agricultural developments.

Iranian culture and history has forever been connected with the Israelites going back to ancient times. As Semitic friends, they are the better and older allies than Arabs could ever be.

The problem, however, is that whereas the relationship between the Jews and the Iranians (Mede-Persians,) has always been cordial and based on mutual respect and deference to one another's religions, the relationship we have had with their Semitic cousins, the Arabs, has been one dominated by master-servant narratives and feelings.

There are many Iranians who not only have Arab prejudices brought on in terms of blood and religion, (many Iranians for instance consider themselves direct descendents of Arab tribes of old,) but also have not been spared the general anti-Jewish propaganda that is accepted the world over (overtly or covertly).

These latter prejudices are in many instances nothing more than an intensification of xenophobia and fear of the intelligent "Other", mostly propagated by, but not limited to, the Europeans who confronted the migrating Jews as a multi-national threat to their own isolationist stances at the outset of their nation-buildings.

Having said all that, let me say the following: the Israelis by no means enjoy the moral or ethical right in terms of their conflict with their neighbors. As a matter of fact, their nation-building efforts in the past fifty years is proof that they are not in possession of any moral high ground despite the troubles Jews -- as a people -- encountered in Europe and elsewhere.

Israelis have simply repeated the cycle of abuse and have treated the "Other" in the same way they themselves were treated as the "Other". Therefore they have shown that they have no moral superiority over anyone else, and have given real force to the post-Nazi German claim: "This could happen anywhere."

However, as Iranians our most pressing national issues are not correcting the world's wrongs, by marching of our armies, or by all encompassing moral declarations. Rather, our primary objectives should be dealing with troubles in Iran. Positions should be taken as a result of dialogue, not one of active disengagement or animosity based on already-decided factors.

It is along the same logical vein that the European powers have chosen to engage the government of Iran, rather than punishing its population for its government's transgressions -- through imposition of sanctions and such.

It is through trying to learn about each other's history and personal stories that we might come close to standing under the weight of each others' problems and only then can we attempt to break the age-old cycles. No one has a monopoly on truth.

In the end, if there is to be a resolution to any conflict, it cannot come about by perpetuation of anger, hurt and violence. It is most important to give force to the Persian word "daad" not only in terms of exclaiming -- and listening to -- its "call", but also in terms of seeing the "giving" in it. Only then can we come close to its higher meaning: "justice".

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