Israel-Turkey vs. Iran-Pakistan
By Zachary Latif
August 23, 2001
Before I begin writing my comments on Iran and Israel, let me state unequivocally
that I am a Bahai. I am an adherent of a religion whose present administrative
heart and spiritual nucleus lies firmly rooted in Mount Carmel in Haifa,
Israel. Haifa has enthusiastically welcomed Bahai temples, and it is unheard
of for a Bahai to face discrimination in Israel.
Sadly the same cannot be said for Bahais who in Iran. They are subject
to incomprehensible hardship (even more so than others who live under the
present theocracy since Bahais are considered apostates and heretics by
devout orthodox Shi'ite Iranians) and have been persecuted countless times
in Iran for their religious belief. Bahai blood has been spilt many times
in Iran and our House of Worship in Chicago has countless photographs of
these martyrs who died "san raison" other than for being a Bahai
in the wrong country at the wrong time.
All said and done many would assume by now that I empathize and support
the Israeli cause while at the same time have intense hostility towards
Iran. That assumption is false and in fact the contrary would hold true.
I cannot believe how anyone can justify the colonial remnant in the Middle
East that is Israel and at the same time dismiss Iran as a "rogue"
state. Let me explain why.
Iran's government at the moment may be a theocratic regime that stamps
down on its religious minorities and imposes a conservative, indeed a totalitarian
regime. Its government may fund terrorist groups around the world and be
responsible for countless atrocities. Hitherto Iran, as a nation, is not
built upon the oppression of indigenous ethnic minorities and seizure of
Iran has always existed throughout the ages and though they have been
stains in its magnificent history, it has never practiced systematic ethnic
cleansing. It has never robbed ethnic minorities of their cultural identity
and in fact the Persian Empire was noted primarily for the respect it accorded
to the customs and practices of its conquered subjects. Iran presently may
not be a pleasant place to live but at least its foundations as a nation-state
is secure and unquestioned.
In the case of Israel, its short history as a nation has proven to be
disgraceful and ignominious. It was built on the belief that there must
be a Jewish homeland for the Jewish exiles in Diaspora in order to preserve
their unique identity. This may seem to be an admirable, even a worthy goal.
However, one must understand the underlying meaning of the sentence in order
to realize that it is an inherently racist philosophy.
A "Jewish Homeland" denotes that there must be a homeland only
for Jews to return to and consider home. Nonetheless nations created for
one specific ethno-religious group will inevitably lack tolerance for minorities,
especially upstart indigenous minorities who have committed no crime except
for living in their own homeland.
The idea of an ethnic-based democracy may be practical, though no less
racist, for homogeneous nations where minorities are negligible but in a
region as heterogeneous as the Middle East it cannot be applied without
those unlucky few who suffer from the implementation of this singularly
narrow-minded and racist proposal.
"The Zionist dream," Noam Chomsky wrote, "is to construct
a state which is as Jewish as England is English and France is French. At
the same time, this state is to be a democracy on the Western model. Evidently,
these goals are incompatible. Citizens of France are French, but citizens
of the Jewish state may be non-Jews, either by ethnic or religious origin
or simply by choice [...] To the extent that Israel is a Jewish State it
cannot be a democratic state"
Israel today clings to the idea that it is a Jewish nation and THAT is
the key barrier to a lasting peace. When, in the future, the Arab population
within Israel forms an even greater proportion than it does now, Israel,
as a nation must wrestle once again between holding on to its lingering
democratic values or maintaining its Jewish identity.
Until Israel has successfully solved that dilemma Iran should continue
to express its condemnation and refuse to have relations with Israel. However
it must cease supporting terrorist groups since they only thwart any meaningful
long-lasting solutions and undoubtedly make matters worse. Iran must also
counter Israeli influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The widely expected
Turko-Israeli alliance will inevitably change the balance of power since
not only will this partnership be able to manipulate events in Turkic lands
throughout Eurasia but it will drastically diminish Iran's influence abroad.
In Turkmenistan, Iran's neighbor to the northeast, Israel's Merhav Group
has dominated foreign business in the country and though Turkmenistan's
only gas exports are to Iran, it is ambivalent to Iran. Merhav's president,
Yosef Maiman, who also serves as a special ambassador to President Saparmurat
Niyazov, has said in interviews that he would have no objection to dealing
with Iranian interests, when and if Israeli policy allows it. It is peculiar
that the policies of one of Iran's closest neighbor are dictated by Israel.
Iran's foreign agenda must be redirected from the Middle East to the
regions of Caucasus and Central Asia. To build on the cultural and religious
ties that exist between Iran and these two regions may be a start but it
is not adequate. Economic partnerships between Iran and the recently independent
Soviet republics will bring about a stronger partnership and force the countries
involved to become inter-reliant on one another.
Iran must also strengthen its economic ties and ally itself with one
of the largest Muslim nations in the world, Pakistan. The alliance between
these two nations will be mutually beneficial and sufficient to thwart any
attempt by the Turko-Israeli partnership to gain ascendancy in Central Asia.
After all, a strategic and realistic foreign policy that incorporates economic,
not military, elements extends the influence of a national power and allows
it to develop into a regional hegemon.
As to the extent of the influence of the Israeli lobby on Iranian-American
relations, Richard H. Curtiss, the executive editor of the Washington
Report on Middle East Affairs, ended his article "Solutions to
Two Major Problems Dividing U.S. and Iran Lie in Israel" with the following
No one is more aware than this writer of the dark side, both past and
present, of Iran's current, deeply divided regime, or of the catastrophic
consequences for Iran (and, eventually, America) of U.S. intervention in
1953. At this point, however, virtually all problems between Iran and the
United States could be solved with even a minimum application of patience
But among problems cited by Ms. Albright are two that won,t be easily
solved because they are not between Iran and the U.S. but between Iran
and Israel. Specifically, these are, in her words, Iran's "effort
to develop a nuclear weapons capability and its "support for terrorism
abroad. Iran, and maybe other Middle Eastern countries, are going to continue
to develop nuclear weapons for defensive purposes until Israel gives up
its nuclear weapons, the only ones presently in the region.
As for "terrorism abroad, it appears that Iran's incoming moderates
already have halted Iranian assassinations of domestic political opponents
in such countries as Turkey and Germany. But Iran is unlikely to give up
its support for Lebanese and Palestinians fighting for their own land until
Israel makes peace agreements with both.
For that reason, when it comes to rapprochement with Iran, all Americans
are just as much hostage to a divided and fractious government of Israel
in 2000 as were U.S. embassy staff members hostage to a divided and fractious
revolutionary movement in Iran throughout 1980.
I end this article with the hope that Israel will abandon its ethno-centric
domestic policy and truly evolve into a democracy. Iran cannot be Israel's
ally since an alliance will not be beneficial to either side; they are too
dissimilar and have conflicting foreign policy agendas. The Turko-Israeli
partnership will be a reality in the near future and neither Iran nor any
other country in the Middle East can hope to do anything about that. The
only recourse for Iran is to further its strategic aims by fostering a close
relationship with Pakistan.