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Israel-Turkey vs. Iran-Pakistan

By Zachary Latif
August 23, 2001
The Iranian

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 captured territory.

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 passage:

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 and goodwill.

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.

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