On Tuesday March 3rd, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before congress on the need to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Opinions on the program (those will be later) and absurd and slightly hypocritical comparisons aside, one of Netanyahu’s major talking points was the following Tweet from Ayatollah Khomeini:
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 8, 2014
Taken at face value this Tweet looks pretty menacing; it seems like the Supreme Leader of Iran is making a threat against the Jewish people! That, however, is not what is happening. Iranian officials and Khomeini have previously drawn distinctions between “the regime of Israel” and the Jewish people and these distinctions are crucial in understanding what is going on. The Tweet is specific to the regime that currently in place, namely Netanyahu’s administration, and is calling for the destruction of that regime, that’s it. When the US said that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was in the “Axis of Evil” and must be stopped, the US didn’t mean that the Iraqi people needed to be liquidated; rather the regime needed to change. When the US condemns the North Korean regime, it is not making a normative statement about the ethnic group making up the country, rather it is making a statement on the government that is in place. Similarly, when Khomeini makes a statement about “the regime of Israel” (especially in the context of Israels failure to protect Al-Aqsa, the third holiest Islamic site), he is NOT making a statement about the Jewish people or the ethnic groups that make up Israel; all he is saying is that there must be a regime change and while the word “annihilated” might sound spooky, that is pure rhetoric and doesn’t imply an outside force attacking Israel. Quite literally, Khomeini is doing what all governments do, denounce States they see as evil. That is it.
It’s time to stop giving Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt and critically examine what’s going on between the two nations. For a further, and more indepth, discussion on whether Iran has a nuclear program, whether they want to “wipe Israel off the map”, and whether a nuclear Iran is a good thing, please read the post “Arm Iran – The Case for the Nuclear State”.