Letter to the Editor
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 01:10
I sincerely enjoyed reading Hani Azzam’s op-ed, “The road not taken.” There were, however, certain elements of the discussion left out that may be valuable to address.
Throughout the piece, Azzam argues that Iranian calls for the destruction of Israel are “catalysts rather than contracts,” that is, rhetoric to make Iran more popular, but nothing to be taken seriously. That’s certainly a legitimate perspective. Then again, there is some important history between the two states to consider.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has severed all diplomatic and economic relations with Israel, which it does not recognize as an actual country. Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei calls Israel a “cancerous tumor,” wording repeated by Commander of the Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafari.
Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Israel should be “wiped off the face of the map.” If that’s all just talk, it’s pretty unified and pervasive talk among members of Iran’s spiritual, military and political leadership.
But it’s not just talk that Israel fears. Consider Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups that the U.S. — as well as the U.K., Canada, etc. — classifies as terrorist organizations. It’s no secret that Iran provides both with money, political support and weapons. Both groups’ leaders have called for the destruction of Israel and both groups have carried out numerous bombings against the state.
Iran isn’t just talking about attacking Israel: It’s funding it.
I’m not suggesting that Israel or anyone else should take military action against Iran. But I am suggesting that this issue is far more serious than one of simple rhetoric.
At the end of the article, Azzam seems to suggest that if Israel wishes to decrease Iran’s threat, it should “pursue a policy dramatically different” from “its history of volatile relations with its neighbors.” Israel, it seems, is responsible for its own predicament, as its own policies “make Iranian rhetoric so popular among the Arab people.”
But every student of Israeli history knows that Israeli-destruction rhetoric — and matching military action — was popular among the state’s neighbors from the day it declared independence.
If “Iranian rhetoric” calling for the destruction of Israel is well-received, it must not be because of, but rather in spite of, any attempts at diplomacy over the last sixty years.
Perhaps the onus, then, should be on Iran to take a road less traveled. Recognizing Israel, ceasing to fund the bombing of its civilians and halting an offensive military rhetoric can “inspire a positive reaction.”
Playing off historic rivalries may make Iran popular with its friends, but it can’t go down that road without making some serious enemies. And when it starts lining that road with nuclear reactors, it’s not just talking tough anymore.
Class of 2014