Israel, the filthy germ
One of the first things that strikes the visitor to Iran is how polite everybody is. Hands go on chests (male chests anyhow) in a gesture of humility, it is commonplace to address someone as jenab, ‘your excellence’, to call oneself ‘your sacrifice’, and much besides. It’s an old fashioned society in which interpersonal relations are valued at all levels.
But ever since the revolution of 1979, there are more and more ways of insulting anyone perceived to be the enemy of Iran or Islam. Almost the first slogan of that revolution was marg bar-Amrika, ‘death to America’. Later, marg bar-Isra’il was added to the chants after every Friday prayer meeting. Verbal insults were matched by vicious disrespect for the most basic human dignity, in the parading of the US embassy hostages, the broadcasting of film of the US pilots burned in their helicopters during the failed Eagle Claw operation to rescue those hostages, the 2006 exhibition of cartoons mocking the Holocaust and its victims, or the conference on Holocaust denial held later that year.
Now, Ahmadinejad has made a speech in which he describes Israel as ‘a filthy germ’ and ‘a savage beast’. A few days earlier, Muhammad ‘Ali Ja’fari, commander-in-chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards wrote to Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, saying ‘In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous germ of Israel by the powerful and competent hands of the Hezbollah combatants’. Clearly, Ahmadinejad’s words are not just the expression of some personal pique. They could even spark a war.
All of this talk of germs and viruses is disturbingly old hat, but none the less vicious for that. In 1942, Adolf Hitler declared that ‘the discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that have taken place in the world’. Elsewhere, he says Jews are like ‘tubercles which can infect a healthy body’. You find this everywhere in Nazi discourse. German has been infected by the Jews, their destruction will bring it back to health. Dr. Fritz Klein, one of the infamous Nazi doctors, said ‘The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind’ and continued ‘whether you want to call it an appendix or not, it must be extirpated (exterminated, eradicated: ausgerottet)’
Familiar? On many occasions, Iran’s outspoken president has called for the destruction of Iran. Don’t be misled by attempts to water this down: in one speech he calls on the Islamic nations to ‘exterminate’ Israel (qal’ o qam’ kard). His aim, like that of Hezbollah and Hamas among others, is the total elimination of Israel. Since Hezbollah’s apparent (though only apparent) victory in the 2006 war with Israel, Iran and its allies have grown in confidence. They now think they are only a short time from total success. Yet the international community does next to nothing to prevent a second Holocaust, a second cleansing of the Ewige Jude, the eternal virus.
One might ask some pointed questions. For one thing, in what way does the existence of Israel threaten Iran, whether in the short or long term. In all the years it has existed, there have been no signs of the Israeli virus passing on infection to its surrounding states — quite the contrary, in fact. Some virus. Some threat. Does Israel plan to expand aggressively beyond its current boundaries? If that had been the Israeli scheme, they would have done it many years ago. Israel doesn’t border on Iran, and the countries between them are all hostile to Israel.
The only way Iran would ever benefit from Israel’s death would be to raise its own esteem among the anti-Israeli nations. Given that Iran’s theological position is many football fields away from that espoused by other Muslims except the Iraqi and Lebanese Shi’a, that boost to Iran’s status would be undeniably welcome; but it would do absolutely nothing to expunge the taint of being a Shi’ite country.
But let’s just look at what Ahmadinejad is saying about Israel in another light. The fact is that Israel is the only genuine democracy for a long way about. There is no other country in the Middle East that is a successful multi-party state, that has a democratic system of law, that gives full rights to religious and ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals; that does not censor its press or book publishers; that has such high numbers of university graduates; that participates so seriously in international aid provision; and that has such an international standing in medical and technological research, producing the most vibrant economy in the region.
If this is indeed a virus, we must surely expect democracy and human rights to spread like a benign plague across the region. In fact, Israel’s Arab (and Iranian) neighbours have proved remarkably resistant to every strain of the virus that has reached them. Surely any decent-minded person should be hoping for the Israel virus to get its teeth into Egypt or Syria or Jordan.
If there is a virus, it has to be the curious one that has infected so many in the West, notably on the left. No matter how strong the moral and rational arguments in Israel’s favour, this benighted group persists in mouthing slogans, calling for boycotts, boosting terror groups like Hamas (freedom fighters even when they are attacking kindergartens), and denying any rights to Israel whatever. And when the Islamic state has been established, and they start stoning women and hanging gays and killing the Baha’is, and imprisoning the socialists, no doubt our brave enemies of Israel will slink off to find another cause. May that day never come.