by George Jochnowitz
The United States, according to Iran, is the Great Satan. Iran has a good reason to hate the United States. In 1953, the United States and Great Britain, working together, overthrew the elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh.
In his place came the Shah. The United States should have been able to guess that a monarchy installed by foreigners, unlike one that had been there for centuries, would sooner or later be toppled by a revolution. The revolution put Ayatollah Khomeini into power, perhaps the most anti-American ruler on earth. Women’s rights ended abruptly, and the country became a theocracy. Diplomatic relations with Israel ended at once. Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
Iranians who supported the mullahs hated the United States for creating a monarchy in Iran. Iranians who opposed the mullahs hated the United States for creating a situation that led to Iran’s theocracy. Left and right, religious and irreligious, all Iranians had their reasons to hate America.
Israel, on the other hand, had never done anything to violate Iranian sovereignty or to hurt Iran in any way. It didn’t matter. Radical Islamists, like Iran’s rulers, simply hated Israel for existing in the land of the Holy City, Al-Quds. Every year, Iran has an Al-Quds day. In 2001, former President Ali Akhbar Rafsanjani said that if one day the world of Islam comes to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. Rafsanjani said that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely do damage to the world of Islam.
That, of course, explains why Iran embarked on its nuclear program. North Korea, another country that considers Israel its great enemy, helped Iran by shipping nuclear fuel to Iran. Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities were directed against Israel, of course, but many countries were frightened. The United States and other nations recently negotiated a deal to get Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment, at least temporarily. Israel, the target of the enrichment, feels the threat still remains. And as President Rafsanjani said in 2001, the reason an Islamic country would want nuclear weapons is to destroy Israel.
If America is the Great Satan, according to Iran, Israel is the Little Satan. President Rouhani has made a deal with the Great Satan, a country Iran has had reason to resent. He apparently has never considered the possibility of coming to any sort of agreement with the Little Satan. This is not surprising, since nuclear bombs are meant to be Iran’s way of ending the existence of the Little Satan. But it ought to be surprising. Iran has never had any sort of disagreement with Israel. Iran has never done anything to help the Palestinians. Iran’s mullahs dislike Arabs and hate Sunnis.
Iranians have never considered the possibility that it is in their interest to recognize Israel and to establish diplomatic relations with the Little Satan. If they could do such an unheard of thing, there would no longer be a question about the deal. They could trade with Israel. The whole world would change. The Palestinians, who have never been willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state and who insist that they will not give up the areas of the West Bank that today have about a half million Jewish residents, would, for the first time, accept a boundary change for the sake of independence.
Today, the Palestinians are the only group in human history that has ever rejected independence because of a boundary dispute. If Rouhani could recognize Israel as a Jewish state, so could Mahmoud Abbas. He could even agree to give up his claims on all the land east of the 1967 boundary, the Green Line, a line that was never accepted as permanent in the days before 1967 when it existed.
If Iran recognized Israel, the whole world would become a more peaceful and less dangerous place. But can Iran ever figure out that it has no quarrel with Israel and never did?
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ©2013. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is published here with the permission of the author.