Iranians show support for Israel on Twitter under the hashtag #WeSupportIsrael. Photo: Screenshot.
JNS.org – After more than a week since Hamas terrorists began launching rockets at Israeli cities, a growing number of non-Jewish Iranian activists, journalists and individuals in Iran and outside the country have been vocal in their support for the people of Israel.
Whether via social media messages or by demonstrating alongside pro-Israel supporters in the United States and Canada, non-Jewish Iranians have also expressed support for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I’m not saying Israel is a perfect country, but I support Israel because it’s the only country in the Middle East that provides equal rights and opportunities to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,” said Ahmad Batebi, an Iranian non-Jewish activist and journalist. “As Iranians, our hearts break whenever we see the death of an innocent Palestinian or Israeli child. But we know that Israel does not intentionally seek to harm these children and only a sick terrorist group like Hamas uses them as human shields.”
Batebi was one of thousands of Iranian Americans worldwide who posted messages of support for Israel on social media outlets, such as Twitter, using the hashtag “I Stand With Israel” or “Hamas Terrorists.”
Despite the Iranian regime’s heavy filtering of Twitter and other Western social media sites, many inside Iran sent their own messages supporting Israelis. One particular account identified as “Mamadou Archives,” shown to be based in Iran, hosted a live session on May 13 with more than 25,000 participants—primarily Iranians—that sent out nearly 100,000 tweets during the course of seven hours.
Batebi and many other anti-regime activists said they were frustrated with the Iranian nation’s wealth being handed over to Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East for decades while average people in Iran have suffered economically.
“For 40 years, the Palestinians have taken Iranian money but never thanked us; they still express hate for Iranians and even supported Saddam [Hussein] during the Iran-Iraq war [in the 1980s]!” said Batebi who lives in Washington, DC. “Enough is enough! The money that could be used to put food in the mouths of Iran’s children shouldn’t be given to these Palestinian murderers and terrorists.”
One reoccurring message from anti-regime activists in social media was their extreme anger at the Iranian regime for spending the county’s wealth on funding Hamas rockets instead of on coronavirus vaccines. Iran is currently among the nations of the world with the highest rates of deaths from the virus.
“Are you seeing the Iranian people’s vaccine money exploding over the skies of Tel Aviv tonight?” asked one Iranian opposition activist in a Persian-language tweet.
At the same time, various Iranian opposition activists within Iran also boldly sent out video messages in support of Israel while hiding their faces. Any public displays of support for Israel in Iran are punishable by long prison terms or even execution, according to the regime’s laws. Yet those who follow Iranian internal affairs said the current situation is reaching a boiling point for many who are willing to take the risks and defy the regime’s authorities by speaking out.
‘They do not represent us by any stretch of imagination’
“The Iranian people have long chanted in their protests, ‘Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon. My life is only for Iran!’ and ‘Syria and Palestine are the cause of our problems!’ because the Islamic Republic has spent untold billions to support terrorist groups like Hamas,” said Cameron Khansarinia, policy director of the “National Union for Democracy in Iran,” an anti-regime non-profit group based in Washington, DC.
Mariam Memarsadeghi, a non-Jewish Iranian opposition activist in Maryland, said the vast majority of Iranians in Iran do not believe in the Iranian regime’s 42-year, anti-Israel propaganda because they see Israel as a beacon of freedom, peace and economic opportunities in the region they desire for themselves.
“The affinity the regime in Iran has expressed for the people of Gaza and Lebanon is seen by many people in Iran as a big lie that the regime uses to maintain their stranglehold on the population in Iran and the people see right through it,” she said.
Dr. Reza Behrouz, a non-Jewish Iranian activist and neurologist in San Antonio, said many Iranian Americans have been especially vocal about supporting the Jewish state right now because a few Iranian organizations purporting to represent all Iranians in the United States have in recent years been spewing anti-Israel and antisemitic messages they strongly oppose.
“These organizations and people are very well known to the larger Iranian-American community, and there are justifiable speculations that they work on behalf of the Islamic regime [in Iran],” said Behrouz. “We have nothing to do with them, and they do not represent us by any stretch of the imagination.”
Indeed, one organization—the National Iranian American Council (NIAC)—has been accused of ties with the Iranian regime, including cooperation between the organization’s founder Trita Parsi and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Last year, three Republican senators—Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Braun of Indiana—said that the NIAC violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by “amplifying regime propaganda in the US.”
The NIAC signed on to a letter urging the Biden administration to press Israel to halt “the illegal and forced displacement of Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah [in eastern Jerusalem], which precipitated the dangerous escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“We condemn without reservation the violence from Israel’s armed forces, armed Palestinian groups like Hamas, and mob attacks that have targeted civilians along sectarian lines,” said NIAC.
‘Israel is the good we do not have in the Middle East’
Other non-Jewish Iranian activists outside of Iran said they supported Israel because of its culture of promoting tolerance and the long-standing friendships they have enjoyed with Jews, which were first developed by the ancient Persian king Cyrus the Great.
“The one thing I know about Iranians is their love for peace and co-existence—the Islamic regime’s revolutionary destructive slogans or actions are not generally in the Iranian blood,” said Mina Bai, a non-Jewish Iranian journalist based in Norway.
Dr. Danial Jafari, president of the “Iranian-Americans for Liberty,” a non-profit advocacy group opposed to the Iranian regime and based in Washington, DC, said many Iranians have sympathy for Israelis facing Hamas rockets because they, too, experienced the horrors of Iraqi missiles attacks on Iranian cities during the Iran-Iraq War from Sept. 22, 1980 to Aug. 20, 1988.
“Iranians understand that no government should tolerate an act of war and must do everything in their power to protect its citizens,” said Jafari, a non-Jewish physician living in New York. “This is not a hard decision to make for those of us who woke up in the dark of the night rushing down the stairs, grabbing our loved ones by an arm to seek shelter.”
At the same time, other non-Jewish Iranian activists outside of Iran said they joined Jewish pro-Israel groups in recent public demonstrations in support of Israel. One such activist was Salman Sima, an Iranian Muslim anti-regime activist in Canada.
Sima posted a message on Twitter about being attacked along with a Jewish man by pro-Palestinian militants on May 16 during a pro-Israel rally in Toronto. Despite the growing rate of antisemitism and anti-Israel demonstrations in Canada, Sima said he will still continue to voice support for Israel.
“Israel alone is all the good we do not have in the Middle East today,” he said. “In short, Israel is at the forefront of the fight against Islamism and radicalism, so we must therefore stand with the Israelis.”
For their part, Iranian-Jewish activists in southern California said they were not surprised by the growing number of Iranians in Iran and elsewhere in the world voicing support for Israel.
Said George Haroonian, an Iranian-Jewish activist based in Los Angeles: “Ordinary Iranians see much more of a benefit in friendship and support with Israel and Israeli people as natural allies of Iranian people than supporting an Islamic terrorist organization that is indiscriminately attacking civilians.”