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June 23, 2021 11:45 am
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CNN Op-ed Equates ‘Butcher of Tehran’ With Israel’s Prime Minister

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

Opinion
Naftali Bennett, Israeli parliament member from the Yamina party, gives a statement at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, June 6, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

CNN recently drew a bizarre parallel between Israel’s new prime minister and the president-elect of the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose rulers are dedicated to destroying the Jewish state.

In a June 20 opinion piece, titled Iran elected a hard-liner. Let’s see what he does now,” David A. Andelman writes:

A new government in Israel now presents its own set of challenges, with two determinedly hard-liners astride most issues dividing Iran and Israel.

By juxtaposing Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, this piece draws a false moral equivalence between one of the world’s most repressive regimes and the Middle East’s only democracy.

Raisi Praised By Terrorists, Bennett Congratulated By Democratic Governments

To be clear: Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of Iran in a rigged process that disqualified centrist candidates before the vote even took place. On June 21, US State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated Washington’s official view that the election was neither free nor fair.

Raisi’s election puts extremists firmly in control of all the levers of power in Tehran, as negotiations in Vienna continue with a view to reviving a deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program; this, at a time when the Islamic Republic is enriching uranium at its highest levels of purity ever.

Unsurprisingly, among those praising Raisi was Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group based in Lebanon: “Your victory has renewed the hopes of the Iranian people and the people of the region who see you as a shield and a strong supporter … for the resistance against aggressors,” he said.

By contrast, it was the world’s democratically-elected leaders who were quick to congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on forming a new government on June 14. The United States led the way, with phone calls from President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Others like Canada followed:

Additionally, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco reached out to the new Israeli government, indicating that the normalization deals forged under former leader Benjamin Netanyahu and mediated by the Trump administration would remain in effect.

Raisi the ‘Ultraconservative’ Vs. Bennett the ‘Ultranationalist’

CNN is not alone in obfuscating the stark contrasts between the new leaders of Israel and Iran. News organizations have even resorted to using similar modifiers to describe Bennett (see here, here, and here) and Raisi (See here, here, and here)

According to an HonestReporting study conducted between June 15 and June 21, the term “ultraconservative” was the adjective of choice when describing Iran’s new ruler. That sounds very much like the “ultranationalist” term that Israel’s premier is regularly labeled by in the media.

When One ‘Hard-liner’ Is a Murderous Criminal…

Either by accident or design, David A. Andelman’s CNN piece bridges the moral chasm separating the sometimes controversial political views of Naftali Bennett and the repugnant acts perpetrated by Ebrahim Raisi.

In 2019, Iran’s president-elect was placed under US sanctions over human rights violations for, among other things, the alleged role he played in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 and in the violent suppression of anti-government demonstrations in 2009.

In 2018, Raisi, also known as the “Butcher of Tehran,” defended his involvement in the executions, saying they were “fair and necessary” to tackle attacks on supporters of the 1979 Islamic revolution. “It’s my honor that I fought against hypocrisy,” he asserted.

Bennett’s ‘Ultranationalist’ Credentials, Checked

For the first time in 12 years, Israel is not being led by Benjamin Netanyahu, but by Naftali Bennett. The eight parties that he and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid cobbled together have little in common from an ideological perspective.

As such, the new government in Jerusalem will not last long if Bennett proves to be a “hard-liner.” Unlike the new reality in Tehran, Israel’s new coalition is arguably the most diverse — racially, religiously, ethnically, and ideologically — in the country’s history.

Accordingly, to succeed in governing, Bennett and his partners will have to compromise, be willing to reach common ground, and, in all likelihood, scrap any initiatives that much of the world would deem controversial.

Can the same be said about Raisi and the rest of Tehran’s repressive rulers?

Equating Naftali Bennett and Ebrahim Raisi serves to legitimize one of the most dangerous regimes on earth, while diminishing Israel’s unique experiment in democratic governance.

Gidon Ben-zvi is a contributor to HonestReporting — a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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