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January 28, 2022 11:13 am
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A Failure to Explain Iran’s Threats to Israel

avatar by Bob Feferman

Opinion

An Iranian flag is pictured near in a missile during a military drill, with the participation of Iran’s Air Defense units, Iran October 19, 2020. Photo: WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/Files

I sat down to write this on January 27th, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the day when the world invokes the words, “Never Again.” Yet when it comes to threats to Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, “Never Again” is already here again. Sadly, few western analysts have been able to connect the dots of the existential threats posed to Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

The ongoing negotiations over the reinstatement of the Iran nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are symptomatic of the disconnect from the totality of Iran’s destructive role in the wider Middle East. Indeed, that is because the JCPOA never addressed the entirety of these threats. Setting aside the debate over the agreement, there has been almost a complete failure by analysts in the US media to explain the bigger picture.

Israelis know a much different reality. The old saying, “where you stand depends on where you sit,” is most fitting for Israelis. From where they sit, there is a clear link between Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its efforts to surround Israel with proxy forces that threaten the Jewish state.

In the recently published “Strategic Survey for Israel” written by a leading Israeli think tank, The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), the authors wrote this about the Iranian threat:

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Tehran represents the most serious external threat to Israel, first and foremost due to Iran’s quest to achieve military nuclear capability… Moreover, Iran continues with its program of regional subversion, including its efforts to surround Israel with the threat of attack, especially through its precision missile project for Hezbollah in Lebanon and its proxies in Syria.

It does not take a complex threat matrix to understand the connection between the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran that supports terror proxies and the repeated threats of Iranian leaders to destroy Israel. Indeed, it is only if you make those connections do the threats take on real meaning. 

The advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has documented these threats in its report on Iran’s Anti-Israel Ideology. Here’s just one example: in May, 2020 Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, warned, “The Zionist regime is a deadly, cancerous growth and a detriment to this region … it will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.”

These are not empty threats, and Iran’s support for Hamas in Gaza clearly fits into this pattern. Last summer, during Operation Guardian of the Walls, Hamas fired more than 4,300 rockets at Israel civilians. While most American analysts failed to connect the dots between Iran and its support for Hamas, Jonathan Schanzer, a leading American expert on Hamas, is one shining exception. In his new book, Gaza Conflict 2021, Schanzer wrote, “Gaza is now ground zero for a proxy conflict. It is part of a bigger battle between Israel and Iran, along with other determined foes.”

If you are an Israeli, you see the regional threats from Iran and its proxy forces very clearly. 

When Israelis are forced to run into bomb shelters with their children because of Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, reality and the lessons of history become clearly related. When Israelis look north to Lebanon and see Iran’s proxy Hezbollah armed with more than 130,000 rockets and missiles, and they see Iran’s efforts to arm proxy forces in Syria with precision-guided missiles, they see a dangerous reality that few American journalists even attempt to explain.  

History has taught the Jewish people to take threats to their annihilation very seriously. In a 2007 speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the late Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and father of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, warned:   

The civilized world advises us to be compliant, to compromise, and to take risks for the sake of giving peace a chance. And we ask the civilized world … what will you do if we take those risks, and place our trust in you, and then, something goes wrong? If the other side doesn’t behave as it’s expected to, but instead rains fire and brimstone down on us, and epidemics and poisons, and perhaps even nuclear weapons? What will you do then? Tell us: sorry, we were wrong? Will you send us bandages? Open orphanages for the children who survive? Pray for the eternal welfare of our immortal souls?

When the West decides to take the words “Never Again” as seriously as Israelis do, then there will be hope that Iran’s leaders will be held accountable to a higher standard. Not only will the world then refuse to tolerate their threats to genocide against the Jewish state, but it will become unacceptable for Iran to develop the means to commit genocide through their support for terrorists and pursuit of nuclear weapons.  

Unfortunately, I am not hopeful about the ability of the international community to learn and implement the lessons of history. As Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said, “Of course, we prefer to act in international cooperation, but if necessary, we will act alone. We will defend ourselves by ourselves.” 

Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).

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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