The Magazine

Should Israel Bomb Iran?

Better safe than sorry

Jul 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

One can certainly doubt whether Khamenei would be so rash as to hurl an atomic weapon at Israel, given Jerusalem’s undeclared force de frappe. But this is a huge unknown for the Jewish state. Iran has already embraced terrorism against Israel and the United States. Via Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas in Gaza, and Fatah on the West Bank, the clerics have repeatedly backed suicide bombers and helped launch thousands of missiles against Israeli civilians. Iranian-guided terrorist teams bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and slaughtered Argentine Jews at a community center there in 1994. And that was when Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was Iran’s “pragmatic” president; Rafsanjani’s once awe-inspiring power network at home has been nearly gutted by his former protégé, Khamenei, who has always been more Trotskyite when it comes to exporting the Islamic Revolution. 

Iranian violent adventurism abroad diminished after Khatami was elected president in 1997, as the Islamic Republic’s domestic agitation heated up and its clandestine nuclear program accelerated. If Khamenei can suppress the Green Movement and develop a bomb, he might choose to move beyond suicide bombers and Hezbollah and Hamas rocketry in his assaults on Israel and “global Jewry.” Who would stop him? It’s not hard to find Iranian dissidents grieved by their government’s love affair with terrorism, but it’s impossible to find any among the ruling elite who ruminate about the wrongness of terrorism against Israelis or Jews. 

Anti-Zionism has deep roots in Iran’s left-wing “red mullah” revolutionary ethos. Iran’s hard core seems even more retrograde than the many militant Arab fundamentalists who once gave intellectual support to al Qaeda but have lost some enthusiasm for the organization’s insatiable and indiscriminate killing. The Egyptian-born former al Qaeda philosopher Abd al-Qadir bin Abd al-Aziz, aka “Dr. Fadl,” for instance, has evolved so far as to express reservations about murdering Israelis and Jews. Even the Saudis, in private, are capable of entertaining such thoughts. But from Iran’s power players we hear not a peep about the impropriety of killing Israeli civilians or Jews in general. This holds for Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; for the president’s spiritual adviser and the most influential cleric supporting the dictatorship, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi; for the head of Iran’s legislation-surveilling, candidate-disqualifying Guardian Council, Ahmad Jannati; and for the bright and more “pragmatic” Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament who helped orchestrate the crackdown on the 1999 student rebellion. 

Revolutionary Iran hates its main enemies—America, Israel, and the anti-Shiite Wahhabi Saudi court—with a special, divinely sanctioned intensity dwarfing the class-based hostility that the vanguard of the proletariat had for capitalists. And the hard core among the regime’s leaders—who have squeezed out of power just about anyone who could have worn a “moderate” label—revile Jews above all. Third World-friendly radical Marxism, which depicts Jews as the most nefarious members of the Western robber-baron class, provides half the fuel for the Iranian revolutionary mind. Classical Islamic thought, now given a nasty, modern anti-Semitic twist, provides the rest. 

In the Koran, Jews are depicted as intelligent, well educated, and treasonous. The Prophet Muhammad’s slaughter of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe, which occasionally caused moral indigestion and apologias among later Muslim commentators, serves as a leitmotif for contemporary radical Muslims, who often see Jews, as the Nazis once did, as innately and irreversibly evil. Modern Islamic fundamentalism has turned a scorching spotlight back on the faith’s foundation, when Jews, as the Koran tells us, stood in the way of the prophet and his divine mission. The tolerant, sometimes even philo-Semitic, attitudes of the Ottoman Empire have been almost completely forgotten by Islam’s modern militants. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote in the foreword to his masterpiece on Islamic government, “The Islamic movement was afflicted by the Jews from its very beginnings, when they began their hostile activity by distorting the reputation of Islam, and by defaming and maligning it. This has continued to the present day.” 

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers