NRO Essay: Iran’s Final Solution for Israel

—Persian Shiite anti-Semitism is deep-seated and points to genocide.

My National Review Online (NRO) essay, published today (2/10/12):

Reza Khalili (pseudonym), a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has reported the latest restatement of the Iranian Shiite theocracy’s Jew-annihilationist jihadism:

Calling Israel a danger to Islam, the conservative website Alef, with ties to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the opportunity must not be lost to remove “this corrupting material. It is a “‘jurisprudential justification” to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and in that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm.”

The article, written by Alireza Forghani, an analyst and a strategy specialist in Khamenei’s camp, now is being run on most state-owned sites, including the Revolutionary Guards’ Fars News Agency, showing that the regime endorses this doctrine.

Putatively (and perversely), these genocidal pronouncements are a “response” to Israel’s own planned efforts to thwart Iran’s longstanding, repeatedly expressed desire to destroy the Jewish state and “Zionists” (i.e., non-dhimmi Jews) in general. Shiite Iran’s obsessive calls for the destruction of Israel and the mass murder of Jews are driven by a deeply rooted theological Islamic anti-Semitism.

Past as Prologue

The Mujtahids [authoritative interpreters of Islamic law] and Mulla are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.

The Persianophilic scholar E. G. Browne wrote those words in the 1920s about the entire pre-Pahlavi period of Shiite theocratic rule, from the ascension of the first Safavid shah, Ismail I, at the outset of the 16th century through Reza Shah Pahlavi’s installation in 1925, at the end of the Qajar dynasty. These Shiite clerics emphasized the notion of the ritual uncleanliness (najis) of Jews in particular, but also of Christians, Zoroastrians, and others, as the cornerstone of relations toward non-Muslims. The impact of this najis conception was already apparent to European visitors to Persia during the reign Ismail I. The Portuguese traveler Tome Pires observed (between 1512 and 1515) that “Sheikh Ismail . . . never spares the life of any Jew,” while another European travelogue notes “the great hatred [Ismail I] bears against the Jews.”

The writings and career of Mohammad Baqer al-Majlisi elucidate the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) on non-Muslims in Shiite Iran. Al-Majlisi (d. 1699) was perhaps the most influential cleric of the Safavid Shiite theocracy in Persia. For six years at the end of the 17th century, he functioned as the de facto ruler of Iran, making him the Ayatollah Khomeini of his era. By design, he wrote many works in Persian to disseminate key aspects of the Shia ethos among ordinary persons. In his Persian treatise “Lightning Bolts Against the Jews,” Al-Majlisi describes the standard humiliating requisites for non-Muslims living under sharia, first and foremost the blood-ransom jizya, or poll-tax, based on Koran 9:29.

He then enumerates six other restrictions relating to worship, housing, dress, transportation, and weapons, before outlining the unique Shiite impurity or najis regulations. It is these latter najis prohibitions which lead anthropology professor Laurence Loeb — who studied and lived within the Jewish community of Southern Iran in the early 1970s — to observe, “Fear of pollution by Jews led to great excesses and peculiar behavior by Muslims.” According to Al-Majlisi:

And, that they should not enter the pool while a Muslim is bathing at the public baths . . . If something can be purified, such as clothes, if they are dry, they can be accepted, they are clean. But if they [the dhimmis] had come into contact with those cloths in moisture they should be rinsed with water after being obtained. . . . It would also be better if the ruler of the Muslims would establish that all infidels could not move out of their homes on days when it rains or snows because they would make Muslims impure.

The dehumanizing character of these popularized “impurity” regulations fomented recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence,  including pogroms and forced conversions throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which rendered areas of Iran Judenrein — free of Jews. For example, the preeminent modern historian of Iranian Jewry, Walter Fischel, provides these observations based on the 19th-century narrative of Rabbi David d’Beth Hillel and additional eyewitness accounts:

Due to the persecution [by] their Moslem neighbors, many once flourishing communities entirely disappeared. Maragha, for example, ceased to be the seat of a Jewish community around 1800, when the Jews were driven out. . . . Similarly, Tabriz, where over 50 Jewish families are supposed to have lived, became Judenrein towards the end of the 18th century through similar circumstances. The peak of the forced elimination of Jewish communities occurred under Shah Mahmud (1834‒48), during whose rule the Jewish population in Meshed, in eastern Persia, was forcibly converted, an event which not only remained unchallenged by Persian authorities, but also remained unknown and unnoticed by European Jews.

The Khomeini “Revival”

The so-called “Khomeini revolution,” which in 1979 deposed the secular, Western-oriented regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, was in reality a mere return in full (including najis regulations, etc.) to oppressive Shiite theocratic rule, the predominant form of Iranian governance during four centuries. Conditions for all non-Muslim religious minorities, particularly Jews, rapidly deteriorated. Historian David Littman recounts the Jews’ immediate plight:

In the months preceding the Shah’s departure on 16 January 1979, the religious minorities . . . were already beginning to feel insecure . . . Twenty thousand Jews left the country before the triumphant return of the Ayatollah Khomeini on 1 February . . . On 16 March, the honorary president of the Iranian Jewish community, Habib Elghanian, a wealthy businessman, was arrested and charged by an Islamic revolutionary tribunal with “corruption” and “contacts with Israel and Zionism”; he was shot on 8 May.

Indeed, the demographic decline of Iranian Jewry after the creation of Israel was dramatic even before the revolution — from nearly 120,000 in 1948 to roughly 70,000 in 1978. The current Jewish population is perhaps 10,000, or less.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s views were the most influential in shaping the ideology of the revitalized Shiite theocracy, and his attitudes towards Jews — both before and after he assumed power — were particularly negative. Khomeini’s speeches and writings invoked a panoply of Judenhass motifs, including orthodox interpretations of sacralized Muslim texts, and the Shiite conception of najis. More ominously, Khomeini’s rhetoric blurred the distinction between Jews and Israelis, reiterated paranoid conspiracy theories about Jews (both within Iran and beyond), and endorsed the annihilation of the Jewish state. The pillars of this continuous modern campaign of annihilationist anti-Semitism are the motifs from traditional Islamic Jew-hatred, including Islamic eschatology, grafted seamlessly to jihadism. These deep-seated Islamic theological motifs are further conjoined to Holocaust denial and the development of a nuclear-weapons program intended expressly for Israel’s eradication.

The writings and speeches of the most influential religious ideologues of this restored Shiite theocracy — including Khomeini himself — make apparent their seamless connection to the oppressive doctrines of their forebears in the Safavid and Qajar dynasties. For example, consider the “Islamic perspective” on the U.N.’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written in the mid-1960s by Sultanhussein Tabandeh, the Iranian Shiite leader of a prominent Sufi order. According to Professor Eliz Sanasarian’s important study of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, Tabandeh’s tract became “the core ideological work upon which the [post-revolution] Iranian government . . . based its non-Muslim policy.” Tabandeh begins his discussion by lauding as a champion “of the oppressed” Shah Ismail I, the repressive and bigoted founder of the Safavid dynasty, who, as per contemporary accounts, “bore hatred against the Jews and ordered their eyes to be gouged out if they happened to be found in his vicinity.” It is critical to understand that Tabandeh’s key views on non-Muslims were implemented “almost verbatim in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

In essence, Tabandeh simply reaffirms the sacralized inequality of non-Muslims relative to Muslims under sharia:

Since Islam regards non-Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim . . . then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain . . . the penalties of a non-Muslim guilty of fornication with a Muslim woman are augmented because, in addition to the crime against morality, social duty and religion, he has committed sacrilege, in that he has disgraced a Muslim and thereby cast scorn upon the Muslims in general, and so must be executed. . . .

The conception of najis or ritual uncleanliness of the non-Muslim has also been reaffirmed. Ayatollah Khomeini stated explicitly: “Non-Muslims of any religion or creed are najis.” Khomeini elaborated his views on najis and non-Muslims, with a specific reference to Jews:

Eleven things are unclean: urine, excrement, sperm, blood, a dog, a pig, bones, a non-Muslim man and woman, wine, beer, perspiration of a camel that eats filth. … The whole body of a non-Muslim is unclean, even his hair, his nails, and all the secretions of his body…The body, saliva, nasal secretions, and perspiration of a non-Muslim man or woman who converts to Islam automatically become pure. As for the garments, if they were in contact with the sweat of the body before conversion, they will remain unclean. … It is not strictly prohibited for a Muslim to work in an establishment run by a Muslim who employs Jews, if the products do not aid Israel in one way or another. However it is shameful [for a Muslim] to be under the orders of a Jewish departmental head.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1942 speech “Islam Is Not a Religion of Pacifists” is a modern vision of classical, authoritative formulations on the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad. It states plainly:

Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under [Allah’s law; the Sharia].  . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors! There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and hadiths [sayings of the prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.

And among non-believers, Iranian Shiite theology reserves a special hatred for Jews. Besides returning the small remnant of the Iranian Jewish community to a state of obsequious dhimmitude through execution and intimidation, Khomeini’s Iran has embraced jihad “as a central pillar of faith and action,” seen most notably in its unending campaign of vilification and proxy violence against the “Zionist entity,” Israel. For current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the destruction of Israel is an openly avowed policy driven by his eschatological beliefs. Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, summarized this annihilationist eschatology, redolent with Koranic Jew-hatred, in 2006:

The Jew is the most obstinate enemy (Koran 5:82) of the devout. And the main war will determine the destiny of mankind. . . . The reappearance of the Twelfth Imam will lead to a war between Israel and the Shia.

As characterized in the canonical hadith (collections of Mohammed’s words and deeds), Sunni and Shiite eschatology highlight the Jews’ purported supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjal, the Muslim equivalent of the Antichrist. Other traditions state that the Dajjal is Jewish himself, and that at his appearance, he will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in robes and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjal is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered — even rocks and trees (except for the so-called gharkad tree) will deliver them up. Thus, according to a canonical hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985), if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology: On the day of resurrection, the vanquished Jews will be consigned to hellfire, which will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate.

Professor Moshe Sharon recently provided a very lucid summary of the unique features of Shiite eschatology, its key point of consistency with Sunni understandings of this doctrine, and Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s deep personal attachment to “mahdism.”

Since the late ninth century, the Shiites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shiism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed. Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Teheran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi. Shi’ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi. The Sunni mahdi is essentially an anonymous figure; the Shiite mahdi is a divinely inspired person with a real identity. However both Shiites and Sunnis share one particular detail about “the coming of the hour” and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one. Both Shi’ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985) attributed to Muhammad.

Averting the Ayatollah’s Final Solution

The much ballyhooed “Green Revolution” demonstrations on the streets of Iran in the summer of 2009 were predominantly a fight between two ugly options — the Rafsanjani/Mousavi faction and their mullahs versus the Ahmadinejad/Khameini faction and their mullahs. Both favor Iranian nukes and the jihad genocide of the Jewish state of Israel. Unless there were a civil war between these two dominant jihadist factions that debilitated each enough for some truly secular and Western faction to emerge from the power vacuum, Iran will remain what it has largely remained since 1502 (barring the period of more secular Western leaning, albeit rather brutal rule, from 1925 to 1979 under the Pahlavis) — an oppressive Shiite theocracy.

Iranians as a whole — let alone the Mousavi versus Ahmadinejad factionalists — are very far removed from honestly addressing the conundrum posed by the Iranian secularist and historian Reza Afshari, a decade ago, regarding whether official Islamic authorities reflect the views of the Iranian people:

Who is more culturally and religiously authentic than the Ayatollahs? Who is more credible to say what relevance Shiite culture has or does not have for the major issues of our time? The issue is not Islam as a private faith of individuals. It is about what state officials claiming Islamic authority might have to say about the state’s treatment of citizens. . . . In Iran, liberal Muslims or any other new interpreters of Islam did not come to power. When and if they do, we will have their record to examine. What we have from liberal Muslims today are only ideological claims punctuated by expressed good intentions.

Given the ad nauseam expressed genocidal intentions of the current ruling Iranian theocracy, Israel – with U.S. assent, if not direct assistance – must destroy Iran’s nuclear arms production facilities by whatever means necessary.



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