Iran Employing Enmity for Israel To Build Coalitions Among Iraqis, Palestinian Arabs
The State Department said America is ‘deeply disturbed’ by a law legislated yesterday at Baghdad that makes any Iraqi contact with Israel punishable by death.
In two separate arenas this week — Iraq and the Palestinians territories — Iran is toiling to unite Arabs behind a tried and true rallying cry: “We hate Israel.”
A new law legislated yesterday at Baghdad makes any Iraqi contact with Israel punishable by death. “No antisemitic law this draconian exists anywhere else in the Arab world,” a shocked Iraqi-American journalist, who asked for anonymity for the obvious reason, told the Sun.
In Israel, meanwhile, security officials are gearing for a violent eruption Sunday as the two Iran-backed terrorist organizations in Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are threatening to disrupt an annual Israeli celebration of the 1967 unification of Jerusalem.
Although a Jerusalem Day flag-waving parade snaking through town, including the old city, has marked the event for the last 30 years, it has recently become a rallying point for Palestinians who decry “judaization” of the ancient Jewish capital.
Last year, an 11-day war raged after Hamas reacted to the parade by firing rockets from Gaza at southern Israel, as well as all the way to Tel Aviv. Several events at that time, including an Israeli court fight over the occupation of a house in the mostly Arab Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, helped Iran stoke the fires and urge Hamas to launch the attack.
This year Hamas, again egged on by Tehran, has provoked violence at the Islamic mosques in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount throughout the month of marking Ramadan. Yet, while preparing for the worst, Israeli sources say they don’t expect Palestinian reaction to Sunday’s Jerusalem Day march to be as fierce as last year’s.
If so, it would be a loss for Iran’s Islamic Republic, which promotes anti-Israel violence around the region.
Tehran is more successful in Baghdad, where its supporters prevented a firebrand politician, Muqtada al-Sadr, from passing even one law since last October’s election, when his faction won the largest number of parliamentary seats.
Yesterday, for the first time, Mr. al-Sadr united the parliament behind a law he initiated: Banning normalization with Israel, which is punishable by death. The legislation was supported by 275 of the 329-member legislature.
In a statement today the State Department said America is “deeply disturbed” by the Iraqi law.
“In addition to jeopardizing freedom of expression and promoting an environment of antisemitism,” spokesman Ned Price said, “this legislation stands in stark contrast to progress Iraq’s neighbors have made by building bridges and normalizing relations with Israel.”
Although America liberated Iraq in 2003, it has little sway over Baghdad nowadays. Instead, Tehran dominates the country’s politics.
Mr. al-Sadr, a leader of a large Shiite group, ran on a nationalist ticket, opposing involvement of all outsiders in Iraqi affairs, including Iran. After the election Terhan and its Iraqi allies accused him of Saudi Arabian and American ties.
“To deflect such pressures, including serious Iranian threats on his life, Muqtada made this issue up,” a Washington-based Iraqi activist, Entifadh Qanbar, told the Sun. Another source said that Mr. al-Sadr, himself an Islamist, went after a “low hanging fruit,” uniting Iraqis behind hatred of Israel.
Even as the State Department denounced the “antisemitic” legislation, it went unmentioned in yesterday’s United Nations Security Council’s monthly debate on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”
Instead, the council’s president for May, the American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, dedicated the bulk of her speech to the “heart-wrenching killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11.”
Like other UN speakers, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield demanded an “immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation” into the killing, which occurred during a battle at Jenin between the Israeli army and armed Palestinian groups.
None of the speakers mentioned the Palestinian Authrority’s rejection of an Israeli offer to jointly conduct such an investigation.
The Israeli Defense Force top commander, Lieutenant General Aviv Kokhavi, said today that Israel has offered to forensically examine the bullet that killed Abu Akleh in Jenin. Such an examination, alongside Palestinian or American observers, he said, could determine whether the bullet was shot by the IDF or Palestinian militants.
As of yet the Palestinian Authority has declined Israel’s offer to examine the bullet, which was pulled out of the Al Jazeera reporter’s skull by a Palestinian pathologist shortly after her death.
General Kokhavi said that the IDF has already conducted an internal investigation that concluded none of the Israeli soldiers targeted reporters deliberately.
Al Jazeera and CNN nevertheless published arguments that Abu Akleh “was killed in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.” That unfounded conclusion is already an accepted wisdom among Palestinians and in the Arab and Muslim sphere.
Tehran and its allies are attempting to overcome deep political, sectoral, and parochial divisions in the region by unifying Arabs — as well as at times Western diplomats — in anger over alleged Israeli misdeeds and pure hatred of Israel and Jews.
As the State Department condemnation of the Iraqi law indicates, however, the Abraham Accords — as several recent peace treaties with Arab states are known — have demonstrated how that ancient hatred can be overcome.
Benny Avni is a columnist who has published in the New York Post, WSJOpinion, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, Israel Radio, Ha’Aretz, and others. Once New York Sun, always New York Sun.