It is now time for Iran and Israel to bury their hostilities and differences. That at least is the contention put forward by Navid Hassibi in his piece published yesterday, Why Can’t Iran and Israel be Friends? Hassibi, who is currently a scholar at George Washington University’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, lauds the idea that, as in the past, Iran and Israel might find shared national interests and areas of cooperation. Well who could possibly be opposed to such sentiments?
The problem with the argument here, however, is the strange suggestion of equivalence that this piece adopts. Hassibi talks of the two countries needing to set aside their “mutual hostility” so as to “look beyond their political differences.” Yet, such a tone is more than a little disingenuous. After all, what exactly are the political differences that we’re talking about here? Mainly it is that Israel thinks it should exist, while Iran has made quite clear that it thinks Israel shouldn’t. That’s the kind of “political differences” that are being faced.
Perhaps it will come as no surprise to learn that the piece in question was published via the Guardian, at the Tehran Bureau hosted on the newspaper’s website. The Tehran Bureau appears to be filled with news stories and opinion pieces devoted to showing the “other side” of life in Iran–arts and culture, feel-good pieces about growing moderation and openness in the country, the occasional murmur of concern about human rights or the economy. And if the Guardian is choosing to host the Tehran Bureau, then this alone surely raises some not unreasonable questions about what kind of agenda might be at play here.
Hassibi’s article is at pains to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that Iran and Israel, particularly prior to the Islamic revolution, engaged in a great deal of cooperation and maintained remarkably warm relations. But this is precisely the point. When the people governing Iran weren’t daily calling for the obliteration of the “Zionist entity” and arming Israel’s terrorist enemies to the teeth, Israel bore no ill will toward the Iranians whatsoever. But when Hassibi claims that there is “mutual hostility,” we are being dishonest with ourselves if we choose to forget that the regime in Iran is the same one that, as Douglas Murray once put it, “denies the last Holocaust while expressing an interest in committing the next one.”
Imagine the sense of surprise, then, at discovering Jewish acquaintances optimistically parading Hassibi’s opinion piece across the social media sphere, enthusiastically endorsing its claims and embracing its recommendations. Eager for any good news at all on this front, young liberal-minded Jews are ever ready to be convinced of these kinds of sentiments. The more lovely the story, the more ready they are to believe it. This idea about “mutual hostility” and both sides needing to set aside “political differences” chimes well with the kindergarten teachings they recall of how if one is only nice enough to others, then soon enough they will start to be nice back. It involves a sense of disbelief that anyone in the world is really bad, or could ever really mean it when they say they hate Jews. If Israel would only bury the hatchet, then all this unpleasantness with Iran could stop, and as the title of Hassibi’s piece suggests, everyone could just get on with being friends.