Palestinians must not allow Iran’s shameless abuse of their cause

Iran is not interested in the Palestinian cause itself, so much as it is interested in manipulating the cause to score political points.

Sloganeering. Iranians take part in a rally marking Quds Day in Tehran, on June 23. (AFP)

2017/07/02 Issue: 113 Page: 13

The Arab Weekly
Tallha Abdulrazaq

It cannot have escaped notice how Iran appears to be front and centre on most things to do with Israel in the media. It has reached such levels that the mullahs of Tehran and their grandstanding over the Palestinian- Israeli conflict have often eclipsed the media presence of the Palestinians themselves.

Those cheering for the Pales­tinians and their plight, however, ought to be wary of any of the Palestinians’ so-called Iranian friends and their annual obser­vance of Quds Day.

Quds Day was inaugurated in 1979 by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who set a commemoration for the last Friday of Ramadan to express support for the Palestinian struggle. Quds Day demonstra­tions feature speeches against Israel and the “Great Satan” — a reference to the United States — followed by chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” as the two countries’ flags are burned.

It is rather dramatic and, like other Iranian forays into foreign affairs, designed to inflame passions and sentiments of those who feel that the Palestinians have been subjected to a historic injustice. Tehran deftly manipu­lates these emotions to position itself as the spearhead of the Axis of Resistance — a group that has lost its way to Israel and is busy mercilessly slaughtering in the name of Palestinian liberation in Syria and Iraq.

This shameless expropriation and appropriation of the Pales­tinian cause is — somewhat disconcertingly — occasionally cheered on by Palestinians themselves, especially the Islamic Jihad group, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and some­times the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Hamas. An example of this was seen in 2015 when Hamas’s armed Qassam Brigades paid its respects to Samir al-Qantar, a Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist who killed Syrians in Quneitra.

Some of these Palestinian actors chalk this up to pragma­tism in the fight against the “Zionist coloniser” and others insist it is necessary to defend the Iran-led axis and its resist­ance against Israel. Nevertheless, their participation — particularly the PFLP’s — in Iranian military adventures in Syria and else­where serves Iran by granting it influence on the Arab street through the abuse of the Pales­tinian struggle for self-determi­nation.

Iran itself is very pragmatic in how it fights Israel, as are its proxies. Throughout the 1980s, and during its 8-year war with Iraq, Iran actively sought and received support from Israel by way of illegal arms transfers that engulfed the Reagan administra­tion in what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. Iran also provided intelligence to the Israelis — its avowed enemy — during Operation Opera in 1981 to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

Iran’s modern Iraqi rump state is no different. Quds Day demon­strations occur anywhere Iran’s influence is strong and on June 23 the Shia jihadists of the Popular Mobilisation Forces had a military parade in Baghdad. Oddly, the PMF did not chant “Death to America!” on this occasion nor did they burn US flags in support of the Palestin­ians.

One suspects this is may be because the United States is providing these holy warriors, who are entirely at Iran’s beck and call, with air cover they need to reconquer areas of Iraq from the Islamic State. Imagine the irony: The Great Satan is provid­ing air cover to the caretaker of the Mahdi, the mythical descend­ant of Prophet Mohammad whom the ayatollahs say will appear at the end of times to vindicate their violence.

It is imperative for Palestinians to not allow their just struggle for self-determination and equality to be subverted by Iranian politicking. Tehran is not interested in the Palestinian cause itself, so much as it is interested in abusing and manipulating the cause to score political points against its adversaries.

Such callousness towards the millions of Palestinian victims of Israeli occupation must not be allowed to continue and all to serve the purpose of providing a justification for Iran’s wanton destruction of others throughout the Arab world.

Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.

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