Hosting a Holocaust cartoon contest in Tehran, moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani follows revolutionary cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s footsteps. For Iran’s majority Shiite sect, its only common denominator with Islam’s conservative Sunni majority is an abiding hatred of Israel. When former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmdinejad called for “wiping Israel off the map” in 2005, it sent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu into conniptions. When Ahmadinejad followed his hateful rhetoric against Israel to host a Holocaust deniers’ conference Dec. 11, 2006, it continued the Ayatollah’s pernicious propaganda, hoping to find common ground with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states. Ahmadinejad succeeded in rattling Netanyahu, prompting Israel’s 66-year-old leader to call Iran an “existential threat.” Bibi never admitted he fell into Ahmadinejad’s trap.
Iran likes to deny the Holocaust precisely because it antagonizes Israel, something welcomed in the Arab world. After the British handed its “British Mandate of Palestine” to Israel May 14, 1948, Arabs tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the new Israeli state. Fighting and winning its war of independence in 1948, Israel received official U.N. statehood May 11, 1949, making it difficult for Arab inhabitants who battled Israel to return to their homes and villages. At no time before or since the League of Nations granted Britain the Mandate July 24, 1922 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, did any Arab group or state hold sovereign territory in what became modern Israel. Today’s Palestinians claim Israel’s spoils of the 1967 Six Day War as sovereign territory, despite the fact they held no sovereignty before Israel annexed the territory at the end of the Six Day War.
When five Arab states, led by Egypt’s Gen. Gamal Abdel Nasser, attacked Israel June 5, 1967, they expected to annihilate the Jewish State. By June 10, Israel had defeated Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, destroying their militaries and seizing Egypt’s Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, Jordan’s East Jerusalem and West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights. Iran plays to the Arab’s hatred of Israel, hosting Holocaust deniers’ conferences, Holocaust cartoon festivals and promising to rewrite the Mideast map to exclude Israel. Iran plays to Arab sensitivities over battlefield losses to Israel, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Since that war ended, Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization continued a guerrilla warfare against Israel. Iran uses high profile anti-Semitism to bond with Arabs, despite watching fortunes change when Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations Jan. 4.
For 10 years until he spoke to a joint session of Congress March 3, 2015 opposing the Iranian Nuke Deal, Bibi routinely threatened Iran with unilateral military action. Calling Iran and “existential threat” to Israel, Netanyahu didn’t get Iran’s propaganda using Holocaust denial to whip up Arab backing in the Sunni world. However much Iran funds Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, the militia isn’t only fixated on Israel. Hezbollah has sacrificed personnel defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against a Saudi-Turkey-U.S.-funded proxy war in Syria. While regarded as an enemy by Israel, especially after the bloody month-long war in 2006, it’s unthinkable that the U.S. currently backs the Saudi proxy war to topple al-Assad’s Shiite government. Causing the biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII, the Syrian War now threatens the sovereignty—and stability—of the European Union.
After battling Iraq’s late Saddam Hussein to a standoff Aug. 20, 1988, Iran has no interest more military adventures, despite backing Yemen’s Shiite Houthi minority. Whatever the anti-Semitic rhetoric out of Tehran, there’s no evidence that Iran’s prone toward expanding its borders. Using anti-Semitism as a rallying cry for uniting Sunni and Shiite Muslims hasn’t worked in the Middle East or elsewhere. With one of the largest Jewish populations in the Middle East, Iran has generally been a safe haven for Jews for centuries. Only since the 1979 Iranian Revolution has the application of more extreme Islamic law made it difficult for Jews and Christians. Iran uses anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial to form tenuous bonds with the majority Sunni Arab community in the Middle East. Judging by Saudi breaking off diplomatic relations, it takes more than anti-Semitism to find common ground.
Whatever anti-Semitism exists in the Arab World, Iran’s brand is designed to whip up support from the Sunni Arab community, too often at war with Shiites across the Middle East. There’s far more anti-Shiite hatred spewed out of Saudi Arabia than any anti-Semitism directed toward Jews and Israel. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and other moderate Arab states have a much bigger threat with radical Islam than Israel. When the Israeli-Hamas War broke out July 8, 2014, no other Arab state joined Hamas’s rocket attacks against the Jewish State. When the war ended Aug. 26, 2014, Gazans and Hamas militants lost 2,310 lives, causing some $5 billion in property damage in Gaza’s 1.85 million population. Iran knows the consequences of military action against Israel. All talk and no action, Iran continues its outrageous propaganda against Israel but has no intent of going further.