Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as main instrument in the attempt to galvanize Iran as well as Muslims and others.
For the past 44 years, the Islamic regime in Iran has tried to foment hatred towards Israel both at home and abroad, dedicating vast resources to its hateful anti-Israel campaign. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as the main instrument in this attempt to galvanize both Iranians as well as Muslims, and others around the world. While it’s clear that Iran is able to support a wide proxy network that actively participates in the war against Israel, it is less clear how successful it has been regionally, as well as globally, in advancing an anti-Israel agenda.
One thing, however, is certain: domestically, Iran’s anti-Israel campaign has been a failure.
Anti-Israel propaganda is embedded within the system developed by the Islamic regime. From school textbooks to billboards on virtually every street, from official political speeches to religious sermons in mosques, from newspaper editorials and TV programs to movie theatres, Iranians are constantly bombarded with all kinds of anti-Israel propaganda.
The hatred of Israel goes hand in hand with Iranian policy supporting the struggle against Israel, a policy that includes investing billions in proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, and the West Bank. Iran has been deeply involved in supporting Hamas and with the current war in Gaza, which Iran’s proxies actively pursue.
As such, the Islamic regime would like all Iranians to hate Israel. However, much of this effort has backfired, and the “Israel card” – rather than being a slogan that embodies the support for the regime – actually became a symbol for the Iranian opposition effort that seeks to change the regime and its priorities.
The signs of this failure have been prevalent for years. In 2009, the Green Movement carried signs with slogans like “No to Gaza, No to Lebanon, I (only) give my life to Iran,” which was shouted by thousands during anti-government demonstrations. The slogan – which protested the set of priorities of the Islamic Republic – became iconic and was widely used as it reflected a simple desire for Iran to come first. With roughly 1 million unemployed college graduates and a 47% inflation rate in 2023, the Iranian people have grown tired of large-scale government spending on terror and “other people’s wars.”
Since 2009, Iran’s economy has taken a turn for the worse, influenced by economic sanctions and growing dissatisfaction with government policies. Soon thereafter, it became harder to avoid hearing the open opposition to the regime’s anti-Israel policies and propaganda. Iranians in the street had started to openly question anti-Israel policies of the regime, wondering why they had to pay for it. They saw nothing in it but misery and hardship at home.
During nationwide protests in 2017-2018 – and again in 2020 and 2021 – as well as last year during the nationwide protests triggered by the murder of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police – protesters across the country chanted slogans against the Palestinian cause to show their opposition to the official policy of the Islamic regime.
This year, following Hamas’s surprise attack on October 7th, the Islamic regime in Tehran tried to show public support by staging a “spontaneous demonstration” to celebrate the murder of 1,200 Israelis next to the Gaza Strip. Pastries were handed out, along with drinks and sweets – yet it was an utter failure. In Teheran, a city with a population of more than 16 million, not even a few thousand participated. Most people passing by looked on with anger and disgust, refusing to participate.
The next day, during a soccer match, officials tried again to encourage the crowd to support the Palestinian cause by parading with large Palestinian flags. It backfired again when crowds of young fans started to shout insulting slogans towards the officials, chanting in unison: “Take that Palestinian flag and shove it up your A**!” A clip of the incident immediately started to circulate online. Similar incidents were repeated in other stadiums where young people shouted anti-Palestinian slogans.
Even clips of high school students started to go viral where school officials were encouraging students to shout, “Death to Israel,” with students replying, “Death to Palestine!”
The scene outside Iran was no different. While university campuses in America, as well as many cities and capitals in Europe, were filled with Hamas and Palestinian sympathizers, expat Iranians showed their solidarity with Israel.
In many pro-Israel rallies around the globe, it was easy to trace Iranians waving the pre-Islamic revolution royal flag proudly along with Israel’s Star of David flag. This became bad enough for the regime that even its supporters began to publicly wonder why Iranians have become so pro-Israel. In a televised debate, a pro-regime hardliner by the name of Alahkaram was challenged to explain why the regime can no longer gather enough people in their staged demonstrations to support the Palestinians.
For many years now, the Iranian people have been trying to demonstrate to the world that they neither support nor condone the policies and actions of the Islamic regime. In fact, they want nothing to do with the worldview and sentiments of the revolutionaries who brought the Islamic revolution to fruition.
The support given to Israel after the October 7 attacks is yet another clear signal to the world of an enormous schism between the Iranian people and the Islamic regime of Iran. Iranians wish nothing to do with the Islamic regime, the revolution that brought it into existence, nor the mentality of activists who supported it.
Similar to the Islamist regime in Gaza, the Islamic Republic in Teheran has brought nothing but pain, suffering, and destruction to its people and the region at large. Iranians have long realized it. The question is – will the free world realize it as well?
Dr. Nir Boms is a research fellow at the Dayan Center for Middle East Studies. Shayan Arya is an Iran expert and Human Rights activist and a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Hananya Naftali.
By NIR BOMS, SHAYAN ARYA