As the Islamic Republic wraps up its most recent Holocaust-cartoon festival, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh consider the central role of anti-Semitism not only in the regime’s official ideology but in its grand strategy:
Anti-Semitism was part of [the current Iranian regime’s] inception. The revolution’s father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spent much of his life indulging it. In Khomeini’s rendition, the Jews, always untrustworthy in Islamic history, are surrogates of Western imperialism who have displaced Palestinian Muslims and even distorted Islam’s scriptural texts. Khomeini’s hatred toward Israel exceeded even his disdain for America. . . . [I]t was America’s conduct, not its existence, that the mullahs contested. Israel, on the other hand, was for Khomeini an unlawful entity, irrespective of its actual policies and behavior. No peace compact or negotiated settlement with the aggrieved Palestinians could ameliorate this essential illegitimacy. Israel must be wiped off the map.
Since the ayatollah’s death, Tehran’s efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state have continued, no matter who among the ruling elite has had the upper hand. . . .
In foreign affairs, this antagonism to Israel enforces the clerical regime’s claims to regional leadership, especially at a time when the mullahs’ ecumenical message to Sunni Muslims has been compromised by Iran’s role in provoking and sustaining sectarian warfare in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Iran’s anti-Semitic assault is one of the few rhetorical weapons the clerics can deploy that has broad popular appeal among Sunni Muslims. Arab leaders may envision agreements with Israel, but many of their constituents loathe the idea. . . .
And the clerical regime’s anti-Semitism will grow worse as the rewards of the nuclear deal increase. The mullahs no longer have to worry how the regime’s hatred of Jews plays in the West—the buffoonish character of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gone and sanctions are falling [away]. . . . What matters most is the war for Muslim minds, and the clerical regime intends to exploit anti-Semitism for all that it’s worth.