In adopting the ideology of Ayatollah Ruhollah Mustafavi Khomeini upon its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran replaced the country’s millennia-old monarchy with a radical Shiite theocracy. The regime has always openly expressed its antisemitism, which cannot be expunged, because it is indivisible from the Khomeinist thinking on which the Islamic Republic is predicated.
In the 1950s, as part of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s “periphery doctrine,” Israel began to cultivate relationships with non-Arab states and ethnic minorities. On July 23, 1960, the Shah of Iran granted Israel de facto recognition. Israel and Iran both had strong relations with the US, and opposed Soviet efforts to gain influence in the region. The Mossad and the CIA had regular contact with Iran’s intelligence service — the SAVAK — to monitor and control Islamic and Marxist terrorist groups that had ties to the KGB.
But Iran-Israel relations collapsed when the Shah was deposed in 1979. After taking power, Khomeini said, “I once again remind everyone of the danger of the prevalent, festering, and cancerous Zionist tumor in the body of Islamic countries.” The newly installed mullahs used the mosques to spread antisemitic and anti-Israel propaganda. Israel and Iran have been antagonists ever since the Islamic regime took power.
The Iranian Republic, which has nuclear ambitions and an aggressive ballistic missiles program, has been virulently anti-US and anti-Israel since its inception. It has devoted itself to the construction of a transnational terrorist network, in its drive to become the regional hegemon. It expanded the theater of war and escalated conflict in the Middle East with the ultimate goal of establishing an unbroken Shiite crescent across the region as a stepping-stone to world domination. The transnational terrorist network that it created and supports, which it calls an “axis of resistance and regional power,” threatens far more than only the Jewish State.
While neither side wants direct conflict, both Iran and Israel have warned that it might occur. The regime continues to support proxy terrorist groups that threaten Israel, and Israel continues to thwart those efforts. Since 2011, Tehran has provided military assistance and billions of dollars in financial aid to fuel the proxy war, and conducted several operations against Israel involving sophisticated weapons.
Hostilities between Iran and Israel have intensified recently in both volume and scale. In September 2019, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Salami said, “We have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime.” On March 7, 2021, Iranian Defense Minster Amir Hatami said, “Zionists should know that if they commit any silly acts, Iran will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa into ashes.” These are expressions of the antisemitism that is an essential part of the doctrine of Khomeinism, and it will continue as long as the regime continues.
Erfan Fard is a counterterrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, DC. Twitter: @EQFARD A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.