The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Question of Palestinian Statehood
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By: Nima Shirali
Since the triumph of Iranís ĎIslamicí revolution in 1979, it has become abundantly clear that Khomeiniís arrival in Tehran commenced an era, in which Islamic fanaticism would have significant implications for peace in the Middle East. To specify further, Khomeini returned from exile in France to actualize the ambitions of those, which were aiming for the destabilization of the region. With his charismatic appeal and seemingly Moses-like aspiration in truly emancipating Iranís people, Khomeini began the threshold of an era, which would suppress the potential for Palestinian statehood.
From the outset of the proclamation of Iranís Islamic Republic, critics of religious fundamentalism and the amalgamation of religion and politics (especially in the Middle East), correctly predicated negative consequences for Palestineís people. In the context of reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iranís Islamic Republic has undoubtedly served to take steps backwards, away from compromise.
With its blatant support for terrorist activity against Israelís civilians, and its adamant dedication to eliminating Israel, Iranís religious tyranny has in effect punished the Palestinian population. The Islamic Republicís most dire punishment of the Palestinians has obviously been its devotion to perpetuating violence with Israel, hence inhibiting the possibility for Palestinian self-determination. In effect, this has served to invalidate the Palestiniansí true struggle for self-government.
To appreciate an analysis of the Islamic Republicís relation with Palestinian statehood, it would help to elucidate the causes and motives for the Republicís directives. Primarily, the newly-promulgated regime had an inherent interest in gaining support and recognition from its Muslim neighbors. Advancing the fiction that they were advocates of Palestinian freedom, the Mullas hoped to be seen as the most prominent proponents of the cause.
More recently, due to the current movement for democracy in Iran, the hardline theocrats have been inclined to reassert their political authority by ostensibly supporting the Palestinian movement for self-determination. Historically, this stance emanates from Khomeiniís aspirations in ďexporting Iranís Islamic revolutionĒ. In attempting to realize this aspiration, Khomeiniís supporters manifested their support for groups like the Hizbullah, which adhere to the same extremism as themselves.
The clericsí ostensible support for the Palestinians also originates from the need to divert attention away from their brutal policies governing Iran. These policies, which often resemble cruel medieval rituals, have been contributive to Iranís current popular movement for democracy. The stoning of women and public hangings should be viewed as obsolete practices in the administration of justice, and not necessary in preserving some ĎIslamicí form of republic. Needless to say, the juxtaposition of the words ĎIslamicí and Ďrepublicí creates for a stark contradiction in itself. This is due to the clash between the empowerment of the people, and the empowerment of a supreme religious leader (Imam). Placing this is context one can see why the theocratic government of Iran, which has found itself in a menacing contradiction, would want to divert attention away from home. Unfortunately, they have falsely calculated that support for terrorism would be the most effective means to achieve this objective.
The Islamic Republic is aware of the reality that terrorism is the most consequential obstacle to a two-state solution. However, it would help to realize that Iranís clerics do not want an independent Palestinian state. If the Palestinians were to achieve self-determination, the clerics would no longer benefit from having Israel as their enemy. The creation of a Palestinian state would have two main consequences for Iranís clerics. Firstly, it would be a cause for a decline in their seemingly influential role in Ďdriving the Zionists outí. This emanates from the clericsí interest in searching for an ulterior entity as an enemy, which would justify their extremism as well as divert attention away from home. Secondly, it would cause further unrest domestically since the failure of the Islamic Republic to replace Israel would be seen as a failure of an extreme objective. This can be correlated to the Republicís failures in actualizing its extreme policies domestically. In turn, the creation of a Palestinian state would galvanize Iranís democratic movement and would have unfavorable consequences for Iranís theocratic government.
In sum, the Iranian clerics are expediently (as the ĎExpediency Councilí may suggest), exploiting the Palestiniansí true struggle for freedom for their own political advantage. The Palestinians, ravaged by decades of violence, have unfortunately interpreted this exploitation as one helpful to their cause. Iranís religious tyrants have been seen as allies by the Palestinians, not having realized that two things are happening. Firstly, steps are being taken backwards from statehood, and secondly, that the hardliners are benefiting from Israelís oppression of the Palestinians. Again, this is implicated with the clericsí desire in maintaining their religious and political authority and influence inside, and outside of Iran.
It is unquestionable that if the Palestinians stopped their support of the Islamic Republic (those which do support it), the prospects for Palestinian statehood would definitely be higher. It is not in the best interests of the Palestinians to have terrorist acts committed against Israel. As Weinstein has mentioned (May, 2003), terrorist activity only instigates military retaliations against innocent Palestinians.
It has become increasingly clear that the Islamic Republicís support for Hizbullah, and Iraqís support (under former president Saddam Hussein) for Hamas has made Palestine a strategic ground. The Palestinian issue has become strategically important because support for the Shiite Hizbullah group (by Iranís clerics) and the Sunni Hamas (by Saddam Hussein) advance ambitions for exerting political influence. Palestine has become a competing ground where the Shiite-Sunni rivalry is amongst many transparent and significant issues. Support for terrorism has often been a means to perpetuate violence, which has been beneficial for dictatorships in the Middle East, including the brand of religious fascism coined by Khomeini.
Nima Shirali is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Middle East Reconciliation Journal (MERJ), www.merecforum.org