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Op-Ed: What is Israelophobia?Iranian political theorist Reza Parchizadeh explains the true meaning of Israelophobia, how the Islamic Republic is contributing to its existence and how the psychological fear of the State of Israel has contributed to the destabilization of the region.
Israelophobia is a psychological fear of Israel that is invested more in ideology than the practicalities of politics. It regards Israel as a contumely on the face of the earth rather than a troubled nation. It is rooted in the conviction that the modern state of Israel is an aberration from the “natural” pattern of nation-building. As such, the problematic of Israel is either written out of the world outright or treated with a high degree of antagonism.
Though Israelophobia, predicated first on Communism and then on Islamism, can be perceived all over the world, today its active and systematic progenitor is the Islamic Republic, the regime dominating Iran. Israelophobia is a practical method in the official discourse of the Islamic Republic in which Israel is designated as one of the significant “Others” to the Islamic Republic. That Other-ness of Israel’s to the Islamic Republic is then extended to the whole country, by that making Israel the archenemy of Iran.
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In simple words, the Islamic Republic has created a mostly imaginary enemy of Israel for Iran in order to be able to maintain and advance its own hegemony both in Iran and the wider Middle East. In other words, by designating Israel as the archenemy of Islam and Iran and positing itself as the guardian angel, the Islamic Republic has in effect aspired to play the role of the master in the region and that has had dire consequences for democracy all over the Middle East.
First, Israelophobia has tightened the grip of the despotic Islamic Republic around Iran’s neck. Presenting Israel as a fearsome enemy “constantly at our doorstep,” the Islamic Republic has been able to contain popular protests against itself and any sustained effort towards democracy by branding the protestors and democratic activists as spies and agents of Israel that mean to undermine and subvert the Islamist regime through Israeli guidance. As such, Iranian activists anywhere in the world – especially in Iran – are faced with the grim prospect of the charge of espionage for Israel, and as a consequence are effectively silenced by the Islamist regime.
Second, by destabilizing the Middle East and making security measures the highest priority in the region, Israelophobia has contributed to the rise of a state of security that has overshadowed the popular right to freedom and democracy. The arms race, including the allegedly non-civilian nuclear program that the Islamic Republic is pursuing against Israel and more recently against Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, has turned the region into a ticking bomb. In such a situation, states would be more concerned with security than freedom, thus actively seeking to curtail the freedom of their own and other people in pursuit of security. As a result, the Middle East has become much less democratic than before, if democracy can be said to have ever existed in that region in a meaningful mode.
Third, Israelophobia has made the peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians impossible. By rendering hate-mongering the typical discourse between Palestinians and Israelis, and through that promoting bad blood and therefore invoking incitement on the order of the day between the two nations, Israelophobia has contributed to a strong sense of mutual unwillingness to “come to the table.” In other words, by persistently keeping the old wounds open, Israelophobia has let blood constantly run between the two nations to the detriment of peace and stability. If wounds are to be closed, fractures to be remedied, divisions to be ameliorated, and things to be on the mend in the Middle East, all the world had better make a serious effort to transcend Israelophobia.
Reza Parchizadeh is a political theorist and analyst. He has a BA and an MA in English Language and Literature from University of Tehran, Iran; has studied Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University, Sweden; and is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Reza has published five books and many articles so far both in Persian and English. Some of his articles have been translated into Arabic. His research interests include theory, philosophy, history, geopolitics, security, and cultural studies. Reza is co-editor-in-chief of the Persian-language think tank Tahlil Rooz.
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