Tehran: twinned with Jerusalem?
If the Green movement triumphs and Iran becomes a secular democratic state, what will it mean for Israel?
On Jerusalem Day in Iran, supporters of the Green movement could be heard chanting: "Neither Gaza nor Lebanon; my life is for Iran". In other demonstrations, many of which had been organised by the state but hijacked by the Greens, they replaced the usual "Death to America and Israel" with "Death to Russia and China". And then last month, the reputed fiancé of Neda, the woman whose death has come to symbolise the movement, was invited to Israel and received by President Shimon Perez.
Not surprisingly, such happenings have raised questions about the Green movement's position towards Israel. There is no easy answer. As with all social movements, this one is a combination of diverse ideological dispositions expressed in various political forms – attitudes towards Israel included.
But a critical consideration of Green positions on human rights, democracy and independence also provides some insight into how the broad goals of this movement unite most of these diverse tendencies. Above all, it seems unlikely that a new, democratic Iranian government could have a normal relationship with Israel unless and until the latter also abides by these principles, and implements them to restore the rights of the Palestinians.
One of the main objectives of Iran's current revolutionary uprising is to establish a republican state – one probably based on the principle of laicite, which simply means the separation of religion from the state and the neutrality of the state.
This is a counter-flow to the current trend of other Islamic countries, which seem to be moving in the opposite direction. It is explicable, though, in the light of Iranians' experience of the problems that arise when religion is used to legitimise state power: it brutalises religion and corrupts the unaccountable power of the state.
It is at this point that a serious fault line demarcates future relations between Israel and Iran's potentially democratic regime. On the surface, it seems logical that Israelis might welcome the removal of an anti-Israel regime and its replacement with a democratic one.
However, on closer investigation the birth of a democratic Iran is not encouraged by the rightwing and ultra-rightwing political forces within Israel. This is not only because it would remove one of the country's major historical justifications for its policies in the region – that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by various forms of oriental despotism.
More importantly, Israel fears a democratic Iranian state far more than the present regime, because any regime that observed universal principles of human rights would have no option but to demand that Israel should end, in the words of Jimmy Carter, its apartheid relations with the Palestinians, specifically by implementing UN resolutions 228 and 336. If this demand is made by a new democratic government enjoying high levels of support within global public opinion, Israel could find it difficult to oppose.
This might help to explain why Israel sent two warships towards Iran at the beginning of the uprising, why its president received Makan or why some members of the Israeli government continually read out loud from their wish list about disintegration of Iran, as they are well aware of extreme sensitivity of Iranians towards their territorial integrity.
Unfortunately, while the majority of Iranian people are increasingly determined to rescue religion from the power of state, the reverse is happening in Israel. Although Israel was established as a religious state, its religious dimension was mainly symbolic. The dominant political forces within the state were secular, if not atheist, and the law to a large extent reflected this reality for some time. However, this has changed during the last 20 years as the centre of political gravity shifted to religious and secular fundamentalism, illustrated by the ascendance of a rightwing prime minister and ultra-rightwing foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
We are therefore observing the weakening of the very democratic principles upon which Israel has prided and distinguished itself since its foundation. There are now dual processes within Middle Eastern politics and culture, in the democratisation of Iranian society and de-democratisation of Israeli society. The outcome of either could not only condition wider political changes in the region, but also affect the trajectory of political forces within these countries.
The hope is that the emergence of democratic and independent politics in Iran might re-energise the progressive forces within Israeli society in order to counter the rise of fundamentalism there, and make a real and determined push to exchange land for peace and complete Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders. Meanwhile, Iran's revolutionary Green movement, bound by its principles and goals, cannot turn a blind eye to the violations of human rights that Palestinians have systematically suffered for over 60 years.
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In: Iran, Other
Tags: Middle East, Palestine, Israel, Religion, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Terrorism, Settler, War, Settlements, Conflict, extremism, nazi, fascist, racist, peace
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