On Sunday, 12 December, the Iran Committee organized a demonstration in Amsterdam against “human rights violations” in Iran. This committee was initiated by the Centre for Information and Documentation about Israel (CIDI), which is an influential pro-Israel lobby. The leadership of this committee consists of right-wing politicians, Christian fundamentalists, anti-Muslim racists, and unfortunately a leading member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.
Although its mission statement starts with a brief condemnation of “executions” in Iran, the rest of the document makes clear what the Iran Committee is really about. It states:
. . . [T]he Iranian president has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and the regime supports many terrorist organizations that are targeting Israeli civilians and Jewish targets all over the world. Now the Iranian regime is on the brink of making nuclear weapons, with which it can make good on this threat. According to the IAEA, Iran has 5,000 centrifuges in operation, with which it can enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. At the same time, Iran is developing long-range missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads and which can reach Europe.
The Committee fears the consequences of this criminal regime having nuclear weapons. Iran’s violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty can lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and they are a great threat to the whole world — especially Israel. With nuclear weapons, Iran will also feel freer to terrorize its dissidents, women, homosexuals, Kurds, Baha’i, and other minorities.
The mission statement of the Iran Committee is an obvious attempt to turn the human rights issue into a tool for Israeli propaganda against the “Iranian nuclear threat.” Initiatives like the Iran Committee were taken by the pro-Israel lobby in reaction to two developments: the shift in the Western public opinion against Israel in recent years; and the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In summer 2006, Israel waged a war against Lebanon that resulted in a humiliating defeat for its army. Moreover, the killing of hundreds of Lebanese civilians created a public outrage all over the world. This outrage became even more widespread after Israel massacred 1,500 Palestinians in Gaza in the winter of 2008/2009 and was condemned, by the United Nations’ Goldstone report, for “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”
Israeli politicians and their lobbyists in the West were not worried only about the Western public opinion becoming less receptive to their propaganda after the Lebanon and Gaza wars. What really made them nervous was that fact that they were losing ground just as they were turning their conflict with the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance into a proxy war against Iran. It is no secret that Israel has propagandized for a military attack on Iran to prevent it from achieving nuclear technology and hence shifting the balance of power in the region. The wars against Lebanon and Gaza were meant to lay the ground for such a move, by destroying those forces that could retaliate if Israel attacked Iran. However, since the disastrous wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, world public opinion is firmly against a new war in the region. Moreover, Israel’s problem is not only world public opinion, but also a less receptive Washington after the election of Obama. The new administration has the war option still on the table, reminding Iran of it now and then, but it is divided on this issue.
Against this background, the Israeli government and its allies have developed a strategy to counter the diminishing support for Israel in the Western public opinion by portraying Iran as the greatest danger in the world today. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to manufacture a situation in which a war against Iran would become justifiable. The Iran Committee and other similar initiatives were created to mobilize public opinion against Iran by focusing on Ahmadinejad’s foolish rhetoric and the violations of human rights in Iran, as a way to alarm the world about Iran’s “nuclear threat.” This strategy was confirmed in a cable from Israel’s Foreign Ministry instructing its embassies to each recruit 1,000 people to lobby for Israel by intervening in meetings and public debates, for instance calling attention to “human rights in Iran or Syria.” It appears that the Israeli embassy in the Netherlands has found some Iranians, who, consciously or unconsciously, have become instruments in Israel’s war preparations against Iran.
Some Iranian opposition activists and parties, like the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, have disgracefully supported the Iran Committee in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the majority of Iranians were not fooled and stayed away from the demonstration in Amsterdam, which attracted less than 20 people. Nevertheless, those Iranian groups who support the Iran Committee have besmirched the reputation of the pro-democracy movement that has historically combined its struggle against domestic tyrants with a struggle against foreign powers that seek to dominate it. They have provided the Iranian regime with “evidence” that those talking of democracy and human rights in Iran are instruments of the pro-Israel lobby. They have provided “evidence” to those in Arab countries who were wary of supporting the post-election demonstrations in Iran, because they feared the protesters wanted to align Iran with the US and Israel. However, there are countless Iranians who regard their struggle for democracy as part of the national struggles in the region to end the oppression of Palestinians, send all American and European armies back to their homes, and close down every single military base they have in the Middle East.
Peyman Jafari is a socialist anti-war activist and PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam.