Their leaders rely on multiple sources rooted in religion to promote a hateful agenda against the Jews and the Jewish state
“Are the Saud clan really Muslims? They are the same Jews who were then in Arabia.” — General Alireza Tangsiri, Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, on Busher TV, January 2022. (recorded and translated by MEMRI)
When Iranian General Alireza Tangsiri, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, said that Saudi Arabia’s royal family was indeed descended from Jews who had fought with the Prophet Muhammad in ancient Arabia, he apparently thought this was the best possible Kind of insult is to humiliate the house of Saud.
Between a rumor and a policy
Tangsiri is certainly not the first in the Middle East to “uncover” the rival party’s Jewish roots and accuse a leader or dominant figure of being a descendant of the Jews. The internet is rife with conspiracy theories about the Jewish mother of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Jewish roots of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Jewish origins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of the terrorist organization ISIS.
Still, there is a big difference between a disgusting rumor circulating on the Internet and official state policy proudly touting its anti-Semitism. While some countries in the Middle East are making efforts to promote tolerance and coexistence and fight anti-Semitism in the education system and in the media, Iran – along with radical Islamist movements – appears to be pulling the Muslim world in the opposite direction, says the Iranian-born Ellie Cohanim, who served in the Trump administration as deputy special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.
“The Iranian regime engages in what I call ‘obsessive anti-Semitism,’ meaning anti-Semitism motivates much of their activity and is an integral part of their ideology,” Cohanim told The Media Line. “Whether it is the fact that they have named their militia group ‘Al Quds Force’, so named after their desire to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem from the Jews; or their Holocaust denial as state policy; or their proxy terror activities by Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even the Houthis, all aimed at the destruction of Israel, the regime’s desire to end a Jewish sovereign presence in the Middle East spurs much of their activity.” , she said.
The Iranian regime engages in what I have called “obsessive anti-Semitism,” meaning that anti-Semitism motivates much of its activity and is an integral part of its ideology
The Islamic Republic of Iran is home to a Jewish community of about 10,000 people. Shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, some Iranian Jews were accused of spying for Israel and executed; 35,000 Iranian Jews soon left Iran. Officially, Iran distinguishes between Jews and “Zionists”, but in practice these terms are often used interchangeably.
Cohanim highlights the use of the two terms Zionist and Jew in the Iranian general’s speech in which he claimed that the Saudis are descendants of Jews. “What is remarkable about this speech is how the naval general switched back and forth between the terms Zionist and Jew, contradicting the regime’s own narrative that it claims it hates no Jews, only Israel. But in moments like this speech or the Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei had the gall to call Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, ‘Jewish’ and ‘filthy Zionist’, in those moments they subvert their own narrative,” she said.
“I’m a Semite too. How can I be against myself?’
It is no secret that for many years antisemitism was accepted in most parts of the Middle East and often promoted by various regimes, both conservative and progressive. Anti-Semitic sermons were read in the mosques and anti-Semitic tropes taught in the classrooms of schools and universities. Today, however, as more Middle Eastern countries develop warmer ties with the Jewish state and the Abraham Accords signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and a peace deal with Morocco blossom, it seems the tide has finally turned turn, even if it could take many years to undo the indoctrination of the past. Yet the Iranian leadership — as well as Muslim Brotherhood offshoots around the world — continues to promote the same old hateful agenda against the Jews and the Jewish state, drawing on multiple sources rooted in the religion.
While Islam recognizes Judaism as a monotheistic religion and views Jews as “People of the Book,” relations between Prophet Muhammad and the Jews have not always been easy. While the Hadith – a traditional collection of the sayings of Muhammad and his tacit approval or criticism – contain information about the care and concern the Prophet had for his Jewish neighbors, the Qur’an and Hadith also mention that Muhammad fought against the Jewish tribes who refused to accept Islam. These verses are often recited and quoted by anti-Semitic religious and political leaders in the Muslim world; However, the verses are often misquoted and their meaning distorted, according to Haras Rafiq, interim executive director of ISGAP – The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy and trustee of the British charity Muslims Against Antisemitism.
“If we look at traditional, classical Islam, we see that Jew is not a pejorative term. This phenomenon is about 100 years old. Today, if you want to attack someone in the Muslim world, call them Jewish. It is the worst type of insult among the Muslim majority around the world. When Imran Khan became Prime Minister of Pakistan, there was a fundamentalist extremist organization that called him a Jew,” he told The Media Line.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the vacuum was filled with various ideologies such as fascism, communism, Islamism, Baathists and more, says Rafiq. “Leaders like Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini have fused the European form of anti-Semitism with misinterpreted verses from the Koran and turned it into a religious issue,” Rafiq said.
Rafiq, who has advised numerous British prime ministers and worked with British ministers and US foreign ministers, notes the misuse of the Quran quotes and stories and accuses Iranian propagandists and radical Islamist organizations of using the Quran and hadith for incitement and incitement use for recruitment purposes. “The Shia in Iran believe that we are now at the ‘end of time’ and the Jews are doing the work of the Dajjal, the Antichrist, by controlling the money,” he explained.
If we look at traditional, classical Islam, we see that Jew is not a pejorative term. This phenomenon is about 100 years old. Today, if you want to attack someone in the Muslim world, call them Jewish.
Saudi citizens do not appear to have reacted to the Iranian’s widespread verbal attack on the royal family.
According to Ahmed N. Al-Ibrahim, a Saudi American political scientist, the Saudis are not too bothered by Iranian insults and insults. “Sometimes Iran says that the Saudi royal family is Jewish. And sometimes they say the Sauds are from Mars,” he said.
“They can say whatever they want. We know that the Iranian regime is backward – it is anti-Arab, anti-Jewish, anti-everyone. Their number one enemy is Al-Saud. We’re not worried. The bloodline of the Sauds is also known. These are clichés for local consumption. As for anti-Semitism, well, Jews are not the only Semites in the Middle East. We are Semites too. I am Semite. How can I be antisemite? That means I will be against myself,” added Al-Ibrahim.
Decades to achieve real change
Experts are examining what can be done today to curb hateful anti-Semitic propaganda from Iran.
Cohanim believes that the US must cut off the Iranian regime’s sources of funding to stop the incitement.
“The reality is that the regime’s record since coming to power in 1979 has been to use the country’s resources to line its own pockets, fund its terror proxies, develop nuclear weapons capabilities, and run a massive $1 multilingual propaganda machine.” billion dollars in funding reportedly each year alone,” she said.
Rafiq says education and trust in trusted knowledge of Islam is key, especially in the West.
“I have said in the past that there will soon be more radical mosques here in London than in Saudi Arabia. It’s very dangerous. Today we are seeing a positive turnaround in some Middle Eastern countries, but still – it could take decades to see real change,” he concluded.