"Jerusalem Day, Green Iran Day.” From the website of the reformist camp, which aspires
to turn Jerusalem Day into a popular protest against the regime (From www.mowjcamp.com).
1. This coming Friday will be "World Jerusalem Day,” which is marked by Iranians every year on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (this year on September 18). According to a order issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian government, Jerusalem Day has been held since 1979 to express the desire of all Muslims for the "liberation of Jerusalem.” Every near the day is marked by mass marches and rallies in Iran (usually after the regime has recruited the public and organized transportation). Senior Iranian leaders give fervent speeches laced with anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist rhetoric and slogans. The Iranians also organize events in countries where there are large Shi’ite communities, in both the Middle East (especially Lebanon) and around the world.
2. In the past, the day focused on Iranian support for the Palestinians and the striving to destroy Israel, but this year, however, a major change has been made. Instead of reflecting what Iran characterizes as its "raising the banner of the Palestinian struggle,” events are expected to reflect the growing rift between the Iranian leadership and the people. While the top echelons of the regime called for mass participation in the demonstrations supporting the Palestinians, the reformist camp, which refuses to surrender, has marked Jerusalem Day as the day when "the streets of Iran will be painted green.” The situation is potentially confrontational, which may lead to a new peak in the struggle between the reformist camp and the regime (which is closing the noose around the reformist leaders and is also slowly preparing the ground for the detention of Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mahdi Karroubi).
3. In a Friday sermon at the University of Tehran, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei warned the reform leaders, speaking against those who were "trying to exploit the vast number of participants to divide the people.” Other senior Iranians issued their own threats. Most outspoken, as usual, was Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of Kayhan, which reflects the views of the Iranian leader. He said that reform head Mir Hossein Moussavi, who lost in the June elections, were exploiting Jerusalem Day together with the Zionists to prevent demonstrations in support for the Palestinian people.
4. In the breach between the reformist and conservative camps stands the Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the strongest opponent of the Revolutionary Guards’ attempts to take over Iran. In an announcement issued for Jerusalem Day, Rafsanjani called on the Iranian masses to participate in the events, and promised that "the moment of true dawn will break through the dark hours of night.” It is possible to accept the announcement literally, as an expression of support for the Palestinians and a call to demonstrate for the Palestinian cause, but if read between the lines it shows Rafsanjani’s support for the reformist camp and a call to join the "green” protest demonstrations.
5. Despite the regime’s warnings, the reformist camp energetically continues making preparations for Jerusalem Day. Its activists flood websites, social networks, blogs and forums with announcements and instructions calling for Iranians to "paint the streets green” and turn Jerusalem Day events into a day of victory for the "green movement.” Tactically, the reformist movement is exploiting to the full the regime’s call for the masses to take to the streets and demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian people and Jerusalem in an attempt to turn it into a mass protest against the regime. On the other hand, the Iranian regime is expected to have no choice but to let the people take to the streets, and apparently next to the usual cries of "Death to Israel” and "Death to America,” cries of "Death to the dictator” and "Death to the rule of the sages” may also be heard.
Jerusalem Day events over the years
6. On September 18, a week before the Iranian president leaves for the annual session of the UN General Assembly, and with reports of direct negotiations between Iran and United States, World Jerusalem Day will be marked. It has been held on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan every year since 1979, when Khomeini and the Iranian government decided to set aside a day to mark the Muslim desire for "the liberation of Jerusalem.”
Stamps advocating the "liberation of Palestine”
and the armed Palestinian campaign, issued in 1992 by Iran for Jerusalem Day.
7. Every year mass marches are held (usually after the regime has recruited the public and provided transportation). Senior Iranian leaders give fervent speeches laced with anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist rhetoric and slogans ("The regime occupying Jerusalem”), and the crowds respond with calls of "Death to Israel,” and "Death to the United States.”
8. In addition to events in Iran, the regime sponsors Jerusalem Day events throughout the Arab-Muslim world, especially in countries with large Shi’ite populations. The focus of events in the Middle East is Lebanon, where they are directed by Hezbollah, although in the past they were also held in Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip (under Hamas control). In former years events were also held in Britain, Germany, Canada and Asian countries. Calls were heard at the rallies for the destruction of the State of Israel and hatred was expressed for the United States and other Western countries (See the Appendix).
The confrontation between the regime and the reformists
9. In previous years Jerusalem Day focused on the Palestinian cause and support for the Iranian regime, but this year it is likely to be different. While the regime has already issued a call for mass participation in the demonstrations supporting the Palestinians and calling for the destruction of Israel, the reformist camp has marked Jerusalem Day as the day when "the streets of Iran will be painted green.” The situation is potentially confrontational, and may lead to a new peak in the struggle between the reformist camp and the regime (which is closing the noose around the reformist leaders and is also slowly preparing the ground for the detention of Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mahdi Karroubi).
Iran’s leaders: "We must beware schism”
10. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei emphasized Jerusalem Day in his September 11 Friday sermon, saying that "next Friday we will make Jerusalem Day, one of the most important traditions of the leader of the revolution, Khomeini, a day which reflects the interest of the Iranian people and the revolution in holy Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause...Iran has preserved the status, commemoration and uniqueness of the day throughout the world, even though many governments have invested fortunes in trying to force it into a forgotten corner...If Iran did not stand firm against their evil policy, they might succeed in making the Palestinian cause less important or causing it to be forgotten entirely...Today the arrogant the west, especially the United Statets, and Israel admit their frustration at seeing Iran wave the banner of the Palestinian cause...They are frustrated because Iran does not allow the Palestinian cause to be forgotten by [making] compromises...Jerusalem Day is the day we breathe new life into the memory of Jerusalem...This year as well it will be marked with rallies and marches in Tehran and other cities in Iran...and in other countries.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei gives a sermon warning the reformist camp
not to exploit Jerusalem Day (Photo from the Supreme Leader’s homepage).
11. Khamenei warned that if any movement [i.e., the reformist camp] tried to strike a blow at the regime or dull its sword, it would be struck down. He mentioned the reformist camp again in relation to Jerusalem Day, warning against "people who will try to exploit the large audience expected to participate in Jerusalem Day events...We must beware of a schism. We must stand firm...The Iranian nation can be the standard bearer of Jerusalem when it is united [Members of the audience then shouted "Death to Israel.”].. Israel tried to put a stop to this day but thanks to Allah, it failed and will continue to fail.”1
Kayhan, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s mouthpiece, warns the reformist camp not to exploit Jerusalem Day, stressing the importance of the Palestinians to Iran’s national security
12. That having been said, it is no surprise that on September 13, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of the ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan, which reflects the views of the Iranian leader, viciously attacked the calls of the reformist camp to use Jerusalem Day to protest the regime. He wrote an editorial stating that it was not a chance occurrence and claimed that the reformist camp was working hand in hand with the "Zionist regime.” The editorial expressed some of the Iranian regime’s basic concepts regarding the role of the Palestinians, whom it referred to as "the first line of defense for Iran and the Muslim nation,” and explained their importance and place in Iran’s national defense strategy2 [in answer to a statement made by Moussavi during the election campaign that Iran had to worry about itself first].
13. The Kayhan editorial explained the place of the Palestinian organizations [i.e., the Palestinian terrorist organizations supported by Iran] in Iran’s defense strategy and the great investment Iran had in them: "The Palestinian resistance is the first line of defense on the Zionist front...The Palestinian people defend not only themselves, but all the Muslim communities of believers and lands. Therefore, full and comprehensive support for the Palestinians, economic, political and with weapons, is the obligation of all the Muslim countries, and should not be viewed as charity.” [Note: Firouz Abadi, Commander in Chief of the Iranian army, made similar statements at the ceremony held for Ahmad Vahidi, the newly-appointed minister of defense, saying that "if we do not oppose Israel and the United States on Lebanese and Palestinian soil, tomorrow we will be forced to wage war against them on the holy borders of Iran.”3
Center: Firouz Abadi, Commander in Chief of the Iranian army
(Photo from gringolog.wordpress.com).
14. The editorial ends with the assertion that Islamic Iran, which emphasizes the need to wipe Israel off the face of the map, is the greatest obstacle to American and Israeli expansionism in the Middle East. The Zionist regime, it said, does not hide its desire to struggle with Iran. "Therefore, it is only natural for our enemy’s enemy [i.e., the Palestinians] to be our friend and ally, and so it is. The Jerusalem Day demonstrations in Iran have always frightened the United States and Israel, and they will do anything to prevent a show of support for the Palestinian people... According to reports and evidence, they have worked hand in hand with the elements behind the velvet revolution to exploit the opportunity to foster crisis and tension...Anyone who tries to participate in Jerusalem Day with incendiary slogans, and not ‘Death to Israel,’ should know that whether his actions are deliberate or not, he is serving as a mercenary for Israel and participating in its barbaric crimes, and he will be punished.”
The position taken by Ali Akbar Hasemi-Rafsanjani
15. On the eve of World Jerusalem Day the Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hasemi-Rafsanjani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts, issued an announcement calling on all Iranians to take to the streets and participate in the events of the day, promising that "the moment of true dawn will break through the dark hours of night.” It is possible to accept the announcement at face value, as an expression of support for the Palestinians and a call to demonstrate for the Palestinian cause. However after it was issued Iranians interpreted it differently and claimed that if read between the lines it showed Rafsanjani’s support for the reformist camp and was a call to join the "green” protest demonstrations.
Ali Akbar Hasemi-Rafsanjani. Read between the lines, his announcement
supports the reformist camp (Photo from Rafsanjani’s home page).
16. A September 16 editorial in the conservative-nationalist Jomhouri Eslami, which often publishes Rafsanjani’s opinions, related to Jerusalem Day without referring to the internal Iranian arena. It noted that the roots of the Palestinian problem, "that awful crime” according to the editorial, were in the Balfour Declaration, and mourned the fact that the Muslim countries had not acted with determination "immediately, with the establishment of Israel, the cancerous growth.” "Experience has proved,” trumpeted Jomhouri Eslami, that "the continuing crimes of the Zionist regime are not the result of their being strong occupiers, but rather of the weakness of the other side...We saw in the second Lebanon war and during Operation Cast Lead that when the Zionists meet the iron will of Muslim resistance, they cannot continue fighting and in the end surrender. Exactly for that reason it is important during Jerusalem Day to shout anger at the evil occupiers and the disintegrating Zionist regime...”4
Statements from Iranian army headquarters and various senior Iranian figures
17. The Iranian armed forces headquarters issued an open letter calling on the public to turn out en masse at the Jerusalem Day demonstrations. It stressed that "the armed forces of Iran fully understand the dangers inherent in the illegal existence of the Zionist regime in the Middle East” and that "the Zionist regime is breathing its last.” Massive attendance at the Jerusalem Day demonstrations, it said, would be "a striking response and prove the desire of the Islamic nation to destroy Israel and liberate Jerusalem.”5
18. Ramadan Sharif, head of the Intifada and Holy Qods Central Office, said that "despite the broad virtual effort to spread rumors and ideas about Jerusalem Day, all sectors of the Iranian people and the elite will support the importance of the day, and will not permit slogans and deeds intended to sow dissention to gain a foothold.” He warned Iranians to keep their distance from any place where people were trying to exploit Jerusalem Day for an objective other than the original one [support of the Palestinians], saying that "there is no doubt that such attempts will be considered the same as the hatred of Israel and the United States for the Islamic system.”6 He added that the Iranian security forces had already made preparations to deal with such events.
Ramadan Sharif: Jerusalem Day is to be used only for its original purpose
of supporting the Palestinians (From the Iran Book News Agency website).
19. Ismail Kosari, deputy chairman of the National Defense and Foreign Policy Commission of the Majlis (Iranian parliament), also warned Iranians against straying from what he called "strong slogans on Jerusalem Day against Israel” and said that they had to be the main axis. He criticized the leaders of the reformist camp and oppositions groups which, according to rumor, intended to shout their own slogans during Jerusalem Day [most likely in favor of freedom and independence and against the rigged elections] instead of slogans [against Israel] which "are at the heart of Jerusalem Day.”7
The position taken by the reformists: Paint the street green!
20. In view of the unrestrained incitement against the reformist camp in the conservative media, and the warnings issued by senior Iranian figures against the "evil use” of Jerusalem Day, the heads of the Iranian reformist camp are of the opinion that the remarks, especially those published in the Kayhan editorial, are preparing the groundwork for an attack against supporters of the green movement who participate in Jerusalem Day events. They feel that Hossein Shariatmadari, who is considered a confidant of Iran’s spiritual leader, has in fact given permission to spill the blood of those who demonstrate with green signs and slogans.8
21. Despite the warnings issued by the conservative elements in Iran and the regime’s leadership, the reformist camp energetically continues making preparations for Jerusalem Day. Its activists flood websites, social networks, blogs and forums with announcements and instructions calling for Iranians to "paint the streets green” and turn Jerusalem Day events into a day of victory for the "green movement,” and to remember those who paid with their lives, especially Neda Agha-Soltan, shot through the heart by a Basij sniper. Social networks spread instructions for ways to arrive at marches, which slogans to shout and how to avoid being arrested and exposed to tear gas. Jerusalem Day is on every Iranian’s agenda, and the reform camp has promised that this year it will be Iran Day as well.
Tweets for Jerusalem Day.
22. To coordinate their protest, social networkers and bloggers have reported that as Jerusalem Day approaches, the Iranian regime is expected to block most of the virtual services to prevent reports from Iran about any green protest events.9 The regime is expected to make massive use of its own media to provide wide coverage of Jerusalem Day events concerning the Palestinian cause and to represent the Iranian people as supporting the Palestinians and "the destruction of Israel.”
Reformist poster bearing the inscription "Jerusalem Day, glory
of the green Iranian nation” (From www.mowjcamp.com).
Pictures from former Jerusalem Days
Jerusalem Day, exploited as usual by Hezbollah leader C
for a speech of incitement and hatred.
The Imam Mahdi scouts, Hezbollah’s youth movement, march through the streets of Lebanon
carrying posters of Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei and Khomeini (Al-Manar TV, October 20, 2006).
March held in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Left: Burning the American
and British flags (Al-Manar TV, October 5, 2007).
Hamas rally for Jerusalem Day (Al-Jazeera TV, October 20, 2006).
Palestinian Islamic Jihad rally in Gaza (Al-Jazeera TV, October 20, 2006).
A symposium held in Syria for Jerusalem Day under the joint auspices of the Baath House and the Iranian embassy in Damascus. The theme was "The role of the victory of the Arab-Islamic resistance [i.e., terrorism] in grounding the Zionist project” (Syrian TV, October 12, 2006).
Burning the British flag on Jerusalem Day in Iraq (Iran’s Al-Alam TV, October 5, 2007).
Jerusalem Day march in Afghanistan (Al-Alam TV, October 5, 2007).
Jerusalem Day rally in Pakistan (Al-Alam TV, October 5, 2007).
Jerusalem Day in Karachi with Hezbollah flags and pictures of
Hassan Nasrallah (Al-Alam TV, October 20, 2006).
Left: Demonstrators burn the American flag in front of the Fathach mosque in Istanbul.
Right: Demonstrators carry pictures of Hassan Nasrallah, Ahmed Yassin and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi
(Photo: Ahmed Adeh for Reuters, October 20, 2006).
Jerusalem Day demonstration in central London, accompanied by heavy police guard. The flags are
Hezbollah and Palestinian, the signs are anti-Israel (From edgar1981.blogspot.com, October 7, 2007).
Demonstrators in London carrying Lebanese and Hezbollah flags and a picture of Hassan
Nasrallah and the Al-Aqsa mosque (http://publicansdecoy.livejornal.co, October 2007).
Left: Jerusalem Day rally participants holding banners. Right: The Iranian flag
(Photos by Jonathan Dahoah Halevi, courtesy of Shalom Toronto, October 7, 2007).