Burning Israeli, American and British flags at an International Jerusalem Day march in Tehran (Mehr News Agency, Iran, August 2, 2013)
1.On August 2, 2013, the last Friday of the Muslim religious month of Ramadan, Iranian-sponsored International Jerusalem Day was marked with marches, demonstrations and rallies throughout the Arab-Muslim world and by Muslim communities in the West. The main events, as usual, were held in Iran and attended by the leaders of the Iranian regime.
2. The events were generally characterized by the following:
1) Themes – As in previous years, the events were exploited for hate propaganda and incitement against Israel and the United States, and calls were heard for the destruction of Israel. Slogans condemning the renewal of the Israel-Palestinian negotiations were also present, as were slogans in support of Syria and the regime of Bashar Assad.
2) Scant participation outside Iran – The demonstrations and events were mainly held in Iran. In other countries, as in years past, there were few participants at the events. Apparently the recent dramatic events in the Middle East (the second coup in Egypt, the ongoing fighting in Syria) have overshadowed the issue of the Palestinians in general and Jerusalem in particular. The relatively small number of participants might also be a result of the anti-Iranian criticism in the Sunni Arab-Muslim world, caused by Iran's support for the Assad regime.
3) The prominent Iranian-Shi'ite nature of the events – Despite the Iranian desire to make Jerusalem Day a pan-Muslim event, it is still identified as Iranian-Shi'ite. Most of the events were organized by the Shi'ite communities in the various countries and attended by Shi'ites or pro-Iranian activists. Conspicuous this year was the absence of Sunni activists, possibly in protest of the killing of Sunnis in Syria by the Assad regime, which is supported by Iran and Hezbollah.
3. Media coverage – The events were not well covered by the media. Most of the reports of international events appeared in the Iranian media. Particular attention was paid by the media to the statement made by the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. At the Jerusalem Day march in Tehran he said "In our region, a sore has been on the body of the Islamic world for many years in the shadow of the occupation of Palestine and holy Quds." He was careful not to explicitly say "Israel," or even the "Zionist regime," allowing the Iranians to issue a "clarification" claiming his statement had been distorted. However, during the Jerusalem Day events in Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere, there were specific calls for the destruction of Israel (for example, a poster at the march in Tehran quoting Ali Khamenei as saying that "the Zionist regime must be toppled," and a speech given by Hassan Nasrallah quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini as calling Israel "a cancerous growth that has to be excised").
Events in Iran
4.As in years past, Jerusalem Day was marked in Iran with marches, demonstrations and rallies held throughout the country. The main rally was held in Tehran. Marchers carried anti-Israeli, anti-American and anti-British signs and chanted slogans including "Down with to Israel," "Down with America" and "Down with Britain" [in Farsi and Arabic they signs read "Death to Israel" and "Death to America"], and stamped on Israeli, American and British flags. There were also "ceremonies" in which the Israeli, American and British flags were burned. They also called on the government to impose sanctions on "the merchandise manufactured by the Zionists" (Fars and Mehr News Agencies, Iran, August 2, 2013).
5. The office of the president issued an announcement for Jerusalem Day stressing the day's importance and Iran's support for the Palestinians' struggle. Senior members of the Iranian regime attended the march in Tehran, among them newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani, Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, former Iranian president Ahmadinejad, and others (ISNA, Iran, August 2, 2013).
The demonstration in Iran. The red posters read "Down with Israel" (Press TV Facebook page, August 2, 2013).
Statements by Iranian Leaders
6. Newly-elected Hassan Rouhani was interviewed at the march. He said that for many years in the Middle East there had been a sore on the body of the Islamic world in the shadow of the occupation of Palestine and holy Jerusalem. He added that Jerusalem Day was a reminder that the Muslim nation would not forget its historic right and would always stand firm against oppression and aggression (ISNA, Iran, August 2, 2013).
7. Outgoing president Ahmadinejad said that Jerusalem Day was one of the great Islamic days and that it was important for all of humanity, in the hope it would lead to the isolation of the so-called "Satanic front" (Fars News Agency, Iran, August 2, 2013).
8. Seyed Abbas Araghchi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign minister, said that this year Jerusalem Day was doubly important because it fell at the time of the renewal of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that if all the Muslims in every Muslim country demonstrated their loyalty to the Palestinians' aspirations for the "liberation of Jerusalem," without a doubt it would lead to the failure of the talks. He condemned the negotiations because he said they did not relate to the "rights of the Palestinian people." He said that the "Zionist regime" did not want peace and existed on a foundation of war and occupation (Fars News Agency, Iran, August 1, 2013).
Initially, the various media quoted Rouhani as saying that "the Zionist regime has for years been a sore on the body of the Islamic world and the wound must be healed." A number of hours later an Iranian clarification was issued to the effect that the media had misquoted him and that he had not said what had been attributed to him (ISNA, Iran, August 2, 2013). In fact, Rouhani did not explicitly mention "the Zionist regime" but the spirit and the message, were consistent with the main theme of Jerusalem Day, i.e., the destruction of the State of Israel.