In the shadow of the war, Iranian hostility toward Israel is growing while denying its existence

The al-Aqsa Storm will be the last days of the Zionists’ lives (Tasnim, October 21, 2023)

The al-Aqsa Storm will be the last days of the Zionists’ lives (Tasnim, October 21, 2023)

“These destroyed structures will not be rebuilt” (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, October 24, 2023)

“These destroyed structures will not be rebuilt” (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, October 24, 2023)

“The fear of collapse” (Fars, November 1, 2023)

“The fear of collapse” (Fars, November 1, 2023)

“The Real Holocaust” (Fars, October 24, 2023)

“The Real Holocaust” (Fars, October 24, 2023)

Iranian Jews demonstrate against Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip (ISNA, October 30, 2023)

Iranian Jews demonstrate against Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip (ISNA, October 30, 2023)

“Irreversible failure of the Zionist regime” (Tasnim, October 15, 2023).

“Irreversible failure of the Zionist regime” (Tasnim, October 15, 2023).

Highlights
  • Since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip, there has been a significant escalation in Iran’s hostility towards Israel while denying its existence. Hostility towards Israel is the central issue on which Iran’s policy has remained uncompromising and consistent.[1] Iran’s revolutionary ideology categorically rejects the existence of the State of Israel, which is epitomized in the slogan, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Opposition to Israel is a central pillar of the Islamic regime’s revolutionary doctrine and policy, reflecting various revolutionary goals, including fundamental hostility to the Jewish state and hostility to Western imperialism, of which Israel is perceived as a representative.
  • The basis for the Iranian regime’s ideological hostility towards Israel can already be found in the writings of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, who placed hostility towards the Jews and the confrontation between Islam and Israel as a central component of the revolutionary Islamic doctrine. He made the connection between Judaism and Zionism by saying that the most prominent expression of the Judeo-Christian plot against Islam was the establishment of the State of Israel, designed to oppress Muslims. Zionism is the latest manifestation of Jewish hostility towards Islam and the worst symbol of the West’s tyranny against it.[2]
  • Iran categorically denies Israel’s right to exist, regardless of the borders problem or the policy it adopts. While Iran’s hostility toward the United States stems first and foremost from its policy, its hostility toward Israel is rooted in its very existence. There is a consensus among the leaders of the Iranian regime that Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that must be removed and that the only way to solve the crisis in the Middle East is by eliminating the “Zionist regime.”
  • Statements by senior Iranian officials and commentary articles in the Iranian official media since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, have expressed several main messages:
    • Denial of the right of the State of Israel to exist. Israel is presented as an illegitimate entity born in sin and the result of a Western plot designed to weaken the Muslim world and establish Western imperialist control in the Middle East at the end of World War I by settling Palestine with Jewish immigrants at the expense of the Palestinians.
    • The war in Gaza is yet another expression of Israel’s weakening on the way to its final collapse. Senior Iranian officials, headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stressed the severe blow Israel had suffered at the hands of Hamas and presented Hamas’ strategic surprise as further proof of Israel’s fundamental weakness.
    • Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza are the “real Holocaust.” Holocaust denial by senior Iranian officials is one of the means for the Islamic Republic to deny Israel any basis of legitimacy, and the use of the Holocaust for this purpose is also evident in comparisons between Israel’s actions in Gaza and Nazi crimes.
    • A distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists.” In its efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Iranian regime makes a distinction between “Jews,” who must be treated with tolerance, and “Zionists,” whom it completely rejects. To emphasize this artificial distinction, Iranian media highlighted expressions of criticism by the Iranian Jewish community of Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
    • The only “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a referendum among the “original inhabitants of Palestine.” Over the years, official Iranian spokesmen have raised the Islamic Republic’s proposal for a solution to the conflict in the Middle East through a referendum among the “original residents” or “real residents” of Palestine. This wording excludes most of Israel’s Jewish residents who arrived in Palestine after the “beginning of the Zionist invasion” at the end of the 19th century. Therefore, its practical significance is the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
The al-Aqsa Storm will be the last days of the Zionists’ lives (Tasnim, October 21, 2023)
The al-Aqsa Storm will be the last days of the Zionists’ lives (Tasnim, October 21, 2023)
The Main Messages in Iran’s Propaganda against Israel
  • Statements by senior Iranian officials and commentary articles in the Iranian official media since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, have expressed several main messages:
    • Denial of the right of the State of Israel to exist. Israel is presented as an illegitimate entity born in sin and the result of a Western plot designed to weaken the Muslim world.
“The flight of Zionist mice,” an antisemitic cartoon published by an Iranian news agency (Fars, October 8, 2023)
“The flight of Zionist mice,” an antisemitic cartoon published by an Iranian news agency (Fars, October 8, 2023)
    • In a speech in Tehran, IRGC Commander Hossein Salami referred to the difference between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that no matter how much Israel bombed Gaza, the children of the Gaza Strip would never surrender because this was their land. This, in his view, is in contrast to the Zionists, who immigrated to Palestine for money and property (Mehr, October 30, 2023).
    • Commentary articles published in recent weeks in the Iranian media presented Israel as an artificial entity established at the mercy of Western countries at the expense of the Palestinians and, therefore, unworthy of existence. The establishment of Israel was presented as an expression of a Western conspiracy, beginning with the Balfour Declaration in 1917, aimed at weakening the Muslim world and consolidating Western imperialist control in the Middle East at the end of World War I. According to this view, the “Zionist immigrants” took over Palestinian land during the first half of the 20th century under the auspices of the West, led by Britain and despite Arab opposition (ISNA, October 18, 2023). According to an article published on October 30, 2023, by the IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency, World War I provided the Zionists with the key to Palestine, while World War II provided the “excuse” for establishing the “Zionist regime.” The article quoted Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as saying that the Zionists occupied Palestine based on a plan designed to prevent the unification of Muslims and the establishment of strong Islamic governments.
    • Iranian media republished Qods Force Commander Esmail Qaani’s statement during a speech on May 29, 2021, that the Zionists should leave Palestine and repurchase the houses they sold in Europe, America, and elsewhere before immigrating to Palestine. On October 30, 2023, Fars News Agency reported on a “negative migration crisis” facing Israel and posing a significant danger to Israel, “given that the existence of the Zionist regime was made possible through Zionist immigration.”
  • The war in Gaza is yet another expression of Israel’s weakening on the way to its final collapse. Since the beginning of the war, senior Iranian officials, led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have stressed the severe blow Israel has suffered at the hands of Hamas, presenting Hamas’ strategic surprise as further proof of Israel’s fundamental weakness.

“These destroyed structures will not be rebuilt” (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, October 24, 2023)
“These destroyed structures will not be rebuilt” (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, October 24, 2023)

    • Meeting with students in Tehran, Supreme Leader Khamenei declared that the blow Israel suffered on October 7 was irreversible and that Israel would not be able to recover from it. He claimed that without American support, the “Zionist regime” would be paralyzed within a few days (Fars, November 1, 2023).
    • In another speech on October 25, 2023, Khamenei declared that the blow suffered by Israel was strong and decisive and that the visits of Western leaders to Israel proved that they saw the “Zionist regime” disintegrating and being destroyed and wanted to prevent its collapse. He said that if Israel were not in danger of collapse, the Western powers would not feel the need to continue expressing their solidarity and support for it (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, October 25, 2023).
“The fear of collapse” (Fars, November 1, 2023)
“The fear of collapse” (Fars, November 1, 2023)
    • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, speaking by phone with PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, said that the “Zionist regime” was in the process of declining and that the final victory of the Palestinian people was a divine promise (Mehr, October 8, 2023).
    • IRGC Commander Hossein Salami told a conference in Tehran that until October 7, the Israelis thought they could not be harmed thanks to international support, sophisticated security systems, and their ostensibly strong army. But all these thoughts collapsed following the Hamas attack, which could lead to the total collapse and final failure of the “Zionist regime” (Mehr, October 30, 2023).
    • Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Supreme Leader of Iran for international affairs, meeting with Khaled Qaddoumi, the Hamas representative in Tehran, said that “the Israeli regime was dying” and that there was no doubt about the victory of the Palestinian people (Keyhan, October 17, 2023).
    • Iranian Defense Minister Amir Ashtiani said at a press conference in Tehran that a country surprised just as Israel was surprised by Hamas in the October 7 attacks was in the process of collapse (Tasnim, November 1, 2023).
  • Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza are the “real Holocaust.” Holocaust denial by senior Iranian officials is one of the means for the Islamic Republic to deny Israel any basis of legitimacy. On several occasions in the past, Iran’s Supreme Leader has questioned the very occurrence of the Holocaust and even called it a “myth.” The Islamic Republic has assisted and hosted Western Holocaust deniers in the past. It also holds an annual cartoon exhibition denying the Holocaust and making fun of the murder of Jews. The use of the Holocaust as a means of delegitimizing Israel is also evident in comparisons between Israel’s actions and Nazi crimes.
“The Real Holocaust” (Fars, October 24, 2023)
“The Real Holocaust” (Fars, October 24, 2023)
  • Salman Razavi, commentator on Palestinian affairs, said in an interview with Fars News Agency (October 18, 2023) that “the real Holocaust is now taking place in Gaza.” He noted that in recent years, Israel had tried to promote the issue of the Holocaust in the world, even though its occurrence is doubtful, to enable it to continue its acts of oppression. According to him, the “real Holocaust” is taking place in Gaza, where a “genocide” is being carried out that is completely contrary to international law.
  • Friday prayer preachers in mosques across Iran also used the term “real Holocaust” when referring to Israel’s attacks on Gaza. For example, the Friday prayer leader in the northern Iranian city of Mahmudabad declared that “the crimes of the Zionist regime in Gaza are the real Holocaust” (Mehr, October 27, 2023). The representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader in Ardabil Province in northwestern Iran noted that the killing of Palestinians was hundreds of times more terrible than the Holocaust, which, according to the Zionists, took place during World War II. He said the Zionists had used their claim about the Holocaust to claim Palestine from the Europeans (Mehr, October 27, 2023).
  • Former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei discussed Israel’s attacks in Gaza in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV (October 30, 2023), saying that even Hitler and the greatest executioners in history did not attack hospitals.
“Netanyahu: Satan in Boots” (Fars, October 17, 2023).
“Netanyahu: Satan in Boots” (Fars, October 17, 2023).
  • A distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists.” In its efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Iranian regime makes a distinction between “Jews,” who must be treated with tolerance, and “Zionists,” whom it completely rejects. Over the years, Iranian spokesmen have claimed that they are not anti-Semites but only oppose Zionism. In their view, the Jews are not a nation but a religion and therefore are not necessarily entitled to a state of their own, certainly not at the expense of the legitimate right of the Palestinians, and even more so in lands sacred to Islam. This distinction is problematic and artificial because Iranian officials and Iranian media continue to make anti-Jewish statements and use blatantly antisemitic motifs often without distinguishing between Jews and Zionists, including the publication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Iranian press.
    • In its efforts to emphasize the official distinction between Jews and Zionists, Iranian media highlighted expressions of criticism by the Iranian Jewish community of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. On October 23, 2023, representatives of Iran’s four official religious minorities (Armenian Christians, Assyrian Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) held a press conference in Tehran condemning the IDF attacks on Gaza. Among the participants was Rabbi Younes Hamami Laleh-Zar, one of the religious leaders of the Jewish community in Iran, who condemned Israel’s attacks in the Gaza Strip and stressed the distinction between Jews and Zionists (IRNA, October 23, 2023).
    • On October 30, 2023, representatives of the Jewish community held demonstrations in support of the Palestinians in several major cities across Iran, condemning the “crimes of the Zionist regime” and demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. According to a report on the demonstrations by the government news agency IRNA, there are many similarities between Muslims and Jews in their religious beliefs and rituals. The report stressed the distinction made by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, between Jews and Zionists and claimed that this position was also accepted by the heads of the Jewish community in Iran, including the representative of the Jews in the Iranian parliament (Majles), Homayoun Sameyah, and the chief rabbi of the Iranian Jewish community, Yehuda Gerami, who condemned Israel’s attacks in the Gaza Strip and stressed that the Jews in Iran were not connected to the Zionists and were loyal to the Islamic Republic (IRNA, October 30, 2023).
Iranian Jews demonstrate against Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip (ISNA, October 30, 2023)
Iranian Jews demonstrate against Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip (ISNA, October 30, 2023)
  • The only “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a referendum among the “original inhabitants of Palestine.” Over the years, Iranian officials have raised the Islamic Republic’s proposal for a solution to the conflict in the Middle East through a referendum among the “original residents” or “real residents” of Palestine. This wording excludes most of Israel’s Jewish residents who arrived in Palestine after the “beginning of the Zionist invasion” at the end of the 19th century. Therefore, its practical significance is the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
“Irreversible failure of the Zionist regime” (Tasnim, October 15, 2023).
“Irreversible failure of the Zionist regime” (Tasnim, October 15, 2023).
    • Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iranian foreign minister, speaking by phone with the foreign minister of the Vatican City, said that the solution to the crisis in Palestine was to hold a referendum in cooperation with the UN and with the participation of “all its original residents, including Christians, Jews and Muslims” (Mehr, October 30, 2023).
    • Nasser Kanani, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, called for a referendum to determine the fate of the Palestinians. At his weekly press conference, Kanani said that a referendum should be held among “all the true residents of Palestine” (Khabar Online, October 30, 2023).
    • Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, told a conference in Tehran that the Islamic Republic’s proposal was the only just proposal in the world and that it would hold a referendum “among all Palestinians” so that they would decide their future (Jamaran, October 30, 2023).

[1] See the ITIC's Information Bulletin from October 13, 2016, “Hostility towards Israel continues to be a fundamental element of Iranian foreign policy.” https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/21081/.
[2] Meir Litvak, “Iran and Israel: The Ideological Enmity and its Roots,” Iyunim be-Tkumat Yisrael, Vol. 14 (2004), pp. 367-392 (in Hebrew).