By Meir Javedanfar
Last month, the Islamic Republic of Iran again marked Quds Day, which has been commemorated on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan by the clerical regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with its usual chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” Over the decades, Tehran has repeatedly used Quds Day as an opportunity to spread anti-Israel hatred, incite violence against Israelis, and call for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Although Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi glorified terrorism targeting Israel, and the Iranian foreign ministry trolled Israel by tweeting, “No conspiracy will save the Zionist regime,” the regime was unable to mask how this year’s Quds Day was more somber than ever, and for good reason.
Since last year’s Quds Day, the Iranian regime has witnessed the most widespread anti-regime protests by the Iranian public since 1979. It was naïve of a regime that oppresses its people on an unprecedented scale and is reported to steal the country’s resources to line its own pockets, to expect thousands or even millions of ordinary Iranians to come to the streets to support and endorse its anti-Israel agenda. Suffering from a legitimacy deficit, the regime has for decades seen Quds Day as an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that the people of Iran are behind the regime and its policies, both at home and abroad.
Tehran’s anti-Israel policy, mirroring the regime’s failed domestic policies, neither offers Palestinians a future of economic prosperity and democratic governance, nor envisions a two-state solution and peaceful coexistence with Israelis. Instead, the regime’s vision is epitomized in the Quds Day propaganda calls for the elimination of Zionism and of Israel as a Jewish State. It is no surprise that, as the Iranian regime’s legitimacy nosedives in the eyes of the Iranian people, there is muted support for their hate towards Israel and others across the Middle East.
The economic situation in Iran is so dismal that some Iranians are reportedly offering to sell their kidneys to Iraqis. The country’s finances are in such dire straits that a public official recently stated that Iran will probably have to sell the islands of Qeshm and Kish alongside the Khuzestan province, in order to make up for the massive deficit which its public pension fund is facing.
Add to that Iran’s environmental challenges, which are worsening every day. The people of Iran do not blame the regime for global warming, but justifiably accuse it of grossly mishandling the country’s water resources and severe pollution challenges.
The regime is undoubtedly concerned about the growing unpopularity of its regional policies at home. An increasing number of Iranians have been asking why the regime has wasted Iran’s financial resources to support foreign adventures in Gaza and Lebanon.
On several occasions, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei condemned Iranians who chant, “No to Gaza, No to Lebanon, my life for Iran.” More recently, on May 5, Hojatoleslam ‘Ali ‘Abodolahi ‘Asr, the head of the Iranian judiciary’s Center for Information and Protection, publicly called those who question Iran’s spending of funds in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, “fools.” He added, “There is nothing to say if you are fools and ignorant, but if you are mercenaries [of foreign countries], resist and we will resist you, and you should know that the front for the truth will prevail.” This type of rhetoric falls on deaf ears, and only serves to energize the people’s hostility against the regime.
No matter how hollowed out Quds Day is, one policy that the Islamic Republic’s leadership will be unwilling to change is its anti-Israel policy. Antisemitic and anti-Zionist prejudices are core to the regime’s identity. Ironically, the louder the regime shouts “Death to Israel” to cover up its colossal loss of legitimacy among the people of Iran, the more Iranians will advocate and struggle for its exact opposite, namely, peaceful coexistence with the state of Israel and friendly relations with its people.
Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli lecturer, author, and commentator. He has been teaching Iranian politics at Reichman University in Israel since 2012 and is Anti-Defamation League’s Iran consultant. @MeirJa