Moslems Bash Israel on "Jerusalem Day"
By Hillel Fendel
Tens of thousands of Moslems in Iran and all over the Arab world are celebrating Jerusalem Day - a reminder of what the late Ayatollah Khomeini called "the danger posed by usurper Israel."
Tens of thousands of Moslems in cities throughout Iran were heard chanting "Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!"
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, meeting with ambassadors from Islamic countries on Thursday, told them that Iranians would show their indignation against Israel in the demonstrations to be held throughout the country today (Friday).
Similar anti-Israel events were also to be held in Bahrain, Lebanon, and in many other countries.
The annual event was initiated by the infamous Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's late spiritual leader, as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian Arab struggle against Israel. In 1979, ten years before his death, Khomeini announced, "I have been notifying the Muslims of the danger posed by the usurper Israel. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join together to sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters... and, through a ceremony demonstrating the solidarity of Muslims worldwide, announce their support for the legitimate rights of the Muslim people."
Khomeini, father of the Islamic revolution in Iran, designated the last Friday of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan as the date of the commemorations.
In Bahrain, the demonstration was also to highlight objections to any normalization with Israel. Participants were to sign a petition to reject Bahrain's lifting of the boycott against Israeli goods, said one local official, adding, "The people refuse any kind of normalization or compromise at the expense of the rights of the Muslim and Arab world."
The anti-Israel events in Iran come just days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Foreign Minister Mottaki reiterated the sentiments in his meeting with the ambassadors, saying that Iran would never recognize Israel, and that the "Zionist regime, which prospers by banishing the right owners of the land, is not legitimate."
Western leaders sharply attacked Iran for its threats against Israel. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "If they [Iran] continue down this path, then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world security and stability."
In response, the Iranian Embassy in Moscow announced that "Mr. [President] Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak up in such sharp terms and enter into a conflict."
Bill Samii, regional analysis coordinator with RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty Online and editor of the "RFE/RL Iran Report," wrote on Thursday that Jerusalem Day has been celebrated faithfully in countries with sizable Shi'a Muslim minorities. "It has become a ritualized outpouring of hatred directed at Israel," Samii continued. "If this hatred was restricted to an annual rally, it could be dismissed as a meaningless display. However, because of Iran's alleged support for terrorist organizations and suspicions that it is developing nuclear weapons, many in the international community are concerned."
Just last week, in his sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Jerusalem Day is especially important this year, partially because of the "conspiracy instigated by the Americans, the Zionists, and some of their allies" leading some Islamic states to normalize their relations with Israel.