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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2003 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Is Iran rethinking its position on Israel?

By Afshin Molavi & Karim Sadjadpour


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http://www.jewishworldreview.com | TEHERAN — Shortly after Iran's 1979 revolution toppled the Shah, Yasir Arafat turned up in Tehran to celebrate. With Arafat in town, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini announced the Islamic Revolution would march until "the liberation of Jerusalem." Crowds responded with waves of applause.


After all, in 1970s Iran, support for the Palestinians had emerged as a litmus test of commitment to the revolutionary ethos. Unsurprisingly, an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stance quickly became a central tenet of the Islamic Republic. The government lavished financial support on groups opposing Israel, and the keys to the de facto Israeli embassy in Tehran were turned over to Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization. Across Iran, billboards urging JUSTICE FOR PALESTINE dotted the country, and every major city soon had a "Palestine Square" and a "Palestine Street." State television described suicide bombings as "martyrdom operations." The Iranian government even proclaimed a "Jerusalem day," on which government workers were "encouraged" to take part in protests against the "bloodthirsty Zionist state."


Twenty-four years later, however, Iranian demonstrators are in a vastly different mood. In mid-June, Iranian youths staged a series of large rallies at Tehran University. Amid calls for greater democracy and freedom, one of the more popular slogans was: "Forget about Palestine! Think of us!" These two lines, delivered in rhyming, lilting Persian, encapsulate the sentiments of many young Iranians. In fact, though the West still thinks of Iran as a cauldron of anti-Israel passion, a new generation of pro-democracy Iranians increasingly speaks out against the government's seeming obsession with the Palestinians. And these youths are finding cohorts in an unlikely quarter: a group of senior conservative officials who are beginning to question the utility of Iran's close ties to anti-Israel groups.

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Iranians under the age of 30 — who comprise more than two-thirds of the population today — express little interest in terrorist groups, anti-Zionism, and radical politics in general. In places where young people congregate, Iranians constantly question their government's support for terrorist groups. "I see the way people look at me when I travel," complained one young Iranian. "Immediately, they think, 'Watch out for the Iranian, he might be a terrorist.' I blame our government for cultivating this image by supporting radical groups." Meanwhile, on campuses, rumors abound that Palestinian militants and Hezbollah fighters are imported from Gaza and southern Lebanon to help quell recent student unrest — tales that make the groups even more unpopular. Reformist newspapers and reformist clerics have begun questioning Iran's hard-line stance on Israel. Abdollah Nouri, a former Interior minister and close confidant of Khomeini, has bluntly criticized the Islamic Republic's desire to act "more Palestinian than the Palestinians."


This disaffection with the Palestinian cause stems in part from many Iranians' frustration with Iran's economic and political problems. They see Iran's moribund economy partly as a result of the country's embrace of international radicalism, which has damaged foreign business ties. Many students have traded in Che Guevara posters, which used to hang in many dormitories as a sign of commitment to radicalism, for Microsoft ads. At cafés, conversations increasingly revolve around the need to find jobs and the push for more social freedoms, and some even use the disparaging term "Hezbollahi" (a Hezbollah type) to refer to anyone who is radical and violent. Even some older Iranians have grown weary of the Palestinization of foreign policy. At an earthquake site in northern Iran last year, a group of elderly victims complained bitterly about the government's slow response. "If the earthquake occurred in Palestine, they would have sent money and supplies. To us, they only give empty slogans," one said.


Still, reformers and the frustrated populace are too weak to influence official policy, which continues to be dominated by conservatives. But, in the past few months, several senior conservatives have quietly joined the chorus, hinting that Iran's support for terrorist groups opposed to Israel is negotiable. According to one senior conservative official, "Iran's policy in the Middle East and the peace process is not beyond the realm of possibilities that can be discussed, given a dialogue with the United States." Translation from Islamic Republic-speak: We can talk turkey on Israel/Palestine. Sadeq Zibakalam, a Tehran University professor with close ties to conservative officials, underscored this view earlier this year, when he told the U.S.-funded Radio Farda Persian service that Iran understands Washington's concerns about Tehran's support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. President Mohammed Khatami, a reformer who has long argued that Iran should not interfere in any agreements made between Israel and the Palestinians, is unlikely to quibble with the conservatives.

Why have some conservatives begun to shift? Pragmatism plays a role. Conservatives are realizing that Iran's sinking economy, which will need to find hundreds of thousands of jobs for its young people, desperately needs foreign investment. As a result, despite claims of Islamic and revolutionary solidarity, Tehran quietly favors pragmatism above ideology in its foreign policies. Iran has ignored the plight of Kashmiri Muslims in favor of growing rapprochement with India and says nary a word about oppressed Muslims in Chechnya, so as not to offend its ally Russia. Meanwhile, Iranian opposition to Saudi Arabia's repression of its Shia Muslim minority has gone silent since the two countries have grown closer in the past few years.


In all these instances, revolutionary solidarity has been sacrificed for national interest. Now, Tehran might be considering essentially the same formula regarding the Palestinian case: abandoning the Palestinians to cut a deal with the United States. After all, U.S. economic sanctions are due in part to Iran's support for violent groups opposed to Middle East peace and have prevented billions of dollars in potential foreign capital from entering Iran. As Dr. Qassem Sa'adi, a prominent nationalist intellectual, wrote in an open letter in December 2002 to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini, "The Palestinization of Iranian foreign policy has been disastrous to our national interests."


Even former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the harshest critics of Israel in the Islamic Republic, has signed on. Around him has coalesced a small but influential group willing to consider softening Iran's stance on Israel. These conservative pragmatists have been influential in the on-again, off-again back-channel talks between Iranian and American officials in the past year, which sources in both Tehran and Washington say are on again.


Of course, despite this growing pragmatism, the Iranians won't be making an appearance in the Knesset anytime soon. For one thing, many Iranian officials would find it difficult to cut ties with Shia Hezbollah, largely because of the long-held political, familial, and cultural links between Lebanese Shia, pro-Hezbollah clerics and their Iranian counterparts. What's more, Iran's pragmatic conservatives will drive a hard bargain to give up their hard-line position. "From their perspective, it is in the national interests to maintain the relationship [with terror groups], for it's one of their biggest bargaining chips" in any talks with the United States, remarked a Tehran-based observer. "They're not going to give it up for free."


If Iran were to put its anti-Israel stance on the table, what would it expect in return? Most likely, a comprehensive package that would include a security agreement and assurances that Washington would move toward removing sanctions. Iran also wants something intangible: recognition as a regional power. Says Zibakalam: "If the Americans officially recognized a powerful Iran ... the Iranians would see no reason for Iran-U.S. tensions."


Tehran, however, faces a highly suspicious White House — angry about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program and in little mood to cut an overt, comprehensive deal with the ruling mullahs. Nonetheless, Iran's recent announcement that it will accept a more vigorous nuclear inspections regime may allow back-channel talks between Tehran and Washington to continue.


Still, how Iran views Israel, and how much support it offers to Palestinian groups, will help determine the future of U.S.-Iran talks. What's important for American policymakers to realize is that Tehran has tentatively put its position on the table. "Clearly, our stance on the peace process is of interest to the Americans, and we are prepared to talk about this as well as everything," says a senior Iranian official. And, unlike in the Arab world, where politicians must tread carefully before they make any concessions to Israel or the United States for fear of popular reaction, the youthful "Iranian street" would gladly welcome a less strident stance.

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AFSHIN MOLAVI is the author of Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran (Norton) KARIM SADJADPOUR is an analyst with the International Crisis Group. This article appears courtesy of The New Republic. Comment by clicking here.

© 2003, The New Republic