Iran's actions don't show the same solidarity that Quds Day signifies.

It cannot have escaped notice how Iran appears to be front and centre on most things to do with Israel in the media. It has reached such levels that the clergy in Tehran and their grandstanding over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have often eclipsed the media presence and the political will of the Palestinians themselves.

Nowhere is this more visible and tangible than on the annual Quds Day processions held around the world on the last Friday of every Ramadan. 

This year, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a decree saying that Quds Day will not be cancelled in Iran, not even due to the coronavirus. 

Instead, demonstrators are being called upon to line the streets in their cars. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would be in charge of arranging driving routes, and people will be allowed to chant slogans and wave flags from their vehicles.

But sloganeering is exactly what Quds Day is. Despite publicly supporting select Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Iran is also responsible for some of the bloodiest reprisal acts against Palestinians across the region. 

Hijacking the Palestinian cause?

Quds Day was inaugurated in 1979 by the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who decreed it would take place to express support and solidarity for the Palestinian struggle. 

Quds Day demonstra­tions feature speeches against Israel and the “Great Satan” – a reference to the United States – followed by chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” as the two countries’ flags are burned. 

Indeed, this is being replicated wherever Iran holds sway, including in Iraq and Syria where Iran currently has a very large imperial footprint.

It is rather dramatic and, like other Iranian forays into foreign affairs, designed to inflame the passions and sentiments of those who believe the Palestinians have been subjected to a historic and ongoing injustice. 

Many normal Iranians share in the passionate indignation that comes when one sees footage of Palestinian women and children shot or bombed indiscriminately by Israelis, and their feelings towards the justice of the Palestinian cause should not be discounted purely because of the cynicism demonstrated by the ruling clergy.

Tehran is acutely aware of these strong feelings amongst its own people and the wider Muslim world, and deftly manipu­lates these emotions to position itself as the spearhead of Palestinian liberations, the so-called Axis of Resistance. 

This military alliance has gotten so lost on its way from Iran to Israel that is more caught up in proxy wars and violence against Muslims in the name of Palestinian liberation in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

This expropriation and appropriation of the Pales­tinian cause is — somewhat disconcertingly — occasionally cheered on by Palestinian factions themselves, especially the Islamic Jihad group, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and some­times even Hamas. 

An example of this was seen in 2015 when Hamas’s armed Qassam Brigades paid its respects to Samir al-Kuntar, a Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist who butchered countless Syrians in areas like Quneitra.

Some of these Palestinian factions chalk this up to pragma­tism in the fight against the “Zionist coloniser” and others insist it is necessary to defend the Iran-led axis and its “resist­ance” against Israel. 

It is baffling how killing Muslims contributes in any way to any kind of resistance against Israeli occupation, and that cognitive dissonance has never been addressed. 

Nevertheless, their participation – particularly the PFLP’s – in Iranian military adventures in Syria and else­where serves Iran by granting it influence on the Arab street through the abuse of the Pales­tinian struggle for self-determi­nation. Rather than boosting the Palestinian cause, it defiles it. 

Few Palestinians I know, whom these groups claim to represent and fight for, support Iran’s barbarity across the Middle East. Yet Palestinian factions continue to go against the wishes of their own people, even in light of Iranian-backed groups and the Assad government absolutely blitzing Palestinian refugees as notoriously was the case in the Syrian Yarmouk camp. 

Palestinian refugees in Iraq were similarly persecuted by Iran-backed militias after being accused of being “Saddamists”. It is hard to see how Quds Day makes up for this violence in light of these atrocities against the Palestinians, and further highlights the Iranian regime’s disingenuity in its public statements.

Israel and Iran – best of enemies

Iran itself is very pragmatic in how it fights Israel, as are its proxies. Throughout the 1980s, and during its eight-year war with Iraq, Iran actively sought and received support from Israel and the United States by way of illegal arms transfers that engulfed the Reagan administra­tion in what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. 

Iran also provided vital aerial and other intelligence to the Israelis – its apparent avowed enemy – during Operation Opera in 1981 to destroy Iraq’s light water nuclear reactor.

Iran’s modern Iraqi rump state is no different. Quds Day demon­strations occur anywhere Iran’s influence is strong and this year is no different, with the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces planning on military parades in Baghdad and even putting up banners in Sunni governorates such as Diyala, close to the Iranian border. 

But this again demonstrates just how exploitative and fickle Iran’s Quds Day push is. In previous years during the war against Daesh, the PMF did not dare chant anti-American slogans. 

One suspects this may be because the United States was providing these holy warriors, who are entirely at Iran’s beck and call, with the air cover they needed to reconquer areas of Iraq from Daesh. 

It is imperative for those who truly hold the rightful and just Palestinian cause to heart to not allow their struggle for self-determination and equality to be subverted by Iranian politicking. 

Tehran is not interested in the Palestinian cause itself, so much as it is interested in abusing and manipulating the cause to score political points against its adversaries and to polish its credentials as a “resistance” leader. 

The fact Israel is now threatening to annex the West Bank underscores that it is time for real action, not theatrics as offered by Iran and its proxies.

Such a coldly callous approach towards the millions of Palestinian victims of Israeli occupation must not be allowed to continue, and all to serve the purpose of providing a justification for Iran’s wanton destruction of others and to provide cover for its expansionist agenda throughout the Arab world. 

Palestinians have been through enough without becoming tools in the hands of a neo-colonial Iran.

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