Constructing National Agency in Global Anti-Zionism

The corpora of newspaper articles clearly attested to the overarching social representation that Israel posed a global threat. Consistent with Identity Process Theory, which argues that human beings respond to threat by deploying coping strategies, there was an emerging social representation in the corpus that the Islamic Republic of Iran would valiantly lead the global anti-Zionism campaign to defeat this threat:

26. “Iran sees any act against Hezbollah, Hamas as a threat to its interests … The world's people should know that today the positions of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine are considered as Iran's 'border' with Israel”33

In extract 26, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist organisation Hamas were constructed as being the protégés of Iran, which in turn viewed any act against these organisations as “a threat to its interests”. Given that these organisations were pervasively represented as constituting the “Islamic resistance” against Israel (Takeyh, 2006), Iran as their prime supporter was elevated to a position of leadership in this anti-Zionist “struggle”. The article proceeded to define the Hamas and Hezbollah “positions” as “Iran's 'border' with Israel”, essentially obscuring national boundaries delineating Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. Indeed, it has been observed that the Israeli-Arab conflict is Islamicised as a conflict between Zionism and the global Islamic Ummah (Jaspal, 2014d; Litvak, 1998). Despite never having engaged in an armed conflict with the State of Israel, Iran was represented as a primary stakeholder in the conflict and as leading the “resistance movement” more commonly associated with Hezbollah and Hamas.

33  “IRI sees any act against Hezbollah, Hamas as threat to its interests”, Tehran Times, 26 August 2011. Similarly, articles in the corpus represented Iran as leading the ideological dimension of the Islamic resistance by organising the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada, for example:

27. Iran intifada confab to host 70 states. 70 countries are attending34

Articles highlighted the centrality of Iran in organising the conference. Extract 27 depicted Iran as leading an increasingly global anti-Zionism, which was implied by the large number of countries attending the conference. This was consistent with the notion that Iran, and its channels of societal information, were keen to construct their anti-Zionist stance as a global and ubiquitous one, shared by many other countries.

This sense of self-inclusion and leadership in a global anti-Zionism was juxtaposed with more aggressive social representations of Iran's role in defeating Israel:

28. Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani said that Iranian nation has isolated the Zionist regime in the international arena and tightened the noose around it.35

According to articles in the corpus, anti-Zionist events such as the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada and the International Quds Day exemplified how the “Iranian nation has isolated the Zionist regime in the international arena”. Extract 28 clearly attributed the isolation of Israel to the efforts of Iran. Crucially, this is constructed as a struggle between the people of Iran and an inanimate, inhumane and militarised “Zionist regime” which further popularised antiZionism, distancing it from the confines of Iran's political establishment.

Articles in the corpus actively encouraged the social representation that the entire world, not only the Arab world, was becoming increasingly opposed to Zionism:

29. Today Palestine has the support of not only its Arab neighbors but many other countries of the world and Israel has more enemies than it had sixty years back [sic], for example its neighbor Egypt which was an ally till yesterday is now a sworn enemy of the Zionist regime.36

30. Governments that allow Zionist embassies to be set up must be reprimand [sic].37

34  IRI intifada confab to host 70 states, Press TV, 27 September 2011.

35  IRI calls for massive turnout on International Qods Day, Tehran Times, 24 August 2011.

36  Unholy acts committed in the Holy Land, Press TV, 30 September 2011.

37  “Islamic Awakening deposed dictators”, Press TV, 16 September 2011. Extract 29 constructed Palestine as a widely supported “state”, particularly by its Arab neighbours, while Israel was depicted as gradually losing the allegedly little support it originally had. The extract erroneously highlighted that “Israel has more enemies than it had sixty years back [sic]” and proceeded to cite Egypt as “a sworn enemy of the Zionist regime”. It is noteworthy that 60 years ago neither Jordan nor Egypt had diplomatic relations with the State of Israel but, at the time of writing, these countries maintained diplomatic relations. The article appeared to make reference to the popular storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo in September 201138, which was provided as evidence that Egypt was “now a sworn enemy”. The provision of inaccurate information was clearly intended to accentuate the Iraniandriven anti-Zionist agenda by demonstrating that anti-Zionism was increasingly pervasive in the world. In addition to the construction of a pervasive global antiZionism, articles in the corpus represented any implicit support for Zionism as reproachable, as exemplified by extract 30. This is consistent with the observation that any support for Israel, in whatever guise, is constructed as un-Islamic (Jaspal, 2014d; Litvak, 1998).

The anti-Zionist stance of Iran was optimistically represented as successful in its goal to eradicate Israel:

31. “Some governments proposed the historical tactic of the formation of a Palestinian government in order to buy time for saving the Zionist regime [of Israel]”, [Iranian] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. “But this tactic will not be able to save Israel … The Middle East region will not integrate the unseemly patch that is the Zionist regime [of Israel] and will reject it”39

In extract 31, the strategic quote from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represented the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “historical tactic” of Western governments, rather than as the stated policy of the Palestinian Authority (Parsons, 2005). The Palestinian statehood bid (based on the pre-1967 borders), which was in fact initiated by the Palestinian Authority and opposed by the United States, was thereby represented as part of this tactic. By attributing this to these governments and distancing it from the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognised representative of the Palestinian people, the extract represented the statehood bid as a malicious attempt to “buy time for saving the Zionist regime”. Israel was optimistically represented as being in danger of extinction beyond recourse. It was argued that collective rejection of Israel would lead to its demise:

38  Israel seeks calm with Egypt after embassy storming. The Telegraph, 11 September 2011.

39  IRI says Middle East will reject Israel, Press TV, 25 September 2011. Today, the Zionist regime is at its weakest in history. Therefore, the West including the United States and Europe are offering various plans to protect this fake regime”, he [Hossein Sheikholeslam, Secretary of the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada] added.40

33. He [Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani] added, “Now that the ground has been prepared for defending the oppressed Palestinian nation, the Zionist regime is suffering horrendous hallucinations about its existence, so is even scared of its own shadow”.41

In extract 32, the secretary of the International Conference on the Intifada was strategically quoted as optimistically positioning the “Zionist regime … at its weakest in history”, which represented the Iran's anti-Zionist policy as having its intended effect. Similarly, in extract 33, Israel was metaphorically depicted as “suffering horrendous hallucinations about its existence”, which would lead to its demise. This was further accentuated through the metaphorical objectifi of Israel being “scared of its own shadow”. Similarly, in some articles, this sense of fear has been cited as an explanation for Israel's alleged engagement in “terrorism” against Iran.42 In short, Iran was represented as being successful and effi in its longstanding commitment to “defending” the Palestinians, that is, by advocating a fervent anti-Zionist ideology and exporting it beyond the borders of Iran.

Articles in the corpus legitimised Iran's anti-Zionist policy by constructing Israel as a threat to the Palestinians. However, anti-Zionism was also depicted as an Islamic “duty”, particularly as Zionism was said to pose a hybridised threat to Islam, both to the Islamic “worldview” and to the survival of Muslims (Jaspal and Cinnirella, 2010):

34. Israelis burn mosque, Qur'ans … Numerous copies of the holy Qur'an

were also burnt43

35. The Israeli regime has demolished a mosque near Tubas in the West Bank … This is the third mosque demolished by forces of the Israeli regime44

36. Sadr [Second Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament] added that the Zionist regime is spending massively to instigate turmoil and insecurity in Muslim Syria45

40  IRI intifada confab to host 70 states, Press TV, 27 September 2011.

41  “Israeli interception of Gaza aid ship, a political ignominy”, Tehran Times, 20 July 2011.

42  IRI calls for massive turnout on International Qods Day, Tehran Times, 24 August 2011.

43  Israelis burn mosque, Qur'ans, Press TV, 3 October 2011.

44  Israel razes mosque in West Bank, Press TV, 11 October 2011.

45  “Zionism with not stop with Syria unrest”, Press TV, 7 October 2011. Extract 34 attributed arson attacks against a mosque to Israelis in general, rather than to any particular subgroup, such as Jewish settlers in the West Bank, for instance. This is analogous to the observation that Western newspapers frequently attribute global terrorism to Muslims in general (Jaspal and Cinnirella, 2010), which can anchor Islam to terrorism (Cinnirella, 2014). In this case, the national category Israeli was anchored to attacks against Islam. Having attributed these attacks to Israelis in general, the article proceeded to explain that the Islamic Qur'an was also burnt. Similarly, extract 35 constructed Israel as a threat to Islam by highlighting a series of Israeli-led demolitions. Use of the verb “raze” in the title of the article constructed this as a complete destruction, further accentuating the threat allegedly posed by the Israel. The acts of burning and destroying Islamic places of worship and the Islamic Holy Book constructed the seldom-mentioned Israeli people, as well as their state, as posing a hybridised threat to Islam. Extract 36 depicted Israel as resourceful in its attempt to “instigate turmoil and insecurity” in Muslim land. This is consistent with the representation that Israel is malevolent and committed to the destruction of Islam (Klein, 2009). Crucially, this was constructed as Zionist aggression against a Muslim country, which represented Israel as a threat to Muslims.

Articles explicitly linked the social representation of Israel as a hybridised threat to Islam with the emancipated representation that Muslims should collectively mobilise against Israel:

37. Jalili [Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council] said the liberation of Palestine could serve as the unifying point of Islamic Awakening movements in different countries and could … restore the rights which have been downtrodden by the Zionist regime46

38. [Iran's Deputy Defence Minister Vahidi stated that]“It seems as if the second wave of Islamic Awakening in … the fight against the Zionist regime (of Israel) is starting to reveal itself … This awakening will remove all obstacles from its way, and this anti-Zionist wake will take form in other Muslim countries”47

Although extract 37 referred to Israeli injustices in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the implications of these injustices were generalised to the Islamic Ummah. The extract constructed Israel as deliberately curtailing the rights of the Palestinians, which reiterated the threatening nature of Israel. Social action against the “tyranny” of Israel and, more specifically, “the liberation of Palestine” were represented as the “unifying point of the Islamic Awakening”, that is, an ideological tenet linking Islamic Ummah (Jaspal, 2014d). Both extracts 37 and 38 described what has been referred to as the “Arab Spring” as the “Islamic Awakening”, that is, they Islamicised the political unrest in Arab countries. In short, there was a sense

46  “US deeply dependent on Zionist lobby”, Press TV, 3 October 2011.

47  Second Islamic Awakening on horizon, Press TV, 17 September 2011. that mobilisation against Israel and commitment to its destruction (implied by the “liberation of Palestine”) constituted a pan-Islamic duty. Similarly, in extract 38, anti-Zionism was depicted as central to the Islamic Awakening.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance was strategically quoted in

order to represent the issue of Palestine as a key Islamic concern:

39. Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has released a multimedia CD on Zionism in Tehran … “Palestine is the main issue of the Islamic world and we could not be indifferent to the 60 years of tyranny perpetrated by the Zionists”, Hosseini [the Iranian Culture Minister] mentioned.48

In extract 39, anti-Zionism was constructed as a cultural and, more specifically, an Islamic concern, given that Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance produced a CD on Zionism. Moreover, the Culture Minister was strategically quoted as referring to Palestine as “the main issue of the Islamic world” and as urging Muslims to stand up for the Palestinian cause. The social representation that Zionism posed a tyrannical threat to the Palestinians and Muslims, more generally, was strategically invoked in order to construct the emancipated representation that anti-Zionism constituted a religious duty. The strategic quote depicts anti-Zionism as a core tenet of Islam.

Several articles in the corpus rhetorically accentuated the anti-Zionist tenet of Islam by highlighting the engagement of Islamic countries in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict:

40. Muslim nations are now more determined than ever in their efforts to liberate all of the occupied territories, including occupied holy Qods … International Qods Day is a day of solidarity with Palestine observed on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.49

41. Ramadan is one of the means for solidarity among Muslims … we should remember that the Zionist Regime and the United States are the common enemies of all Muslims.50

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has accentuated the Islamic aspect of Iranian identity. Thus, Islam is regarded as a key mobilising tenet of Iranian identity. Accordingly, extract 40 constructed anti-Zionism as a Muslim duty. This process of “liberating” Palestine was optimistically represented as being already under way. In extract 40, the need to “liberate” Palestine was clearly anchored to Islamic duty through the “overcompleteness/irrelevance” rhetorical

48  Anti-Zionist multimedia CD released in Tehran, Tehran Times, 24 August 2011.

49  Iran calls for massive turnout on International Qods Day, Tehran Times, 24 August 2011.

50  Iran calls on Arab cineastes to produce films promoting Islamic unity, Tehran Times, 07 August 2011. strategy; articles constructed the “day of solidarity” as an Islamic duty through its anchoring to the “holy month of Ramadan”. Similarly, extract 41 explicitly represented anti-Zionism as an important tenet of Islam by designating Israel as a “common” (shared) enemy of all Muslims. The dictum regarding Muslim solidarity implied the necessity for all Muslims to espouse anti-Zionism in order to maintain a unified Islamic stance. In short, these articles represented anti-Zionism as a necessary religious duty for the global Islamic Ummah.


This chapter provides an analysis of two Iranian news outlets in order to discern how Iran constructs and “exports” its anti-Zionist ideology and outlines the discursive aspects of the delegitimisation process in textual representations of Israel. Consistent with previous research into Iran's position on Israel, these outlets are unanimous in their negativisation of Israel, which is most frequently referred to in terms of a corrupt and illegitimate “regime”, rather than a state (Jaspal, 2013c; Klein, 2009). It is noteworthy that these media outlets provide greater “voice” to members of Iranian politico-religious establishment, who would habitually be afforded minimal space in the mainstream Western press.

Collectively, the results of the analysis point to a rhetorical delegitimisation process, which consists of three inter-dependent components. These include: (i) contesting the legitimacy of the Israel; (ii) describing the malevolent processes whereby the Jewish State was established and is currently maintained; (iii) “problemsolving” by demanding the destruction of Israel. The social representation that the Jewish civilian population constitutes a foreign occupation is consistently employed in order to rationalise acts of violence against the Jewish people. A vast number of articles in the corpus reproduce the social representation that there is a global Zionist conspiracy, which culminated in the establishment of the State of Israel and which continues to support it (Mottale, 2011). It is argued that the category “Jew” has superficially shifted to “Zionist” in the Iranian press, but that the core and structure of this delegitimising social representation remain the same, namely that the Jewish Zionist is cunning and threatening. Articles construct the destruction of the “Zionist regime” as imminent and necessary in order to solve the multiple dangers said to be posed by Israel, including world domination, terrorism against Iran and genocide against the Palestinians. By reproducing these delegitimising representations in the English-language press, Iran exports anti-Zionist ideology to an international readership evoking global sympathy for the destruction of the one and only Jewish State. The next chapter illustrates how anti-Zionism, with a more clearly discernible antisemitic face, unfolds in visual representations. This page has been left blank intentionally

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