Should the U.S. Care about Iran’s Eliminationist Anti-Semitism?

Hatred of Jews and the goal of annihilating Israel are key elements of the Iranian regime’s ideology. By reconciling with that regime, what message, asks Lee Smith, is the U.S. sending, and to whom?

For 36 years now, Iranian officials have threatened to annihilate Israel. As Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi said recently, “Destroying Israel is non-negotiable.” There may be different centers of power throughout the regime, as Iran experts posit, but everyone agrees with the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] that Israel—the “Zionist cancer”—has got to go.

Middle East experts and experienced Iran watchers in the West typically dismiss such threats as instrumental rhetoric. . . . The Iranians, [say the experts,] wouldn’t ever really use the bomb. In fact, they’re very clever, rational people. . . .

[But] of course Iran is irrational. It is irrational in its very essence, for anti-Semitism is the form that unreason takes in modern political life. Disregarding the regime’s anti-Semitism is not a way of politely papering-over stray rhetoric or a barely relevant superstition that is not of any conceivable relevance to grand matters of state. It is to ignore willfully the nature of the regime. Seen from this perspective, the White House’s key foreign-policy initiative—to strike a deal with such a regime—is willfully perverse. . . .

The winners then include not just the White House and the American voices of reason who want peace with Iran, but also the fringe characters who are now welcome to air their views about the tentacle octopus of Jewish power. . . . The White House has opened the door to this freak show by striking a deal with a regime that embodies anti-Semitism of the most virulent sort, at a moment when Jews are being abused and gunned down on the streets of Europe. Whom does that kind of message embolden?