Israelis in Denial: Carpet-shopping in Isfahan

Bibi lives in La-La Land. Simply put, the prime minister of Israel and a large number of the Jewish citizens of Israel are in denial.

And here are two pieces of evidence:
1. A left-wing Israeli friend of mine named Eyal called me last week to inform me that Israelis were organizing a rally at Rabin Square to show Iran’s Green Movement Israel’s solidarity.

2. Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu told German daily Bild. “There is no conflict between the Iranian people and the people of Israel and under a different regime the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored.”

You see, Muslims don’t have a problem with Israel, according to Bibi. And Iranians will be happy when they know they have Israeli support, according to Eyal. According to both these right and left-wingers it’s only the Muslim leaders who have a problem with Israel. If only those governments could be changed everything would be BLISSFUL here in the Middle East. The Muslims – Arab, Turkish, Persian – all love us. If it weren’t for a few party-poopers (Hezbollah, Ayatollahs, Baathists, and the Palestinians who give us a really bad name) we would be skiing in the mountains of Lebanon, bargaining in the great souq of Damascus, and buying laptops and digital cameras in Dubai.

Nothing Israel has ever done and nothing Israel can or will do has anything to do with what people think of the Jewish state, according to many Jews, Israeli and not-Israeli. IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM. The only thing separating Israel and Iran from the WONDERFUL DAYS of the Shah when 1700 Israelis lived in Tehran, El-Al flew daily to and fro, and Israeli businessman made millions of dollars from trade, is Khamenei and Friends. If just Ahmedinejad et-al would go away we would be carpet shopping in Isfahan again.

Oh. So Mousavi, the presidential candidate leading the protests, is also from the Islamic revolutionaries? Well, so what. If he can get the government to make a new election, then maybe he can change everything. And then, you know, we’ll become FAST-FRIENDS. Because we have so much in common. Look how they fight for their freedom. Didn’t we fight for ours? Against the Romans? In the Warsaw Ghetto? And to make Israel in 1948? As Bibi told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “I have no doubt everybody in the world is sympathetic to the Iranians’ desire for freedom.” We certainly are. Did you see that video of Neda, who was shot in the chest? The Iranians are victims. We can really relate to that. We’ve got a couple thousand years of experience in that role.

Oh. The Palestinians’ desire for freedom? Aren’t they VICTIMS, you ask? Don’t they go out every Friday to protest in Na’alin and Bilin against their land being confiscated and they get shot in the chest, too – um, by us? Well, it’s all about location. Location. Location. Location. (If they were in Africa we would be very sympathetic.)

Oh. You say it’s not just the Ayatollahs who are upset that we made a state here on the land of their Muslim brothers and continue to oppress the Palestinians? You mean the Iranian citizens also feel bad when they see on TV or read in Ha’aretz how we humiliate, harass, hurt, and kill innocent Palestinians throughout our 42-year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza? But we had such great relations with the Iranians when the Shah was around. Like Bibi said, “under a different regime, the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored.”

Eyal, the left-winger, says to me that he wants Iranians to know that there are Israelis here who support their cause.

Yes, I say, but that doesn’t HELP them, because we are their ENEMY. Don’t you see, Eyal, they are scared of US? We threaten them all the time. It will hurt their cause – not help – it if it’s known their sworn enemy supports them. Cancel the rally, I implore (Only about 10 people showed up Saturday night. Not sure if it’s because he heeded my advice.)

In a Facebook discussion with H., an American-Israeli journalist here, I explain that there’s little difference between Israeli and Iranian desires for each others regimes. They don’t like each other and they want the other destroyed, I write on his wall. No, writes back H., “Israel has no problem with ‘Islamic’ regimes – witness Pakistan, Mauritania, etc. – only with Iran’s specifically anti-Israel regime.”

What Bibi, Eyal, and H. don’t realize is that the Iranian people won’t like us no matter who is their leader and we cannot wish for their freedom and at the same time expect that ‘free’ government to not be anti-Israel. Only a Muslim dictator under heavy US influence (e.g. Pakistan and Iran under the Shah), or in a country unable to deal with more wars (Jordan and Egypt) will be on speaking terms with the State of Israel.

Muslim attitudes towards Israel can change. I saw it among Egyptians during the euphoria immediately after Ehud Barak won the elections and everyone thought he would follow in the footsteps of Yitzhak Rabin z”l. For that to happen Jewish Israelis need to first acknowledge that Israel’s brutal and oppressive actions against the Palestinians DO AFFECT other Arabs and Muslims views on Israel.

So while Israelis pray for the Iranian protesters in green, Israelis should also focus on ending the injustices we commit against a people who also want freedom and a state to represent them. Otherwise, we’ll never ever be able to bargain for carpets in Isfahan.



  1. noushin says:

    i spent February in Iran. The Iranians are fed up with their gov’t throwing money at hezbollah and hamas and don’t want to hear anymore holocaust denial – as evidenced now with the Sea of Green uprising, and some pics that show they are fighting hezbollah troops in the streets of tehran, they are done with this gov’t – if they succeed, everything will change…

  2. alaqsa81090 says:

    Right ON! Say it MS. Halpern-

  3. Yasmin says:

    “Israelis should also focus on ending the injustices we commit against a people who also want freedom and a state to represent them. Otherwise, we’ll never ever be able to bargain for carpets in Isfahan.”

    Spot on and well said! Love the post! Keep them coming !

  4. Hi Orly;
    You mentioned a lot of false facts about Muslims and Arab, and I’m saying thing because I’m a Muslim and an Arab and I don’t see your point of view, but let me explain something about your post.
    You said in your post that Arabs and Muslims do not have problems with Israel and they trying to build good relations with it but the dictators won’t that… That’s completely wrong and we have a lot of problems with Israel and with its citizen, you want to ask me why? OK I’m going to tell… Because Israel stolen our land and built Israel over PALESTINE which it’s originally PALESTINE not the land of Israel, In addition to that, Israel killed about a huge number of people in “Dair Yaseen” Qana” “Sabra and Shatella” “Jenin Camp” and much other, and you still want to know why we hate Israel?
    Orly, Israel killed my friend in the year of 2006, and you still want to know why we hate Israel ????? I wonder what you need more than that to hate Israel. ASK yourself if a country and let’s say “Egypt” occupied Israel and killed your friend or family,, what would you say? Would you build relation with it? Well I DON’T THINK SO.
    You know Orly, we have our causes to hate Israel or a least to not like to build any relation with it.
    You said also that Israelis lived in peace at Iran while “Al-Shah” was judged there, BUT YOU haven’t mentioned that “SHAH” murdered a lot of Iranians and they don’t love him and they wished and waited the day of his death and they also celebrated when he died.
    The old day return back and you will not go or even dream to shop from Isfahan,, Just pray to stay tomorrow in ISREAL.

    1. orlyhalpern says:

      Dear Mohammad,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your pain. I appreciate it. However, I think you misunderstood me. I was being sarcastic when I said that Arabs and Muslim don’t have a problem with Israel. I know they do. And with reason. I hope that will change in my lifetime, although I’m not sure it ever will. Israel’s present ultra-right-wing government doesn’t show signs that it is.

  5. Jen Gerson says:

    Hey Noushin, I suspect the fact that Iranians are sick of seeing their money thrown to Hezbollah and Hamas has more to do with a frustration at their own tanking economy than at any particular love of Israel.
    For decades, Middle Eastern regimes have been stoking support for the Palestinian cause to deflect from their own jails, crimes and repression.
    Looks like Israel has taken its cue.

  6. Jen Gerson says:

    Oh, also. You probably could get into Dubai with an Israeli passport. You just need a visa.

    I’ve heard they’re no longer checking for stamps either, although I suspect it would be saver to travel via Abu Dhabi.

  7. Oudemos says:

    Many Arabs and Muslims are able to differentiate between “the US” and “Americans”, similarly between “Israel” and “Israelis”. Wre Israel to behave in a slightly less aggressive fashion, and accord to other nations the rights it demands for itself, it migh find that it was rather less unwelcome in the neighbourhood.

  8. DC says:

    Can you imagine how the Iranian or any Arab government would react to being in Israel’s shoes? If they felt interanlly powerful but under seige by ‘others’ they would kick the living daylights out of their enemies and we both know it. Israel is indeed frightening to the local regimes, but because it has not done what they would do and killed a few hundred thousand Palestinians. I suspect even the Arab street is put off by that odd behavior…

  9. Tom Ricks says:

    Halperin hits nail on the head! Occupiers are never liked/loved by the very nature of the occupation (nothing personal, it’s the occupation that becomes personal and hateful…no different from Italians, Dutch or French under German occupation, or Iraqis, Kurds or Azeris under American or earlier Russian occupation. It’s about occupation, stupid! and not about liking or disliking each other. The dillusional politics of Israeli occupation is nearly matched by the equally dillusional politics of Khamenei and the ruling theocrats in Tehran. A pox on both of them!

  10. Orly –

    Well said, and welcome to the blogging world!


  11. Favor says:

    Orly – you have no need to be apologetic or kind to people who a) don’t understand your post at all and b) sound both hostile and aggressive. Bullies of all stripes need to be called out, not apologized to. Perhaps his friend was planting a bomb when he was killed, you don’t know. Arabs will neither trust nor appreciate someone they think is pandering to them. No need to post this, just advice from another Jew active allover the region for the last 12 years. I tell my friends they mismanage their affairs daily, and own up to Israel’s mistakes as well. Please don’t become just anothe reflexive apologist; we have to many as it is.

    1. orlyhalpern says:

      I have no reason not to be kind to someone because he misunderstood my post. And I don’t think he sounds hostile or aggressive nor is he a bully. He describes the pain that Muslims and Arabs feel about their brothers and sisters harmed and killed by Israel, which is exactly what I tried to describe in my analysis of why Israel’s neighbors won’t like Israel until it stops being the neighborhood bully. I’m sorry to say, sir, but you did not understand what I wrote either. And I’ll still be polite to you. 😉

  12. Dan S says:

    Orly, this is a great piece and I agree with the sentiment however I think you’ve misunderstood Mohammed’s comment about hating Israel.

    He said that he (and ‘all other muslims and arabs’) hate Israel first and foremost because it exists. As terrible as Israel’s actions are and as much as I wish and hope Israel rights these wrongs NOW – It can’t ‘right’ it’s original sin of existing.

  13. ilyse s. says:

    I agree w/a lot of what you say. It’s truly aggravating to be a part of such hypocracy and pretend it doesn’t exist. In many ways, we are no better than any other group/tribe, but when you express that outloud, people don’t want to acknowledge the truth. Sad.

    I found you on Twitter. Keep it up.

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