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August 02, 2013 11:05 AM Ayatollah Takes to Twitter, Paranoia Ensues

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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Finally, a reason to believe that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s energetic intervention in the Israeli-Arab dispute might work: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran (I can never get over the fact that this is his actual title) is a bit worried — so worried that he, or one of his fundamentalist factotums, has taken to Twitter rather epically to denounce any Muslim who dares talk to the perfidious Zionist entity.

The occasion for the outburst is Quds Day, an Iranian-devised holiday meant to mourn the existence of Israel (“al-Quds” is Arabic for “the Holy,” a reference to Jerusalem). The content of the messages suggests that Khamenei is nervous that peace talks could bring about greater Muslim recognition of Israel.

The extended rant (at @khamenei_ir, which is generally believed to be the Twitter account emanating from the supreme leader’s office) began yesterday afternoon Tehran time, with a somewhat whiny observation: “After nations have risen up with strong demands agnst Zionist regime; based on what logic do some Muslim govts maintain ties with Israel?”

That was followed by this missive: “Proof 4 Muslim govts honesty 4 supporting Palestine is to cut ties w/Zionist. Govts having ties w/Zionists can’t claim support for Palestine.”

This is a message meant for one of Iran’s (many) perennial enemies, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as well as for Iran’s new-old-new enemy, the government in Egypt, which for the moment is led by the military, the main guarantor of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. Both Egypt and Jordan would play crucial roles in Kerry’s plan to integrate Israel into the region.

“Muslims shouldn’t let vassal states destroy Palestine make world forget Palestine by creating an atmosphere of artificial silence,” another message read.

The rant moved quickly to a prescriptive phase. “Any operational plan 4 Palestinian cause should be based on ‘All Palestine for all Palestinians. Palestine is from the river to the sea.’”

This is the official position of anti-Semites, by the way. Denying the Jewish people any right at all to a nation-state in their historic homeland is by definition anti-Jewish. But Khamenei isn’t advocating slaughter (at least on Twitter — his regime’s support for terrorism designed to kill civilian Jews is well documented).

Khamenei’s big idea, contra Kerry? A vote by Palestinians to decide what to do with the Jews: “The govt elected by Palestinians will decide on non-Palestinians who have immigrated to the country over years.” Displaying a welcome sense of realism, the feed continued: “Obviously we don’t expect Zionists 2 face up 2 it easily.” Yes, it’s hard to imagine “Zionists” agreeing to national suicide. But a supreme leader can always dream, can’t he?

Finally, a Khamenei rant wouldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned conspiracy-mongering: “Once Europeans and Americans realize their biggest problems are due to Zionist dominance over their govts, they’ll rebel against their govts.” And then a threat: “How long can you deceive ur nations? Once Americans realize how you have sacrificed their interests for Zionists, what will they do to you?”

Apparently, they will re-elect you. Khamenei, and other opponents of Israel’s existence, can’t fathom U.S. support for Israel. They turn to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” for understanding, when in fact they should turn to the Gallup organization, which has polled Americans on Middle East questions for decades. Each time the subject is raised with American voters, they show themselves to be pro-Israel. Which doesn’t mean that they oppose compromise.

And compromise, of course, frightens fanatics on all sides of the Middle East conflict, including the Israeli side. Compromise is what Kerry is seeking — somewhat quixotically, to my mind, given current conditions in the region — but he’s making an earnest push.

I wanted to explain all this to Khamenei, but my campaign to get him to follow me on Twitter hasn’t taken hold. In fact, Khamenei follows no one on Twitter, which makes sense. When your job title is “supreme leader,” why would you have to listen to anyone?

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a columnist for Bloomberg View, and a senior editor at The Atlantic.

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