Before he became President of the United States, Barack Obama emphasized his readiness to sit down for talks with Iran "without preconditions" in order to exercise the diplomatic skills he felt George W. Bush had lacked, and his current administration has shown itself eager for discussions, despite a truculent Iranian leadership's repeatedly expressed genocidal dreams. Mainstream political opinion in the United States and elsewhere, epitomized in the disastrous P5 + 1 UN agreement on nuclear development, which lifted sanctions against Iran in return for vague promises, touts engagement as the best way to moderate Iran's supremacist aims. But nothing could be further from the truth, as Andrew Bostom shows in his exhaustively researched and terrifying new book, Iran's Final Solution for Israel: The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, which should be required reading in every Peace Studies course across North America.
As his title suggests, Bostom, who is an authority on Islam with encyclopedic knowledge of its sects and beliefs, sets out to prove that Iranian statements about destroying Israel must be taken seriously and at face value. Far from being mere posturing, such statements reflect a deep-rooted anti-Semitism that has been at the centre of the Persian Shi'ite worldview for centuries and which posits the destruction of the Jews as a divinely mandated part of Shi'ite destiny. Anything else Iranian leaders might say about their willingness to work with the international community is best regarded with the deepest suspicion.
In three substantial chapters brimming with quotations, Bostom draws on the Koran and other Islamic texts, as well as on the many bloodthirsty statements of Iranian theologians and political leaders, to show why Iranian promises to wipe out the "cancer" of Israel express a coherent, if malignant and irrational, worldview in which deceit (religiously sanctioned taqiyya), anti-Jewish animus, unprovoked aggression and campaigns of terror are not only acceptable in Islam but mandated for every pious Muslim in the conduct of Jihad. Peace with unbelievers is not a concept found in the Koran; there can be only periods of "truce" that may be broken whenever it is advantageous to resume fighting. Lamentably, American foreign policy analysts — including many respected conservative commentators — have either misunderstood or ignored this reality, with the result that a "delusive policy-making mentality" and a "profound failure of imagination" have crippled the Western ability to assess or thwart the Iranian quest for nuclear capability.
The facts, as Bostom demonstrates with compendious evidence, are that Shi'ite theology specifically approves of the development of any and all weapons to terrify the enemies of Islam, lacks any notion of just war or of the proper treatment of non-combatants (all are "enemies of Islam" to be plundered, enslaved, forcibly converted or executed), prescribes lying in the pursuit of Islamic political and military ambitions, and explicitly advocates world conquest. Ever since the mullahs of Iran took power in 1979, they have employed political negotiations not as a means to agreement or cooperation but as a strategy to defeat their enemies; for, like the Soviet Union before it, the Iranian regime does not value good-faith diplomacy or believe that non-adherents should be left in peace. While Iranian apologists such as international law professor Richard Falk have celebrated the moderate pragmatism of various Iranian leaders — Bostom cites a 1979 essay published in
The New York Times, ludicrously titled "Trusting Khomeini," in which Falk scoffed at American concerns about Ayatollah Khomeini's fanaticism — the actual record of such leaders has been a staggering litany of totalitarian repressions, mass incarcerations, torture and executions. Even the leader of the much ballyhooed Green Revolution, Bostom avers, was far from moderate in his religious attitudes.
In its maniacal harshness, the post-1979 Iranian regime is acting in perfect consonance with centuries of Persian Shi'ite history. From the beginning of the 16th century, with the formal establishment by Iran's Safavid rulers of Shi'ite Islam as the State religion, Shi'ite law meant humiliation and oppression for the region's Jews as well as for other non- Muslims. Jews, however, were particularly vulnerable, singled out for condemnation in the Koran for their declared treachery, immorality and hardheartedness. The lowly condition of Jews in Persia was frequently noted by travellers over the centuries and by theologians who spelled out exactingly the means of punitive regulations on Jews' movements, legal rights, types of clothing, identifying signs, prescribed occupations, house height and every other facet of behaviour. Continually subject to insult, demeaning propaganda, scapegoating, vandalism, physical violence, forced conversions, recurrent pogroms and other deadly outbreaks, they lived in a condition of abjection considered appropriate under Islam for the ritually unclean and intended to break the spirit of those supposedly "protected" by their Muslim rulers. Bostom's voluminous evidence for such systemic cruelty is depressingly persuasive.
He also demonstrates compellingly the sanctioning of Jihad warfare by Islamic jurists from the eighth century onward, when acts of terror against civilian enemies were designed to weaken resistance to Islamization. Examples of Muslim "martyrdom" operations throughout the centuries reveal the Islamic glorification of attacks that killed women, children, the elderly and the infirm. Bostom shows extensively how this concept of offensive Jihad is still held by present-day Iranian leaders such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Iranian Supreme Guide; he also cites Allamah Tabatabai, the most influential 20th-century Shi'ite Koranic commentator, on the necessity of aggressive warfare to impose Islam on infidels. In Bostom's elucidation, the "religion of peace" is surely one of the most odious misnomers of the 21st century.
To pretend that Islamic aggression in the Middle East and elsewhere will be resolved through an end to Palestinian grievances (or that there ever could be an end that did not involve the total destruction of Israel) is to ignore the evidence of history. No one with an open mind can read Bostom's important book and not see that attempts to engage in politics as usual with a paranoid and conspiratorial Iran are not only bound to fail but also necessitate forms of rationalization and appeasement that make the abandonment of Israel seem a reasonable price for "peace in our time." There can be no dialogue with those who wish to destroy the Jewish state.
As already noted, Bostom proves his case with abundant evidence from a wide variety of sources, including a sobering survey of the murderous pronouncements and Jew-hating practices endemic to Islamic history, long before the State of Israel existed. Given that apologists for Islam are often impervious to reason, many who should heed Bostom's warning will be inured to the message, but it is to be hoped that some will have ears to hear, for the very future of humanity may depend on our ability to recognize and act against the Iranian threat.