When we say “Zionists”…

19 Jun 2009 by CST

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has given his verdict on the past week’s events, and it’s clear whose hand he sees behind the turmoil in his country:

The competition for the election was very clear. Enemies and dirty Zionists tried to show the election as a contest between the regime and against it. That is not true, all four candidates support the regime. [He lists the government positions of the opposition candidates]. All of the candidates are part of this system and regime. Zionists and the bad British radio said it was a challenge to the regime.


Zionists claims of corruption are not right.


Enemies try through various media, and some of these media belong to the Zionists … they try to make believe that there is a fight between supporters of the opposition and the Islamic establishment.


This is not a competition between outside and inside the establishment as Zionists, media in the UK, in the US, have been trying to say.

There has been plenty said and written about whether people sometimes use “Zionist” as a euphemism for “Jew”, and whether anti-Zionist discourse can sometimes mimic traditional conspiracy theories about Jews. I'm sure some will claim that when Khamenei talks about "Zionists", he means Israel and various agencies of the Israeli state. So it is helpful that he has gone on record in the past, explaining exactly what he means by the word “Zionist”:

When we say “Zionists” we do not only mean the usurping Zionist government. That is only part of the Zionist entity. The Zionists form the major capitalists of some countries, including the United State (sic) of America, and dominate the politics of that country.

Today, unfortunately, the United States, its Congress and its government, are under the spell of Zionism in different financial, economic, cultural, political and propaganda arenas. The bulk of the propaganda organs of the world mass media, furthermore, are controlled by the Zionists. Most of the famous news agencies which you know of are controlled by them. The few that do not belong to them, in fact move in harmony with them.

Khamenei said this in a speech broadcast on Iranian radio in December 1997. It is possible that he has changed his views since then, and developed a more nuanced and less conspiratorial view of events. Perhaps he no longer thinks that America is controlled by a vast Zionist conspiracy; a lot can change in 12 years. Or it is possible that nothing has changed, and that when he says “Zionists”, he really doesn’t mean Israel; he has a different type of "Zionist" in mind.



There is a full, though unofficial, translation of Khamenei’s speech here.

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