Just attended the rally against racism in Jerusalem

2 Jul

Head of Israel Labour party and opposition leader Isaac Herzog

Just returned from the rally against racism and violence in Jerusalem.

It was wonderful to be there. With so many people who in less than 24 hours after the news regarding a suspected racist attack against a young Palestinian broke out got together to say no to racism.

We are not even sure yet that this was a racist attack. Never mind, our message had to be heard. This is our country and we won’t let the racists win.

I was especially pleased to see the crowd at the anti racism rally after having passed a small gathering by racists chanting “Death to Arabs”.

In total they were about 15 people. Majority of them teenagers. I thought of getting into an argument with them, but please believe me when I tell you that it was not worth it. They looked like such a bunch of boneheads that it would have been a waste of time. Would you argue with someone who was shouting to another woman “do you know what they would do to you in Europe if they find out you are Jewish? They would kill you in Europe.”

The most moving moment at the rally for me was when the head of the Israeli opposition Isaac Herzog came and took pictures among the crowd. He also spoke.

Don’t ask me exactly what he said. By that time I was in a deep conversation in Persian with my Iranian friend Ashkan Safaei who had also attended the rally. He lives in Jerusalem. The conversation lasted 1.5 hours and extended over coffee.

Then I got on the Jerusalem light rail to go to the Central Bus station, and before the doors closed, in walked an elderly gentleman with his daughter.

He started speaking to her in a loud voice, not only in Persian, but in a thick Esfahani accent. He had left Iran only a couple of years ago. Suddenly I found myself listening to him talking about the beauties of Esfahan, and of course, how he knows my entire family, right up to my late grandfather Meir, and my relatives in Israel.

My past and present, in full circle, completed over a single trip to Jerusalem.

The Iranians who will hope Iran is knocked out of the World Cup

25 Jun

Tonight overwhelming majority of Iranians in Iran and outside will be hoping and praying for Iran to win against Bosnia.

There will also be a tiny minority of Iranians who will hope that Iran loses.

This tiny yet powerful minority will most probably belong to senior members of Iran’s intelligence apparatus.

The reason?

Because if Iran wins tonight, there will be an explosion of joy among ALL Iranians, no matter what religion, ethnicity or gender they belong to. And this could mean millions of people pouring onto the streets of major cities and towns in Iran to celebrate Iran’s victory.

The last time a similar event took place was during the 1998 world cup when Iran beat the United States team 2-1. There were so many people on the streets that they could not be controlled. Boys and girls danced together. There are even reports that some girls removed their hijab.

Such behavior by the Iranian public may sound innocent to you, but to Iran’s domestic security apparatus they sound like something else: a challenge.

The reason being that to Iran’s intelligence chiefs, if tonight people pour on to the streets in millions without permission to celebrate football, this may embolden them to do the same tomorrow for politics.

If young women take their hijab off to celebrate a football victory and they are not stopped today, tomorrow they may want more, such as being allowed into football stadiums to watch their national team. This is something which they are not currently allowed to do so.

And its these small things which concern Iran’s intelligence chiefs greatly, because there is so much potential for them to grow. The way they see it, if they are not stopped while they are small, they could turn into giants tomorrow.

Why else would young Iranians be temporarily arrested and humiliated for making a video where they danced to Will Pharrel’s “Happy” song?

Why else would they arrest two people who according to AP “ appeared in an on line video of young people singing and dancing in support of the country’s World Cup football team”?


Iran’s uncertain intervention in Iraq

16 Jun

The recent lightning victories in Iraq of the Sunni extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have undoubtedly left many Middle Eastern leaders surprised, asking, “What does it mean for us?”

The same applies to Iraq’s powerful Shiite neighbor, Iran.
My latest article for Al Monitor looks at the short and long term opportunities and threats for Iran.


مصاحبه: رئیس جمهور جدید اسرائیل کیست؟

11 Jun
دیروز روبن رولین در مجلس اسرائیل به سمت ریاست جمهوری انتخاب شد.

.در مصاحبه اخیرم با بی بی سی فارسی در مورد ایشان و عواقب انتخابشان صحبت کردم

Video interview- #Iran and #Turkey: what is next?

10 Jun

Yesterday, President Rouhani of Iran visited Turkey.

What does this mean? What will he aim to achieve?

How will the Saudis view this visit? what does it mean in terms of domestic politics in Iran?

Has Iran changed its attitude towards Israel since the election of Rouhani?

I tried to address these issues in last night’s debate at I24 news.

On #Iran, #Israel intelligence differs with Netanyahu government, again

10 Jun

Today we had the second day of the 2014 Herzliya conference

One of the speakers was Brigadier-General Brun, military intelligence’s chief analyst.

In contradiction to Prime Minister Netanyahu, General Itai Brun had a more optimistic view of Iran’s role in the talks, so far.

According to the Jerusalem Post, he stated:

“It is very possible that Iran and the world powers that are negotiating with it are moving toward the signing, sometime during the year, of a permanent nuclear deal”.

In another part of his speech he added:

“In the meantime, Iran is abiding by the interim agreement and the pressures, mainly the economic crisis, are leading it toward a dialogue, which we regard as serious-minded, on a permanent agreement.”

This is not the first time that Israel’s intelligence community has come out with a different view to that of Netanyahu with regards to Iran’s nuclear program.

We saw another clear example on the 22nd of November last year.

In my assessment, the odds are at least 60:40 in favour of the current talks succeeding.

Professor Amitai Etzion + someone

8 Jun

Today was the first day of the annual Herzliya conference, which takes place at the Interdisciplinary Disciplinary Centre (IDC). amitai-etzioni

There were some really interesting panels, including one on strategy where great experts such as Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman and Edward N. Luttwak, both at the Washington based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) spoke.

But the best conversation I had was with Professor Amitai Etzioni. Here I was all of a sudden speaking to someone whose work I had quoted extensively during my first degree. His personal stories regarding the founding of the state of Israel were even more amazing.

As a young man, he was actually there during the declaration of independence of the state of Israel.

Meanwhile as a 16 year old student, his entire class was called up for training for the war of Independence. He was recounting the exact moment in 1947 when during training with the Palmach fighting force he heard older soldiers jumping to dance on the tables.

That was the moment when the United Nations voted for the establishment of the state of Israel. Thats a moment which we in Israel will never forget. A selfie was too unreliable.  I had to ask someone to take a picture of me with this great man.

The moment which UN voted for the establishment of the state of Israel:



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