On Thursday, students from the Basij (people’s militia) handed a bouquet of flowers to the Venezuelan embassy in Tehran. This was in gratitude for the recent expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Caracas.
Iran’s leadership is furious about what is happening in Gaza. Iran’s population is also angry, but for a different reason.
In Iranian culture, supporting the underdog is a national characteristic. Iranians see themselves as a minority, so they try to relate. As a child, I specifically remember learning about Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner who died in British prisons because he went on a hunger strike in protest. In Iran, the majority of people sided with the IRA. Not because they hate Britain, but because the Irish were the underdogs. The same feelings were demonstrated during the British invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. Every single one of us in our classroom backed the Argentinians. Never mind the fact that the war was caused by Galtieri, the then-Argentine president who was a fascist with an alcohol problem. We simply did not know. There was the strong (Britain) and the weak (Argentina). The choice was easy and obvious.
So when it comes to Gazans, the Iranian people feel bad for Gazans because they see them as underdogs. One has to remember that Iranians lived through eight years of war started by Saddam Hussein, which led to the devastation of their country. Nobody came to help them and they see the same in Gaza. Does this mean that they want to eliminate Israel? The answer in the majority of cases is negative. This is against the wishes of hardliners in the Iranian government who would love to brainwash the people of Iran, especially the young through the use of TV programs, gory pictures of casualties in Gaza, and in some cases outright lies about what is happening there. But so far, apart from hardcore fundamentalists, they are not succeeding. The only thing which the majority of the people of Iran want eliminated is poverty and unemployment in their own country. Not some country 1,000 kilometers away called Israel.