The portrait painted by the world media is that Israel and Iran are the worst of enemies, and that the Islamic Republic is united in leading the charge against perceived Jewish injustices against the Palestinian Arabs.
As demonstrated in a telephone exchange between average Iranians and Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, that simply is not true. Israel and Iran had warm relations prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and many average Iranians remain friendly toward the Jewish state.
The exchange took place late last week on Voice of Israel's Farsi radio program. Sources in Iran said that millions of Iranians listen to the Israeli program in their mother tongue, despite the risk of being jailed and tortured for "contact with enemy agents."
The show's host took calls from a large number of Iranians and translated their questions for Hanegbi. Nearly all of the callers expressed support for international pressure on their own regime over its defiant nuclear program, but warned that the current sanctions are not enough. They urged Israel to press for stronger international measures, including the use of military force - be it Israeli or American.
A caller who identified himself as a university student from Tehran reminded Israelis that their forefathers had been freed from slavery and exile by the Persian king Cyrus, and that Israelis owe the Iranians of today their support in overthrowing an oppressive Islamic regime that threatens the entire region.
Hanegbi, whose comments were translated by the host into Farsi, responded by noting that all Israel feels the pain of the Iranian people, and watch with broken hearts as the Iranian regime violently suppresses movements for democratic freedom in the country.
Hanegbi concluded by saying that Israelis "remember the special relations between Israel and Iran before the rise of the ayatollahs. I am certain these relations will return."
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