Iran’s IRGC plays Palestinian tunes but only provides threadbare propaganda

If Tehran wants to engage in a propaganda war, it needs a bigger star than the chief commander of the IRGC’s Basij Force.
Sunday 22/07/2018
Iranians take part in an anti-US and anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, last May. (AFP)
Same old show. Iranians take part in an anti-US and anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, last May. (AFP)

There was a time that political leaders — secular and Islamist alike — championed the Palestinians’ cause. It was considered a basic requirement for leaders in the Arab or Muslim world.

Over the years, Iran has tried hard to stay in the game. At times, it has been more Palestinian than the Palestinians, even attacking Palestinian officials who negotiate with Israel to improve the lot of their people.

Such behaviour by the Iranians is hardly surprising: Tehran, after all, is more interested in the propaganda value of symbolic causes than in the lives of the Palestinians.

The regime’s latest “Wet Gunpowder International Festival” attests to its approach to the Palestinians. The festival, which began in 2012, identifies “the most despised personality of the year.” For the second time, it has awarded the “most despised face of arrogance” prize to Donald Trump. The US president beat competition from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

This year’s festival coincided with the biggest Israeli attacks against Hamas targets in Gaza since the 2014 war. Accordingly, Major-General Qassem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was supposed to address the festival. The address by the chief commander of al-Quds Force would be in Arabic and transmitted live to Gaza, festival organisers assured.

Things did not go as planned. The Times of Israel reported that several prominent Hamas leaders, including Yahya Sinwar and Mahmoud al-Zahar, did not attend the live transmission. Their absence was allegedly at the behest of the Egyptian government, which is wary of Tehran’s influence.

Ultimately, Soleimani did not deliver the promised address. Brigadier-General Gholamhossein Gheibparvar, chief commander of the IRGC’s Basij Force, was the stand-in. The TV transmission of Gheibparvar’s speech was inaudible because of technical problems and had to be cut short. Gazan viewers did not miss much because Gheibparvar’s speech was a repetition of Iran’s threadbare propaganda.

Gheibparvar started by sending greetings to “the Muslim nations, which have gathered in a special front against oppressors,” to “the people of Gaza who are resisting the infanticidal Zionist regime” and “the valiant Yemeni nation, which for years has resisted the savagery of the United States and the Saudi regime.” He said: “The dream of the Zionist regime [to establish a country] ‘from the Nile to the Euphrates’ has become a bitter nightmare: We see that the Gazan youth is bereaving the Zionists and its allied evil Saudi regime of sleep.”

He described Trump as a person with “no human virtues. From him, we have only seen infidelity and, today, Muslims and non-Muslims, all oppose him… We are sorry for the American nation for having such an artless president.”

It is not known if live transmission of the speech to Gaza was cut short by Israel. However, with such formulaic content, one wonders why Iran even bothers to arrange such an event and why Israel would engage in efforts to cut it short. Perhaps, Tehran wanted to demonstrate its ability to engage in live transmissions to Gaza and perhaps Israel desired to demonstrate its ability to prevent Tehran from doing what it said it would.

At any rate, television viewers in Gaza probably changed channels long before the transmission was cut. The Palestinian audience is probably tired of Iranians who claim to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians. Gazan TV viewers, like those elsewhere, probably welcome entertainment but, just like television audiences around the world, they should not be taken as undiscerning. Gazans probably demand higher quality entertainment than provided by Iran.

If Tehran wants to engage in a propaganda war, it needs a bigger star than Gheibparvar. A little music and dance would also help. Perhaps one of the Instagram videos of Maedeh Hojabri?