Imam Khomeini and the Palestinian cause
It was Ashura in the year 1383 AH, coinciding with June 3, 1963. Imam Khomeini went to the pulpit in the Faizieh Seminary in Qom. In a brilliant sermon where he severely criticized the Pahlavi regime, he drew everyone’s attention to a point that was one of the basic foundations of his revolutionary movement, the fight against Israel. That is the regime that according to him created a tragedy in the Islamic world by usurping Palestine. In that well-known speech, Imam Khomeini warned people about the dangers of Israel – a regime that seeks to destroy Islam, the Qur’an and religious scholars. He also shed light on the relations that the Shah’s government had with the Israeli regime. Even though the aforementioned date is considered to be the starting point of Imam’s revolutionary movement, the root of Imam’s speech on Palestine and the Israeli occupation of it goes back to an earlier time. In March 1963, Imam Khomeini wrote a letter about the danger of Israel to the various unions and associations in Qom in response to their inquiry. He wrote, “Because of my religious obligation, I hereby warn the people of Iran and the Muslims of the world that the Holy Qur’an and Islam are in danger. The independence of our country and its economy are in danger of being seized by the Zionists. With the deadly silence of the Muslims, it won’t be long before they [the Zionists] destroy the existence of the Muslim nation in all its aspects.”
The Palestinian issue and the malicious behavior of Israel were always topics that Imam Khomeini talked about in his speeches, because it was of great importance to him. The Imam considered the increasing power of Israel and the subjugation of Muslim nations at the hands of this brutal regime to be the destruction of Islam and the Qur’an. When the third Arab-Israeli War broke out in 1973, Imam delivered a message to the Islamic governments and Muslim nations stressing the need to maintain unity. He called upon them to gather all their forces in order to fight Israel. In this letter, Imam Khomeini summarized the mechanisms involved in the fight against Israel in several categories, and he announced these to the general Muslim population. These mechanisms included:
Comprehensive support for the front line of the battle against Israel.
Avoiding self-destructive differences and hypocrisy.
Not being afraid of the fictitious power of those that defend Zionism.
Unity between Islamic governments and reprimanding, threatening and cutting off relations with any country that normalizes relations with Israel.
Sending material and spiritual aid by Muslim nations such as blood, medicine, food, etc. to the battlefields.
As a matter of fact, Imam Khomeini emphasized maintaining unity for the liberation of Palestine as being the most important, main path to achieving victory. This was because he did not believe that the large colonial powers’ intention for creating Israel was merely to occupy Palestine. Imam believed that if the way was open to Israel, all Muslim countries would eventually end up suffering the same fate as Palestine. This is why Imam Khomeini likened Israel to a cancerous tumor, and he said that its immediate eradication was obligatory for all Muslims.
Due to the need for the Islamic nation’s unity in the fight against Israel, Imam Khomeini did not spare any effort – whether it was in his speeches and the recommendations he gave to Muslim nations or in the actions he took in this regard. It was on August 7, 1979 that he addressed the Muslim nations across the world in the following manner, “I call on all Muslims across the globe and the Islamic governments to unite in cutting off the hands of this usurper [Israel] and its supporters. I invite all Muslims to choose the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, which is during the time of the Nights of Destiny and which can determine the fate of the Palestinians, as ‘Quds Day.’ A ceremony should be held on this day to declare the international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legal rights of the Muslim people.” In fact, the establishment of Quds Day was not merely to determine a symbol representing the sacrifices made by the Muslim nations for one of Islam’s greatest ideals. The purpose was also to revitalize the spirit of Islam and the vigilance of the Islamic community. This came at a time when the leaders of Muslim countries were thinking about embracing Israel and some were already proud of their affiliation with the Zionist regime!
After the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War in 1967 in which Egypt lost the Sinai desert, a major blow was dealt to its governing body. Anwar Sadat, who had gained power in Egypt after Gamal Abdel Nasser, came to the negotiating table with Israel in 1978 to reclaim lost territory. The negotiations were mediated by the United States at Camp David. Sadat officially recognized Israel and reclaimed his territory.
Prior to this event, Imam Khomeini had spent 20 years warning all Islamic countries about the dangers of compromising with Israel. Thus, he regarded Anwar Sadat’s move to be an act of betrayal to Muslims and Palestine. Recognizing Israel meant expressing solidarity with its fraudulent government, and it also meant separating one’s path from the path of struggle. Naturally, this action was at odds with the path that Imam Khomeini had always emphasized. Imam believed that Camp David divided the Islamic nation. He also regarded it as a means for strengthening the Israeli front – the fire of which would engulf not only the Palestinians but all the countries in the Middle East. Since Imam Khomeini believed the Camp David Accords were a treacherous pact, on May 11 1979, he issued an order for the severance of diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Egyptian government.
After Imam had lost hope in the Arab governments, he turned to the Muslim nations. He called on them to unite on the path to liberating Palestine and fighting the occupying regime in Quds. He also urged the Muslims to separate themselves from the path taken by governments who had compromised with the Israeli regime. In a message issued during Hajj in 1987, he addressed the world’s Muslims and the Hajj pilgrims as follows, “Muslim nations must think about saving Palestine. They should express their disgust and hatred for the compromising ways of the shameful, self-serving leaders, who in the name of Palestine, have ruined the aspirations of the people in the occupied lands and the Muslims in this region. Muslim nations should not allow these traitors to tarnish the prestige, reputation and honor of the heroic Palestinian nation at the negotiating table.” After that, whenever Imam Khomeini would see any compromising action on the part of the leaders of Islamic countries, he would criticize them and remind them of the high level of danger that Israel posed. However, there were few who would listen to this advice. Thus in Imam’s eyes, the Muslims of the world who were separate from their governments turned into the only fighters in the battle against Israel.
Imam Khomeini (ra) introduced Palestine as the axis of Muslim unity. During his life, which was filled with struggles, there was not a moment where he stopped spreading awareness about the importance of the Palestinian issue and Israel’s malicious behavior. Imam Khamenei said, “One of the main elements [of Imam Khomeini’s school], was rushing to the aid of those who were oppressed and opposing the oppressor. In our era, in our time, the Palestinian people are an example of those who are oppressed. As you saw, from the first day of his life to the last day, Imam emphasized and supported the Palestinian issue. He also called on the people of Iran and its officials to not forget: helping the oppressed and standing up to the oppressor, negating the oppressor’s tricks, strictly refuting and crushing the oppressor’s greatness and grandeur.” [June 4, 2014]
Even in the final but eternal text that Imam left behind – his political-divine testament – he paid special attention to the issue of Palestine and the need to fight and stand against Israel. As always, he tried to shed light on the goals and reasons behind why this fraudulent regime was established. In his political-divine will and testament, Imam Khomeini stated that Muslim nations should take pride in the fact that their enemies are the enemies of the Merciful God, the Holy Qur’an and Islam. There are some whose foolish fantasies for the realization of a “Greater Israel” cause them to set the whole world on fire. In order to achieve their greedy desires, they commit crimes that are too shameful to even write or speak about. In this regard, what Imam Khomeini considered to be the solution for the oppressed people of the world in face of the impasses ahead, was to not depend on either the East or the West. Rather, they should follow the political, social, economic and military culture of humanity’s greatest guides, i.e., the Infallible Imams.